Planning my next trip

I had such a good ride on my last Baja California adventure that I am planning on going back this December. My DRZ400 is in storage in San Diego. I am going to fly down to San Diego to pick up my bike and then spend a week or so riding back down the Baja. I plan on taking the ferry from La Paz back to the mainland and leaving my bike in Puerto Vallarta while I fly back to Calgary to work for a week. Then I fly back and ride from Puerto Vallarta to Cancun over the Christmas holidays. I will leave my bike in Cancun where it will await my return in February for a proper exploration of the Yucatan peninsula and the Maya ruins. The ride from Puerto Vallarta to Cancun is a 2500+ km ride that I will only have 7 days for. It will be a tight schedule and it is a busy time of year so I have done something that I have never done on these types of trips: I have actually planned out an itinerary and booked hotels in advance along the way. The problem is that this does not allow for much spontaneity or time for punctures, etc. However it will be good to know that I have nice places waiting for me along the way. I plan to ride south along the Pacific coast all the way to Puerto Escondido to avoid the cold in the mountains before heading east. I will post my reviews of the places I stay once I return. I will be a guest at the hotels listed below.

Day 1: Puerto Vallarta
Hacienda Alemano is a boutique hotel run by a German/Mexican couple located in the colonial heart of old Puerto Vallarta. Apparently you can get German beer, and the Schnitzel and German sausage has been highly recommended.

 
Day 2: Zihuatanejo. 711 km.
This is the town where Andy and Red ultimately escape to at the end of “The Shawshank Redemption”. I will be staying at Villa Carolina guesthouse.

Day 3. Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. 633 km.
This is a lovely little town with a fantastic beach that I vowed to return to one day after having ridden through it without stopping on my way from Canada to Argentina while on the Americas trip of 2007. Now I finally get my chance. I will be staying at a bed & breakfast called Villa Lili.

Day 4. San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. 618 km.
This is a colonial town nestled in the mountains. I will be staying at Casa Felipe Flores (pictured in the bottom image).

Day 5. Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, Yucatan Peninsula. 523 km.
I had envisioned spending days wandering around the jungle covered Mayan ruins in this area, but alas I will probably only have time to ride down to see Calakmul before moving on. I will have to save the rest of the exploration for the next trip. I will be staying in Hotel Puerta Calakmul, an eco-retreat deep in the jungle of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. It is rustic but comfortable according to the reviews, although probably not worth the $170/night.  Unfortunately there is nothing else within miles that I can find. There is no internet or cell service.

Day 6. Bacular, Quintana Roo. 175 km.
I had a difficult time finding anything available in the Mayan Riviera.  Not only is almost everything already booked, but there is also usually a 3 or even 5 night minimum stay. I eventually found Hotel Laguna Bacular on the shore of Bacular Lagoon. According to reviews it is showing it’s age but is clean with friendly service.

Day 7. Cancun. 342 km.
I tried finding a room for one night on the glitzy tourist beaches, but everything was either booked or way too expensive. I resorted to Frommer’s, which has done well for me in the past in Mexico, and they recommended Eco-Hotel Rey Del Caribe in downtown Cancun. It is not on the beach, but apparently they have created an urban oasis with lush courtyards and friendly service right in the heart of the city. Best of all it is reasonably priced. I am still in the process of finding out if I can leave my motorcycle there until I return in February, which would be ideal.

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Calgary to Victoria the Scenic Route

Congratulations to my brother Cailen who just got married to Rachael in Victoria. I rode from Calgary to Victoria for the festivities on trusty ol’ Rosa (who now has well over 70,000 km on her) taking the scenic route through Montana, Idaho, and Washington state on the way there. On the way back I took highway 3 through southern BC and Alberta. Ted, of South America and Africa adventure fame, joined me for the first leg of the trip. He had ridden his DRZ400 to Calgary from Chatham, ON. Ted rode with me through the Rockies and over the Logan’s pass in Montana. Even Jeremy of Africa fame and his girlfriend Lisa were able to join us for one day of riding. It was nice to have the three amigos back together if only for a day. Ted continued on through Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore before heading home. It felt so good to be back in the saddle that I wished I could just take off and hit the open road for a few months again. Alas those days are over for now.

I have used the GPS tracking information to recreate my route complete with photos, which you can view below.

