28 February 2013

CYCLING THE USA - ARIZONA



5 February - Nogales – Green Valley - 75km

We crossed the border into the USA, which was just like any other border crossing, slow and drawn out, maybe even more so. We needed a permit and had to join the short queue. Although there were about 10 booths, only two were manned and it was 12h30 before we finally got on the road.

We did not even encounter a sign saying “Welcome to the USA”, but we were at least welcomed by the familiar golden arches of McDonalds!!

It turned out to be an interesting day on the road as we cycled past Tubac - an old village and Spanish fort, now more of an artist community than a fort. Later we arrived at Green Valley, a small village close to the copper mine. We stocked up with food from the local supermarket and set off into the desert to camp. The campsite was a bit of a disaster as it was so covered in thorns that we could hardly find a place to pitch the tents.

6-7 February - Green Valley – Tucson
We left Green Valley rather late in the day as Ernest still had to fix our punctured tubes, and he is already so slow in the mornings. LOL even the local sheriff came to check us out and asked what we were doing. He was quite friendly though and wished us well on our journey. At last we were on the road and cycled the short distance to Tucson. We had our first run-in with the police as they stopped us and kicked us off the high-way. In fact, it was not like other places where they just tell you to get off but we were given a written warning!!!

Once in the city we found a RV park amongst the many trailer parks, (yes, people do live in trailer parks) to pitch our tents. The following day we set off to look for a bike shop and some tire liners (to prevent further punctures). Tucson is a nice city and also very cycle-friendly with cycle lanes. We zooted around town, looking for what we needed; always a good way to see a city. Tucson has a modern University campus and has a nice young vibe with many bars, cafes and interesting shops in the downtown area.

8 February - Tucson – Picacho Peak SP - 70km
We cycled along with a nice tailwind until suddenly the wind changed and started gusting and swung completely around. We were told that a storm is coming so we picked up some food and pulled into the small, but pretty,Picacho Peak SP. I quickly pitched my tent and cycled to the viewpoint to see the sun set over the desert. It became bitterly cold and it rained during the night.

9 February - Picacho Peak NP – Coolidge via Florence - 88km
Fortunately the rain had stopped by the time we woke and although still windy and bitterly cold, the sun came out for us to pack up.   We had a pleasant day on the road and soon arrived in Coolidge; it was still early and we decided to carry onto Florence. Florence turned out to be a quaint and historic village straight out of a Wild West movie. After looking around we decided to head out on the road again. Cycling along we heard a cell phone ringing and found one lying in the road. We picked it up, and it was the owner looking for his phone. Wegave him directions and he soon arrived to collect the phone. The owner was rather pleased to retrieve his phone as he slipped me a $20 bill. We headed straight back to Coolidge and used the money towards a cheaproadside motel.

10-13 February - Coolidge – Phoenix - 97km
It was quite a bit further than expected to reach the city centre. We soon enough reached the outskirts but it was easily another 50km into town. Fortunately it was Sunday, and we had an easy ride into the city centre via cycle friendly cycle paths. We located Phoenix hostel without a problem and it turned out to be a very nice place. It is a rather small hostel but they had an old trailer at the back which we could rent for $25 a night (considered a bargain). The trailer was rather nice, although small, and we had a radio and heater making it rather cosy. The next day we went in search of an outdoor store and bike shop. We found both but did not buy anything at the bike shop. At the outdoor store Ernest found a sleeping mat and I finally bought a pair of shoes to keep my feet warm.

It was such a nice place that we stayed one more day, did the laundry, and waterproofed the tents. I took a walk around town and was intrigued that no one walks in Phoenix!!  It was midday on a Wednesday and there was not a soul around…… only the odd person pushing his trolley and talking to himself. People who drive past shoot you looks that clearly say: "You poor fool, don't you know no one walks here?" The whole place looks like a big, deserted movie set….very strange. The only other person I met on my walkabout was a sad looking teenager, trying to buy a joint off me!!!

Phoenix does, however, have the most amazing murals. Just a short walk around Roosevelt Row, the heart of the Downtown Arts District, showed that there is a very interesting side to Phoenix. I found the Phoenix library an interesting building with its mix of steel, aluminium, concrete and glass - it’s an impressive building. The interior is no less impressive with plenty of light and glass elevators; it is known as the Crystal Canyon.


14 February - Phoenix –Wickenburg - 103km
It was a beautiful, sunny day as we left Phoenix via the Arizona Canal cycle way; what a nice and relaxing way to leave the busy city (we heard that a body was found in the canal shortly afterwards. Gosh, good thing I did not see that). Once the cycle path came to an end we met a really nice cyclist who offered to show us an easy way to the highway. He cycled with us all the way to the highway, something which took him way out of his way. What a nice guy! 

After the gradual false uphill slog we reached Wickenburg town fairly late. We found an RV campsite before the sun disappeared, as it gets rather cold after sunset. True to the small towns of this area, Wickenburg looks a bit like an old wild South-Western town with a historic centre. Old-fashioned-looking shops and inns line the streets and there are even some lifelike displays, making Wickenburg look like a movie set. The locals are rather friendly and the campsite owner was no exception we had a long chat and then he offered us beer and the use of the electrical plug in his office.

