We left Coco’s Corner armed with a memory of a map scratched in the sand by Coco.
It essentially indicated that we should follow the “road” and turn left when we see the grove of trees to avoid an even worse road that leads directly to the highway. Grove of trees in the desert?
The road was rocky, sandy and the sun was brutally hot. The desert was beautiful in its austerity. It is amazing that plants and animals survive, let alone thrive.
We found the grove of trees in a basin. At some point someone tried to make a life. We ate lunch under a large tree that provided a break from the sun. Bees buzzed in the canopy, competing with the butterflies for the flowers. Nearby, a few remnants of rock walls remained, as well as a wide and deep well. Peering down into the dark, dry depths, I was surprised to see a white face peering back at me. An owl had taken up residence.
Later, pushing the bicycles through the sand in and around a dry lake bed. A herd of wild horses watched us struggle. The variety of cactus was amazing but it was a real treat to see cirios (a.k.a. boojum trees). They are endemic to Baja California They look a bit like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
So, like all the pictures of rocks in the water when we were along the Oregon and California coast, today you get an overload of cactus.
Pictures do justice to the daytime desert but, unfortunately do little justice after the sun goes down. There is little light pollution and few clouds in Baja so the moon takes center stage (it has been on both sides of full for the past week). Prior to it rising the night sky is filled with planets, stars, and the milky way.
The nights are mostly silent. I expected to hear more animals and insects. The usual sounds I associate with being outside, frogs, crickets, katydids, the wind rustling the leaves of trees, etc. are absent. Occasionally we hear the leathery wings of bats flapping over our tent, drawn to the insects attracted to our lights. Coyotes calling to each other happen about once a night but the duration is usually short. That leaves silence.
The lack of any type of ambient noise can be unsettling at first. The sound of your own breath and heart beating seem louder than normal. The brain creates noise to fill the silence and we hear it as tinnitus.
Metaphorically, the drivers are also as different as night and day. We heard nothing but horror stories about how bad the Mexican drivers were — how they would try to hit us or run us off the road. In reality, the drivers that have come dangerously close to us have all been driving cars with plates from the United States (predominantly California and some from Arizona) and definitely gringos. It’s US drivers giving Mexican ones a bad name in our experience. The large trucks, buses and cars driven by the locals are usually completely in the other lane as they pass. If there is oncoming traffic, they’ll slow down and wait more often than not.