|Cerio Cati looking out to the Gulf|
It has been awhile since I give you all an update on my adventures in Baja. Alma, Sue and I went off on a big road trip down Baja to see the gray whales in San Ignacio, Baja Sur, the southern state of Baja, a 530 mile trip. Dad was happy to stay home to watch our sunsets and take care of the pets with the neighbor stopping by to visit. Like most road trips it becomes the trip and all the unforgettable things you see along the way that become as memorial as the final destination. Now I feel like I have much broader view of Baja and desert landscapes. At one point we were driving along the ridge top of the mountain range which runs along the center of Baja and at times we could see both coasts the gulf and the ocean. We saw different types of deserts from, boring flat lifeless to mountainous, bolder covered and everything in between. It is all desert, but it is all very different with a few little towns along the way, each with its own character.
|Center Elephant Tree, back Cardon Cacti|
The whales watching was amazing for sure, but I fell in love with another place that I had never even heard of before this trip Catavina, which is really almost a ghost town in the middle of the mountainous desert. Catavina was our first nights stop, the midpoint in the trip. We stayed at the Hotel Mission Catavina, the only thing open in this town, it is a very colonial style hotel, with fountain courtyards, waterfall into a swimming pool and a restaurant in it. The hotel was built by the government back in the 70’s when the road was built. Until the 70’s most of Baja was unpaved, without a road to travel through the desert or to connect the southern tip to US border. Now there is the one paved road that runs the full length of Baja, it is often a narrow road filled with potholes and some places will get washed out in heavy rains. So it is paved but still an adventure to travel on. Catavina is part of a government wild life preserve and is the only place in the world that cerio cacti grow. They are a very large spindly cactus that grows small leafs and flower at their very tip, growing to 50-60 feet. I have never been a person who feels inspired by the desert, but this desert region around Catavina is really awesome. This area also, has a painted cave. Throughout Baja there are painted caves which I read about. Most of them are in very remote areas in the mountains. So, I didn't think I would get to see one.
|Me in front of Cardon Cactus|
In the late afternoon after checking into our hotel Sue and I went off to explore the reserve and hike to the cave paintings. There was some cloud cover which made the sunlight defused and the temp mild. This desert area is hilly and covered with large boulders and lots of cerio, elephant and cardon cacti. There is a well marked path to the cave which is up a steep hill with a switch back trail. There are awesome views of cactus, hills and spring flowers to enjoy along the way and then we arrive at the cave with it's small opening. The cave is naturally lit from the sunlight coming in. There are these ancient paintings all on the rock. We wondered at the ancient stories they might tell and laughed at the idea they are just ancient graffiti. We took photos and listened to the wind and silent. As the sun was setting we returned to the hotel for dinner. They have a very lovely restaurant….the only place in town. Across the street from the hotel is a large gas station that is now abundant with people hanging out in the back of a pickup truck selling gas in out 5 gallon containers. There are a few other abundant building aging with the sun making make up what was once a town, with the setting sun it all kind of had a forlorn look. The well maintain hotel was so out of place in this ghost town it sets in.
|Cave Painting over head|
|Sue looking at cave paintings|
|Alma in front of hotel|
Our next day we made it to our destination and stayed in a Canadian owned Ignacio Springs B8B, it is mostly yurts, with a few cabins set among palm trees, next to a river. San Ignacio is a true oases in the desert with a river and jungle of date palm trees. It is 40 miles to the bay which is still only partly paved, we will travel by van with a driver the next day for our whale watching. The B&B served dinner outside under the palms and we chatted with other guest some just arriving to go whale watching and some that had been whale watching, all Americans or Canadians. Before dinner we had time to walk around the old colonial town of San Ignacio. There is a town square with a park and very old trees with the San Ignacio mission at one end. We walked into the mission where high windows illuminate the sanctuary with hand carved wooden altars covered in gold leaf. Here, too like the day before there was a ancient reverence to the place, that can’t really be describe but felt. We took pictures and walked the gardens enjoying the scent of orange blossoms from the grove on the mission grounds. The we crossed the street to have desert before dinner in a little ice cream store, with seating out on the sidewalk. There were children playing in the park and families strolling the square on the warm early evening. We felt like we were experience a real little tranquil Baja town. So different from my first experience of driving into Baja and feeling overwhelmed by the hectic pace.
After a family style breakfast of home grown smoked ham, fresh eggs from chickens on the property cooked to order and fresh baked bread, our driver picked us up to take us to the whales. He waited near the town square for the other vans creating a caravan out to the bay. Now half the road is paved which lasts about 20 miles and then it is a dirt bumpy road. Soon we saw colorful salt flats and the blue waters of the bay off in the distance. Our driver will spend the day out there waiting while we go out on the water and then drive us back to town, so he only makes the rough trip once a day. All the reading I had done had not really prepared me for the landscape. It is all very flat, it feels very desolate and almost eerie in the emptiness of the terrain. There is no vegetation, just sand, rock, wind and this vast body of blue water before you. We had to wade out into the water to climb into our little boats bouncing on the choppy water. The three little boats took off across the water soon to lose sight of each other in this vast bay. We bounced hard on the choppy water and a one point became airborne. It you like roller coasters you would have enjoyed this ride but I don’t so, it was a white knuckle ride for me holding tight to the seat and the side of the boat. Then we saw a whale spout and we slowed down, then more whales all around. We had babies popping up next to the boat and looking right at you, whale the mother stays alongside mostly under the water. At one point a baby knock the underside of the boat, playing with us from side to side. It was an encounter with whales not soon to before gotten. Photos were hard to take so, and we only got a few.
|San Ignacio Mission|
|Breakfast at B&B|
|Waiting for the boats|
|Alma spots a whale|
This is only a few highlights of the sights on this adventure down Baja. I’m so glad for digital camera’s I managed to take 264 photos on this trip, to my growing collection Baja photos. This winter adventure has turned out very different than I thought, both awesome and challenging. Now we are on our countdown to departure for home, which will be in mid of April, less than a month. I am busy painting. I found my artist voice here this winter in a return to painting. Stay tune for a showing of the Baja painting series, maybe even a slideshow or two.