Table of contents
… and last but not least, the local people’s dignified culinary skills.
With a swing through sand passages – or stand still and be amazed: The slopes of the Baja are rich in variety, but require their conquerors to use water and gasoline carefully.
Their spikes are not only dangerous for the tires.
Another example of unique nature: lonely beaches on a deep blue sea.
We continue through fields with gigantic cacti.
Small streams also stimulate the desert vegetation and make it appear different again and again.
Thanks to sharp stones and cacti, you have to expect flat tires at any time.
This is how it has to look at the end of the world.
In addition, pelicans and various species of vultures show themselves through the desertedness without much fear.
From time to time it says “Make kilometers” on MEX1, the highway that stretches from north to south and is populated by completely pain-free truckers.
But the desert can also bloom: Many plants and animal species on the Baja only come in here “Baja California” in front.
Fishermen, freaks, traders: the people of the Baja are bon vivants, talented improvisers and free spirits. Often tough and with a certain oddity. Like to chat with people passing through,…
Petrol from canisters is sold at improvised gas stations. Neither the fuel quality nor the quality of the accommodation give cause for complaint.
In addition to stony mountain passages, the path also leads through desert passages that seem to come from a strange planet.
…show hospitality or rough charm, …
Sometimes the mopeds are even allowed to go into the room.
The civilization along some beaches also serve as stops for the rally “Baja 1000”.
On the way: Enduro adventure on the Baja California
On the go: Enduro adventure
Adventure on Baja California
The narrow Mexican peninsula south of California, with its many facets, is considered one of the very large and incomparable off-road Eldorados in the world. Rainer Herhaus and Joachim Sauer looked for the best trails in the footsteps of the famous Baja 1000 rally.
The right hand is on the trigger of his submachine gun. The uniformed man looks grimly at the sports enduro bikes that Rainer and I had crossed the Mexican border with just five minutes earlier. Suddenly the policeman’s mine brightens up and he screams: “Wheelie”. “I beg your pardon”? His gestures are clear: “Wheelie!” There is no longer any doubt: let’s get away, first, second gear, and I’ll pull through to fourth. On the rear wheel. The checkpoint troop cheers.
After a few kilometers we turn south on an inconspicuous gravel road. It meanders through extensive coniferous forests towards the Parque Nacional Constitucion, the summit of which is still covered with dazzling white snow peaks. A completely different face of Mexico then east of Ensenada, where the big Baja 1000 Rally starts every year, a martyrdom of 1000 miles in under 30 hours, without a break! Colorful ribbons on bushes show us the entrance to the racetrack. Over a flowing track with meter-high banks and bucket-sized holes we soon reach a wide, dry river bed. The first cacti with centimeter-long spines appear. Those who, like us, do not use Moose hoses are better off keeping their distance. The moist, non-slip sand forms a great playground for grown men with their 450-size toys.
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The markings of the racetrack lead us in the direction of Sierra San Pedro Mártir, at over 3000 meters the highest point on the peninsula. Today’s destination, Mike’s Sky Ranch, is known as the meeting place for the off-road scene. The approach offers once more terrain for connoisseurs. After a few kilometers on fast sandy slopes, the path gradually climbs upwards. Rain sets in, and extremely slippery mud comes into play. On a steep, rock-strewn driveway, we come across a heavily packed Hummer off-road vehicle. Jack from Alabama is in the process of using a heavy hammer to replace the front propeller shaft. He doesn’t need any help, thank you. He fought in the Iraq war, so these are just peanuts, he proudly explains.
Baja California offers a wide variety of terrain, such as this cactus forest.
One last wide river crossing and we finally reach the ranch, wet and frozen. Fortunately, there is a heated salon where Jim and Nick from Los Angeles speak. Real Baja freaks who captivate their listeners with adventure stories until late at night. Provided with numerous tips, we thunder towards the east coast the next day. The fleece sweaters can soon be taken off. In the Laguna del Diablo, a large salt pan in the shadow of the Sierra, it is already so warm that the air shimmers. What a contrast: above snow-covered mountain ranges, below pure desert, covered with a white salt crust. The temptation is great to simply pound across the wide plain at full throttle. But Nick warned: “Be sure to stay on the main track!” Apart from that, it is easy to break in through the supposedly hard top layer “and then you are in deep shit”.
South of San Felipe we come across the Gulf of California. Narrow gravel roads lead lonely along the beautiful coast. A route that makes you just too euphoric. Then we tackle the challenging Calamajue Canyon. High rock walls shine in the most colorful colors, while water, deep sand and mud are just the right ingredients for our mopeds. Friend Rainer really spurs his KTM for a photo and gets into a deep groove in a curve with the front wheel. Capital rollover – he crashes headfirst on the floor, luckily the machine passes him. He screams in pain. My first thought: “Where can I find a doctor in this godforsaken area?”
Fortunately, after a few minutes and a first cigarette, Rainer only complains of severe pain in his thighs and ribs. As a precaution, he has packed pain pills, and so after half an hour and a little service on the bike, he goes on to Bahía de los Angeles, where I prescribe him an extensive rest.
With the entire supply of pain reliever tablets from the local pharmacy, we set off again after two nights. A long stage across the peninsula towards the Pacific coast is on the plan. One hundred percent off-road through the indescribable Parque del los Cyrios. In addition to mighty Cirio cacti, together with the columnar cacti, something like the landmark of the Baja, smaller cacti species also sprout here, but with mighty thorns. No problem for Rainer when I once had to operate four centimeter long spikes out of his hand with the Leatherman – his pills work wonders.