15 February - Wickenburg – Peeples Valley - 50km
It was bitterly cold in the night and we took forever to pack up and get back on the road. It was a steady climb all day and therefore rather slow going. It is a rather vast and desolate area, dotted with small and interesting villages with equally interesting people. At the tiny settlement of Congress we chatted to one of the old-timers, Dave, who gave us some of the history and told us about the many Snowbirds still prospecting for gold in the valley. What an interesting area…..people still prospecting for gold!!!

Americans seems genuinely interested in what we are doing and will often just come up and talk to us. Most are amazed at where we come from and how long we have been on the road. We continued up the hill past the quaint village of Yarnell and on to Peeples Valley. We pitched our tents behind a closed bar and settled in for the night. And what a cold night it was.

16 February - Peeples Valley – Prescott - 67km
We awoke to find our tents covered in ice……. brrrrr. We slowly warmed up in the morning sun before setting off up the mountain. Soon after leaving Peeples Valley we turned off onto a back road past more “movie set” villages, like Kirkland and Skull Valley. Kirkland is no more than a historic inn/bar/store. Skull Valley was no bigger but at least there was petrol and a shop. Arizona is a rugged state with desert-like spaces and rough mountains. We continued uphill, and although it was sunny, there was still plenty of snow on the Southern slopes and shady sides of the road. It was slow going as we climbed and climbed up to Prescott.

17- 21 February Prescott
Ernest came down with a cold and I wanted to look around this interesting looking village so we decided to stay another day. We found a room in the “6 Motel”, a place with fantastic showers and clean rooms!! 

We had a drink at the Palace Saloon - a famous bar on Whiskey Row. The story goes something like this: “On July 14, 1900, a fire raged through Whiskey Row. Quick thinking locals managed to save the 24ft Brunswick Bar. After lugging the solid oak bar across the street, these resourceful citizens then continued the party. The Palace Saloon was rebuilt in 1901 and still houses the famous bar.”

Winter-storm Q moved in and we decided to bunker down and wait the storm out. There is not much to do but visit the local museums in weather like this. During one night it started snowing, and in the morning the town was covered in white…….my word, this is absolute madness!!! I need to get out of here in a hurry!!!  It is incredibly cold and I now seriously wonder how to move on from here.

22 February - Prescott – Ash Fork - 85km
We awoke to blue skies, so we quickly packed the bikes and set off. It was still bitterly cold but it was a beautiful ride past granite boulders and beautiful lakes. It was not exactly easy riding as it felt like we were going uphill into an icy cold wind. By the time we arrived in Ash Fork, I weakened and we took a motel room on the historic Route 66. This tiny village has all the paraphernalia, such as vintage cars, old style neon-ad signs, and labelled gimmicks, such as cigarette lighters and so forth. How cool it this?

23- 24 February - Ash Fork – Seligman - 44km
We headed west on Route 66. Built in 1926, the historic Route 66 stretches from Los Angeles to Chicago across 8 states. Now nicknamed “The Mother Road”, it is fun, kitschy, retro call it whatever you like, I love it!! In the icy breeze we didn’t go very far today, and as soon as we reached the small town of Seligman I knew I was not going any further!  Give me a retro motel, a restaurant called the “Road Kill Café”, a bar playing music from the sixties, and I´m staying put!!

The next morning we woke to a bitterly cold wind blowing at 47km per hour and gusting to about 56 km per hour…….. WOW!!  It was an easy choice to stay in our warm and cosy room.

25 February - Seligman – Truxton BLM - 84km
The sun came out, the wind dropped, and we were on our way. We followed Route 66 West, past the interesting settlement of Grand Canyon Caverns (where one can see real cowboys, hats, boots, guns and all!) to Truxton. The road ran through the Hualapai Indian Reservation and past the tribal capital of Peach Springs. At around midday the wind picked up again and we battled into an icy breeze.

The good thing about this part of the world is that there is a thing like BLM-land, where one can camp for free. We found the gate, which the owner of the store in Truxton told us about, and turned in. All one needs to do is fill in the register and take a permit. On leaving, you make sure to take your rubbish with you and that the gate is closed. How cool is that?!  Soon after sunset it once again became bitterly cold and we quickly made a fire to keep ourselves warm. I felt like an old time cowboy sitting by the fire, eating tinned beans and corned hash-beef with tortilla chips.

As soon as the fire died I dived into my tent. It was a bitterly cold night, I wore nearly everything I owned and still felt cold. I woke in the morning and found my water bottle (which was in the tent, next to me) frozen stone hard!!

26 February - Truxton – Kingman - 63km
We waited for the sun to defrost us, had some coffee, and followed the road past vast plains of nothing but tumble weed. We stopped at Hackberry with its rather interesting general store!  (The owner told Ernest to move his bike, as it may fall over and onto his $150 000 antique Corvette, and he did not feel like shooting anyone that day!!) We picked up a bit of a tailwind and rolled into Kingman in good time. It was time to say good-bye to Route 66 and head north in the direction of Las Vegas, which I believed to be much warmer.

