If this story seems like it is going on forever, just imagine how we felt – Now where was I…
After getting ourselves into a situation far more difficult than we bargained for, it was now dark. We had to face the fact we were going to spend the night in the desert.
You hear stories of guys who to get stuck for the night all the time. Bill Nichols apparently has a number of them. When it happens to you, well, it seems monumental. The good news, for the most part we prepared for this eventuality. At the time, I could still think of a whole laundry list of things to wish for in my backpack. Sort of like Felix the Cat and his magical bag of tricks. Does anyone even remember this reference? It certainly seems ironic I had just written a feature on what to carry in the backpack. Don’t be surprised to see my update on that topic soon!
Jimmy and I had walked a distance down the mountain, almost to the bottom. But we could go no further. There was nothing left to do but find a place to get comfortable for the night. We decided on a narrow ravine, just a few feet wide, but well down out of the wind. It had just enough flat space for us to lie down. There was plenty of brush around to build a fire.
Jimmy had just a few drops of water left in his pack. We finished it off with a couple of quick sips. The situation was less than ideal, but not exactly critical. The canyon we were in has a nice oasis area just about a mile from our location. I knew this from my previous trip there. Having just rained, I knew we could easily find fresh water. I had known all this since before the trip ever started, so I was not completely unprepared.
I had suggested we walk to the water in the dark. Jimmy felt it was more important, considering the darkness and our physical exhaustion, for us to conserve our energy. While the distance to water was not far, the walk would be over an area of nothing but rocks, cactus and more ravines, his suggestion seemed best. We would be fine until morning and then could decide how critical the water situation was.
As we prepared to bed down, I was absolutely soaked with sweat. My t-shirt, jersey, gloves, socks and helmet were saturated. It was not cold yet, but would be soon. I stripped out of my wet clothes. I had my Klim revolt pullover and a fleece vest in my pack to put on. I also had my winter gloves and fleece neck warmer. I wrapped a bandana around my neck. I then removed the windstop liner from my helmet, placed it over my head and pulled the neck warmer down over the top of my head and face. I am sure it looked silly, but it kept me warm.
I stretched out on the ground and was asleep in minutes. It did not last long. After a short nap, the hard ground and a few annoying flies kept me awake. I toughed it out until about midnight, by then we were both freezing. It was time to make a fire. We had lots of fuel, but it was all quick burning brush. The rest of the dark hours were split between short sleep periods and tending the fire.
While we were cold, it was simply a matter of discomfort, nothing serious. My lower body had also been very wet when I went to sleep. I was wearing “Heat Out” skins from Cycle Gear and they dried quickly under my Dakar pants. I have gone to wearing wool blend hiking socks in the winter and they too did a good job of keeping me warm. Should you ever find yourself in this situation, we found sleeping back to back to be the warmest position.
It was beautiful out under the stars. Few areas we ever travel are as dark as the Baja peninsula. However, the first glows of sunlight on the horizon were far more welcome. As you might imagine, we were both ready to have this adventure come to a close, or at least reach a road were we could actually be riding again.
Once the sun was up and the warmth of the day began, we were quickly in better spirits. The solution to our troubles was easy to see in the daylight. It took nearly as long for me to walk back up the mountain to reach my motorcycle, as it did to ride it out. Within an hour, we had both bikes down the bottom of the canyon. We still had a bit of navigating to do to reach the road, but it would all be relatively easy compared to the work we had already completed.
As we were just crossing the last ravine, I happened to look to my right and spot a pool of water in the rocks. We were amazed at our luck. This fresh water was tucked in a niche and appeared undisturbed by the cattle. Judging it safe, we both drank to our fill. We also split a granola bar and an Emergen-C powder. Having been empty so long, I had to let my stomach settle for a few minutes. Recharged, we felt like a million bucks now.
It was just over two hours of riding for us to reach San Felipe. First stop was the OXXO for a giant Gatorade, then off to breakfast at New Georges. A giant plate of food and a Coke never tasted so good. I called home to Neena; she calmly asked if we had had a good time camping out. I had sent her two Spot Tracker check-ins from the same location after dark the night before, I had hoped she would understand we were stopped for the night and she did. I then sent her one at 6am sharp to let her know we would soon be on the move again.
While the largest part of the adventure was now completed, we still had plenty of work to do for the day. I would have been happy to park next to the pool at a motel for the day, but we were expected back in El Rosario the next morning. We had to make our way clear back across the peninsula.
We had broken the rear fender on the Yamaha sliding it over a rock at some point; some repair was needed to keep it intact. I was in dire need of some rest. As it happened, a gentleman struck up a conversation with us in the restaurant and offered to let me come crash at his house in town if I needed. His place was just a few blocks from the motorcycle repair shop. As Jimmy went to work on the Yamaha, I was off to take a quick nap.
A couple of hours later we refueled the bikes and the packs and headed out of town. Our problem now was to decide the best way back. Even as tired as we both were, neither relished the thought of a couple hundred miles of highway riding to return to El Rosario.
The only logical choice was to cross the rock trail. For most groups, the rock trail is an entire day event. We did not even arrive at the entrance until 2:45 in the afternoon. It would be dark well before we reached the highway.
Jimmy and I both flinch at the understanding that this day seems just a little too similar to the events of the previous day. Even so, the situation was really quite different. First, we know exactly where we are going. Even in the dark, I can navigate the rock trail. Compared to yesterday’s work this is child’s play. Second, we both have good lights. I have the new Baja Designs LED squadron and Jimmy an HID, so there is little to fear of the dark itself. I also know a shorter route that will bring us out closer to our destination, taking us north instead of south towards Catavina.
(sorry this clip has poor sound due to the windy conditions)
Still, it is a couple of hours of hard riding to get over the mesa. Once headed down the west side, it becomes lots of fun. It is nice to be back in a situation of riding for fun, versus having to merely survive something.
As we are just about to pull onto the highway, something flashes by in my lights. It is one of the most amazing and scary things I can ever imagine. There is a lone rider on a touring bicycle, riding down the highway at night with no lights! My light has caught the reflective tape on his panniers. I guess it is somewhat comforting to know that I am not the craziest person wandering around the Baja.
As we head north on the tarmac, there are just a few drops of rain in the air. We have watched the angry clouds in the west all afternoon. We have all our good gear, riding off road in the rain is not something that we worry about much. Yet that is far different from riding down a dark Mexican highway in the rain, a thought I do not relish after all we have been through.
The rain holds off until we reach the van. We are just loaded up and closing the doors when the skies let loose with a full rain shower. Fortunately, we are tucked in the relative safety of the van for the last 30 miles of the trip that brings us full circle.
It is hard to believe we left El Rosario only the previous morning.