Before leaving San Juanico we made a quick stop to check out a plot of land Acey wanted to look at that was cheap because it bordered a colorful graveyard. Which seemed to me to be a metaphor for how my life would be if I settled down in San Juanico…over. But Acey is a spectacular surfer and San Juanico is home to one of the longest waves in the world so I can hardly blame him for wanting to stay in sunny, cozy San Juanico.
We had been off the bike for a week and it felt good to be pumping again. It was hot and there weren’t any cars on the road so some of us opted to ride without helmets, which was the first for me on a highway. I had spent many glorious days on the Baja Mil without a helmet. I’m not concerned about my actions so much as I am about a car’s actions and that’s why I wear a helmet. But I’ll say, the farther I travel the more I leave my bike safety lessons behind. Signals are only making small appearances these days, and intermixing with traffic on any side of the road is becoming more and more of a favored maneuver.
The landscape outside San Juanico slowly shifted away from known worlds to those found in the virtual realms of movies and video games. Small red clumps of bushes that looked like crystallized roses lined the fresh highway out of the town. Mesas disintegrated into massive triangle piles of sand by the powerful winds of San Juanico. Columns of densely packed dirt stood in peril ridged with foretelling wind trails. I expected to see Harrison Ford crack his whip on top of the mesas and an exploded tank below just like in The Last Crusade. We came to wide river that fed into the Pacific and saw a large group of birds. Long, angular wings bent long and black like pterodactyls. I was fascinated by their prehistoric appearance and so rode closer to investigate. Elliptical tails spread deftly to control the birds’ flight into the water for a quick dip. The varying white and black heads emerged with glistening blue and red beaks to point at the wind, which, when it was just about to blow the gliding birds backwards, their whole bodies shook violently and nearly ripped their bodies apart falling to the ground and shaking off the drops from their baths.
The map we used was not updated and so the road we were riding wasn’t actually on it. So when we came to a “t” that was near one that I spotted on the map, I directed us to turn left. Well, that was a wrong turn. But it brought us to the top of a huge canyon with a swirling downhill that flushes us straight into La Purisima. We knew then we had taken a wrong turn but it didn’t matter. La Purisima is another of Baja’s fantastic oases that make the harsh conditions of the desert worth riding through. And just like every other oasis, there was a group of boys on bikes. They emerged from a palm forest at the entrance of town behind us. They kept their distance and gawked at us like we were exotic animals. When we stopped to let them catch up to us they stopped. We continued on into the town through goat farms and lemon and orange orchards. It was rejuvenating to see such life growing in the desert. But then when we got into the downtown area there seemed to be nothing other than discarded buildings with bombed out windows and crumbling roofs. On of the buildings even had a palm tree crashed through it that looked like it had been there for years. It was all evidence of La Purisima’s former glory.
The highway that cuts through the town used to be the best route to go from the beautiful east coast of Baja down to Cabo San Lucas, but when the Mexico Highway 1 was built, there was not much need for caravanning tourists and delivery trucks to go through the city, devastating all other industries other than local agriculture. There isn’t even a bank in La Purisima. The closest one is in Constitucion, 141 km away, or two day bike ride for us. This was a problem as we had $400 pesos between us and were very low on food and water. We stopped in the plaza to eat lunch and hide from the heat and talk about the wrong turn, and peek at the Mission nearby. The group of boys that had been following us circled around the raised concrete center and jumped off its ledges. They had a different look than other people we had encountered in Mexico. Two brothers, who were very tall, had pale skin and almost translucent blue eyes. Many of the people in La Purisima also had this complexion. Perhaps the Mission was not the only legacy the Spaniards had left behind centuries ago. One of the boys had trouble with his bike so I went over to see if I could help. His shifter was busted and so he was using his derailleur as a chainstay to keep his bike on a set gear, which kept slipping. While I tried to teach him how to use his limiting screws a thick dripping of snot oozed an inch out of his nose over his giant teeth. Just as it was about to drop he would snort it back in and moments later it would try to escape again. He did this several times without any concern for his friends’ or my opinion of his goofy look. I would’ve liked to have seen it drop to see how far the impressive mucus could have stretched.
Happy to be defeated by a wrong turn in such a vibrant place we turned around and headed back to the palm forest to camp. Back in San Juanico I had complained to the group that I was feeling out of place and so they invited me to a dinner of Spanish rice and tortillas. It was a very kind gesture and we spent the night talking and eating around a fire of fallen palm fronds and dried horse shit. Julie mentioned that La Paz would be the end of her trip and she would not be joining us for the rest of Mexico and Central America. While we slept horses clomped and brayed around our camp.
The next morning was hot and slow. We took our time packing up and before we knew it, it was past noon. We decided to swim instead of riding and so headed east for a good spot. This brought us to a small town, San Isidro, with a road that ran along a cliff wall. Embedded in the wall was a 2 ft. wide by 2 ft. deep open aquaduct which supplied water for the farms. It was so cool to see such simple and ancient technology being implemented effectively. In the town we stopped to grab some ballenas (the name of 32 oz. bottles of Pacifico) because everybody knows you can’t have a good swimming day without cold beer – whether or not you have enough pesos to feed yourself. We found a shallow swimming spot in Arroyo de la Purisima which was so beautiful we had to camp…for two days. The palm trees and yellow mountains had been plucked directly out of Donkey Kong Country and placed into Mexico. I couldn’t believe it. I searched but could not find any krocs, or armadillo baddies to fight and jump on with hairy feet. Diddy and Kandy were nowehere to be found.
The next day some kids from the nearby town came to our camp and investigated everything. I don’t think there was a single thing left untouched by their curious fingers. They were a blast. One of them took to using a creepy monster voice and growling things in Spanish and laughing maniacally after a punctuating fart. At night we played charades and had a talent show (stories read and songs sung) to entertain ourselves. Here’s the deal: I have always thought that “I laughed so hard I peed my pants,” was merely an expression. But Davin and I, through our excellent portrayals of Lion Tamer and Donner Party were able to get Acey and Julie to prove the validity of the expression. I will never hear it the same way again…nor use it untruthfully. And now to reward you for reading so much I give you…PICTURES!