The next morning was magical, coasting amongst the boojum trees, before climbing a little back up towards the MEX1 highway (the route that ‘normal’ people use to travel in this direction).
A few short kilometres on MEX1 and we were able to stop at El Descanso truck stop, which provided cold drinks, burritos and even WiFi. Despite our considerable loads of water, it became clear as we each downed a second 600ml can of mango juice, that we were clearly not drinking enough! Still, feeling refreshed, if a little sick from the sugar, we headed off into the afternoon heat of the highway for a few more kilometres before turning back off onto the dirt. The afternoon offered up slightly more testing, loose rocky terrain again.
We soon found ourselves emerging onto a flat and open plateau that seemed to have very few opportunities for protection from the considerable breeze. Fortunately, we found a small gully with some flat ground and had camp set up before the sun abandoned us for the night.
The next morning we had a relatively easy start and made good progress on relatively smooth ripio, with nice cacti to entertain us. Around lunchtime, the route came to within shouting distance of the highway, before veering away and back into the hot and dusty unknown. It was sorely tempting to jump onto the MEX1 and cruise to Cataviña, our destination that evening anyway. However, call it stubbornness or just a deep desire to leap into the unknown and trust in the route’s creators, we cracked on down a horrendously rocky path and up a sweaty climb, having found a tiny tree to shelter under momentarily for lunch. It was a testing early afternoon to say the least but, suddenly, and it really did happen quite quickly (even at bicycle speed), we climbed up through a rocky outcrop next to a ranch and emerged into a completely different world. What I can only describe as a forest of cacti, denser than anything we’d seen so far or, to be honest, had ever imagined existed.
Our only regret was that we were running particularly low on water by this point and therefore had to keep moving rather than linger to really take it all in. It was still a magical hour or two, before we emerged onto the highway and rolled 7km or so down to Cataviña, grabbing several cold drinks each from the first shop we spotted.