BAJA DIVIDE 5: The Pink Hotel

“Vicente Guerrero to Cataviña”. 

I’m lying in a bed in a pink hotel in Cataviña. It’s dark in the room, though it’s still early in the night; they only run the generator for a few hours in the evening. The whole town, the bit there is, is powered by generators, for brief periods of time. All is quiet now, even the highway out front is quiet; the only sound is the donkey out back …eeh orrh …eeh orrh …eeh orrh. I can’t sleep, my thoughts are spinning over all that I’ve seen in last few days. 

We left Vicente Guerrero a week ago, late in the afternoon. It was a gentle ride out of town, past agricultural fields, to a hidden camp up on a hill with an amazing sunset view. The next morning was an easy cruise, all the way to San Quintìn, where we stopped for ceviche tostadas at a little roadside loncheria. We rode out into the salt flats, and then south toward the ocean, trying our best to avoid riding through the salt water that has spilled over the road. We turn more inland through sandy whoop-de-doos, and then back to the salt flats again, occasionally hitting a bit of mud. A bit further, we miss a turn, so we turn around to get back on route. We find our road, with thick, heavy, clay mud. I ride, maybe a hundred feet, my tires are coated, my chain heavy with mud at the front derailleur. I pull my bike into the brush, slipping a bit in the mud as I walk. I catch up to Neon; maybe we should go back and take the other road?, I ask… he agrees. Twenty more feet through the mud, and my tires won’t even turn, I drag my bike sideways back into the brush, and pull it. The mud isn’t budging. I stop and remove as much mud as possible with my hands, then finally make it back to the sandy road.  

A short ride later and we’re on the beach. The sand is perfect, firm, easy riding. There are people way out in the water, swishing their feet back and forth, and then reaching down into the water. Maybe they’re digging for clams, I wonder. The sun is low. We set up camp in some tiny dunes near the edge of a little town called Olivia.

The morning brings pink clouds. My sleeping bag is heavy with dew, everything is wet. We ride into the next little town, Nuevo Odisea, wash our bikes at a car wash, buy food and water, and then start climbing through the mountains, where I see my first Cardon cactus. They look a lot like Saguaros, I think. These are the things that propel my ride; I have lists of stuff I want to see, little experiences I’d like to have. We camp at the top of a hill and watch the sunset, and rise, through endless Agave and a few isolated Cardon.

The next day is slow, rough, eroded roads. I spend a lot of the day pushing my bike. I’m worried about running out of water. I had thought I had plenty for this long stretch without water, 106 kilometers. But the sun is hot, and all this “hike-a-bike” is hard work. We finally climb up the highest point to a pass with a long down hill. I’m concentrating on the steep road, when I see my first Cirio tree, and then more, and more, until we descend into what looks like a fairytale forest of Cirio trees. We camp near a group of tall Cirios, a few Cardon, and a cactus that looks like it has fuzzy heads. I wake occasionally in the night to see if they’re all still there, or if I’ve only dreamt of them. In the morning I tell Neon that with how tall and crazy cool these trees are, I keep expecting to see a giraffe. He says, “I keep expecting to see a brontosaurus.”

Thankfully the road is easy now and we cruise into our next food stop in just a few hours, a restaurant on MEX-1 at El Sacrificio. It’s a small stone building, very hand built. There is a man sitting out front. He waves us in and motions for us to park our bikes anywhere. We walk in; there are two tables with bright red chairs on the left, and a small living room with a tv on the right. A few steps up, there are a couple of cabinets with snacks for sell, and a kitchen. The lady starts telling us what she has available, and a young girl and the man start getting things ready. I pull a juice and a liter of water from the fridge. I’m still thirsty from nearly running out of water. The young girl brings me coffee. It’s hot, almost burning my tongue, but I can’t stop drinking it. I can’t remember the last time I had hot coffee. It’s so good. I’m almost giddy with delight, surrounded by all my drinks.

