28.7 mi / 8.56 mph / 1872 ft. climbing
Home: Eco Tours Las Tres Virgenes cabaña
Coming into San Ignacio from Guerrero Negro, we had pedaled 92 miles total across the two days, which is the most we’ve done since our first week of riding, nearly six months ago, and by far the biggest two-day total since our early-February restart. That was more proof of the return of Rett’s strength, and a confidence-builder for the ride from San Ignacio to Santa Rosalia, a 47-miler with a lot more climbing than the previous two rides.
But do we actually need to make that leap? It’s the leap that’s done by every cyclist journal I’ve read, so that lead to me to believe there is nowhere between those safe havens to stop at, but since the winds once again weren’t looking super-favorable, and Rett raised the question of there being anything in the middle, I took another look.
And found Eco Tours Las Tres Virgenes. It’s 1.8 miles off of Highway 1, but the road is paved, and it looks like an absolutely perfect stop for bike tourers. The more I read about it, the more convinced I became that we should stop there even if we had tailwinds pushing us all the way to Santa Rosalia. Because we’re out here to see and feel the land, not to stick to a timetable, so adding an extra day and 3.6 miles to our overall journey is actually a benefit, not a cost.
Knowing about the exciting new goal made it easier to leave the oasis of San Ignacio after “only” two days, but it was still tough to say goodbye. We had breakfast in the hotel restaurant, where the waiter was rushing everywhere, a body-language that made us realize we haven’t seen anything like it before in Baja; maybe it’s learned-behavior to impress the American tourists? We filled our 10L water bag at an abarrotes in the eastern “suburb” back on Highway 1, and then were roughly alone again on the empty road.
A good-sized initial climb out of the valley (steep parts interspersed with flatter sections) soon brought us to our first view of “Tres Virgenes”, a 6000-ft. volcano that would dominate the horizon for the entire day.
We stopped halfway through our miles at the small left-side-of-the-road-only settlement of Ejido Alfredo V. Bonfil for a snack break, and to get more groceries since I was feeling paranoid about everything working out as planned at the Eco Camp.
As the volcano drew ever closer, the road took us ever higher, and the headwind, as has become our pattern, became ever stronger. Baking in the sun, and getting exhausted from fighting the wind, we took a roadside stop. As I went off to investigate some old lava flows, a mini-van with bikes on the back waves excitedly and then pulls over and backs up to us.
We’re happy to meet Jose and Angelina, and through Jose’s better-than-our-Spanish English, and a little of our Spanish, we learn that they had rode Tijuana to Loreto(?) three years ago, and were now on their way to do a loop around Cabo and La Paz and Todos Santos. We laughed and commiserated in Spanglish about road difficulties like the wind, trucks, and the wind from trucks. It made us so happy to see how excited they were for us, and then to make things even better, Angelina went rummaging in the van and came back with two yogurts and two granola bars! Yesterday a guy stopped and asked if we wanted water (we gratefully declined), but this was our best encounter yet with the legendary roadside generosity in Mexico!
We immediately downed the yogurts, and they worked as poor-man’s ice cream, with the sugar and slight cooling effect giving us the energy to continue fighting up the last hills. Or maybe our energy came from the act of the gift itself. Either way, we finally crested the southern flank of the volcano and crossed over to its eastern side, where we were immediately treated to a spectacular narrow horseshoe valley. Unfortunately the downhill brought us through it too quickly for me to capture it well with anything besides our eyes.
At the bottom of the downhill, we turned left (straight north) onto the road to Eco Tours Las Tres Virgenes. It had a paved surface, but was covered by a thin layer of gravel, making for slower-going than we’d hoped. But, oddly, after half a mile, the gravel disappeared and it was smooth the rest of the way. That’s usually the opposite of how roads-to-nowhere work.
A big gate across the road marked the beginning of the geothermal power plant (I believe), and that’s where we turned left to push the bikes up the steep gravel drive.
Inside the restaurant, the camp’s smiling, laid-back host Oscar welcomed us and introduced us around to the family (or at least they felt like a family). He let us check out the ten rooms in the five wooden buildings so we could pick our favorite. We chose the “mujer sin ropa” (“woman without clothes”, the best phrase I could come up with from our limited set of Spanish words to describe the wall-painting, which was different in each room). We then all had some laughs (with Oscar using his pretty-good English to translate back and forth between us and the family) about some women who had stayed there and wondered where the naked hombres were.
Somehow we ended up in the room with the puma painting, but since Oscar had already turned on the hot water to it for our showers, we just stuck with it. Like our chosen room (and all the rooms, really), it was perched on a hillside and faced outward to an incredible view flowing down and across the desert floor before rising dramatically up the slopes of the volcanoes.
The wooden cabins were rustic and super-creaky, and the whole place reminded me of our last pre-nomad vacation with family at an off-grid cabin in the Never Summer Mountains of Colorado. But this place managed to add hot, running water, a shower, toilet, and (solar-powered) electric, all for $400 MX (~$20 USD). An incredible deal considering the setting.
After we cleaned up we popped back up to the restaurant, sitting outside on the deck with a couple of beers until the flies got too annoying. Inside, for the second night in a row, it felt like we had a mom in the house kitchen cooking up a meal just for us, and as you would expect from such a feeling, it was an excellent meal (milanesa for Rett, breaded fish for Neil).
There is a sort of tower in the center of the grounds (inside of which sits the laundry machine), and we got a new perspective from there before heading back down to our porch to watch the sun spread the shadow of the volcano across miles of desert floor.
Our bed butted right up to the outward-facing window-wall, and with the curtains kept open, it was the best view we’ve had of the starry sky from our sleeping location, even when camping! We fell asleep so glad that we stopped short today and could sleep in this special place.