“You stupid bitch! You f__ing c__t!” a Yank angrily yelled at me on the beach.
“Thank you for the nice greeting,” I replied, but he kept yelling.
I had dared to ask him from afar if his gang of big dogs running around his van was friendly or if I should give them a wide berth with Butch. Seems this is all it took to set his raging in motion.
I was scared of this guy. There was no one else on the beach besides him, and he obviously had serious issues, and as a Yank, he probably owned a gun.
Luckily his dogs were well socialized, but I made sure we kept moving.
A while later, I spotted dolphins swimming close to shore, which helped me let go of the incident with the crazy guy.
The cloud formations were sensational, and the sea radiated calm and harmony.
Later in the day, we encountered clam diggers who greeted me warmly and showed me their haul.
It was lovely out here – just beautiful.
The wind was blowing neatly. Butch was running after the shore birds, playing in the water, and enjoying life.
If I walk 20 kilometers, I’m pretty sure he’ll have run twice that distance.
It was getting dark and cold, but the beach was far from over. To the left of us were high cliffs that forced us to continue because camping would be difficult.
I had miscalculated the distance and overestimated our pace. Other than the run-in with the crazy guy; the day had been so beautiful and exciting that I couldn’t resist examining all my beach finds and stopping to take photos.
That’s how it’s supposed to be in the end because just running past everything without enjoying it doesn’t make sense.
When the sun disappears on the horizon, you must rely on other senses. The world feels quieter and lonelier, and I also find it more adventurous. I love night hikes.
Adding to the darkness was the incoming tide swallowing up the sand and forcing us onto the well-tumbled rocks of every size right along the bottom of the cliffs. Brutal to drag the Benpacker along and, simultaneously, avoid the ever-closer waves.
Several times we were caught by the water until we finally got into the open and could camp. We were both dead tired and fell asleep immediately.
But now, we should return to the beginning because part two of our Baja hike didn’t start at the Pacific Ocean. No. It began at Mex 3, one of the few paved roads on the peninsula.
I enjoyed a stay in a small hotel for a couple of days, but Butch found it mega boring, so we left earlier than I had planned. Every morning, at 6 o’clock at the latest, Butch wakes me up and can’t wait to go out and experience the world.
There is no sleeping in even on the quietest mornings; as soon as I roll over, he jumps on me, licks me all over, bounces back and forth to the door, barks and paws at me until I get dressed; only then does he get quiet down knowing it’s finally time to go!
Yes, I still have to work on this 😊
In the beginning, I thought we were probably best-off heading for the desert, just West of the Sea of Cortez. It would be secluded and away from the road. It was still freezing at night but turned out to be too hot during the day. I’m only able to carry a limited amount of water.
Twenty liters for two is not all that much in the desert, and hauling that much weight gets tricky when the road turns sandy and the snails start passing us. Moreover, heading deeper and more remote into the desert no longer seemed wise, and Butch was suffering in the heat way too much; I didn’t want to do that to him.
So, we hiked parallel to the main road but far enough away to still be on our own. And enjoy ourselves. Two days later, we came to the turnoff that led us through the mountains again.
In the tiny village of San Matias, I bought some supplies. Then we continued south.
The landscape was magnificent.
Cold it continued to be. The nights were long, especially with Butch crawling under my covers every thirty minutes to snuggle and warm up and then out again when he got too warm. In and out, back and forth all night every night. Cute right?
It was remote here. No human being far and wide.
The road was in good condition initially, but that would soon change.
At Mike’s Ranch, we were warmly welcomed. We were the first ones to show up on foot, he told me, laughing, and so we got dog food for Butch and delicious burritos for me as a welcome.
I was advised to take the right fork because the fork on the left turned into a bad dirt road. But I decided for the left anyway. The left turn took us along a stream with water for a while, saving me about ten kg of weight that I would otherwise have had to pull up the mountain.
The slope was horrific! No wonder no one was on this “road”; even an off-road vehicle would have had little chance to get through here.
I often slid back more than I had just moved forward, so we hardly made any progress.
The next day Butch suddenly started barking, ran ahead, came back, ran away again, and was visibly confused and excited.
