The curious cirios, cardon cacti and cervezas

We felt rested leaving the oasis of La Posada hotel and braced ourselves for the busy Mex 1 for 6km before following quiet tracks to San Quintin. A close call saw me riding into a near invisible single barbed wire fence strung across the track. I was saved by a lack of speed and it catching me at elbow height.

The route crossed the highway and then continued out to the pacific coast for some flat, and at times sandy circuitous dry marsh tracks, followed by firm sand beach riding to El Pabellón campground. Perhaps lost in translation, the campground officina and toilet blocks were adorned in beautiful butterflies (papelón is French for butterfly, versus pabellón which is Spanish for pavilion). The camp hefe let us camp under shelter near the office AND gave us a punnet of fresh fresa from her sisters raspberry farm. Too good.

At 7am we were knocking on the door of the Nueva Odessa restaurant 2kms away, and then stocked up afterwards from the shop with 2-3 days food and 5 litres of water each for the next stretch thru the mountains. For 1 litre of purified water we have been charged between $1 to $3 (10-25 cents).

It was a slow day of mostly climbing on some rough tracks and we were surprised to only make 40km (it wasn’t without trying) to a wild camp by 3:30pm. Salvador from the Fass bike shop had recommended stopping there and it was a good call. With darkness setting in at 5 it was good to have time in daylight hours to set up camp, and we were pretty knackered.

Presently our favourite piece of kit is our 700ml titanium ‘bot’. It is partnered with a rusty oval sardine tin lid that we found at this camp which sits on embers or across sticks for the bot to sit on for a fast brew setup. The bot has a screw top lid which meant we have not lost water the couple of times it has tipped over in the fire. We had found dehy spud in a mercado so for a change of dinner diet we had hot mashed spud mixed with fish, cheese and mayonnaise.

I was up not long after 5am to get a fire going enjoying the waning moonlight and break of dawn.

We had a short climb to a high point before a long descent on much improved tracks and found ourselves amongst the crazy cirios trees towering high above us with yellow flower heads as if straight out of a Dr Seuss story. They can grow up to 15m tall. As well, the density of the large cardon cacti increased so it was a flora feast for the uninitiated. The cardon is also known as the elephant cactus, presumably because of its size and the resemblance of the mature cactus base to a wrinkled grey elephant foot. This cactus is the king of the cacti world growing up to 20m in height and can live to 300 years. Makes one feel relatively young.

We made it to the El Sacrificio restaurant, at the intersection with the highway, for a late lunch before heading inland again to find a camp for the night.

We hoped to make it to Catavina the next day so we were off early. The initial 30km was mostly flat but absorbing and at times rocky riding. Much of the track was double grooved from 4WD vehicles chewing it out in wet conditions and the firmest line was generally the narrow ridge between the parallel troughs. It takes confidence to ride with some speed, and therefore balance, along the ridge and sometimes one has it, and sometimes one keeps falling down into the sandy or rocky depths of the grooves.

We made it to a large smooth road and were happy to follow it down to the blacktop highway which we followed for 35km to Catavina. The official route parallels the highway for this stretch but we needed a mental health break from the rough and slow riding and enjoyed flying along the now very quiet and scenic Mex 1. It also meant we made it to the very comfortable Mission Hotel in Catavina. The area around Catavina is a stunning granite boulder and cactus wonderland and we had time to check out 8000 year old cave painting just before the town.

Two Corona cervezas with dinner aided lively conversation with 2 young motorbike travellers, but were 2 too many! 

Postscript – 2 learning points about cacti- don’t remove the spline from your tyre as you will have a flat tyre the next morning (easily sorted with tubeless tyres – inflate and spin) AND don’t walk too close to a cactus as you may find a cactus offspring attached which is surprisingly painful to remove.