The Night of the Spines! December 28th shall go into lore as the day in which the desert defeated Ian. After one single night in the desert outside of El Cien, Baja, a burst water bladder, a deflated Thermarest, restless night’s sleep and a flat tire were the consequences of a poorly chosen camping spot.
With the daylight dwindling and a healthy 75 miles on the clock, I decided that it was time to bed down for the night in the southern Baja. So, after dismantling a roadside fence by a telecommunications tower and scuttling into the sandy desert I reckoned I’d won. A little cover from the road and enough of the day left to cook dinner, it was the ideal situation. Well, isn’t it always? Unfortunately for me, I had planted myself in an area full of prickly, nasty cactus spines – hidden under the sand and on every tree and bush I had the privilege of dragging my bicycle through.
The executive decision resulted in me re-dismantling the fence and –mantling(?) it again. After an hour walking around amongst cacti and then finding out I wouldn’t be sleeping there at all I was pretty pissed off. No more than 45 mins of sunlight remained as I headed off down a hill and into another stretch of unknown, hoping for a break in the fence that had consistently lined the road for over 100 miles with periodic openings and therefore jeopardised any attempt I could make to break through. On more than one occasion I drifted into John McClane (Die Hard) mode and imagined myself sweeping away swathes of barbed fence on my Surly as plumes of dust rose up behind me, sweeping into the night.
Unfortunately, instead, in Ian style, panic set in. I’d prefer not to camp late when there’s the opportunity to set tent in the dark, eat in the cold by headlamp and rummage around for an hour just to find your toothbrush. This thought alone encouraged me to hurry down a track I spotted by the side of the road, heading into the hills and to a place called San Ramon de Dos Abril. However, close to sunset and tempting fortune, I looked to the offer of a campsite free of cactus spines that would surely do damage to my tent and gear.
I should be so lucky. Although treated to a spectacular sunset in a remote and noiseless location, it was the most costly camping of the trip so far. A cactus spine had pierced my water bladder containing the 7 litres of water needed for breakfast and cycling the next day; my Thermarest sleeping mattress had also succumbed to spines during the night and I woke up flat on the ground with 120 bobs of equipment down the drain unless I can fix it and the first flat tire of the trip. It wasn’t the best news as I hopped into the tent all set up to watch a Christmas flick on the laptop as I’d saved enough battery from the eve before to make that a possibility. I will say that “Miracle on 34th Street” is still a classic.
With the clock striking 8am the following morning, I replaced the tube and picked the last spines out of the tire with my teeth. I successfully patched the bladder with masking tape enough to hold water in for the day and filled any plastic bottle I had for extra security. I think I know what my New Year’s Resolution will be. Up and out a little earlier and less time in the saddle.