Shortly after, I saw cowboys on horseback with their dogs. While I was communicating with the cowboys, Butch took the opportunity to make new friends.
They asked if we needed water or food and soon disappeared into the mountains.
Finally, we came to a gate, and the disastrous road ended. “No hay salida” (no exit), it said in big letters. At which point I thought, they’re crazy; I’m certainly not walking back again.
Luckily, someone else had already destroyed the lock before me and kindly left a few dollars as payment. So, we had no trouble getting on.
It wasn’t long before we reached a ranch house, and I shouted “Hola” from far away so no one would think I was trying to steal something.
Lucy, an American woman, was a bit irritated at first, but to my surprise, she knew immediately who I was.
“Are you the Pushbikegirl?” she asked me. “Yes, do we know each other?” I replied.
“No, but Tuly from La Paz is a friend of mine, and she told me about you, and since there aren’t so many walking the Baja, I assume it could only be you.”
“You know Tuly? That’s funny,” I replied to her in amazement.
Tuly is the Warmshowers Queen whom I stayed with for about two weeks a few years ago, and besides me, I’m sure another 1000 bike travelers over the years. Because everyone who cycles the Baja ends up at Tuly’s at some point.
Lucy lives out here, right at the foot of the national park.
Lonely and remote.
She served me the best bean soup of my life and even gave me some for the road.
Frozen, so it was thawed by the evening.
The National Park Road spirals up to the peninsula’s highest peak with many tight curves to 3000m, it was tarmac, and I had no desire to walk on the tarmac. So, I hitchhiked about 15 kilometers to the next junction. At the intersection, I connected to the Baja Divide route, which I had cycled a few years before. The route traverses the length of the Baja peninsula. This portion of the route would take me to San Quintin.
Usually, I don’t particularly like doing the same route twice, but there wasn’t an alternative in this case.
Actually, that’s not correct. There was another variant, but I had not been able to collect any information about it, and no one knew in what condition the road was and, more importantly, whether there was water along the way. So, I chose to stay on the safe side, walking the bikepacking route.
Steep ups and downs, deep sand, baking by day and freezing at night. Butch enjoyed life hunting lizards, constantly running around in the bushes, sometimes stopping to listen when the coyotes howled.
We cooked by the fire at night, and I ate tortillas with tuna and peanut butter during the day. Great days.
Andreas’ showing up was a pleasant surprise. A bikepacker who was cycling the Divide.
A super nice Swiss guy who gave me a few hours of entertainment.
He pushed the bike next to us but wanted to get to San Quintin the same evening and so sadly had to pedal on.
The stretch into town sucked, so I hitched there again and soon got through to the other side of town. Where we recovered from the exertions of the last few days in a trucker hotel.
San Quintin is colorful and chaotic. Taco stores, friendly people, a surprising amount of traffic, and the trucker accommodation, where we stayed for a few days, was cheap, had hot shower water in the evening, and was not too loud. What more do I want?
And now, finally, we have arrived back at the great day at the beach on the Pacific where I began this story.
The pelicans flew close above the waves, and the sunsets were magnificent, but the wind was freezing. The nights as well.
So, I started thinking if it would make sense to hitchhike south and hike the Baja back north so we wouldn’t end up in the heat later and have to freeze now.
No sooner said than done, but in retrospect, that had probably been a wrong decision because it changed my motivation a bit to walk the whole distance.
Halfway through the drive, we took a short break. The American I was driving with didn’t know San Ignacio yet, so we stopped there to admire the church.
“Heike,” I heard a woman call from a car. “Tuly,” I called back. We hugged and rejoiced in life that we had met again by chance.
Tuly is a legend. She knows everyone and organizes everything for you. When you need her, she is there for everyone. She immediately invited me back to her place should I want to spend the night in La Paz.
Our way continued south of La Paz. I did not know this part of the Baja yet. But I have to say; I was not quite so taken with the area.
Sure, the lonely beaches were sensational, but there were too many Americans living down here. Moreover, it had little to do with Mexico; it felt more like Gringolandia, as the Mexicans call the USA.
The places we passed through were not very authentic.