27 February - Kingman – Chloride - 38km
The road out of Kingman leads over the Coyote Pass. Once over the pass we were straight into a freezing cold wind again. After grinding into the gusting breeze for some time, we turned off into the hills to inspect the old mining town of Chloride. Chloride turned out to be a fascinating town, where once there were more than 70 mines producing silver, lead, zinc, turquoise and gold. Today Chloride is a bit of a ghost town, with eccentric locals and a few old buildings, including the old jail and Arizona’s oldest continuously operating post office. We found ourselves a room at the Sheps Miners Inn (an old adobe-style miners living quarters) and set off by foot to explore the village further.

06 February 2013

CYCLING MEXICO - Mexico City to Nogales.




30 November - Cape Town, South Africa – Mexico City, Mexico

I finally said my goodbyes and boarded the plane for my long and arduous flight back to Mexico. The flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg went smoothly; the only hiccup was that after landing there were no wheel blocks to be found to place in front/behind the wheels!!  Have you ever……... the stairs could therefore not be attached and there was not much to do but wait until the said blocks could be traced!!  It was already a rather tight connection and I had to run like crazy to make the connection. At first I was told that I was already offloaded, but in the end they opened the doors and I sneaked in at the last moment.

The biggest surprise came once I arrived in WashingtonI assumed that again it would be a 4-hour flight to Mexico City. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a 13-hour flight from Washington via Chicago and Houston!!!  My wordwhat a performance!!!  That will teach me to check my flight details carefully before booking.

I finally arrived in Mexico City on the evening of 1 December. After changing a bit of moneyI took a taxi to the Terminal Sur Bus Station, checked on the bus schedule for the following dayand headed for the nearest hotel. Needless to say I showered and slept like a baby.

2/3 December - Mexico City – Acapulco - By bus
Well rested I headed back to the bus station, bought a ticket, had a quick cup of coffee and a bite to eat and then was on my final stretch back to Acapulco. I was more than happy to be back in Acapulco and reunited with my bike. The weather was fantastic and at 8pm it was still 30° C without a gust of wind and the oceanwas not much cooler!  I was happy to be back in my familiar world of the unknown.

The following day I stayed in Acapulco to reorganise my bags and to buy a few things I needed for the road. I, however, spent most of the day on the beach where the fruit sellers peddle their wares, neatly carved onto pieces of art.


4/5 December - Acapulco – Mazatlan - By bus
I received an email from Ernest that he was waiting for me in Mazatlan. I decided to cheat and take the bus there, as it would take me way too long to cycle. I went to the bus stationbought a ticketand by 16h00 I was on the bus with bike and bags. It was an overnight bus and it was very comfortable with aircon and plenty of legroom. The bus took the highway which is a rather long way as the coastal road is very narrow and slow going.

When I arrived in MazatlanErnest was waiting at the bus station and had already found a cheap room in the old part of Mazatlan for us. That was so coolas I hate looking for a room. The Hotel Lerma had rooms around a large and spacious courtyard/parking area which made for a very comfortable stay and at 200 Pesos for the room it was very reasonable. The weather was wonderful and we ate at a sidewalk café so there was no need for cooking.

6/7 December - Mazatlan
We spent the day walking around the old historic centre and along the beautiful beachfront. Then we cycled around town looking for a bike shop to get some spare parts but could not find what we were looking for.However, we had the bikes washed at a carwash and they did not even want any moneyjust a Coca-Cola;how cool is that. We bought some ingredients for a salad which we ate with rolls from the local bakery.

The following day Ernest worked on the bikes while I inspected the rest of the historic city centre. With the bikes all fixed up I was ready to get back on the road. I must say that Mazatlan is a really nice place and one can easily hang around here for a while.

8/9 December - Mazatlan – La Cruz de Elota - 108km
We left Mazatlan and cycled the 110km to the small town of La Cruz de Elota on our way north. Along the way we crossed the Tropic of Cancer.  It is always loads of fun to try and take a pic like this, as first we need to find a spot to place the camera and then run like hell to try and be in the picture!

Along the coast, north of Mazatlan, one can find many little shrimping towns. Men head out in the early evening in small boats and return just before dawn with their nets bulging. The tilt-shift maybe fake but the shrimps are real.

I thought I could feel a cold coming and we stayed the following day as well. Ernest spent most of the day fixing his bags and sewing up some cloths that needed mending.

10 December - La Cruz de Elota – Obispo - 58km
The road north was pancake flat as we cycled past large vegetable plantations. Tomatoes are one of the native Mexican plants that have become an essential ingredient in the cuisine of many countries. Growers in the state of Sinaloa are the main producers and exporters of fresh tomatoesand the vehicle number plates even depict a tomato.

We were on a toll road and there were little villages or shops along the way. We turned into a small village to fill our water bottles and the people were so friendly that we decided to stay for the night.

11 December - Obispo – Aguaruto - 85km
We headed back to the toll road, and although these big roads are mostly uninterestingit was an easy ride as the road had a wide shoulder which made for comfortable riding. We turned off for Culiacan but did not want to go all the way into the city and thought we could stay on the outskirts. Our map was however not that accurate and we landed up on an unnamed road heading into the city centre.

