Truthfully, I am not even sure where to start with the Baja. When I first started this bike ride on November 12, 2019 and planned to bike through a Canadian winter, I honestly expected that every minute of every mile would suck. I mean honestly, it’s a Canadian winter on a bike. It turned out not to be the case. It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t so bad either.
The desert does not care if you live or die
Fast forward a year and half later and discover what biking in 110+ F temperatures feels like and I am hit like I run into a brick wall on my bike. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for this heat and I guess in a way, good thing nothing did prepare me because I don’t know if I could have ever faced it if I knew what I was getting myself into. This leg has truly been the toughest physically and mentally to get through. In many ways every minute of every mile sucked. You can not imagine what it’s like to be so parched and the only water to drink has been sitting in 115F temperatures.
[Sidenote: even though this is a Baja review I hit the heat basically in Bullhead City AZ 9 days before crossing into Mexico.]
Most people know better than to come to Baja in the summer. I just sort of arrived when I arrived largely thanks to a Covid-19 domino effect. Needless to say, I don’t recommend anyone comes here in the summer. It’s just to hot. I suppose it’s not so bad if you have total access to cold water. But if you don’t, it sucks.
Lots of people die on the highways and roads of the Baja
In order to escape the heat of the US southwest as quickly as possible I crossed into Mexico at Mexicali instead of Tijuana. I was also told it was a quick border crossing. Which it was. I was basically crossed in 10 minutes without any questions or search. Little did I realize that Mexicali is the hottest place in all of Mexico.
Ultimately this had me bike Hwy 5 until I reached Hwy 1 further down the Baja. The one thing I will say about Hwy 5 is that for “most” of the highway it has a nice shoulder. “Most” of Hwy 1 does not have a shoulder. Which makes it super dangerous. More on that later.
Mexico can be an interesting place
Food & Water Consideration
To be safe assume about 65 km’s between restaurants and stores. If you run into one sooner than consider it a bonus. Hwy 5 has a lot of campgrounds along it. But assume that they are closed in the summer. I also made sure that I had between 4-5 litres of water with me at all times and I never ran out because that is what I needed.
Food: If you are like me and can’t cook you probably won’t find any useful groceries in Mexico other than hotdogs. You will find Kraft Dinner at the Walmart’s (which are very few and far between) and that’s about it. I couldn’t find Chunky Soup anywhere.
I resolved to eat tacos (breakfast and super) whenever I came to a restaurant which as mentioned can be some distance apart.
Tacos for breakfast and super
Campgrounds vs Stealth Camping
As mentioned most campgrounds are closed in the summer but open in the winter. In my opinion unless you need certain services or want to camp on the beach you can virtually stealth camp anywhere on the Baja safely. I never used a campground. In fact, the last campground I actually used was north of San Francisco.
Camped right beside the highway, camped on the Sea of Cortez
I said many times to people that if Hwy 1 was in the US or Canada I would probably be dead. This is a very narrow highway with almost never a shoulder that is very busy with traffic and big trucks. That being said by ratio/percentage I have never run into so many considerate and courteous drivers as on the Baja. The number of cars and trucks that slowed down to pass or waved was mind boggling. I also took it upon myself to wave to every truck that I ran into with like a 95% response rate.
I called them Mexican Surprises. There are 100’s of them if not 1,000’s of them along the highway
That being said on the Baja was the first time I was ever run off the road by a truck. Full attention is required and no music or headphones if you want to live. And this is coming from someone who generally zones out traffic and does not worry or complain about traffic. Local Americans that have lived here for 20 years will tell you all about the accidents and deaths on this road. I believe it but it never stopped me.
No shoulder or an 8″ drop off
I never had a problem or felt unsafe for a minute. Common sense still needs to rule the day. But don’t let anyone ever convince you not come here because of safety.
A common theme among Mexicans – they are always friendly
There was a lot of areas that were as barren and drab as I have ever seen. But there was lots and lots of concentrated areas of cactuses generally dominated by the Elephant Cactus (similar but not to be confused with the Saguaro Cactus of Arizona). Other vegetation of interest was the Boojum Trees (endemic to Baja) and Baja California Tree Yuca. There was probably close to 10 species of cactus that were common.
Boojum Tree & Elephant Cactus
From a cyclist’s perspective the desert and terrain are fairly flat overall with hilly areas and a few mountains. Under reasonable temperatures I would categorize “most” of the Baja fairly easy to bike. Except for headwinds. Supposedly by biking south you should get a few tails winds. I got a crazy amount of headwinds with NO tailwinds. That being said in the heat I realized that a headwind was way better than no wind at all.
Lots of nothing
But not all boring by any means
By The Numbers
I biked 1,488 km’s over 28 days. I got a hotel in Mexicali (3 nights at $400 pesos per night), Guerrero Negro (3 nights at $400 pesos per night), Loreto (3 nights at $500 pesos per night) and I found a host last minute on Warmshowers.org in La Paz (2 nights). The Baja is very expensive by Mexican standards comparable to US pricing. Over 28 days I spent $453 USD on food and cold drinks (including only 1 beer). That is $16.18 a day in Mexico!!! In the US I spent $17.00 a day on food and drink. I did get one of the best bike tune ups for only $35 USD including a new chain. The ferry charge was $1,590 pesos ($80 USD) to Los Mochis (including a crappy premade meal).
In the end I did it. I biked the Baja. Most cyclist have way better time than I did, I mean a way better time than I did. For me it was miserable and I am so glad it’s over and I am out of there.