But it had a different appeal down here, as I got a snorkel and goggles and spotted lots of colorful fish. The bays were all deserted, the water down here warm enough for swimming.
Camping on the beach, small fire and listening to the sea, wonderful.
The first night I kept hearing a strange noise. As if someone was clapping their hands loudly. Butch also found it strange and kept looking at me questioningly.
We left the tent and walked around, finding that the noise came directly from the sea. There was still no one here. But what could that be? It was pitch dark, and unfortunately; I couldn’t see anything.
The following day, I knew what it was. Giant rays were jumping out of the sea and slapping the water broadside, explaining the mysterious hand-clapping noise.
Watching them jump into the air and bounce hard over and over again was exciting.
While I was asking an American woman who lives on the beach where I could see whales, I saw the first fountain.
“Whales,” I called out loudly, and the lady replied as if it was nothing, “You see them here every day.”
My sleeping pad was flat every night. So, I had to re-inflate the mat every two hours because I was lying on the bare ground. Down here, of course, there was no adequate substitute. I could no longer patch the hole.
Butch had unfortunately torn too big a hole in the mat when he jumped outside the tent. I patched it with all the patches and glues I had but in vain.
More whales and more bays. Whales that spectacularly jumped out of the water and slapped back on the water. Often several at once. Great!
More Americans and even Germans I met. In addition, a lovely female cyclist from Alaska was here for two weeks on the Divide.
The speed of the hiking started to get on my nerves. Also, the guard and street dogs continued to plague us.
I was often dependent on someone because I had to hitchhike within towns to the supermarket or was under time pressure so that I could still find camp spots, constantly feeling like I had to keep pushing.
The realization that walking great distances around the world might not be my thing.
This feeling was not because of the Benpacker; it worked fine. On the contrary, I longed for my bicycle. It was just so much less complicated and more practical.
By chance, I told Colleen from Washington, whom I had met when I rode the Baja Divide, about my idea to get back on the bike possibly but said in the same breath that it would certainly be difficult with Butch.
“I want to sell my Surly ECR; I’ll make you a good price,” she wrote back, and I was immediately on fire.
But how do I get the bike? Unfortunately, the Mexican postal service is known to be very unreliable, and after some research, I decided to hitchhike back to the U.S.
As I got out of one car, another one stopped.
“You must be Pushbikegirl,” an American woman asked me. Astonished, I replied, “Yes, and who are you?”
“I read your last article. A friend from Sweden has been following you for years and told me you are walking with your dog in the Baja.
Come along; you can camp with us at the campsite.”
We played boccia, I met lots of people, and in the evening, I met another person who knew me—a female cyclist.
“Heike, we are Facebook friends. “Finally, we meet,” she said to me. But, of course, sadly, I had no clue who this woman was.
The next day I was fortunate and almost got to the border with a single driver.
The border, however, turned out to be a bit more complicated task this time.
“Why are you here again? How do you earn your money? Why don’t you go home anymore?
You can’t keep coming back; you must go home sometime,” and many more questions.
An American woman sat next to me, waiting at the same counter as me, why I don’t know.
In a quiet moment, she asked, “where are you from?”
“From Germany,” I replied.
“Is that part of the U.S., or is it in Mexico?”
“Germany is in Europe.”
To which she said, “Europe, where is that?”
“Europe is a continent.”
“I see and is that part of the U.S. or Mexico?” she asked again.
“Europe is far away,” I explained to her.
“Oh, no wonder I’ve never heard of it.
After three hours and six border agents asking me the same questions, I was called to the head honcho. The door closed behind me, and the officer asked, “Do you have any weapons with you?”
I said, “As I’m sure you know, I had to leave everything outside the building; otherwise, I wouldn’t have been allowed to come here. Besides, I’m German, and Germans don’t need any weapons.”
“Are you recording our conversation?” he asked me next.
I told him what I was wearing and that there was no room for a recorder.
Finally, he gave me the longed-for stamp to be allowed to enter the USA again for six months. So, I was back in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
All this I experienced last winter. Finally caught up, there will be more regular posts from now on.
See you soon, and have a great summer from Heike & Butch
Many THANKS to Ben, who sponsored his Benpacker for us to do this great hike.
