“Ojos Negros to Colonet.”
The ride out of Ojos Negros crosses MEX-3, then follows a good dirt road into the mountains. There are small ranches, but mostly open country. The landscape feels familiar to me. We’ll see the ocean tomorrow, I say to Neon. We stop for a late lunch in the shade of a tree. Things are beginning to feel natural again. We ride a little further, passing a sign for “Rancho Tres Hermanos.” Is that “three brothers ranch,” I ask Neon. He says yes, then looks at the map. Let’s camp soon, he says. “Ok, maybe just over that rise so we can watch the sunset,” I reply. We pull off on a rise, push our bikes through the bushes, and up into a few large boulders. It’s so pretty here, I say. I love these boulders and those big green bushes. We chatter for a while. I’m feeling good. The sun sets in pink ripples over the rocky hillside.
The next day there is a little more up, then some gentle down. I catch up to Neon. We consult our maps. Lista, he says. “SoYY, lisTA!”, I say, exuberantly, raising my arms around my head in a u-shape, flexing my muscles to look strong (Soy lista = I am ready, in English). He replies, “you ARE feeling more in person.” He smiles, and we laugh. The road is quiet today, not much traffic. We pass a few ranches and farms, but mostly empty land. We reach the crest of the mountains, where we have our first view of the Pacific Ocean. The horizon is cloudy. I try to imagine the ocean in the clouds. “Lista?”, I ask Neon. He looks at me and says, “listo.” Oh, right, I ask you with an “o” because you are a boy. “Listo?”, I say. “Ci”, Listo!”, he says.
We ride down the other side of the ridge. The road is very eroded, with deep ruts and big rocks. I walk my bike down the hill for a while. We drop a lot of elevation. The road gets more sandy, and we drop into a big valley where there are large fields full of zucchini plants. I imagine sautéing them with olive oil and garlic. I think I am hungry. At the edge of Uruapan, two large dogs run out in the street. Neon passes by them. The biggest dog chases Neon’s feet, almost close enough to nip at them. Its bark is ferocious. Maybe this isn’t the dog to stop and talk friendly to. It starts running at me. I yell “NO!” at it, and then again, pointing my finger at it and looking it square in the eye. It stops, blinks a few times, looks around, and watches me pass. Some of these dogs scare me. I catch up to Neon and tell him about the huge stonecrop ground cover that was on the hillsides as we came into town. We ride past a little boy, he smiles. Neon is ahead of me. I hear footsteps behind me. It’s the little boy. He runs past me and grins a big smile. I think he is happy that he is running faster than the lady on the bike is pedaling up the hill. He has good form, landing more on the balls of his feet, instead of on his heels.
Neon stops to talk to a man in the street, asking where Agua Termales (hot springs) are located. They chat for awhile, about our bicycles, our ride, and about Arizona. The man points down the road where we should turn. We arrive at the Agua Termales, hungry and sweaty. They have a snack bar. I think we bought one of everything, before settling in for a long soak in a hot mineral water bath.
The afternoon passes quickly, and we debate about trying to find a place to stay, or to resupply and ride late to get out of town. We stop at a store for more food. A man on the street sells us local grapes (uvas). This valley is a major wine region in Baja. We stop at another little shop to buy wine. The guy pulls out a plastic jug and pours some wine into a little cup for us to taste. It’s good. There are bottles of wine on the shelf, but we ask if he can fill our canteens from the jug. We leave with 2 1/2 liters between the two of us, plenty of wine to get us to our next destination, and a little extra for a night on the beach.
We ride out of Uruapan, heading south on MEX-1 for several kilometers. There is a long uphill, and a wide shoulder, but slow vehicles also use the shoulder in Baja. A bus passes too closely and I yell, “chinquinta pendejo” at it. I know what pendejo means (anything from calling someone a pubic hair to a list of other bad names), but what is chinquinta, I wonder. I ride up to Neon and ask. He says, well cincuenta is fifty in Spanish, but cinquanta is fifty in Italian (the Italian “c” pronounces with a “ch” sound). I start giggling. He looks at me funny. I tell him about the bus driver that passed me too closely, and that I hollered at the driver that he was fifty pubic hairs. I start giggling uncontrollably.
There is a long downhill to Santo Tomas. We pass a sign the reads “Antigua Ruta del Vino”. I think that means something like, historical, or ancient, wine route. There are large vineyards on both sides of the highway stretching all the way to the far mountainsides. This area, between Uruapan and Santo Tomas, reminds me a little bit of Italy, with its vineyards, fields of leafy green vegetables, signs for local wine and cheese (and organic chicken too). Food culture is a big interest for me.
We ride to the southern end of Santo Tomas, then turn onto a dirt road that heads up a steep hill. We find a place to camp down a smaller road. There are different bird sounds here; they sound like they’re giggling. And other birds too, that sound like quail, I think. The sun sets, and I’m tired, but I can’t sleep. There are little footsteps in the bushes, or maybe something is digging, I’m not sure. I keep imagining waking up staring eye to eye with a ringtail cat or a coatimundi. And with the paw prints we’ve seen the last few days, they are large here. I finally pass out, exhausted, unable to keep my eyes open.
The morning comes too early for me. But I’m excited to ride down to the ocean. We want to camp on the beach. A long steep descent brings us to the ocean. We head toward the first beach we see. Neon goes in. It’s too cold for me, but I walk in a few inches. The waves are strong, pulling the sand out from under my feet when they recede. There’s no place to camp here so we ride to the next beach area. We nestle in between miniature sand dunes. A guy passes and asks if we want firewood. The sun sets with pink ripples again, and orange waves too.
The next morning we arrive in Erendira. Another Baja Divide cyclist rides up while we’re at the store. He’s from Barcelona, Spain. We decide to ride together for the day, parting ways in Colonet. We find a motel in the neighboring town of Enero and spend the whole next day making plans to climb the nearby state highpoint of Baja California North.
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After Ojos Negros the landscape got dry and more barren…
More greenery, and tall oaks, down in the valleys…
Aesthetically appealing farm nestled in the mountains…
Vineyards near Santo Tomas on MEX-1
Beautiful ranch and vineyards in the mountains outside of Santo Tomas…
Riding down to the ocean. After all the desert riding we’ve done this last month, we were super excited about finally reaching the ocean.
I love that dreamy quality of early morning light….
Local eatery in Colonet… vegetarian, but not vegan, the Queso Enchanladas were delicious. I’m obviously failing on my vegan diet, as I’m finding it difficult to resist the local cheeses (and sweet breads too).