Enduro tip

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Enduro tip

Enduro tip
Let’s go

There is only one asphalt road on Baja California, the 1,300-kilometer-long peninsula that begins south of California and belongs to Mexico. On the other hand, there are countless gravel and sand tracks that meander through this magical desert landscape. A few enduro riders roamed the north of the Baja.

Christoph Schade


It’s four o’clock in the night. “Do we have to go?” I ask drowsy. Ten minutes later we’re already sitting in the truck and driving on Highway 5 from Los Angeles to San Diego, towards the Mexican border. With every mile we leave behind, the mood and anticipation increase. The highway is very busy on Saturday morning. Fully loaded station wagons, long-legged SUVs, long mobile homes with large trailers on which boats and dirt bikes are tied. Nick, our tour guide, is satisfied. It is his business to take people who are annoyed by the big city to quieter regions for a few days. Life in LA has become hard and hectic. At the fence that separates California from Mexico, two worlds collide. Over on the other side, there are thousands of people who dream of a life in the United States. Many are trying to cross the border illegally to earn a few dollars in the land of their dreams. For this they are ready to work day and night, Sundays and public holidays around the clock for a minimal wage. And we’re looking for adventure, rushing to this country to experience our dream of freedom, to simply ride our bikes towards the sun. A paradoxical world. A few miles beyond the border town of Tecate we reach a small farm, the area of ​​which is protected by a high fence. We leave the pick-ups here. The bikes are unloaded in no time. Some of the tour participants are already so nervous that they run the engines before they have even put on their boots. But the preparations still take a while. Because we will be traveling without escort vehicles for the next few days, the essentials of the equipment must first be stowed in our small rucksacks. It’s finally starting. It has rained heavily in the past few days. The air is still humid, and the cool, fresh wind drives away the morning tiredness. The sun makes its way through the black rain clouds, full of promise. The rumbling sound of the four single cylinders combines into a monotonous concert. Slowly we roll along a freshly leveled, wide dirt road. I alternately stretch arm and leg muscles, eyeing my comrades, all of whom are experienced motocrossers. “We’re gonna have a great ride,” I hear Nick shout through his cross helmet. No dust, great traction and 1000 kilometers of almost untouched paths in front of us. After 20 miles we turn off. A slope leads to a mountain range, on the slopes of which the only forests on the Baja grow. As if on command, Charly and Todd turn the tap on. The ride begins, my heart laughs in my body: wet, firm sand, a new, rough butcher on the rear wheel and a winding trail. The dream of every enduro rider: the first refueling stop after a hundred kilometers. “Okay, I know you are all quick now, but be careful, we still have a long way to go and our van is parked a long way away.” Nick is right. The Baja is almost uninhabited, larger places can only be found in the north on the California border and deep down in the south. If something happens to you on the slopes and paths off the Mex 1, as the 1700 km long asphalt strip between the border town of Tijuana and the southern tip of Cabo San Lucas is called, you often have to wait a long time for help. The “gas station” itself is a real insider tip. Behind a sawmill, an old woman sells gasoline from simple plastic milk cans. Without Nick’s excellent local knowledge, we wouldn’t have gotten very far with our small tanks, so we drive over a small path to a secluded vantage point. The view from the rock over the forested canyons is breathtaking. The opposite slopes shimmer in many different shades, gnarled trees have their branched roots everywhere through the fragile rock. Hundreds of cacti stand meters high and stretch their long spines into the deep blue sky. No trace of civilization far and wide. This is what California must have looked like before it was tarred. Our first night quarters are Mike’s Sky Ranch. Originally a lodge for hunters and lumberjacks, it has been in the hands of dirt bikers as a base camp for over twenty years. The motorbikes come into the inner courtyard, where there are already over 20 machines around the swimming pool, while tanned guys in dusty, colorful cross-clothes are enjoying the best of Trail Rider Latin at the bar. From here there are several variants for all levels of difficulty an enduro trip. We want to follow in the footsteps of the Baja 1000 under our wheels, one of the most famous and toughest off-road races in America. This rally is the forerunner of all great desert rallies and was the result of a simple bet: the aim was to cover the 1000 miles from Ensenada to La Paz in the south of the Baja in just 36 hours. A grueling race on a breakneck gravel road – it normally took almost ten days to get to the southern tip of the tarmac road in the 1970s wide stream made. Nevertheless, we decide on one of the most demanding routes. Nick is concerned, but you can always turn back. What can easily happen, however, we immediately see on the river: Two enduro riders from Utah are standing deep in the water, where they literally sunk their Honda XL 650 up to the tip of the handlebars. And trying to start it again in the middle of the floods, the two guys drained the battery. With combined forces we push the bike onto the bank and then over the loose scree until the single cylinder starts working again. Soaked with sweat, we crouch in the shade of a cactus and curse motorcycles without kick starters. In the meantime, a group of mounted Indians has appeared on the other side. We watched the horses feel a passable place and cross the stream there. We also try it at this point and fortunately only get our boots wet. In front of us the Picacho del Diablo, at almost 3100 meters the highest mountain on the peninsula, grows into a cloud-covered sky. Rain in the plains mostly means snow in the mountains at this time. We try to bypass the massif on the north side. The landscape doesn’t really fit into the image of a desert region: We rush through dense coniferous forest, and now and then we even discover lush meadows, as they could also occur in the Alps. And further up, snowfields actually shimmer on the slopes. The gravel road climbs slowly, and now and then there are thick stones in the lane. A little later we pass the border to the Sierra San Pedro Mártir National Park. The path to the summit is quite unspectacular. But then we can hardly believe our eyes: We are standing in front of a steep edge that falls almost 3,000 meters straight down. Just breathtaking. Cold wind blows in our faces up here. Far below us, the rough surface of a salt lake shimmers, the Laguna Diablo, our next stage. On the San Pedro Martin Trail it goes down again – 3000 meters difference in altitude in less than 30 miles. A little frozen through and with wet boots we reach the salt lake. The temperature difference is normal. The shimmering heat stands on the dust-dry surface like a hot wall, even the airstream hardly provides any cooling. The jackets quickly disappear back into the backpacks. Despite the heat, the mirror-smooth salt lake is a welcome change for us: Instead of balancing the bikes at walking pace over stones and rocks, we now dash off at full throttle, practice wheelies, drift in long tracks over the flat surface. It is already dawn. Tonight we have an appointment in the small coastal town of San Felipe on the Gulf of California. Because time is of the essence, we reject the kilometer-long gravel road to San Felipe and choose a shortcut: an abandoned gold digger trail that leads through the middle of the desert. Once again, there is real driving pleasure. With gusto we take the washouts, which are now so deep that a mini van could disappear into it. It has apparently not rained here for weeks, so our plumes of dust are correspondingly long. Side by side we take the waves as if in formation flight – until our thighs ache. Then finally the sea lies before us, the Sea of ​​Cortez, aka the Gulf of California. The city is teeming with motorbikes and we meet familiar faces. Dusty and exhausted, we fall into the deep armchairs of a bar right on the beach. The beer hisses, the sun disappears, in front of us dolphins play happily in the reddish shimmering sea.

