We wished we could spend more time in the following places. But the weather being what it was, we could only handle the highlights.
We took the van on a test run down the road to San Ignacio. We had a hard time finding a campground. The rains from this most recent tropical storm had caused the river to flood, making the sandy soil on the banks too soft and many of the roads too impassable because of rocks. We stayed two nights at a place outside of town called Rice and Beans, and cycled in.
Over the centuries, this oasis town has withstood the constant devastation of floods, volcanoes, hurricanes and even drought. What a place to found a parrish, right? Jesuit missionaries did just that in the early 1700s. And in trying to convert the indigenous subjects of the Spanish crown, they killed off nearly all of them with disease. But their mission is still standing in the center of town.
You could feel a little of the Middle East here. The settlers brought date palms from the old world, so groves of the trees were everywhere with their yellow bunches of fruit. Shops were selling bags full of dried dates. I ordered milk blended with dates (a licuado de datil) ar a restaurant.
We sat in the main plaza, faced the church of the San Ignacio Mission, and enjoyed a couple of cold Pacíficos. Even though the plaza was your Roman-style square, the door of the church had a geometric Moorish design. Spain had recently kicked out their Muslim population but took note of their food, architecture, language and more. Then the colonists brought it here, maybe unknowingly, because at that point it was ingrained in their own culture. I wondered what influences from India, for example, survived in the Arab world, which in turn survived in Spain, etc.
Anyway, San Ignacio was the first town we saw with colonial architecture and missionary history. We were given a semi-confusing history lesson from an elderly gentleman who runs a shop in the square: missionaries coming, missionaries fleeing, Jesuits, Dominicans. The interpretive signs in the mission didn’t make it much clearer. But they changed the area for good.
We returned to Vizcaíno the following morning to have César fix an oil leak, and then turned around again and headed towards Santa Rosalía on the east coast.
This stretch of the road was beautiful but shoulderless, so you could only enjoy it when you weren’t passing trucks or avoiding cows in the road (really, do NOT drive at night!).
The French Boleo mining company founded Santa Rosalía and influenced the architecture, pastel-colored wooden buildings, which now had a little worn-in charm. And we enjoyed the bread from the Boleo Bakery, even if the staff wasn’t so friendly (guys, you don’t have to act French 😉). We saw the church, built by Gustave Eiffel for the Paris World’s Fair and shipped here! It is a little rusty now, but they still have mass there! There was one going on when we visited.
We decided to park for the night next to a cute between the Mahatma Gandhi library and a primary school. The parking spaces were really big, it seemed safe, there were palm trees for shade and no indications that we couldn’t!
The next morning, we woke up to see someone had parked behind us so we couldn’t get out! Yes, the spaces were that big. We noticed that the cars around us had been pulled up only halfway in the spaces to prevent other people from parking behind them. I guess double-parking is a thing here and the locals know better! We thought that was hilarious.
Luckily a guy sitting in the park saw everything and told me the car belonged to one of the teachers. I went to the school and finally a woman came out seeming mildly inconvenienced. She kept asking, “now where am I going to park?”. But we manoeuvered so she could have the spot to herself. First night stealth parking in Mexico: overall, successful.
We arrived that afternoon in Mulegé, a town set in another oasis of date palms, but with a backdrop of mountains. A woman called Chayoita kindly let us park overnight in her hardware store. We walked to the stone mission of Santa Rosalía Mulegé and looked over the sparkling river which curves through the town.
That night was the eve of Mexican Independence Day. Chayoita said that the Mulegé festivities would be “very simple”. Food vendors set up in the main square, and kids from the elementary school performed songs, speeches and marches in the school’s covered recreation area, which doubled as a public events hall. The activities culminated with the traditional Grito de Dolores. This is a speech the “Father of Mexico”, Manuel Hidalgo, made on Sept. 15 1810, declaring independence from Spain. It’s always recited by the president in Mexico City, and by the mayor of each town. The whole affair was over by about 10pm, but we enjoyed it along with everyone else.
We ate some juicy beef tamales and then we went to a few bars.
In the morning, we woke up to banging drums and sirens. It was the high school marching band going right down the street we were parked on, followed by the town firetruck! Edd said, “nothing like a parade when you’re hungover!”
The hardware shop staff let us fill up our water tank, and we were on our way to Bahía de Concepción.
Bahía de Concepción
The bay has several beaches and the most accessible for us which was called Santispac. The water was transparent tourquoise and dotted with little islands.
We parked up and a guy came to collect 100 pesos. I think it’s unofficial but they claim to keep the beach clean and provide security. We didn’t mind paying because they had a dump station where we could empty the old tanks!
Apparently the beaches in the area start to get crowded within a month from now. “80% are Canadian” said the guy at the beach restaurant. Voila our predicament: we loved having the beach all to ourselves, but the weather was still too hot for comfort.
We stuck it out for a night. We took the kayak out and snorkeled, and went snorkeling again the next morning. We saw rays and a few other fish we had seen up north. But the water here was so still, you can swim forever without getting tired!
Mexicans have been talking up Loreto a lot, and gringos like it too because we saw a lot of them here, even pre-season. The city ticks a lot of the Baja boxes: mission, bars, boardwalk, beach, clean streets, cheap eats, cute shops, trees.
In our one muggy afternoon here, we visited the mission and walked for a couple of hours along the promenade. We parked on the street again because some of the campings were closed and it was by far the sweatiest night of our trip (AC would have come in handy). Our faces became fountains that we couldn’t turn off.
lt seems silly that we spent six days in an industrial town with one intersection while we got the van fixed, and only one night in this cute place. But a few nights sleeping in sweaty sheets would change your mind. We are hopefully getting closer to places where the weather suits our home.
In the news today: A second big earthquake shook the mainland, this time in Mexico City, with at least 100 dead.