Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 5

Day 5 Journal Entry

The bicycle camping portion of our Baja Expedition covered some 250 miles from Loreto on the Sea of Cortez over to Baranca on the Pacific side and back. Of this, there were 60 miles which we did not ride, choosing to hitch hike and accept rides in the back of pickup trucks for sections that were unpleasant which we had previously traversed.Day 5 Loreto to San Ignacio
We headed off throughout the dirt roads in the barrio de Zaragosa. the road was filled with rocks along the arroyo and vultures perched atop tall Cordon cactus peered down upon these strange Americanos on bicycles loaded with camping gear. crossing the highway, a new, paved road lead toward San Javier. We climbed into the mountains and stopped at an arroyo crossing where native palm trees were reflected in a pool of water. it hasn't rained in a year and a half and the water surfaces intermittently along the arroyos of Baja, which are mostly dry river beds of sand and rock. Near the top of the pass, the pavement stops and the road is rocky in the center and dust fills the edges.
After a couple hours, we stop to visit and get water from Raul and Angelina, who own a Rancho (most ranchos in Baja are small simple farm buildings with palm thatched roofs, near meager water sources), friends of Shahe's from previous bike trips. They reminisce about the time that Shahe showed up in the dark on his bike and slept beneath the palm thatched palapa where we now sit, enjoying a slow, relaxed conversation in the heat of the day. We fill our bottles with water pumped by the old windmill and Raul picks us a few lava beans before we say adios and promise to stop in again in three days.
Continuing on, we see vultures eating on dead cows along the road, the drought has been especially hard on them. By mid day, we have reached the town of San Javier. I buy my first meal of the trip, tortillas with goat cheese and avocado, at the simple restaurant on the plaza which leads to the Mission, which is a destination for annual pilgrimages. We explore the grounds and a path leading to a 300 year old olive tree, twisted by time, but with strong young branches woven into the old ones. We play frisbee with some school kids, tighten the bolts on our bikes and fill our water bottles, adding drops of chlorine as usual and continue refreshed.
We ride for hours through the desert, following the arroyo much of the way. The watering holes are well separated, the road is strewn with rocks, so me times we see goats. Shahe's bike has only a simple front suspension. The rocks begin to wear on him, and his mood is not great. It is getting dark and it has become clear that we will not make it to near the coast as he wanted. We come upon a large open, flat area with a small, rough wood casita near the road across from a well tended field. A small thin man appears out of nowhere. I slow, then stop to greet him. We shake hands and then he hugs me. In amazement, I watch him do the same with Shahe. Whole paragraphs of friendly words are exchanged and despite our weariness, we cannot help but smile and be lifted by his genuine kindness toward these two dusty strangers. "Ignacio, sus
or dines.". Can we camp here? "Claro que si". He insists on bringing us warm water from a well pipe and struggles to carry 2 full five gallon buckets of it to us as we set up camp. He then excuses himself to tend to his cattle and goats, and I wash body and clothes free of dust. It will be the only time it turns out to be possible durning out 5 day trip, but I don't know this then...
After we have washed and eaten, Ignacio again appears seemingly out of this air and we talk for an hour in the dark. We learn that he is one of 16 children born here on this Rancho is the desert (all the ranchos we saw were small assemblages of rough build, thatched roof structures, adjacent to widely spaced meager water supplies). He tells us that he attended some high school as an adult in Santa Domingo and that his parents live a couple of hundred meters down the road. We talk of everything from politics to constellations, crops and water to education. Shahe (ever the news junkie) asks if he knows about the current state of affairs in Japan and Ignacio says he listens to it on his radio in his casita. We are 20 miles from electricity and at least 40 from a flush toilet, and I have never in my 59 years seen anyone happier and more giving. Shahe calls him our angel, and if this is what angels are like, then I must try to be one. With these thoughts in my head, I finish my journal entry for the day, writing my my head lamp, Shahe,Ignacio and the cows all asleep now, under a sky filled with more stars that I have ever seen.

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