Small rivers and streams stimulate the desert vegetation and make it appear different again and again.
A short refueling stop when crossing the MEX1 – a dubious, gray-bearded greengrocer sells fuel in old milk canisters – and off you go west. Blurred and remote gravel tracks lead through huge cactus forests. The Pacific is reflected in the distance, but it takes ages to get to the coast. Pure solitude. The villages shown on the map turn out to be abandoned fishing camps. Our engines are already running on reserve. One should be able to buy gasoline in a place Nick named us, but there is not a soul to be seen anywhere. It dawns on us that we can only get out of here in the dark today, if at all. Finally – the sun is already sinking spectacularly into the ocean like a mighty orange – we discover a boat in a small bay in the distance. A fishing family sells us a gallon of fuel each. With that we should make it back to MEX1, even when night falls.
“120 kilometers to go, maximum concentration!”, I warn Rainer. “Absolutely nothing should happen here!” Parallel to each other, two times 35 watts shine rather badly than right, in order to sense traces and washouts on the narrow sandy paths. But after a curve suddenly a deep ditch, I can dive through at the last moment with a burst of gas. My friend rolls over again. Everything is dark and silent. Only a painful groan lets you suspect that Rainer has gotten worse. Take off the helmet very carefully. A few minutes later he can slowly straighten up a bit. His diagnosis: “Now eat it all down, the rib.”
After a long break, I lift Rainer onto his machine and put his backpack on. Sometime long after midnight we arrive at a safe motel. The Baja adventure is almost over. Tough, Rainer tortures himself on his bike the next morning. The last, and now perhaps the toughest, stage lies ahead of him: 400 kilometers to San Diego. After a never-ending day and hair-raising experiences with pain-free truckers, we are back in the USA and back to hectic civilization. Hasta la vista, Baja!
Travel time: ten days – Distance covered: 2500 kilometers – Capital: Mexico-City – Area: 1972550 km2 – Founding: 1810 – Currency: Peso (mex) – Population: 109 960 00
Baja California is a destination for those who like deserts and are nature lovers. Its flora and fauna are unique, the motorcycling experience, especially off-road, is almost unearthly good!
The Mexican peninsula Baja California connects to the south of the US state California. The most important north-south connection is the approximately 1,700 kilometer long asphalt road MEX1 from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas. The length of the Baja exceeds the Italian boot, but is significantly narrower. With less than three people per square kilometer, the Baja, which consists of two Mexican states, is sparsely populated. In contrast to other regions of Mexico, where archaeological excavations, magnificent colonial cities or colorful Indian markets fascinate tourists, the Baja offers pure nature. Between mid-January and the end of March, it is one of the world’s best destinations for observing gray whales in various bays. Pelicans, vultures and other animals can be spotted every day. The diversity of the 120 different species of cactus, some of which can reach heights of up to 20 meters, is legendary.
Either via California (San Diego) to Tijuana / Tecate or from Arizona to Mexicali. Another possibility: as part of a trip to Mexico by ferry from Mazatlan to La Paz or Guayamas. As a rule, a valid passport and authorization from the owner to use the vehicle are sufficient for entry.
The best time to travel is between October and May. From February to April there are ideal bike temperatures of 20 to 25 degrees Celsius during the day.
For one euro you currently get around 15.5 pesos. Credit cards are accepted in larger towns, in remote regions only cash counts. US dollars are accepted almost everywhere, and pesos can be withdrawn at ATMs with an EC card (Maestro).
If you want to experience the Baja intensively, you should use an off-road machine. Street motorcycles are mostly dependent on the well-developed MEX1 with its secure petrol station network. For tours off the main route, the tank should have a range of at least 250 kilometers. If that’s not enough, with a bit of luck you can find fuel from canisters in small settlements.
Most Baja tours are organized from the United States. There are three tips in the off-road sector: www.bajaoffroadtours.com, www.bajaboundmoto.com, www.trailbosstours.com. Onroad, the company Edelweiss recommends itself, which offers trips from San Diego to Cabo San Lukas. Info: www.edelweissbiketravel.com.
Despite being sparsely populated, the Baja is richly blessed with campsites, guest houses and hotels, the prices of which start at around 25 dollars. Recommended: Pinta Hotels. Primitive but worthwhile huts can be found in many coastal towns in the west and east, and wild camping is possible.
Maps / literature:
Baja California map, travel know-how, 1: 650,000, 8.90 euros, Baja California guide & Los Cabos, Lonely Planet, $ 19.99, Baja California Almanac, $ 24.95, www.baja-almanac.com
Mother of all rallies – Baja 1000
The civilization along some beaches also serve as stops for the rally “Baja 1000”.
The Baja 1000 is considered the most brutal off-road race in the world. In the USA the rally is given the highest priority, the drivers are heroes.
Unbelievable, but the Baja is contested in just one stage, so that the winners are often on the road for 25 hours without a break on the extremely fast and dusty route. However, several riders can share a motorcycle. The event, which takes place every November and mostly runs from Ensenada to La Paz and partially back again, was started on October 31, 1967 for the first time. It is notorious for its fanatical spectators, who sometimes dig deep holes or build ski jumps to increase the spectacle. The status of the Baja in the USA is similar to that of the Dakar in Europe, which explains the high level of factory participation. Whoever wins the Baja becomes a legend. The Americans Steve Hengefeld and Larry Roeseler shine among the previous winners, initially on motorcycles and later in the car rankings. In recent years, the German Armin Schwarz has achieved podium places in the buggy classification. When it came to motorcycles, Cyril Despres was one of the most successful European pilots.
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