Did I enter Mexico yesterday or have I been living here forever ? Strangely I have both opposite feelings and in the middle stands the six weeks stated by my calendar.
Crossing the border into Mexico was the first time of the journey I was stepping into a new culture as I was already familiar with Canada and the USA before the trip. It was also the beginning of Spanish speaking territories and the rich struggle of communicating in a language that you don’t master. The full immersion and the willingness to overcome that difficulty is an amazing humbling experience that is rewarded by quick progress and most importantly people’s sympathy.
As a general rule, I try not to set up any expectations about what lies ahead, high or low, leaving everything untouched by the mind and pure for genuine discovery. But with years of alarmfull media and many (uninformed) people’s comments about how dangerous Mexico is, a tiny seed of fear was planted. I was also innerly convinced that I would meet friendly and kind people because that is how most of humanity is but a vicious voice in the background was trying to make me believe otherwise and I had to deal with it, finding the middle way between paranoia and insouciance.
It all started with the most relaxed border crossing I have ever done, as I think it should always be. I am fairly sure that the Mexican border patrols are particularly friendly to accentuate the contrast with their northern neighbors and all their useless craziness. No one told me to go to the immigration office and with the excitation of the discovery it took me a good 20min to realize that I did not get a stamp in my passeport so I had to come back to the immigration office. Even if the landscape did not change with that man-made delimitation, I quickly realized I was in a totally different world.
The first days I rode across the sand dunes of the arid and desolate Sonoran desert with a few glimpses of the Sea of Cortez in Puerto Penasco, a small but busy gringo city with disgusting resorts, Santa Clara, a small fishermen town, and finally San Felipe, a relaxed town mixing both communities, like many places in Baja California. For the first time in a long while I was at sea level without much elevation gain but I struggled with tremendous headwinds that drove me nuts. Six weeks later It looks like it is a general rule in Mexico, when it is flat(ish), I have to cope with brutal winds that make riding harder than any climb. Thankefully, I have also found many steep hardcore climbs to rest from the wind.
From San Felipe onwards I zig-zagged between Baja’s two coasts - the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez - crossing multiple sierras on remote roads, some pavec, some unpaved, exploring this beautiful and unique dry desert laying in the middle of the water. The terrain was unforgiving with abrupt elevation gain or loss and extremely washboardy and rocky dirt roads when they weren't sandy. I knew that my setup wasn’t really suited for this landscape with no suspensions and my tires being about half as wide as what most riders use (for the anecdote had to sew and plug them up countless times and I cannot even imagine what would have happened if I wasn’t going tubeless). But someone told me that a tenace or stubborn rider could get over it and either love or hate it. Stubbornness and tenacity are not stuff I lack and I couldn’t resist the appeal of such a challenge. I, once more, pushed my body beyond its limits and it was a thrilling but deeply exhausting experience. I definitely hated it and myself for doing it at some moments but overall I immensely loved it. I should have taken breaks along the way to allow my shaken body to recover but instead I focused on my bulldozer mindset to keep going south. It was hard but it was the well-worthed side-effect of my mum’s visit. It finished with a 350km push partly on gravel and in two days to get on time in La Paz where I rented a car to meet my mum and start our two and a half weeks road trip around the southern part of the peninsula.
I cannot emphasize enough how magical it is to be physically reunited with loved ones and share bits of the journey with them. The rhythm abruptly changed and driving a car was a weird feeling after 6 months on the saddle. It allowed us to visit many places far apart but it also made me realize how differently you perceive the landscape and are perceived by the people (anecdotally we got fleeced twice by the police which never happens while I am on the bike). I was happy to be able to totally put the trip aside, not thinking of where to go next, how much water to carry, where to sleep and all the other logistics that usually drain a lot of my energy. It was time to fully enjoy my mum’s presence, a well-deserved physical break and hundreds of fish/shrimp tacos to put on some weight. I still managed to get some more big climbs in, just to make sure my body not totally forgot how to cycle but for three weeks I mostly did nothing which might sound impossible to some knowing me.
It was a wonderful parenthesis filled with joy and unforgettable moments like a Christmas on a white sand beach by a turquoise bay with a bonfire under millions of stars and a shiny milky-way. I dropped my mum at the airport on the 30st of December and had three days to re-acclimate to my serene and happy solitude before taking the ferry back to the mainland. It was just enough to figure out some logistics, celebrate my first sober New Year's Eve in the chill atmosphere of La Paz and spend one last day spent on a postal-card like beach. The boat brought me to the buzzling city of Mazatlan where I was agreeably surprised by a richer cultural difference than in the gringos filled peninsula.
Baja was the perfect way to gently get into the novelty but now the real Mexico has begun. In just over a week on the continent I am positively overwhelmed by people’s hospitality and the beauty of the scenery. I said farewell to the ocean in Mazatlan and directly aimed back into the mountains with massive climbs (encountered snow at 3000m which was not expected below the Tropic of Cancer) and expansive views. I rode on quiet pavement and remote gravel, crossed many small communities, tasted dozens of delicious traditional meals and wandered in lively cities (Durango and Zacatecas). Wild camping in Mexico is supposed to be a little more unsafe than in other countries so I have been asking people in villages if there was a safe place for me to camp around and so far I have instead been offered and fancy cabin, a hotel room and a room in people’s house, not mentioning the rooftop suite in the historical centre of Zacatecas I am currently staying in, thanks to Warmshower hosts. Nonetheless it would be dishonest not to mention that not everyone is gladly greeting me, which is totally normal. I often get unsympathetically stared at and it is very humbling to experience being the different one. Like elsewhere in the world, some make you feel welcome, some make you feel unwelcome but I haven’t faced any aggressive behaviour or violence or whatsoever. As I often say the ones who say I am crazy : “If you look for trouble, you’ll find ‘em, if you don’t, you won't.'' In the end it all depends on your attitude. A heart free of prejudice and a big smile on your face is the only thing you need to carry.
Tramping, cycling, running, skiing, travelling, I keep exploring this amazing planet we live on. The following texts give an insight of my various wanderings. From poetry to trip reports or thoughts on particular subjects, this pages try to reflect how I travel through this modern world.