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compose Guest time Apr 21, 2023 comment 4
After spending six weeks pedaling the Baja Divide in Mexico, Tristan Bogaard put together a pair of videos documenting the journey. One is a meditative visual journal of the Baja California peninsula’s many sights and sounds as experienced from the saddle, and the other is a practical 10-part guide to the route. Watch them here…
Words, photos, and videos by Tristan Bogaard
There’s a beginning and ending to every journey. By bicycle, the differences between these points in time is usually as vast as the distance traversed. Cycle a short route or something like an overnighter, and you’ll feel refreshed by being outside, moving your body, and perhaps disconnecting from your phone or the internet altogether. You’re not a new person, but you may have a different point of view on things than before you went out.
However, go on an undertaking longer than a few days, and you might come out vastly different on the other side. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll feel changed in some way. Cycling long distances, whether in your own country or a different continent, forces you to be vulnerable, inventive, and socially engaged. You’ll have to practice new skills and level up from rookie to novice or beyond. Doing this together with another person, let alone a group, amplifies every aspect of what will already be quite the effort.
Such was the case when Belén and I cycled the Baja Divide in February and March of this year with two friends we invited to join us. We’d never been to Mexico or cycled a desert or crossed tracks laden with prickly plant debris. With some years of bikepacking under our belts, we felt competent enough to try it out. Baja throws so much at you each day that it can be tough to stay afloat. Heat, cacti, dust, a complete lack of potable water, and the tortilla-heavy diet make the peninsula a place for only the most dedicated bikepackers. But the route is well documented, easily accessible, safe, and traveled to the point where almost every local knows why people drag their bikes through the sand here.
I dragged not only my bike, but also my tripod through the sand over the course of those six winter weeks to document the undertaking in a way I hadn’t previously imagined. The video above, A Silent Journey on the Baja Divide, is an attempt to show you a fly-on-the-wall perspective of what a bike trip on this route looks like. At first, I planned to set up my tripod every hour of every day or so, but the group dynamics and stress of reaching the next water resupply point quickly determined that there was often no time to set up anything at all. I’m not that fond of hand-held shots, and I don’t enjoy not being able to take the time to set up the “perfect” perspective, but here we are. The video is roughly 30 minutes in length, for six weeks of riding, without vocal interruption. I loved filming this place’s magnificent flora and fauna in particular, as well as social interactions along the way. If you’re able to summon the patience to watch the entire thing, I’d love to read your thoughts.
Alongside the film, I also wanted to create a contemporary explainer for those interested in information about the route. Research on routes as long as these, with so many changing elements each year, can be tricky. One cyclist says this, the other says that—it’s easy to blend feelings with facts. Nearing the end of the route, in a tranquil roadside hotel in the outskirts of Ciudad Constitucion, Belén and I sat down in front of the camera one morning to talk viewers through the lessons we learned out on the trail. Divided into 10 overarching subjects, the video should contain most of the things you need to be aware of when planning a Baja Divide ride. You’ll need just over 40 minutes for this one, but there are chapters in the timeline that make it easy to find any specific topic you may be looking for. I’m sure we missed a few details and had our emotions bend a few facts, so feel free to leave any remarks if you deem them necessary.
As for the personal changes this type of journey promises, I felt them pretty heavily. Fortunately, I was able to express their nuance in writing alongside a prolonged photo repertoire, which will appear in an upcoming issue of The Bikepacking Journal sooner or later. For now, I hope my recordings help you in some way or just make your mind dream a little more today.
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