Baja Day 1: Culture shock

Day 41, Tijuana to Rosarito, 29 kilometers

I’m in full culture shock. Or culture overwhelm. I’m guess I’m doing well, keeping a positive outlook, though under the surface I’m reeling. I can’t talk to anyone. Not true, some people know English. But I can’t read the signs. I have no idea where I am. I should have bought a Baja map, instead depending on the Google maps which show basic streets. Part of the adventure, no?

Adventure involves the element of risk. What is the risk here for me, an Oregon Yankee in Baja? I’m adequately funded and US dollars go a long way here. I’m fit, male, middle class. I’ve got more privilege than many locals could hope for. Is that part of my anxiety, that I’ll be robbed? Or is it more my long running white guilt, my inner conflict over why I have these advantages, bestowed upon me by the accident of birth.

No, I think the risks here for me are mostly emotional. The source of this anxiety is that I’m feeling completely exposed, in a way I’ve not been before. Naked, vulnerable, raw, like when you fall and scrape your skin off. Maybe that’s not the best analogy given bicycling is the activity at hand. I’m just way out of my element here in Mexico.

This morning, my host Elvis eases my anxiety by giving me a great send off from Tijuana. He first takes me to Calimax, the local supermarket. Cashiers in Baja take US dollars so shopping is easy. I get a great chicken mole tamale from a local vendor for breakfast. Though Elvis has repeatedly warned me against street food, he says tamales are safe as long as they are hot, very hot. But he says don’t drink the water, never drink the water in Mexico.

When I’m ready to ride, Elvis walks with me about a quarter mile to show me the best road out of town. Going out of his way, literally. There’s a rainbow, a rare sight over Tijuana skies. A good sign. Follow this road, he says, and it will take me to Mex 1, the highway to Ensenada. Come visit again, any time. I tell him I will, and that I’ll send other cyclists. Then I’m off, climbing up over a long hill, then descending.

The rain predicted for this morning is holding back. Skies are overcast, patchy clouds with bits of blue breaking through. Much like Oregon skies. I’m glad to be back on my bicycle, riding. Riding, riding, riding. What I came for. Wheels spinning over roadway. Pretty good pavement, I’m glad to discover. Muddy, dirty from the rains last night. Traffic is light on this road, and drivers seem as respectful of this loco cyclist as back in the States.

Before I know it, I’ve arrived in Rosarito. I have to ride up and down the main street a couple times looking for the hotel I booked the night before. I finally ask for directions, then easily find the place. I check into the room early, haul my bicycle up three flights of stairs, collapse on the bed. The ride was a short one, but I’m exhausted. I take a nap, watch the television a bit, US movies dubbed in Spanish, then venture outside to check the surroundings.

There’s a busy taqueria on the corner, a couple small stores. Around the corner I find a little side street leading to the coast. Stormy waves break against the rocky shore. Clouds make for a stunning sunset, a scene of beauty so similar to the hundreds I’ve watched, all along the thousand miles of coastline to the north. I feel the connection to home, the culture shock easing, my excitement for the adventure returning. I’m glad to return to the hotel, to my warm bed, as the rains finally arrive.

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5 thoughts on “Baja Day 1: Culture shock

  1. Not sure if your getting replies..but I eat the road foods especially seafood cups and clams on side of road..never been sick..just carry some imodeum in case ha my friends in zacatitos are following your trip some friends said they passed u..

  2. Ocean, Buy a Spanish/English dictionary! Doing your best to learn and speak the language helps a lot for making friends and getting help. Watch out for speeding truck drivers, especially on curvy downhills in the mountains. If you meet another biker, buddy up. Almost every little town has a pure water store. Buy your water from them. The tortilla shops make and sell them in the mornings. They are incredible. Be careful of the sauces at the restaurants. If you get the runs, it will sap your strength. I know from experience. Carry a little shovel and some tp. Get a map! If you make it to Guerrero Negro just south of Laguna Manuela (where i camped for a while) and the border to Baja Sur, look up Oscar who owns the Dos Pinos Restaurant, a very kind, fun and helpful guy. When you have WIFI, do some research on Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor.
    Buena suerte mi amigo! Bien viaje!!

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