North western Mexico is perhaps what California would be like if they didn’t suck the life out of the Colorado. Dry as a bone. Ive certainly had more exciting stretches, Baja the Beautiful I was told, maybe thirty years ago but things are a touch rustic up north. The people are friendly as ever though, forever smiling, giving the odd wave or even a free coffee, and they like to laugh at my pigeon Spanish with the odd sprinkling of French to really send the point home.
Now on my own and over he border I need to get back into the swing of it. Although the busiest border crossing in the world wasn’t like something out of a Hollywood production with DEA agents taking down gang members with tattoos up to their chins and maybe a few tear drops for good measure, it was ordinary but it’s still exciting to be crossing a new frontier.
I suppose that with notorious Mexico and Central America, or at least that is how everyone north of the border thinks, there wont be danger until there is; large lorries on thin roads for one. But sat on a delightful beach after dinner and a dip I cant help but think that as always people over egg everything apart from how friendly everyone is here. I’m lucky that the family who have just arrived at my private beach to catch a sunset picnic and a spot of fishing didn’t turn up ten minutes ago. They may have caught more than they were looking for I was waded baring all through the very long stretch of chilly shallows back to the beach. I’m sure they brought their own worms. Its possibly my favourite beach camping to date, secluded, save the fortunate family, sand but backed by pebbles to perch on. I’m more of a pebbles fan but there is sand for those who like natures worst material, for camping that is. It just gets bloody everywhere.
Morning pit stop the following day, perhaps the cafe ladies won’t be so nice to future cyclist after me. Coffee leads to one thing so before I get back on the bike I pop to the banos. The flush was a mere trickle, I panicked and must confess I got out of there sharpish. I had no desire to meekly return to the kitchen in order to play a game of guess who blocked the loo in the medium of charades.
After the rustic rubble of the coast I’ve headed in land, up hill and into the heat. In the early morning grey atop the hills stand boojum trees or cirio, they are like branchless trees, all trunk no foliage; like sentinels they peer ominously down upon me, silhouetted against the thing band of dawn light. Running through the shrubs are trip wires of silk, the spiders have been busy over night. And after a few hours I once again I find myself in a another bloody desert but this is the real deal, a real Mexican desert complete with cacti the size of trees.
What an incredible place, hilly, but amazing. It is literally like something out of the wild west. In the mornings the east facing slops and sheer cliffs glow golden red before the sun reveals a mass expanse of boulders and forests of cacti. In Singapore airport there is a cactus gardReneen, well now I can say I’ve seen the real deal. What strikes me the most is that despite the severe heat and not but a drop of water, is just how much green there actually is here. If they were trees it would be a great forest obscuring your view with their leaf clad branches. But seeing as they are cacti and have spikes instead of leaves despite their number you can still see a vast horizon of rocky mountains.
On two occasions as I’ve been navigating the cactus fields minding my own business only to find myself swerving into the middle of the road to avoid an ominous noise, the tell tale rattle of a snake. Its rattle snakes or a local Mexican hiding in the shrubbery with some maracas looking to scare the one gringo on a bike for god knows how long. On one such miss timed rattle evasion an on coming lorry did nearly rattle me to death. I didn’t see the offending snakes but I did pass a wee baby basking on the road side so they are definitely out there amongst the rocks and shade.
Day three and I’m settled in for a long hard afternoon, head down and headphones in when I’m waved down by Rene a retired construction worker turned painter from the USA, he is in his forties so well done him. He thrusts a chilled bottle of water and a fist full of nutty bars into my hands before either one of us has said “hola.” As always its the unnecessarily acts of generosity which perk up a tough afternoon. You be surprised at how often it happens but this one is not worthy for he solved the conundrum of why the hell anyone would farm cactus, aside for an occasional potted plant. I did chortle in a coffee stop when a lady was given a potted cactus as a present. The tuna fruit or prickly pear, straight out of the cool box it was possibly the most delicious and refreshing fruit I have ever had; I maybe bias on account of being a touch dehydrated. Somewhere in between aloe vera and melon, with pomegranate like seeds. Mystery solved.
Sporadically I’ve been passing oasis` and not just generous folk with a bottle of water but real bonafide oasis complete with palm tree. Many of them have been very expensive looking homes or farms. As I pass them I can imagine my spokes wobbling like a set of dowsing rods at the vast quantities of water that must be being pumped from aquafers beneath my wheels. They are a bit of a strange sight considering most settlements through which I’ve past have been dry wastelands, how average joe scratches a living out here god only knows.
It is always sad to see the shear volume of victims of the traffic but what is very cool is seeing thirty or so vultures vying for dinner. Circling over head they jostle in the air calling dibs on the next place at the table once the bigger vultures have had their turn. I approached one such feast causing thirty or so large black birds to scarper; what a sight. Sticking with the theme of vultures, and it seems strikingly obvious with hindsight, if you find your self in a desert try to avoid searching for a camp spot in the bushes amongst the cactus when there are half a dozen or so of these big unfortunately ugly birds perched atop the tallest cacti. I thought it looked pretty cool, the blotted balloon of a dog just about ready to pop wasn’t so appealing.