We past a motel and decided to enquire about the priceit was however a “love motel”, renting rooms by the hour. They did however make us a good deal for the night as they most likely never had 2 clients on bicycles arriving at their establishment. It turned out to be a rather good deal as the room was huge and had a relativelyfancy bathroom. It came with all the trimmings of mirrors, dimmer lights, a huge bed, etc., etc. We even had a large flat screen TV with ………..ummmmmm, limited channels!!  I do not think that anyone has ever cooked themselves a meal in one of these rooms!!

12 December - Aguaruto – road side camp - 75km
The weather was perfect as we set off. Since crossing the Tropic of Cancer the landscape has become notably drier and the weather somewhat cooler. Although still hot, it was far less humid and just perfect cycling weather. After 75km we spotted the perfect place to campnext to a petrol station. They had a nice grassy bit, toilets and showers and even a restaurant. We pitched our tents and sat watching the sunset while having a beer.

13 December - Road side camp – Guasave - 80km
We packed up in our own time and continued down the road. Again the weather was perfect and we still cycled past vast fields of vegetables. The north of Mexico is clearly feeding the country. These all looked like large and very slick farming operations judging by their fancy equipment. Some sections are completely covered with a type of shade cloth and in other fields the individual rows are covered; I guess to keep the birds at bay.

The day went smoothly the only irritation was the 3 flat tyres Ernest hadand it started drizzling just as we neared the town of Guasave. We pulled into Guasave, found a roomdid some shopping and that was us done for the day.


14/15 December - Guasave – Los Mochis - 67km
Another fantastic day on the roadsmooth and flat with beautiful scenery past vast fields of beans and maize. Each plantation seemed to have its own beauty of colour and lines. It was one of those days that I was truly grateful to be out on the road. Soon we arrived at Los Mochis where we planned to stay for a day to do laundry and so forth. At first I thought of taking the ferry west across the Sea of Cortez from Los Mochis to Baja California Peninsula. On the other hand, the going on this side has been so good that we decided to carry on northwards and take the ferry across from Guaymas.

The following day we did some laundry and Ernest repaired his pack, which was showing serious signs of aging.

16 December - Los Mochis
We packed up and cycled out of town. 5km down the road I discovered that my front rim was broken so we headed back into town. It was Sunday and the bike shops were closed so we had to wait for the following morning to get a new rim.

17/18 December - Los Mochis
We took a walk to the bike shop and bought a new rim, which was quite easy. The difficult part is spoking and trimming the wheel, something at which Ernest has become quite a pro, and after a couple of hours the wheel was as good as new.

I, however, managed to get myself a serious bout of food poisoning and was as sick as a dog all night as well as the following day. The day went past in a blur and I did not do much but stay in bed and as close to the bathroom as possible.

19 December - Los Mochis – Diaz Ordaz - 64km
I dragged myself out of bed, loaded the bike and set off down the road again. I did not feel 100% but managed to cycle the whole morning without puking at the roadside. We arrived in Diaz Ordaz quite early but thought it a good idea to stop, find a room and just hang out for the rest of the day. Diaz Ordaz was a typical small Mexican town with a Pemex Service Station (The only company that is authorised to sell gasoline in Mexico), a Santa Fe Supermarket, a Tecate Beer Shop, and of course the ever-present grilled Pollo restaurants. We cycled down the dusty streets and soon found a local motel.

Ernest took a walk to the supermarket and got some ingredients with which he cooked a good spaghetti bolognaise for supper (I managed to eat my share, although my stomach was not yet perfect).



20 December - Diaz Ordaz – Navojoa - 110km
I felt much stronger so we continued on, cycling the 110km to Navojoa. The road followed the railway line (always a good thing) as the country side is slowly becoming less and less lush each day. We entered the state of Sonora and therefore also the Sonoran Desert. I understand that the Sonoran Desert is the only place in the world where the famous Saguaro cactus grows in the wild.

It was another easy day on the road and soon we arrived in Navojoa, a busy city where we found a room for the night.

21 December - Novojoa – Ciudad Obregon - 70km
Our Doomsday ride turned out rather uneventful as we pedaled further north towards the city of Obregon. It was a bit of a miserable day as we encountered road works after road works (narrow sections where traffic could not get past us). The traffic had also suddenly increased and we encountered a steady stream heading in the opposite direction. Many of these “Snowbirds” are from the USA, and are flocking south!!  USV’s loaded to the hilt with luggage, bicycles and other paraphernalia passed usheading for a warmer climate. Some vehicles even towed a second loaded car; God forbid that you should be on holiday and not have the whole family mobile!!

Once in Obregon we found a cheap room right in the city centre. What a madhouse the town was, with everyone out to do their last Christmas shopping. We bought some succulent goat-meat rolls to see us over, and then Ernest made a good potato salad for supper - enough to feed an army!

22 December - Ciudad Obregon – Vicam - 53km
It was a short cycle to Vicam; again I was astonished at the increase in traffic. It was a non-stop flow of traffic heading south. The holiday season is clearly now in full swing. Fortunately we are heading in the opposite direction. At last we are cycling past loads of cacti. Before I arrived in Mexico, the first picture that sprung to mind was the iconic desert scene with a Mexican sitting beside a huge cactus and wearing a big sombrero. How wrong was I!!!