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Calgary to Victoria Scenic Route

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Interactive Maps of my Baja Adventure

Below are interactive maps of the southern and nothern halves of my trip. The southern leg started in Cabo San Lucas. From there I rode on tarmac to Loreto on the first day. The next day I rode almost entirely on dirt from Loreto (on the Sea of Cortez) to a whale watching camp on Laguna San Ignacio (on the Pacific side). Because my luggage rack disintegrated and I got lost, I ended up night riding on sandy tracks for several hours before finally making it to the camp. The next day I went whale watching (awesome!) and afterwards limped to San Ignacio where I had my luggage rack welded back together.  I stayed at Ricardo’s Rice and Beans, which is an unofficial stopover of the Baja 1000. Indeed I met many other enduro riders there, including one guy who split the swingarm on his BMW 650 in two and had to have his bike hauled over 200 km by a local rancher. The next day I rode dirt to Bahia de Los Angelos. This was a fantastic ride recommended by Bruce, one of the riders I met at Ricardo’s. He has been riding the Baja for over 20 years.


Baja California Adventure (South Leg)


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The next map is the nothern leg of my trip. By this point I was running out of time so I stuck to the pavement. I found an oasis of a hotel called “Jardines” with lush tropical grounds and great food. This was recommended to me by a 70-something year old lady travelling through Mexico with her friend by bus. I met these two spirited ladies at the whale watcher camp. They have travelled throughout Mexico by bus and had many stories of stumbling upon random festivals and hidden towns and their fond experiences of the warmth of the Mexican people.


Baja California Adventure (North Leg)


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Solo motorcycle adventure through Baja California

I was lucky to find my bike where I left it in the parking lot of the Finisterra hotel chained to a pipe when I returned to Los Cabos, Mexico on February 5th. I have to admit that once I got back to Canada after leaving it there at the end of my December trip, I began to question the wisdom of my decision to leave my bike in such a precarious situation. However, I needn’t have worried – my DRZ 400 was exactly as I had left it.



I had a week of solid warmth and sunshine for my ride up the Baja peninsula to my bike’s next resting place in a secure self-storage facility in San Diego. I guess the warm sunny weather is to be expected in an area that gets at least 350 days of sunshine per year and some regions go for years at a time without rain. The desert fauna, with its capability to extract moisture from sea mist, was one of the features that made the ride seem otherworldly. Like Bolivia, if you were to be dropped into the Baja, you might wonder whether you were actually on another planet. The red rock formations and dry riverbeds also added an almost Martian flavour.



The fact that you could ride for days without seeing more than a handful of other vehicles, combined with the option of riding anywhere you wanted, makes the Baja one of my favourite rides thus far. The diversity of the terrain from sand dunes to salt flats to single track mountain trails made every day a fun challenge. I was glad I had the benefit of the light DRZ 400 so I could float on the sand and tackle trails made up of toaster sized rocks. I can understand why the Baja 1000 is probably the world’s second greatest off-road race next to the Dakar.

Although I am ashamed to admit it, I was not riding crazy enough to drop my bike even once on the this trip. However, the trip was not without its misadventures . On the day I left Loreto with a plan to ride to a whale watching camp on the opposite side of the peninsula, I got lost on a cattle trail in the deep sand at night. I had set off through the mountains which was slower going than I thought. By the time I filled up with gas from a barrel at the only settlement on my route, there was only an hour or so of daylight left to cover 150 km of offroad trails to get the camp (which I had no GPS location for).



This might have been possible had my luggage rack not disintegrated from the vibration of the rocky road forcing me to stop several times to tie my falling luggage back onto the bike. I had to ride considerable slower too because of my tenous rack. Also, the terrain got challenging with big pits of fesh-fesh that could easily swallow a DRZ whole. At one point I almost ran through barbed wire gate strung across the road because of the growing darkness. From that point on I was riding blind through soft sand. I kept my speed up and didn’t even realize how deep the sand was until I stopped to check my GPS (not helpful) and almost could not get moving again because the bike sank so much. Finally I saw the lights of a village at Laguna San Ignacio and a local kindly led me to the whale watching camp with his truck.



The next day I was able to go on a whale watching tour of the Gray Whale winter calving ground and get my luggage rack welded back together in San Ignacio. There I discovered Ricardo’s Rice and Beans, a hotel and bar that is an unofficial stopover of the Baja 1000. I met a number of other enduro riders there, including a guy who literally broke his BMW 650 in half and had to have a rancher put it in the back of a rusty ol’ truck and drive it 200 km to San Ignacio. Needless to say he needed a shot or two of Tequila.


When i arrived in San Diego I decided to store my bike there instead of riding further north because I really want to ride back down through Baja.

Below is a video compilation of my trip photos: