Desert December in Baja

When people heard of my plans to cycle in Mexico the consensus of opinion was that it is too dangerous and that before long I would be recruited as a member of a drugs cartel. As I haven’t experienced mainland mexico yet I can’t comment on this. But in Baja it has been an amazing experience and I have not met any drug lords or bad people.

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I cycled from Ensenada for a few days on my own through vineyards and across mountains. I enjoy riding alone but also think it’s nice to share these experiences. I contacted Basti, a German Biologist,  through a couchsurfing forum who is cycling from Tijuana to Cancun. He was only a few days ahead so he waited for me to catch up. 

We met in Catavina which is the gateway to the Valley de las Cirios Desert. It is a biosphere reserve and we could tell why it was protected with such an amazing range of plants. There were Dr Seuss like Cirio trees, cactuses and other wonderful vegetation.

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During the first day of cycling together we experienced the most powerful winds! In the morning we had extremely strong side and head winds which meant I could go faster up hills than down (aka very slow). The morning was tough but luckily the winds changed direction and in the afternoon we were blown along by the best tail winds I have experienced, covering 40kmp. We always think of this day if we are ever struggling and remember things will be great again.

We arrived in Guerro Negro a few days later, the start of southern Baja. We met up with another gruop of cyclists here. From that point our paths kept crossing on our way south, we became a real biking community and all decided to spend Christmas together.

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We followed the mostly straight route through more desert for another few days and eventually hit the sea of Cortez. We enjoyed 4 days exploring the paradise of Bahía Concepción beaches between Mulege and Loreto. This was a great break from the desert riding. The area was populated by a large ex pat community , mostly Americans and Canadians who over winter there. They were delighted to let us share there paddle boards and kayaks. Out on the ocean we explored nearby islands and frolicked with dolphins.

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After a few more days riding through the desert we reached La Paz in time for Christmas. By this time we were happy to have a rest from our bikes. We hired an air bnb house with the other cyclists and celebrated the holiday. The Christmas present I gave myself was a snorkelling trip with whale sharks . It was a truly magical feeling swimming with these giants of the sea in their natural habitat. They were over 10 metres long, the size of a school bus!!

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Missing home over the festive time but it was great skyping the family and sending Christmas love!! Feliz navidad y próspero año nuevo

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Desert December in Baja

Central & Southern California

To fill the gap in the blog, this is an update on my last 4 months in Central and Southern California encapsulated into one post. This is difficult as I had so many cool experiences and different WWOOFING opportunities. Because of this I spent more time on farms than on my bike! Here’s a brief update on the farms I worked:

Shanti permaculture farm, Occidental.

Elizabeth owned this beautiful property which was 80 miles North of San Francisco in Sonoma County. She practiced permaculture, which she used to grow veg for her own consumption and the WWOOfers that passed through. For the uninitiated Permaculture farming is centered around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems. Paul Wheaton explains permaculture as “a more symbiotic relationship with nature so I can be lazier” which describes one of the benefits perfectly.

As well as working in the garden I had the oppurtunity to use power tools to make planter boxes, benches and a top bar bee hive. It was great learning about this more natural method of bee keeping.

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Dare to dream, Lompoc.

This family owned farm is situated 6 miles West of Lompoc in Santa Barbara county. Jeremy and Megan had escaped the city life to have a go at farming. The farm specializes in raising backyard chickens, handcrafted chicken coops and selling eggs & local CSA produce. They opened up the farm to about 10 WWOOFERS at a time to share their experience. This made it a really fun place to be. We all worked together on the daily jobs and had lots of free time to explore the area and hang out at the beach.

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Super Bee rescue, Carpinteria.

Nick the beekeeper specializes in high, difficult and complicated honeybee Rescues in the Santa Barbara area. This was one of the the coolest WWOOFING experiences. These bees would have been exterminated without Nick and his wonderful passion. His motto is “save the world, one bee at a time”. As a WWOOFER I got to ride with Nick to his calls and help rescue bees from trees and rooftops where they had swarmed or had made unwanted residency. I felt like a super hero. I learnt so much in the two weeks i spent there and got to look in so many hives and make honey.

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Chandelier Springs, Valley Centre

This farm was owned by Doug and his son Spencer. It was a huge property surrounded by hills. It felt like a WWOOFERS paradise, a huge playground with so many projects. These included building an earthship, sauna, pizza oven and hoop houses. It was fun getting back to basics with no electricity. We cooked every meal on an open fire. I could sadly only spend 2 weeks here as my 6 month visa was expiring. My friend Arran is writing a great blog about wwoofing and he goes a lot into the details. Well worth a look if you are interested in farming Wwoofingwithaaran.com

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I had a blast riding between all the farms and there was quite a cycling community down the coast through Big Sur which was one of my favourite sections of the ride, despite the hills! I also took a side trip to Joshua tree park which was magical. One of the craziest places I have experienced and the stars where the best that I have seen.

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Such an amazing 6 Months in America. Now in Mexico and about to ride a desert. Will post about it soon and I will not leave it as late as this post. Happy December.

Central & Southern California

Hola Mexico

I am in Mexico!!! Yesterday I said bye to America and cycled over the border to Tijuana. As soon as I crossed, I felt like I was 1000 miles away from the US. It was very hectic but had a  great feel to it and smelt different. I decided to get a bus from the border to Ensenada (the first section of the coast that I haven’t cycled) to avoid riding in Tijuana and get a little more settled into the country before I cycle.

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What a welcome to Mexico I got. The bus dropped me in a very un touristy area and everyone who I encountered on the street were very hospitable and interested in my bike. I was even given a red rose by a local. The friendly people made a welcome change from some of those in Southern California.

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I cycled to my hosts house which was a beautiful 8 mile ride along an uneven road by the coast. My host, Jesus, is a business student who is hoping to run his own hostal in the near future, which made him a perfect tour guide. We shared a lovely evening together with Ensanada famous fish tacos (bad vegetarian) at a lovely small local restaurant with a cerveza. We then went into town to  Hussong’s Cantina. It is the oldest and best known cantina in Baja and there was a fun traditional folk Mexican band playing. Hussong’s is reputedly the place where the Margarita was first created in October, 1941. It would have been rude not to have 1 (or a couple).

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After dancing to the beautiful music and making lots of friends we went back to the car but it wasn’t there? The police had towed it away as apparently it wasn’t parked in a correct spot. We tried to get it back but were told we needed to do it the following day. Welcome to Mexico. I have been here for less than 24 hours and I have already had so many new crazy experiences. I am very happy to be here and I’m ready to explore the beauty of Baja and it’s people. 

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Hola Mexico

Back on the blog: Northern California

Hello again, it has been a while!

Rio has now returned to the UK and is studying towards her dream of a Masters in Marine Mammal science at St Andrews. I am still on the road in Southern California. Our last few weeks together were pretty hectic, hence the break in communication. I am now going to try and update the blog with some quick posts (& lots of pictures), to where I am now. I will start with mine and Rio’s final month together. We had a fantastic time and cycled some beautiful roads.

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Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Cycling over the the border to California where we stopped at a sign welcoming us to the state, and danced to the song ‘California’ by Phantom Planet. The Northern California coast provided us with plenty of beautiful views.imageimageimage
  • We cycled through the avenue of Giants where we felt like mere ants. John Steinbeck described the enormity of these trees so well- ” the redwoods, once seen, create a vision that stays with you always… they are not like any other trees we know, they are the ambassadors of another time.”imageimage
  • We then overcome the longest climb of our trip to 1800 feet cycling over the Leggett mountains. The fact that we had started at 04:30am meant we were probably half asleep when we did it, so it didn’t seem nearly as hard as we had expected.image
  • Cycling over the Golden Gate bridge to San Francisco a grand finale to our journey together.imageimage
  • We had just over two weeks to explore prior to Rios departure. We rode the steep streets of San Francisco and fell in love with the city, hitch-hiked around Lake Tahoe and discovered the majestic area of Yosemite National park.

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It was very difficult to say goodbye to Rio, we are just as weird as one another and would often be the only one finding the others awful jokes hilarious. The consolation was that we had so many shared memories of a wonderful time together, a better travelling companion could not have been found. She is now studying a subject that she is passionate about and I am continuing on a solo adventure which is very exciting. Another post will be uploaded soon to update you on what I have been doing since Rio left in August.

Hattie

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Back on the blog: Northern California

Blueberries in Bandon

We’re back on the road again after 2 weeks wwoofing on an organic blueberry & cranberry farm. 

 

The farm was just South of a town called Bandon, right by the Pacific Coast in Southern Oregon. The owner, Nick, had bought the farm less than a year previously and we were the first wwoofers there to help out. A majority of our time was spent picking and sorting blueberries, as well as weeding around the bushes. This was the first harvest of the season so we were also able to help at its debut at the Farmer’s Market at Coos Bay. It was good fun and we learnt a lot about working on a small-scale commercial fruit farm. 

 

 Some of the highlights were:

  • Travelling around the farm on a quad bike – checking out the 70 acre property full of lakes, sheep, llamas and searching for lobster mushrooms.
  • Being invited to a local wedding reception in the old cheese factory in Langlois – which involved a lot of country dancing to the upbeat band playing. This was coincidentally on Hattie’s birthday so we had a double reason to dance!
  • Celebrating 4th July on a beach and seeing the fireworks over Bandon.
  • Attending an annual dog show, where all the owners were grooming and pampering the plethora of pups.
  • Spontaneous road trip to Eugene, where we had a tour around the University of Oregon, and back to Portland where we spent many hours back in Powell’s bookstore and were able to try the famous VooDoo doughnuts (we both had the ‘Dirty Old Bastard’ which was covered in peanut butter & oreos – yum).