As we cycled into Vicam I had a flat tyre, which Ernest quickly fixed. We also spotted a roadside hotel and decided to stay for the night and continue on to Guaymas in the morning.

23/25 December - Vicam – Guaymas - 77km
We arrived in Guaymas, a sad little port city. At least it has a nice little waterfront. The fountain was evensynchronised with Christmas music.  From here we plan to take the ferry to Santa Rosalia, Baja Californiabut we just found out that the next ferry is only on Wednesdayso we have a day or 2 to kill.

On Christmas Day I took a walk down to the waterfront which was packed with new shiny toys. The scene was rather universal with kids dressed in their Sunday best, playing with their new toys. Some going ten to the dozen, and others rather careful with their new found freedom.

26 December - Guaymas – Santa Rosalia – By ferry
It was finally time to leave Guaymas and take the ferry to Baja. The ferry only sailed at 20h00 so we had plenty of time to kill. While waiting I spent the afternoon clicking away, making the local herons the most photographed in all of Mexico!!  Fortunately the ferry was not very full, with plenty of empty seats for us to spread out and get a good night’s sleep.

27 December - Santa Rosalia
We arrived in Santa Rosalia at 7 in the morning. Santa Rosalia is unlike any other Mexican town. With its brightly painted clapboard houses, inns with large verandas, tiny stores and prefab churchesit resembles a typical one horse town from an old western movie set. I soon found out that it was in fact an old French copper mining town. A walk around revealed quite a few old locomotives and other pieces of mining machinery scattered around town. The most interesting piece of information was the history of the church. The old prefabricated church in the centre of town was built for the Paris 1889 World´s Fair, allegedly designed by no other than the famed Gustave Eiffel. After the fair the church was disassembled and stored in Brussels for shipping to West Africa, but it somehow turned up here!! 

28 December - Santa Rosalia – Mulege - 65km
We headed south in the direction of La Paz and it looked more and more like the Mexico I always imagined, blue skies and cacti!!  We soon arrived in the small village of Mulege, home of the former Jesuit Mission Santa Rosalia de Mulege. The village has quite an interesting history. Along with religion, the Europeans brought with them diseases to which the indigenous peoples had never been exposed, and to which consequently they had no immunity. By 1767, epidemics of measles, plague, smallpox, typhus, and venereal diseases had decimated the native population. Out of an initial population of as many as 50,000 indigenous people, only some 5,000 are thought to have survived. How sad is that! 

We found a cheap room and Ernest cooked fettuccini with a good bolognaise sauce, enough to see us though the next day as well.

29/30 December - Mulege –Los Cocos Beach - 31km
Soon after we left Mulegewe found ourselves along the beautiful shores of Bahia Concepcion. The beaches were pristine and the water blue-green. Many of these beaches are makeshift RV parks where American and Canadian campers were parking off to escape the North American winter. We soon made friends with the other campers, including Gord and Gwenwho had recommended Los Cocos beach to us earlier (I even had a hot shower in their trailer, and Gord gave us a whole can of drinking water). My gears had been giving trouble due to worn-out cables, and Ernest replaced those for me in the afternoon. The next day dawned beautifully.  Wedecided to stay, and Ernest went fishing with Gord on his boat. On their return Gord fried up the catch of Sand Bass and Trigger fish, and he and Gwen invited us for a good dinner!! 

31 December -Los Cocos Beach – Loreto -115km
We packed up camp the following morning, and we had a beautiful ride south along the shores of Bahia Concepcion. In fact, it was so beautiful that we stopped every few kilometres to admire the view. It was also a bit more hilly than expected with the result that we only arrived in Loreto after 6pm and therefore in the dark. It was also fairly cold by then and we took a pricey room in the historic part of the town (not that there was a modern section, ha-ha). I was suffering from a cold and it had been a long day, so New Year’s Eve was not a party night - I was fast asleep before the clock struck 2013.

1 January - Loreto
We spent New Year’s Day in Loreto, considered to be the oldest human settlement on the Baja Peninsula (not that I saw any such signs, but it was still an interesting, small Mexican town).

2 January - Loreto – Puerto Escondido - 35km
We only left Loreto at 11h00 after searching for an ATM that will give us money. Soon after we left, we turned into Puerto Escondido; a rather small settlement with a fancy harbour and even more fancy boats anchored in the bay. We decided to camp and after looking around for a suitable spot we asked at the one and only hotel if we could camp there. They pointed to their lawn and were proud to point out that they had Wi-Fi and a swimming pool. The Wi-Fi came in handy but it was far too cold for a swim.

3 January - Puerto Escondido – Ciudad Insurgentes - 98km
We left the coast and headed over the mountains. It was in fact not as bad as it looked, as the road was up and down for the first 50km and then it was dead-pencil-straight through the cacti for the last 45km. In Ciudad Insurgentes we found a roadside room that did us quite well for the night.

