Hills and Hard Earned Beers

Confronting Beasts On The Road

Perspectives by Leticia – Photography by The Howling Sea Crew

The road to our destination was long and punctuated with trials that put the ol’ wolf pack to the test. What was a 40-mile ride felt more like 400 miles, and as we pulled into camp exhausted, hungry and covered in dust, we couldn’t wait to wrap our lips around a celebratory drink that evening. It’s uncanny the way that things seem to taste so much better when you work for it and I have to say, traversing across the Baja on this off-road adventure has given me a newfound appreciation of the meaning of a hard earned thirst. With the last speck of daylight fading into darkness, we got stuck into a $3 carton of wine that suddenly tasted like a top-shelf vintage and as we began recollecting the day’s journey, we all agreed it was the most challenging ride so far.

We’d packed up camp as usual and had only moved about 50 feet when my bike started squirreling and I noticed the front tyre I’d changed that morning was flat. Goddammit! It felt like Groundhog Day as we got the tools back out and once again started labouring in our sandy, makeshift workspace. As soon as the new tube was inflated, it started hissing out air, going down again at the speed of a pierced balloon. “What the fuck?” I sulked. I questioned why this was happening to me, as if I was the first person in the world to get a flat tyre. It turns out that rubber tubes don’t like being rattled around in a toolbox while traveling over bumpy, rugged terrain and are prone to getting small punctures as a result. They say three’s a charm and it was only when we put in the 3rd tube that no punctures surfaced and we could finally make tracks. Thank bloody god.

Fellow travellers had warned us about this journey, so we knew it wasn’t going to be a cruisey one. The first 20 miles of ‘graded road’ required our utmost attention lest we eat shit while riding over the golf ball-sized rocks that blanketed the entire surface. A slight lapse in concentration could’ve easily sent any of us into a spill. We were relieved when it was over and our white knuckles could resume their normal hue as we turned onto the last road to our port of call.

The winding, sandy road was like a playful, desert racetrack. Seeing the hand-painted sign ‘Playa, This Way →’ filled us with the joy of knowing we were almost there, but as we rounded the last bend of the road, we faced a final and unexpected challenge for the day.

Nobody had mentioned this when giving us the ‘heads up’ for the trip and yet, there it stood looming before us; a beast of a hill staring down like a monstrous opponent you wish you weren’t up against. Crevices big enough to throw you off course, rocks of various sizes, loose dirt and a steep incline to make matters more unsettling, I gulped the moment I realised we had to make it over the thing.

An old campervan was approaching the hill and we held our breath as we watched it crawl its way up, carefully negotiating the steep ascent. As it noticeably rocked from side to side like a see-saw, I couldn’t’ help but imagine the axels giving way at anytime, but they eventually made it to the top and we all breathed a sigh of relief for the campers. Phew. Wolf pack, baaatter up.


Gaz went first and he just made it up, although admitting he almost lost it towards the very end. Next up, Greggy. He started off in good form and was almost at the top when he hit a patch of loose dirt that veered him into a crevice and bucked him right off. The bike landed on top of his leg with enough impact for his chain to come off. After it was lifted off him, we were thankful that nothing was broken, although a giant goiter-like bump appeared instantly. Justin went next and managed to make it up, but we all saw how he came within a whisker of eating shit too. Alex carefully assessed the best line to take up the treacherous hill, but he still went down just inches from the top. Watching 2 out of 4 go down started to fill me with dread. The odds didn’t seem favourable. Justin could sense my apprehension and very kindly said, “Teash, it’s pretty gnarly…do you want me to ride it for you?” I considered it for a moment, but knew I’d be disappointed in myself if I didn’t give it a crack. I thanked him for the offer, but declined.

Matty appeared nonchalant about the hill and reassured me, “Teash, you’ll be fine…it’s nothing gnarlier than anything we’ve ridden so far.” He took off before me and got about halfway when he started to careen out of control and went down. Everyone rushed over to help lift his heavy rig, assessing his surfboards for damage almost before asking him if he was OK. Aah, the priorities of surfers.

I tried to suppress any doubt in my mind as I drew a few deep breaths and mustered the courage to take on the beast. Heart pounding, palms sweating and mind channeling Ryan Gosling from Beyond The Pines, I gave the engine a few encouraging revs and thought of the advice the lads had given me. Just stay in low gear and fucking haul ass! Perhaps I’d taken the advice with a little too much gusto as I hammered up the hill like a bat out of hell. CLUNK, CLUNK, went my bike with every bump I hit. I was so close to the top when I hit a patch and foreseeing myself about to each shit, I ejected from my bike, dive rolling and springing to my feet almost in time to see my bike being hurled into an agave plant. After dislodging my poor Lady from its clutches, we all started having a good laugh at my efforts as we rolled her to the top.

We rode into camp and the dramas of the journey melted away the moment we saw the ocean coming into view. A heavenly welcome to revive the weary pack after what had been such a demanding day.

In sheer jubilation, we got off our bikes and starting high-fiving one another. Yeeeeeewhhh!!! Despite the fact that we didn’t really conquer the beast, we felt triumphant nonetheless that it hadn’t destroyed us. Salud to that.