The waves had been good; and you don’t leave when the waves are good. We’d been lucky in that a swell was starting to hit northern Baja just as we crossed the border and was set to stay for a while. After leaving our initial rally point near Popotla—where the crew had met in full, in person for the first time—we made our way south until we found a fun wave outside of San Miguel which was to become our home for the next four days. When you unzip your tent every morning to a clean, head high wave peeling across the beach, it can be difficult to leave.
When the entry and exit point of a spot are full of large, submerged rocks, boards will eventually get dinged. Since fins don’t generally win fights with granite, Teash became the first victim with a snapped skeg and a fin box ripped from the board. While we carry resin to fill the inevitable hole here and there, this particular issue was beyond our ability to properly repair with our current gear. Luckily we were still in civilization and a shop wasn’t far off; unfortunately, the board would have to dry out for a few days before it could be repaired – after all, you don’t want to seal up wet foam. So, plans to leave the area would have to be put on hold.
Next, motorcycle issues had come about; the kinds of things that definitely need to be sorted out before heading off into the unforgiving Baja desert. Matty’s pannier fell off. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true; it was wedged in between the rack—which it had previously been hooked onto—and his surfboard so it didn’t actually fall off. But it was no longer a safe or sustainable way to transport gear over the long, bumpy paths that pass for roads that we’d be hitting. Needless to say, it would have to be fixed. Unfortunately, one of the custom pieces of stainless steel that holds the pannier on to the rack had rattled off somewhere over the last three miles of rock-covered dirt we’d just ridden over and our slow-speed, search-and-rescue efforts were for naught. Then, later, I found that the last 13,000 miles had done a number on my chain and I needed a replacement. After a visit to a metal worker who kept roosters and a motorcycle shop with chicken-wire walls, we were all set to go…mechanically at least.
The last delay had been caused in Ensenada. Around the time I was putting the new chain on my motorcycle, I started to feel a bit under the weather which was no surprise; I hadn’t eaten or drank very much water all day. By the time I was finished, whatever virus I’d managed to contract was in full swing. Everything ached, my head was pounding, I was hot and cold at the same time, and I’d been visiting the bathroom every half hour since noon. Meanwhile, Justin had been experiencing similar effects from this vicious bug. We were in for a rough night. Thankfully we’d managed to score a stay for a few days on a sailboat, which meant we had beds and a toilet. Over the next 36 hours, I’m pretty sure our groaning and constant getting up drove our unfortunate roommates a little insane. I can’t imagine it’s very much fun sharing a tiny, dark, rocking room with two people whose bodies were taking an internal beating from some sort of Biblical-style plague. Justin had it worse. We don’t know whether it was due to his immune system being weakened from a round of antibiotics taken to combat a previous virus or because he got a larger dose of whatever we’d eaten, inhaled, or had been exposed to; either way, his journey to the healthy side was much more intense than my own. So, we had to wait. When one of the crew can’t ride, none of us can.
Even with the more negative delays, we’d managed to have a great time. We’d weathered our first rainstorm—the most serious the region had seen in years—splendidly. Though, I don’t think we can take all the credit for it; we had the help of a traveling Aussie called Joe who happened to have an awning in his van. Rather than each of us taking shelter in our respective tents, and thus make it an early night, we huddled together under our new shelter, where a guitar, a ukulele, and a disco ball all came out. Needless to say, there was a good amount of singing—even some freestyling by Greggy—and laughing. It was a good time and, in a way, I think we were happy for the rain because it wouldn’t have happened the same way without it. I guess the rum helped too…
After everyone was almost surfed out—if that’s even possible, I just don’t have another word at the moment—we went exploring the woods, valleys, and canyons of northern Baja. Deep in wine country, we made our first water crossing, climbed mountains, and soothed our aching muscles in hot springs that must have been used by outlaws at one point. I don’t have evidence that they were, just a feeling…and a hope. It’s here that we witnessed the epic, desolate beauty of northern Baja for the first time. Though we’d seen beautiful vistas winding through the mountain pass to the coast, this is the first that we’d been fully engulfed in it. Spending a night in a remote, mountain valley with the sounds of the modern world unable to make their way over the high peaks was refreshing. The high, steep walls of stone only amplified the sounds from within: the small stream we camped next to sounded like a river, voices in camp could be heard at the top of the mountain, and, in the morning, the sound of motorcycle engines turning over could have been heard miles away. Landscapes like these have a way of shrinking your world to a few short meters while simultaneously overwhelming you with their size.
For having traveled such a short distance, we’ve had our fair share of experiences. It was a good chance for everyone to become more familiar with their motorcycles outside of the controlled, predictable environment that is San Diego. With any luck, the rest of our journey will be equally chalked-full of good experiences and I’m sure we’ll also have to deal with a few more mishaps. At this point, everyone is frothing to get further south…to the ‘real’ Baja, away from the convenience of long grocery store lines and crowded lineups. We’re amped to get some miles under the wheels and empty, desert waves under our feet.
It may have been a slow start but it’s been just what’s needed. Now, southern waves are calling…