Info – Baja California

The 1300 kilometer long Baja (pronounced »Bacha«) consists mainly of a rugged rocky and desert landscape. Countless slopes cross country – a dream for enduro riders.

Arrival: There are different ways to get to Baja California: Either from California (Los Angeles or San Diego) or from Arizona or during a round trip through Mexico by ferry from Mazatlan to La Paz or from Guayamas to Santa Rosalia. Most of the peninsula consists of desert. The climatic differences are extreme. In the north there are mountain ranges over 3000 meters high, where the temperatures are usually cool. Thunderstorms and blizzards are not uncommon in winter. The coast has a pleasant climate all year round. The best time to visit the Baja is from October to May. Ideal: February to April. The temperatures then move normally between 25 and 30 degrees (in the south). The nights can still get chilly. The summer, on the other hand, is unbearably hot and humid. Documents: A passport is sufficient to enter Mexico. On site, the authorities only issue a tourist card. In the case of organized tours, the organizers usually take care of the paperwork. It gets a little more complicated when you want to enter Baja California on your own motorcycle. A Carnet de passage is not necessary, but the customs procedure usually takes one to two hours. If you come from Los Angeles, you should avoid the border crossing in the hectic metropolis of Tijuana and rather drive a few miles further east to Tecate.Overnight: The Baja is relatively uninhabited, but there are rooms in cheap hotels and guesthouses in almost every place about $ 15. The coastal towns in the north have dedicated themselves entirely to tourism and offer accommodation in all price ranges from $ 20 and up. The La Pinta hotels on Mex 1, the only asphalt road, are excellent. Between $ 60 and $ 70 per double room. If you travel with a tent, you will experience the Baja from its most beautiful side: Wild camping is possible almost everywhere safely, and whoever has spent an evening by the campfire in the middle of the endless cactus forests or on one of the dreamy beaches no longer voluntarily goes to a hotel. There are enough campgrounds and trailer parks (for mobile homes). Particularly recommended: Playas públicas (public beaches), where you can pitch your tent under the palapas (shaded roofs made of wood and palm leaves). Organized tours: Several operators offer organized tours on the Baja California. The offer ranges from the tough weekend enduro tour to a two-week leisurely Harley trip to the southern tip of the Baja. Baja Off Road Adventures specializes in three to four-day enduro tours in the north of the Baja. The fun costs $ 975 for three days including a Honda XR 600. Info: Baja Off Road Adventures – BORA, 3950 E. Miraloma, Anaheim, CA 92805, phone 00/1/7 14 5 28/65 39, fax 00/1/7 14 6 30/44 74, Embajador Adventure Tours Inc. mainly offers tours to the southern end of Baja California. The Honda XR 600 trips last seven days and cost $ 2,800. Info: Embajador Adventure Tours, Inc. 3368 Governor Drive, F-246, San Diego, CA 92122 USA, phone 00/1/6 19 4 53/4958, fax 00/1/6 19 4 53/49 58 Eagle Rider offers Harley tours to the southern tip and back to Los Angeles. The trip costs $ 4,700 and includes all overnight stays and an escort vehicle. Info: in the ADAC offices or at Eagle Rider, 20917 Western Ave., Torrance, CA 90501, phone 00/1/310 320/34 56, fax 00/1/310 320/41 76. Organized tours on motorcycles from 500 Thielmann Tours offers up to 750 cm³. Per person from 1732 marks (accommodation and care, etc.) plus 1582 marks for the motorcycle. Info: From Thielmann Tours, POBox 87764, San Diego, CA 92138-7764, USA, Phone 00/1/619 463-77 88, Fax 00/1/619 463-7788 Literature: An excellent guide to Baja trips of all levels of difficulty is the Baja California tour manual by Christian Pehlemann from the publisher of the same name for 39.80 marks. Maps: The best Baja map is available from the American Automobile Club AAA or Map Center Inc., University Ave., San Diego, CA 92104-2894, USA. Sufficient: Hallwag Mexico, 1: 2,600,000, for 12.80 marks.

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