We had been warned previously, and it was soon clear the next day, that the temperature had taken a big jump up on this eastern side. We took this opportunity to finally have a pair of rest days, after five days on the trot. A small pool at the motel provided occasional relief from the heat, but otherwise we retreated to the air-conditioned bliss of our room!
As ever, after a rest day, it took a while to get things packed away and ready to go. Having stopped off at the shop to fill bottles with one and a half days worth of water, we headed out into what was already pretty intense heat by 9am, climbing gently away from the coast. Stopping in the very welcome shade of a solitary tree, we had lunch and pondered how we were going to manage in this heat (about 35C in the shade and 45C in the sun). At that moment, I took a drink of water from the 3-litre bladder in my backpack, only to suck it dry. I had managed to burn through 3 litres in 3 hours and was still quite thirsty. It was clear that we had underestimated how much we would need in this hotter climate and, whilst we had enough to make it to our destination for that evening, we were certainly short for the ride to our next ‘official’ resupply at a ranch the next day. Our only hope was that there might be some water available at San Rafael, where we were headed, although the route notes specifically stated not to expect anything.
Arriving at San Rafael, we were greeted by the lovely (and somewhat legendary) Pancho, who lives in a small shack overlooking the bay and who immediately offered us cold beers! Tempting as it was, we stuck to water to quench our thirst – knocking back several glasses before, clearly sensing our condition, he brought out a 5-litre container for us! What good fortune. A swim in the bay helped to cool our heads and bodies too, although we had to take care wading through the shallow waters as small stingrays darted around everywhere! From our camp spot on the porch of a house near Pancho’s, we watched a lovely sunset and reflected on our luck and lesson learned!
As part of our new strategy to try and beat the heat, we rolled out shortly after sunrise the next morning. Despite the early departure, we were soon drenched in sweat as we made our way up the scorching climb.
The peak was the halfway point of our Baja Divide trip but we didn’t linger for long, instead pushing on to Rancho Escondido where we arrived at midday and spent a couple of hours hiding from the sun and having lunch. With the heat barely diminished, we left at 2:30pm on slow, sandy tracks to climb again up and over to Rancho Piedra Blanca. It was tougher going than the profile suggested, given the surface, and we were tempted at one point to take what looked like a more direct route. I was sure, however, that Nick and Lael (the route creators) would have chosen our route for a reason though, so we stuck with the same mantra that got us through many of the tough sections… ‘In Nick and Lael we trust!’ and persisted. When we got to the junction with this alternative route, it was clear that that track would have been a sandy nightmare and our faith was justified! Nevertheless, final gradients of 20% before the pass really tested our legs. What should have been an easy downhill coast afterwards was into a headwind on corrugated sand and we arrived at the ranch exhausted, just before sunset.
The next day was another 5am wake-up to beat the sun. We were both apprehensive as the route notes suggested a tough day ahead through deep sand and the last few days had been sapping. It didn’t fail to deliver! The bikes were great though, and we were able to ride a considerable amount of it. All in all, it was pretty brutal but we made it into Vizcaíno in good time and found a hostel to collapse into.