The 28th parallel marks the border between Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur. At 28º of latitude, this also makes us 6 degrees south of our starting point in Santa Bárbara, at 34º latitude.
Over mountains and through the desert, we have gradually entered a world entirely different from the environment we left behind. Each pedal on the bike has brought us into new towns and areas of Mexico we never thought existed.
Unprotected by the confines of an automobile, we interact with locals at every intersection. Curious about our traveling by ‘bici’, people are more than willing to stop for an interesting conversation. Whether over morning aguas frescas and café or a road-side taqueria, these interactions have really shown us the whole countryside. A fisherman by the coast treated us to a fantastic dinner of lobster tacos and a worker in the desert showed us how to get a delectable fruit from a cactus.
Food is especially appreciated after pushing a hundred pound bike up a canyon. Cooks such as Mama Espinoza in Rosario show us their quality “quesabirrias,” and are thrilled to see us order 5 more plates. With each plate, they share more than just delicious pico de gallo topping a full flour tortilla, they show us the very things that make their hometown unique.
Eugy, the owner of Nueva Chapala, told us the entire story of how his family settled as ranchers in the Valle de los Cirios. With pictures hanging in his restaurant of 150 years of the desert’s history, we truly got a peek into life in this area.
The special part of spending time with those who have welcomed us into their homes is understanding the similarities between cultures throughout Baja. At nearly every stop, people were hilarious, telling jokes about cyclists, truck drivers or the difference between ‘exacto’ and ‘correcto.’
As incredibly hospitable as all these people have been, there are distinct cultural differences that have been persistent for these two weeks in Mexico. Burning trash has been a roadside sight throughout. In Guayquil, we talked to the cafe owner lighting a heap of plastic bottles and various food wrappers. “No tenemos suficientes recursos para hacer otra cosa.” At least 60 kilometers from the nearest other town, this little truck-stop has no other option than to burn the trash so it doesn’t pile up and blow away in the afternoon desert winds. These trash fires become their resort to lack of other option.
At some points it becomes a matter of tradition over anything else. As customs become rooted generation after generation, it becomes natural for actions to be excused as acceptable. Dating back to the Mayans, people have been eating sea turtles as a ceremonial act. In Santa Rosaliíta, we stayed with fisherman who have been in the area since their grandparents’ grandparents fished the same waters. Nestled on a point where the desert meets the sea, this has been the way of life for every high tide and low tide for hundreds of years. On Sergio’s birthday, it was considered tradition to eat the sacred animal.
Similar to disregarding trash on the streets, these small town citizens have not seen other parts of the ocean. They do not know that this drastically reduces the world’s endangered sea turtle population. They don’t have the privilege to understand the interconnected nature of the ocean.
Looking back on all the places we’ve gone so far, its easy to count the differences. But it’s remarkable to remember how humble and welcoming all of our hosts have been. After all there are only six degrees of separation between us.