4-5 January - Ciudad Insurgentes – Ciudad Constitucion - 26 km
We cycled the very short distance to Ciudad Constitucion. On the outskirts of town we found an RV Park and set up camp. It was a typical Mexican campsite, albeit a bit dusty. It was full of colour, cattle sculls, and cacti. We did a whole host of laundry and were surprised to see 2 more cyclists arriving in camp. Daniel and Simone, a German couple, were reaching the end of their trip as they have to be back in Germany in June. It was nice to chat to other cyclists and as they decided to stay another day, so did we.

6 January - Ciudad Constitucion – El Ciento Veintiocho - 89 km
We waited for the sun to warm us and slowly packed up camp. It was 11 a.m. by the time we said our good-byes to Simone and Daniel and continued on our way South towards La Paz. Again the road ran dead-pan-straight through the cacti. Came evening, we set up camp next to a small, isolated “restaurant”. At first I thought it a rather dreary place to camp, but at sunset the sky was transformed into a wonderland of colour.

7 January - El Ciento Veintiocho – La Paz - 128 km
I awoke to the snorting of a pig outside, and as I stuck my head out to see if the animal was feeding on my tent, I was greeted with the most incredible sunrise one can imagine. The entire sky was blood red and the cacti made pretty silhouettes against the sky. Once on the bikes, the flat road soon came to an end and the hills started, more like a roller-coaster; up and down, up and down!!  Along the way were only a few smallshops/restaurants; in fact there was a whole 60 km stretch with nothing but cacti and hills!!!  Fortunately, we had plenty of water to see us through to La Paz.

8-9 January - La Paz
We stayed in La Paz for 2 days. La Paz is quite modern with large shopping centres and other facilities.
At one of these stores Ernest spotted some suitcases, and the story is as follows:

THE SUITCASE.  For the past 6 years Ernest has had a weight problem. Well, not him himself, but the problem is rather his heavily-loaded bicycle. Even before the start of this trip he had to throw out a lot of “necessary stuff”, but still he left Cape Town with a huge load. As the trip progressed, it seems, he gathered more things. Most of the suspect baggage was carried on top of the ample rear rack, and the configuration changed according to the duration of container bags, and so forth. Well, in La Paz Mexico, he saw the suitcases at Wal-Mart store, and was obsessed with consolidating everything on the back rack into a manageable package. One largehard-shell, jetsetter suitcase (with wheels and retractable handle and all) later, and he was smiling. He has removed the retractable handle and so forth, but still the suitcase attracts a fair amount of attention from bystanders as we cycle past.

10 January - La Paz – Topolobampo - 28km Ferry
After much deliberation, we decided to take the ferry back to the mainland and slowly started heading north to Nogales. We were rather slow as it was still mid-winter further north and hopefully it will start warming up by the time we cross the border into the States. We had plenty of time to cycle to the harbour, which was about 18km north of La Paz. The ferry only left at around 14h00 and once on the ferry, it was smooth sailing all the way to the mainland. We were treated to yet another amazing sunset and plenty of photos were taken. The ferry arrived on the mainland at 10pm.  It was cold and dark, so we settled for a room.

11 January - Topolobampo – Los Mochis - 28km
The following morning we cycled the short distance to Los Mochis. Interestingly, Topolobampo is the second largest natural deep-water port in the world, known for its commercial fishing and increasingly important role in shipping.

12 January - Los Mochis – Ahome - 28km
The wind was blowing really hard as we set off. We decided to take one of the back roads and after 28km, we arrived in Ahome, a small village in the heart of the vegetable farms. It’s a really small village with a church, plaza, a petrol station and Santa Fe Supermarket (and of cause an ever present OXXO). Instead of battling into the wind, we took a room in a rather interesting place.

13 January - Ahome – Diaz Ordaz - 62km
Earthquakes seem to be a part of life in Ahome and a very common occurrence. As I waited for Ernest to finish loading up his bike this morning, the earth shook violently and no one even batted an eyelid!!  It felt like I needed to get out of Ahome in a hurry! The following day I read that a 5.6 magnitude earthquake had struck Ahome. The epicenter was located approximately 97 km West of Ahome, at a depth of 10.1 km. There were no significant injuries or damage reported.

It was a frustrating day into the wind. I can do mountains….the heat; I can go without water and food…….but this friggin’ head wind is getting to me!!  It is cruel and persistent and seems to be doing everything it can to push you back to your starting point.

14 January - Diaz Ordaz – Navojoa - 105km
As if backtracking was not bad enough, backtracking into the wind was worse. The desert-like scenery now looked even more forlorn. We battled along and only arrived in Navojoa when we were already casting long shadows.

15-16 January - Novajoa – Ciudad Obregon - 70km
It was by now already bitterly cold, not only in the mornings but in fact all day long. The sky was still clear and a bright blue, but it was icy cold and blustery. Fortunately, it was a short day to Obregon. The road ran past barren, dry and windswept scenery with just an old railway line and some abandoned and forlorn-looking railway buildings. I was thoroughly miserableso when we arrived in Obregon I opted for a nice room (at quite a price) but at least it was sunny and warm.

17 January - Ciudad Obregon
We spent the day in Obregon, did some laundry, and lazed around not doing very much; just enjoying the luxury of a nice room. Every now and then a small object may hitch a ride and somehow manage to ride along on my journey and take root in my heart. I may add that I´m not someone who cares for trinkets and mascots, name my bike or collect stones and shells along the way. Last night, however, a tiny girl came out of nowhere and produced me with a card and said it was for good luck on the road. She was no more than 4 or 5 and to be quite honest with you, I´m not sure where she came from or where she disappeared to afterwards. I guess it will be one of those things that will live in my handlebar bag for a long time to come.

