In April of 2018 my husband Travis and I finally returned to Off Road Baja Adventures after an amazing trip with Andrik and friends in 2016. I was looking forward to testing my skills on the sand having done much more dirt bike riding in the past two years, albeit on stable ground in the Texas woods. It’s always fun to do the same trip twice and compare notes, not only have the places likely changed, but you have too.
First sign that I, clearly at this point a more advanced rider, would be Baja 1000 bound in no time, was that this time around I didn’t get my own guide. Nope. I’d be keeping up with the boys…or panicking about not slowing them down, rather. My new hot-shot self was even offered the KTM 450 EXC pictured below, but with my toes barely touching the ground, I opted for the good ole Honda CRF I rode in 2016. A much shorter bike with a more comfortable fit, and let’s face it, it went fast enough. Good choice by me, because I was able to ride to my potential and have a lot of fun, without worrying about how I was going to plant my feet at a stop, pick up the bike from a fall, or kick start it, for that matter.
Pulling out of Andrik’s place, fully geared up and gassed up, our very first challenge was a steep downhill on loose, and very deep sand. I’ve got a theory about this, and honestly I’d do the same thing. Throw your riders into the shit right away, see how they handle it, and you’ll know what you’re in for, and where you can take ’em on the rest of the trip. Did I fall? Yes. Did I handle it like a champ, jump right up and kick start my bike again for only the second time ever in this electric-start fan’s life? Yes. So ok, we were likely in for a mid-level, challenging-for-me ride, without a lot of deep sand.
I don’t know where the hell we rode to, or how Andrik keeps up with the spiderweb of unmarked back roads, but I know that there are some amazing and fun back routes along the interior of the East Cape, north of San Jose del Cabo. We rode through wide, hard-packed crushed stone. We rode through patches of single-track softer sand. We rode through well traveled one lane dirt roads. We crossed dried up river beds of all types of terrain. Hardly saw another human after an hour or more of riding, and only stopped for the occasional cow, or horse, in the road. I was pushing my comfort level on speed, but never felt unsafe. Andrik led, while my husband Travis and I took turns behind him. We kept a comfortable distance between all riders and it was casual and fun. Each time we came to a sharp turn or an awkward fork in the road, Andrik would wait and make sure everyone saw where the route was.
After a full morning route, we stopped for lunch at a little roadside restaurant, to chow down on fish tacos, drink a ton of water, and take a breather. April isn’t the hottest time of the year in San Jose del Cabo, but for two fair-weather riders, we were glad to have our camelbacks, and glad to have a shaded lunch spot. Plus, Baja tacos are good at any time, in any place.
Post lunch, the ride took us into the hills on winding dirt roads to our favorite old cactus, whom we last visited in 2016. Did you know that it takes 100 years for a cactus like this to grow an arm? Do the math.
Coming down from the hill top was just as fun, and scary, as heading up. Dirt, rocks, winding roads, and one washed out section that I came upon a little too fast, and noticed a little too late, but nonetheless gunned it and crossed. A champion moment for me, really. Can’t say I “jumped” it, but in my mind I might as well have. Views galore. Desert for miles. Blasting close to full throttle as the tires seemingly float above the sand is not my usual type of riding, but it’s thrilling. The balance between the freedom of that feeling of groundlessness, and the present moment awareness needed to stay safe and alert put the mind in a sweet spot that can hardly be described.
As we came down towards the coastline of the East Cape, we came back to civilization, and at the first sight of another car, I promptly freaked out and laid down my bike in a sand dune. So my Baja 1000 fantasies, and the ego trip were over, as I rolled in to our last pit stop at Zac’s Bar and Grill. By this time, with close to a full day behind us, I was ready to head towards the barn for sure.
The last stretch from our watering hole back to home base was fantastic. We followed Baja Sur’s east coast all the way home. It was hard not to stare at the ocean’s blue, but if there’s anything that’ll keep you focused on the task at hand, it’s navigating a rocky, cliffside “unkept” road past tourists in all kinds of four-wheeled Baja get ups. Eventually we turned off for a little single track jaunt up a small hill, for a final brain teaser before arriving back at Andrik’s. As someone who favors slow skill over speed, that was honestly my favorite part. Weaving up hill and back on single track, squeezing between the cactus and rocks, I never put a foot down once. Win!
Back at the ranch Andrik’s wife had a pitcher of iced passion fruit juice waiting for our arrival, squeezed fresh from their very own plant. I was exhausted, happy, and alive. I drank three glass of this juice. For those considering this tour, yes, Andrik has a shower, too! Bonus after all that desert sweat, sand and dirt.
There’s lots of ways to ride Baja. You can bring your own gear and explore. (but please have a very good safety plan) You can overnight trip with an expensive outfitter on a massive expedition. (high skill, high speed likely required!) Or you can book a half day or full day with these guys, and choose your own adventure. Both times we’ve ridden with these guys, we’ve gotten exactly what we needed: A push to ride fast over unfamiliar terrain, but with a wonderfully aware guide, an excellent lunch stop, and a safe return home.
Sara-Mai Conway is a yoga and meditation instructor with Baja Surf Yoga, she learned to surf and ride motorcycles in her 30’s, and enjoys these hobbies as an excuse to explore new places. She welcomes anyone interested in getting the most out of their travel, to embody the experience through an active adventure.