A short distance further down MEX-1 we buy water for another long stretch. It starts to rain a bit, but then stops. I know what these roads can be like when they’re muddy; my tires won’t even turn. We head down MEX-1 and then onto a dirt road that leads into the mountains. It starts raining again. We stop and debate about how much it might rain. The clouds are thick and moving in. We decide to go back to the highway. The highway seems pretty mellow here, not much traffic, but no shoulder either so it’s a bit overwhelming when a truck passes. We ride another thirty kilometers and then take a sandy dirt road out into the hills to camp, setting up our tent for the first time in the seven weeks since we left home.

The next day we continue on MEX-1 until a little town, St Augustine, where we connect back up with our route. After a few hours we crest a pass that opens up to a rocky landscape, with large boulders and more Cardon mixed with Cirios. The area reminds me a bit of a cross between Saguaro National Park and Joshua Tree National Park. The sand is smooth and firm, easy cruising back out to the highway, then downhill most of the way to the tiny town of Cataviña, where we stop at the little pink hotel. There are people selling gasoline, out of metal gas cans, on the side of the road to tourists. A few dogs gather out front of the store. It’s dark in the store; their generator isn’t running right now. I buy a few snacks, some produce, and some almost cold beer, then return to the pink motel, and wait for the power to come on so I can charge my electronics and use the wifi. The power goes off at 8:00 pm. I light the candle on the table and watch it flicker for a while before blowing it out, then lie in bed staring at the darkness listening to the donkey out back …eeh orrh …eeh orrh …eeh orrh. An owl joins in with a few hoots, before I finally fall asleep.

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Another crazy cool cactus I don’t yet know the name of…

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The sky ablaze in color with another amazing sunset…

 

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Big church, looking little, on a big hill, in the middle of nowhere…

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Roadside loncheria in San Quintìn…

Pescado Ceviche Tostados…


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Riding out into the salt flats to the Pacific Ocean…

This boat looked like it had a lot of stories to tell…

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These old abandoned buildings, alone in the landscape, always bring to mind the painting “Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth.

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Made it to the Pacific Ocean again…

Seagulls are so much more interesting at the beach than they are in a city…

Beachside Sunset…

Pink clouds at sunrise…

Surreal sand dunes…

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Another old building that caught my attention. If it could talk, I’m sure it would have many stories to tell…

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Agave plants in bloom…
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Sunset with agave and a hawk…

Sunrise…

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A lot of pushing our bikes, “hike-a-bike”, for a lot of the day.

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Cirio trees. They’re related to Ocotillo, and oh so cool looking…

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Sunrise, and our camp, with some very tall Cirio trees.

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Cirios, bike, me… these plants are so cool…

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More Cirio trees. This area is called “Valle de Los Cirios” (valley of the cirios). There was an abandoned ranch out here that I had fantasies of turning into a remote art studio. 

A very large Cardon cactus 

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Family home restaurant / truck stop at El Sacrificio…

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Sunrise, surrounded by creosote bush. This was the first time we’ve set up our tent in the seven weeks since we left home.


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I think this horse posed for me while I took its photo…

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More Cirios, rocky landscape 

Cardon, fuzzy headed cactus, and Cirios.

There’s some cool stuff out here…

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The pink hotel in Cataviña…

The wall in our room looked like an abstract painting. So much texture and history…

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1 Comment

  1. I thought Catavina was a most captivating place when I was there years ago. The combination of rock and unique flora is unlike anywhere on our planet. Thanks for the story and pictures.

    Lee

    On Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 6:24 PM, The Redheaded Nomad wrote:

    > The Redheaded Nomad posted: “”Vicente Guerrero to Cataviña”. I’m lying in > a bed in a pink hotel in Cataviña. It’s dark in the room, though it’s still > early in the night; they only run the generator for a few hours in the > evening. The whole town, the bit there is, is powered by” >

    Liked by 1 person

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