The Baja Divide – Part 1 (The Northern Sierra)

After a day off to rest our weary limbs, we were back out into the fog, which fortunately had retreated at various times to offer us views of the coastline!  It was quite a rolling track with some technical sections and it was amusing at one point, when we were passed by a group of Mexicans in hired 4x4s, to find that we were able to move faster than them through some areas!  Eventually, the track crossed over the highway, where we did a quick food shop and then headed off across dry land, before starting to wind our way up a valley.  Little by little, it got greener and then we started to see a small stream that we could initially just ride through.  Before long, it was off with the shoes, on with the sandals and wading knee-deep whilst carrying the bikes.  Amusingly, Sarah remarked at one point how she was surprised that a red car that had passed us shortly beforehand had managed to clear these relatively deep fords.  At that moment, we rounded a corner to find the aforementioned red car stranded in the middle of a ford, clearly having drowned the engine!  We smiled wryly as we shouldered our bikes and waded past it!

We soon realised that we were not going to complete the climb that evening and decided to call it a day once we reached a small plateau that, amongst the cowpats, offered some flat ground to camp on. We had our first fire that night, using our little modular titanium stove in it’s biggest configuration, that is designed for the purpose.

When not burning solid fuels, we have a little alcohol burner that we can use with the stove in a smaller four-sided configuration.

We bedded down, with a nice view of the stars through the mesh of the tent. Towards the early hours of the morning, however, it became apparent that the stars had disappeared and, in fact, so had all the mountains around us. The sea mist, which had made our first descent to the Pacific a somewhat murky one, had been blown inland overnight. Fortunately, once the sun cleared the mountainside, it quickly burnt it off and we were able to dry out our decidedly damp sleeping bags as well.

As we made our way up the rest of the climb, we thanked our judgement of the previous evening – not only was it tough but there were few options for pitching a tent. It was only about 20km, but it took us until lunchtime and in some of the more airless sections, it was steaming hot.

And then we rolled into Rancho El Coyote. A sign beckoned cyclists to pull over and ring the bell, which we duly did and then waited on the bench. Out popped Michael, a US expat who lived on the ranch, to greet us and give us the lowdown. It turned out that the ranch, at the top of this rather beautiful mountain, was sited on a natural spring which gave them an abundance of water, allowing them to sustain not only a large grassy field for camping (and/or football) and a multitude of trees, but also a swimming pool! It came as a total surprise, since the route notes were typically understated, and a very welcome treat. There was a visitor’s book for cyclists to sign which immediately revealed that a considerable number of the people who had ridden the Divide had elected not to come up to this most magical of spots and had instead taken the (somewhat precarious) shortcut on the highway. This certainly filled both of us with confidence, happy in the knowledge that we were in a relatively select group!

The next day we reluctantly rolled away along the ridge line, grinning at our first big surprise of the trip and the beauty of our surroundings in the morning light. After a short descent down through another ranch, we began another rolling climb, once again with steep eroded pitches, before making our way across parched land and finally down through a fun, rocky descent towards the coast. As we neared our destination, the highway town of Vicente Guerrero, the cacti became more prevalent. I had a quick reminder that I needed to take a little more care around them as I emerged, after taking the pictures below, with a dozen ultra-fine spines lodged in my right thigh!

Once in town, we headed directly to Fass Bikes, a bike shop that’s become something of an obligatory stop on the route and whose helpful owner, Salvador, had lots of useful information.

Deciding that the more expensive of the two hotels in town was out of our budget, we headed to the edge of town to the somewhat seedy but functional Hotel California.


  1. loving the blogs Campbell! keep em coming in between your adventures. watch out for those Mexican bandits! and have fun.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.