18 January - Ciudad Obregon – Vicam - 53km
We dragged our feet in packing up and cycled the rather short distance to Vicam. The road ran dead-pan-straight through the Sonoran Desert and once in the small village of Vicam, we decided to stay there for the night.

19-22 January - Vicam – San Carlos - 100km
We arrived in San Carlos just before sunset. It is quite a magical place that lies on the Gulf of California (or Sea of Cortez).  In the evening the harsh desert landscape transformed itself into a riot of colours. We easily found a RV park to pitch our tents, as there are many Americans and Canadians that live in San Carlos during the winter. I understand that San Carlos was also the location site of many movies, including: The classic film Catch-22, The Mask of Zorro and Lucky Lady - starring Liza Minnelli.

The northern region of Mexico (where we are now), is dry and semi-arid, with a typical desert-like climate and although it is winter, the daytime temperatures are around 25°C but it gets quite cold at night.

It is incredibly beautiful here with the bright blue sky in such stark contrast to the desert-like mountains. It is especially impressive at sunrise; I just need to get myself out of the tent a bit earlier. We cycled to the Mirador Escénico, a scenic lookout, a few kilometres from San Carlos; a stunning spot with a view over the Gulf of California, dramatic Tetakawi (a hill jutting out of the sea) and the secluded coves of Playa Piedras Pintas.

We stayed another day as we were hearing reports that it was unseasonably cold further north. We have by now also made friends with the other people in the park. Joan and Mark, Lynn and Leo, as well as Brenda and Al; all were Canadians and very friendly. We also met Susan and Karla, two women who have the guts to driveone of those big RV’s all by themselves!  Nearly every night Al made a good fire for all to sit around. We sat around the fire having a glass of wine and enjoying the snacks that Joan and Brenda kept bringing out!!  I think we will stay another day!!

23 January - San Carlos – Desert Camp - 101km
Finally, we left San Carlos quite late on the morning of the 23rd. We waved good-bye to the friends we’d made in the park, and headed off. Again the road ran past vast stretches of desert, with only cacti and some dry shrubs to be seen. We were taking a break at an abandoned trucker’s restaurant, when we noticed two very hungry and thirsty chickens, presumably left behind by the former owners of the place. Ernest then fetched water from an old well out back and poured it into a pot from which the chickens thirstily drank, and also fed them some corn chips and sandwiches which we had in our bags (the little rooster and hen were so ravenous that they nearly choked on the food). Sadly, that was all we could do, not sure if we had only prolonged their agony. We turned onto a side road in the direction of Kino, and cycled past beautiful scenery as the road ran through the Cajon del Diablo. This is an ecological reserve of 147,000 hectares which incorporates mountains and valleys, as well as coastal bays, estuaries, and islands. The area is apparently recognised worldwide for its rich biodiversity.

By sunset we had only cycled about 100 km, and were nowhere close to any place. We set up camp away from the road under a bright desert moon. It was dead quiet and I kept hearing things grunting and gnawing. I fell asleep to the sound of jackals laughing and yapping in the distance. In the early hours I was startled by something galloping past in the dark, perhaps a couple of the local wild goat variety.

24 January - Desert camp – Kino - 97km
We woke to a stunning sunrise, had coffee and a peanut butter sandwich and set off down a dead-pan flat road. The desert is a rather unforgiving place, and every now and again one can spot animal skeletons, baked snow white by the sun. Amazingly enough, if one happens to finds water, which is the case here, it seems like just about anything can grow. This area permits for large scale irrigation and therefore produces large quantities of crops. Interestingly enough, I read the following:

“North of the Yaqui Valley, advances in pump technology after World War II allowed other coastal irrigation districts to bulldoze desert plains and convert them into wheat and cotton fields. The largest was the Costa de Hermosillo where, at its height, 887 pump-powered wells regurgitated water onto more than 100,000 hectares. But discharge exceeded recharge by 250 percent. As water tables plummeted and salt water intruded from the Gulf of California, the Mexican government finally stepped in and halved the amount of water that could be pumped. Many fields were abandoned. Other farmers switched from relatively low-value crops like cotton to high-value, high-risk crops like brandy grapes, citrus, garbanzo beans, and vegetables destined for U.S. markets.”

We cycled past vast areas of fruit plantations and even some vineyards, now in their winter slumber. Late afternoon we arrived in Kino. Kino is a small, fishing village with just a few houses and shops. We found ourselves a room, had a decent shower and Ernest made delicious spaghetti bolognaise.

25-27 January – Kino - 15km
We packed up at leisure and cycled to the new part of Kino where we found RV parks and a few shops. Kino is another popular place for North Americans to over winter. We found a cheap site, and although not with all the modern facilities, it was across the road from the beach and a nice and friendly spot to hang out. Ernest made some Burritos (LOL, or our version of it!) and we sat outside listening to an audiobook. It drizzled throughout the night and I was happy to be under cover.