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Want to read more from us?
- Traveling in Mexico, with a dog, and motorcycle
- Traveling with a dog has its difficulties. How to go on?
- Walking through the fantastic scenery of Baja California, Mexico Part 2
- Walking Adventure with my dog on the Baja California in Mexico.
- Branding day at a ranch in Oregon
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Happy to see this post, and as always I enjoyed your story telling, and incredible photography. I have explored the Baja a bit myself, and by the time I got through your Blog I felt like jumping in the truck and heading down again.
Pretty sure I’m not the only one looking forward to what’s next for you and your beautiful travel mate.
Best Wishes !!!
Thanks very much Ron,
yes, it is a very beautiful piece of land down there.
Best of luck for you, Heike & Butch
Hello Heike, Im still trying to set up an interview with you, if you are not interested maybe Butch might like to share?
Yeah send the questions over I will let Butch answer them 🙂
Dear Butch, your companion Heike is a very stubborn woman who refuses to be interviewed, if you could, at night when she is sleeping go to her in her dreams and plant a subliminal message in her awareness to grant an interview. thank you woof, woof
🙂 Okay – will work on it…can’t promise anything..
Always special to read your posts and photography to die for. I was taken aback by the “American woman” that was at the border with you. She may have had a mental deficiency, but then again, ignorance has become a more prevalent trait in the USA than I would have ever imagined. Stay safe Heike!
Thank you very much Burt for the big compliment!
She didn’t make an impression of being handicapped.
As you know I always love to be in the US and had many very special years in America. I met wonderful people and will keep the country in very good memories. I am already sad I have to leave again.
Obviously, geography isn’t taught well in school. How often did I hear that Europe fits in Texas? Very often! Not sure where this is coming from.
I wonder if they have maps in school where the USA is covering half the wall and the rest of the planet is barely visible?
Best greetings Heike & Butch
I believe government funded education in the u.s.a. is more interested in social programming than actual learning.
I cant believe that there is any educated people does not know Europe…It is too hard walking great distances you are right…Best wishes…
THanks Cemal….all the best for you too
Another wonderful post Heike thank yoh for sharing it. Your photography is amazing. Look forward to your next adventure!
Thank you and thanks for your comment!!!
Vielen Dank Heike; eine wunderbare Geschichte, und immer interessant! Your photography is simply amazing! I have been following your travels for a few years now. I’m a Canadian (with German-speaking parents) who loves to travel, but I’m too wimpy to spend as much time as you ‘living wild’ (too much into creature comforts). I have to say however that you are beginning to strike me as a re-incarnated Dervla Murphy…which in the year after her passing is a very cool thing! Your journeys will continue to inspire people years into the future, I am sure!
Big thank you Tom!
Your compliments are much appreciated!
Your postcard it on its way……
Best greetings Heike & Butch
My wife and I live in Baja ( Originally from San Diego). We love it and its people enough to call it HOME. We do miss the U.S sometimes, that’s why go for visits once a year. We love your stories and magnificent pictures of Baja California. All the best….
Thank you very much for your nice comment and I can understand how much you love the Baja…
It is an awesome place and I will be back one day.
I am actually on my way to Mexico again, but not Baja this time, but mainland Mexico…..
More adventures to come!
All the best for you…
Heike – your story of the American lady at the border reminded me: I was cycling East Coast USA and stopped to buy some groceries. A lady sitting in a truck in the car park asked me where I was from. I said ‘England’ for ease (actually I originate from Scotland, but let’s keep it simple, I thought). The lady said – I swear – ‘Did you cycle all the way from England?’
Thanks for the little story, made me smile 🙂
Guten Tag Heike, thank you for doing your share of fundraising for the Environment! When you are out there in nature like I was with my son on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014, most everything looks fine. Most people take the extinction of species, chemtrails, pollution of the water systems etc. as normal and a part of progress. Some of see that it is not going to end well and are doing what we can to educate people as well as offset it creatively.
You would be a wonderful spokesperson for the planet because of all your experiences and adventures. We hope to connect with you once we get our funding to begin Self Sufficient Communities and support the environment with many fun projects.
Thank you Val !
Good luck with your project and all the best!