    
  It was wonderful having Nick as our host as he joined us in all these activities and provided a lot of laughs when comparing the American vs. English language. It was inspiring to see someone who was just 3 years our elder owning and working on a fully productive farm. We’re excited to keep in touch and see how the farm takes off and prospers with his ownership and lead. After leaving the farm, we’ve seriously missed the enless supply of blueberries on the doorstep!  

Since being back on the road cycling, we realised that we lapsed quite behind on the blog – as most nights we put up a tent and are asleep before it’s dark!  Therefore there’ll be another update soon as we will keep on it more diligently.

  Hattie & Rio

Blueberries in Bandon

The Oregon Coast

We set off from Portland for the coast, both looking forward to the cool sea breeze after being inland for a couple of warm weeks. We continued opting for backroad routes towards the coast, then joined up with the Highway 101 and the ocean in Tillamook. The bike ride out was through charming countryside towns with plenty of rolling hills and even a few mountains.  

We also faced our first flat tyre of the trip, on the back of Rio’s bike, but were pleased that we could fix it without too much worry and were cycling again within the hour.

Our first glimpse of the Pacific in Oregon was on Sunday morning when we cycled down to see a mist covered bay with playful seals swimming around.

Since then, we have been able to follow the coast along the 101 and every corner has felt like it should feature in a picture postcard. The area is well-known for its lighthouses, so we made sure to stop and check out two of them this week; Yaquina Bay Lighthouse near Newport and Heceta Head Light near Florence (which can be seen in the background of the photo below). We’ve also been keeping our eyes on the sea at every stop, after meeting 3 marine mammal observers who told us that Grey Whales were still in the area and could be seen milling off the coast.

During this stretch we’ve been saving money by spending  a majority of our nights wild camping. Finding a decently hidden location has added to the excitement of the trip, with some locations being easier than others. Most of our ‘campsites’ have been in forested areas within 10m of the main road, allowing easy access and quick departure in the morning. As of yet we haven’t run into too much trouble, the only downside is having no access to a refreshing shower at the end of the day – but we find the dirt and mud has made us look more tanned than we really are. Our lemon & eucalyptus mosquito spray works wonders as a perfume, if we’re without a shower for a few days.



We’re able to cook and enjoy a warm meal at the end of each day using a small Trangia camp stove, meaning we don’t have to rely on being close to restaurants or towns for our food. 

We’re currently having a day off in the beautiful hilly countryside near Coos Bay whilst staying with a friend’s family. They have a wonderfully copious supply of fresh fruit and vegetables from their well looked after garden, which is definitely recharging our batteries in between cycling.

Hattie & Rio

The Oregon Coast

Port Angeles to Portland 🚴

Last week we set off for the journey down to Portland, expecting to do it very casually at about 30 miles per day. However, due to the hot temperature we found ourselves waking at 5am to start cycling in order to avoid the heat – which also allowed us to do 50-60miles per day.

We had been forewarned of the long ardous ride on the 101 Highway from Seattle down to Portland. However, we cycled on the opposite side of the Puget Sound and opted for back roads whenever possible and thus the ride was a really enjoyable, scenic and relatively quiet road – the only small downside with it being longer than the more direct highway route.

During our ride, we had an amazing time staying with Warm Showers hosts, wild camping and meeting fellow bike tourers.

Warm Showers is a website designed to provide a literal warm shower and bed for cyclists. We’ve stayed with three in the past week and all were wonderfully accommodating.
Our first was at a picturesque house on an inlet of the Puget Sound, near Shelton. We stayed there for two nights as we were introduced to the wacky but fun game of Disk Golf and were able to hike & explore a Southern area of the Olympic National Park.

Our second WS host actually came around by invitation, after meeting a fellow tourer on the road and hearing his plans were akin with ours. He had a house lined up in Longview, on the Washington border, and called the couple to check we could come too. They were two keen trikers who enthusiastically opened their home to cyclists after their kids had flown the nest. We had a lovely evening of wine, food and conversation. The following morning, they cycled with us to the Lewis & Clark bridge to send us on our way to Oregon.


Finally, we arrived in Portland after a long hot day of cycling and went straight to an ice-cream shop to refresh & check our internet in the hopes we’d have a reply from our last minute requests. Despite only messaging hosts the night before, we had a few offers and chose to stay with a cheery couple who had two cuddly cats. They made us feel very welcome by cooking us a big dinner and taking us out for pancakes.

We stayed with them for 3 nights and even had a bike tour of the city from our host Ted. He took us to his favourite coffee shop (where we had an incredible affogato), ate at iconic and yummy food carts and cycled along the Esplanade for scenic views of the area. The city also claims to be the ‘bike capital of America’ and we can see why, as it was really bike-friendly and enjoyable to cycle around.

The place itself definitely lived up to its weird and whacky reputation and there were a lot of people that looked like they stepped out of an episode of Portlandia.

Hattie & Rio

Port Angeles to Portland 🚴