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Stage 1

Pasadena to La Paz - Mexico
1848 Kilometers
1st to 18th Jan 2000

The first 2 days we headed south along the Pacific Coast with overnight stops at Dana Point and San Diego. The first day was not a good start for yours truly, following the Rose Bowl Parade we had to rearrange our luggage on the gear trucks and sort out our needs for day one all of which delayed departure till around 10.30 am. We then had around :W78 miles to Dana Point where I arrived at the campsite just after dark and as I put my tent up it started to rain. Having only had around 4 hours sleep the previous night this was not for me a very good start for the tour of a lifetime.



On day 2 the sun was shining and our route took us through National Parks and along dedicated cycle tracks with the Pacific Coast in view most of the time. The general public along the route appeared to know who we were and what we were about to do. There were shouts of good luck, bon voyage, and “Gee I wanna join you guys “ rang in our ears. It was mid morning on our that we crossed the border into Mexico and for the next 15 days we would be cycling the 1628 kilometres down the peninsular known as Baja California. This was my first visit to Mexico and the contrast with its affluent neighbour the USA was very noticeable with much poverty and unemployment. There is I understand a major ongoing problem for the US immigration authorities in keeping out illegal immigrants along the extensive border. One of the first things that hits you about cycling in Mexico (if you are not very careful) is the traffic. I had been forewarned in advance of this hazard from the painful experience of other UK cyclists. There is a percentage of the Mexican driving public who appear to have a kamakazi approach to driving.If not the speed of driving, then the condition of the vehicle have been the cause of many fatalities. This is confirmed by the many roadside shrines which I saw. In the unlikely event of a UK style MOT examination being introduced in Mexico then I would estimate that at least 50% of all vehicles being taken off the road.

During our first 2 days in Mexico I was forced off the road by a passing truck which came within inches of me. Another Odyssey rider was not so lucky, he finished up in hospital with a broken leg after being knocked off his cycle by a hit and run driver. To add insult to injury this particular rider already had one artificial leg and it was the good leg that was broken !

In the interests of safety for all concerned throughout the year a strict discipline of riding protocol was introduced. This meant riding single file in small groups and only overtaking when the road was clear.

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Two items, which we take for granted are in very short supply in this part of Mexico. I refer to fresh drinking water and toilet paper. This shortage was aggravated by the arrival of 240 cyclists (plus support team) in a community.  With a continuous drought in the region I can understand the lack of water but not the toilet paper.  The normal consumption of water by a cyclist in hot conditions is at least 3 to 4 litres per day so at the end of our 3rd day in Mexico one of our support vehicles had to make a return journey to the USA for fresh water supplies. I had mixed feelings about the logistics etc of travelling over an extended period with such a large group, but after 18 days my fears were unfounded. There was in fact a tremendous community spirit throughout the whole group, which follows you through the day. I never expected for instance to consider having to stand in a queue for meals, or a shower. It is in fact a social event and a daily opportunity to get to meet someone different.

Riding companions during the day will depend very much upon age, ability and personal choice, in my case I could not have met up with 2 more suitable companions. They were John my sole UK companion a retired Dental Surgeon, and Warren a retired Doctor from Chicago. Whilst for various reasons one may appear to be the only cyclist on the road at times there is always a group in front or behind you ready to help in the event of a problem, plus our 6 sag wagons for any rider with a problem, mechanical or physical.

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After leaving Tijuana on the Mexican border our route took us along the Pacific Coast of Baja California to Rosario, and Ensenada. It was at this point that our itinerary took us inland and towards the mountains. Whilst we remained on the West side of the Baja peninsular for several days we were not very far from the coast at any time. The first rest day at Catavinia after 8 days of riding and 750 Kilometres was very welcome, and although daytime temperatures were in the high 30s cent it was very cold between sunset and sunrise. One morning I awoke to find that there was ice on my tent.

We encountered some very long climbs up to 3000 ft which took us through some very remote desert region where the landscape was dotted with some weird, skinny, tall carrot like plants which are called boojums. Then there was the really cool large multi armed cacti called saquoras.

As we headed south through Colonet, El Rosario, and Catavina our route took us to the East coast of Baja to Santa Rosalia, San Ignacio and Loreto where the coastal region was much more spectacular and rugged with plenty of white sandy beaches. We arrived at our final stop over in Mexico at La Paz the Capital of Baja California on 17th Jan.

It was here that we had another welcome rest day before flying to Costa Rica on 19th Jan, and where we bid farewell to an unusual companion who had followed us for most of our 1500 kilometres from Ensanada. Our companion was a very cheerful 65-year-old one-legged Mexican by the name of Atuilla, and he was travelling the same route and distance as us on a hand propelled tricycle with his worldly possessions on a box at the rear. It appeared that Atuilla made this journey every year to visit his 9 children in La Paz; the Odyssey party were so taken by the cheerful attitude of this man that a collection among the party raised over 1000 dollars which was put towards a new tricycle for his future trips.

This concludes my first globetrotting report the next, will be from somewhere in Chile or Argentina

18th Jan 2000    

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