In the morning the clouds were gone and Ernest did some laundry (I was too lazy to do mine). I took a walk up the hill behind us for a good view of the coast and just sat around doing nothing for the rest of the day. I played with my macro lens, which I find quite frustrating. The depth of field is very shallow and I just don’t seem to get the hang of it. Sigh, I guess I just need to practice a bit, seeing that I´m lugging it around with me.

In the meantime, we found an old table and chair to use and were making ourselves nicely at home. I hauled out the laptop and speakers and we sat listening to stories and, can you believe it, Radio KFM!!

28 January - Kino – Miguel Aleman - 55km
I was getting itchy feet. Ernest still wanted to stay another day but I felt it was time to move on. We packed away our table and chairs; fortunately Ernest did not want to take it with!! It was 11h00 by the time we left Kino, picked up a nice tailwind and cycled inland to Miguel Aleman town. Now, there was no reason at all for us to stop here, but we did!  We found a room across from the local car-wash. Ernest went shopping and then busied himself with making a big stew/soup – there is not a hell of a lot else one could do in this dusty town!

29-31 January - Miguel Aleman – Hermosillo - 65km
Never, ever, waste a tailwind!!  By the time we got back on the road our tailwind of the previous day was gone and we cycled the rest of the way to Hermosillo into an icy cold gust. Just before reaching the city Ernest´s front brakes broke, so we hoped to find a good bike shop. In the city centre we booked into the Washington Hotel with half decent ground floor rooms and Wi-Fi.

Not being very domesticated, I normally keep a keen eye out for someone willing to do my laundry; I wish I could add “at a small fee” but the fee is normally pretty hefty. In any event, I did not find anyone at the Washington Hotel so schlepped my laundry to the laundry trough and gave it a good rinse. I could hardly call what I did “washing”!

The following day we found a bike shop and Ernest bought a new front brake set and fixed his bike.
A walk around town brought me to Catedral de la Asuncion, where I learned about Hermosillo’s recent tragedy. On June 5, 2009, a fire broke out at the ABC child care center, leaving 49 children dead.  Most of the children died of asphyxiation. There were about 100 children inside the building at the time, with ages ranging from six months to five years. I cannot imagine anything worse!  Now there are 49 small crosses in the plaza, decorated with angels and bearing the children’s names.

I wandered around town, had a haircut and did some shopping at the local supermarket, and again bought a whole lot of stuff I did not really need. I did, however, find a small thermal flask which I wanted to test to see how viable it was to take coffee or soup on the road.

1 February - Hermosillo – El Oasis - 77km
We left Hermosillo in the direction of Nogales. Again the road ran pencil-straight and pancake-flat through the desert. I say desert, because that is what it is called, but it is more like a semi-desert. It was a nice warm day, a real t-shirt and shorts day. It dawned on me that we were quite lucky to be here in winter, as cycling here in summer could be unbearably hot.

In fact it was not that flat after all, as it felt like we were going slightly uphill all day. I guess, besides a headwind, a false flat comes a close second, as it looks like one should be cruising along but you pedal and pedal and never really seem to get onto speed.

We pitched camp behind the petrol station amongst rubbish and chickens. It is not the quietest of places to camp but I did not mind and found the sound of the trucks pulling in and out rather soothing. I like that they appear from nowhere and disappear into the night again. It was more the desert dogs barking all night long,that became a bit irritating. At least I could look up into the night sky and could see some fireflies and even a shooting star or two.

2 February - El Oasis – Santa Ana - 100km
The scenery was unchanged as we biked the 100km to Santa Ana. We encountered some road works, which were a bit of a pain, but once we cleared that, the road was nice and smooth with a wide shoulder (always a welcome site). Once we reached Benjamin Hill we realised that we were indeed going uphill, as suddenly we reached a gradual downhill making for easy riding.

3 February - Santa Ana - Magdalena de Kino - 22km
The next day we turned into the small village of Magdalena de Kino, situated in a landscape straight out of a Wild West movie, amongst huge cacti and surrounding hills. It is a charming town of around twenty thousand inhabitants. It would be easy to drive by and miss this village, as we saw no road sign indicating the turn-off. We cycled past, and only once we were up on the hill we noticed the town below, so we decided to turn back and see the place.

It turned out that Magdalena de Kino is quite a historic village and also the place where Father Kino (whoever he was) passed away at the Mission in 1711.  In 1966 the town was renamed Magdalena de Kino after the discovery of Kino’s remains (now displayed in a monument on the plaza for all to see - so much for RIP!). Magdalena is a nice village with some cobblestone streets, a historic church, a few hotels and interesting stalls selling curios, local produce, as well as strings of dried chilies.


4 February - Magdalena de Kino – Nogales - 96km
Over the hills we went, past plenty of roadside shrines; some quite colourful in this desolate scenery. Eventually we reached Nogales, our final stop in Mexico, just before sunset. Nogales is a typical border town, half-seedywith dodgy looking money changers and cheesy curios. The town is built right up to the border and the security fence, a massive metal wall more than 6 metres high, and looks something like the Berlin Wall. We found a room close to the border crossing, as we planned to cross into the USA first thing in the morning.