Heading south along serene beaches and across wild mountains

Shortly after we had reached Baja Sur, the southern part of the peninsula Baja California, we took a special detour to San Francisco de la Sierra. Long ago, the people living here far above the surrounding desert immortalized their impressions in cave paintings. Fortunately for us, a large part of the way had just been freshly asphalted, and it was only the last few miles leading to the sleepy village that were a dirt track along pretty deep canyons with great views. After a bit of asking around, we found the registration office, which also allocates guides (the paintings can only be visited with a guide), and then, accompanied by our expert, we drove to the works of art. In the mountains around San Francisco, there are more than 600 places where paintings have been found, and this area is considered the best in the world for seeing such relics from our ancestors. We chose the only place that is accessible without much effort – for many of the caves, you have to plan a mule ride that takes several days. It was great to see the paintings, which, despite their age (10,500-11,000 years old), are still radiant on the walls. After this impressive experience, we underwent our first desert thunderstorm and saw from a safe distance how quickly the small water ditches can turn into wild torrents. We continued on to San Ignacio, a green palm-tree oasis with an old stone church. Since it is the rainy season, however, and the desert in general is greener than it usually is, the oasis didn’t stand out very strikingly from its surroundings.

After a restful night in Mulegé at a camping site with a big pool (to the great delight of the children), we continued on further south to the popular region of Bahía Concepción, a deep bay with turquoise-colored water and lots of sandy beaches. The clear, shallow water was as warm as a bathtub, and there were lovely palapas (resting places with a palm-leaf thatched roof) where we could camp. We enjoyed the peace and calm on the beach and were able to see crabs and rays when we snorkeled. The only thing was that it didn’t really cool off at night, and the air was unbelievably humid, so we decided to switch over to the other coast and drive to the Pacific. Especially the beginning of the mountain road was in pretty desolate condition due to the storms in the previous days, but it led us through changing landscape and past remote farms on the way to the wide beaches on the Pacific near Las Barrancas and brought a bit of cooling-off – cool meanwhile means temperatures under 30°C at night. The beaches here aren’t so good for swimming, but you can watch the flying fish and the pelicans searching for food in the surf.

This was the beginning of an endless plain which became greener and greener the further south we drove. For the first time in a long while, we saw agriculture and some low, green leafy deciduous forests. To diversify the drive, we took a side trip to an old phosphorous mine and shortened the monotony of the highway by going along nice sandy tracks every once in a while. The search for the old mine was an exciting and challenging process since our first attempt was a failure due to the totally overgrown track. In the end, after some tips by the locals, we finally succeeded in finding the mine in the midst of mangroves and sand dunes. Along the Transpeninsular Highway, there is not much more to see until La Paz, so we had a day of driving really long stretches for the first time in ages. On past La Paz, we drove further to Punta Arena and spent the night on a fantastic sandy beach with a beautiful view of Bahía California.

While great parts of Mexico were being hit by the heavy storms, we didn’t even see a cloud on Baja. But we had heard that there was the threat of a big storm which, according to the weather forecast, would bring lots of rain to southern Baja, so we started looking for a safe place to stay for a few days. Due to the storm warnings and the amount of rain predicted to fall, sacks had already been filled with sand and ditches dug everywhere. It rains very little here, so even a medium amount of rain leads to great problems since the water doesn’t sink into the ground, but instead flows away quickly, causing great damage, especially to the streets. Most of the hotels had already closed because the season was over, so, after asking around a bit, we found shelter with a fisherman’s family which rents out two rooms in an adjacent building. Within a very short time, we were completely integrated in the big family and had ample opportunity to improve our Spanish. And the children were delighted with their new playmates and toys. We were able to see how the fresh catch of the day is prepared for sale (gutted, cleaned, and sometimes cut into filets) and were given a big filet of sea bream (dorado), which tasted delicious for dinner.

The storm which had been expected never came: even as the waves were breaking high up on the beach during the first night, an all-clear was given that the storm had changed its path. Except for a few drops of rain and a somewhat higher tide than usual, we didn’t experience anything of the storms. We stayed in La Ventana for several days anyway since we liked it there so much. Now we are heading around the tip of Baja, to the tourist Mecca of Los Cabos. We are interested in seeing how great the difference between here and the rest of the peninsula will be.

 

Here is our picture gallery:

 

 

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