Thursday, December 19, 2013

Traveling down the Transpeninsular, part 3

If you want to read the previous posts about this journey, here's part 1 and here's part 2.

The third day of our trip down the Baja peninsula started in a most enchanting place. CataviƱa is truly in the middle of nowhere. It's 1 1/2 hours from the nearest gas station, and another 3 hours before the next one (if you're traveling south). There's no store, no church, nada. Just a hotel, Mexican style with the building surrounding lovely interior courtyards.

It's in the middle of the Boulder Fields. This whole region is filled with boulders, some as big as houses. Beautiful!

The small building in the photo above is a shrine, like the roadside shrines you see all along the highway, but it's behind the hotel.

What's so wonderful about this place is that the combination of small trees, cactus and boulders makes every view look like it was consciously landscaped.

Another thing - this area is where you start to see cirios (or boojums, to English speakers). There is nothing like these plants anywhere else in the world, and they grow only in the central part of the Baja peninsula. They're generally 10-20 feet high, but sometimes higher.

Strange, eh?

Well, we've got many miles to go, so I'll reluctantly leave our enchanted place behind. But if you'd like to know more about it, click here.

If you did happen to follow the last link, you might have read about the military checkpoints. I could do a whole post about the bad attitudes of Americans, but I'll leave it with a single comment. The soldiers at the checkpoints are incredibly polite. Every checkpoint has a sign in English explaining why they're there and saying what you should do if you're upset about how you're treated; and in our experience (which is considerable) the soldiers are consistently professional, treating people with respect, and they do not look for favors.

Here's a picture from one of the military checkpoints. Every one of them is well-kept, and maintained with pride. The soldiers landscape the areas along the road, and do a good job of it, too, with local plants and other objects (shells or bones or rocks laid out in interesting patterns, etc.)

If I remember correctly, in the entire 100 miles of the peninsula there are 5 checkpoints.

So, a mere 3 hours later, we've gone through the most desolate part of the peninsula which has almost no plants since it basically never rains there (this is around Guerrero Negro, at the border between Baja California and Baja California Sur). And after another 2 1/2 hours we're near the east coast of the peninsula, facing the Sea of Cortez. But first we need to past Tres Virgenes, a series of volcanos that last erupted in the mid-1700's so I think they're technically still active.

And finally we reach the Sea of Cortez and the town of Santa Rosalia. This is a historic mining town (copper) where there has been a working mine for about 130 years. The mine was recently re-opened using new technology and the town is booming.

Here's a photo of the old mine entrance, at the entrance to the town. At that point in its history it was an underground mine. The new mine is an open pit mine, not visible from the road.

We really like Santa Rosalia - it's got a unique ambience because it was built by the French - but we wanted to get a bit farther south this time, so we kept going another hour to Mulege. A pity, since this is - in our opinion - the worst tourist town on the peninsula, with a very creepy vibe to it. But if you love palm trees more than anything, Mulege is probably the town for you (if you don't mind horrible floods every few years).

However, we wanted to get home before dark the next day, so getting an hour further south was worth it. And this is where I'll leave you until tomorrow, when I'll post the last installment of the journey, where we pass some stunning mountains, the twin of the Central Valley of (Alta) California, and visit a shop that sells traditional rancho objects.

Until then, bendiciones!

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