In Guerro Negro (Black Warrior), we stopped at a fish market and bought camarones (shrimp) and scallops in three sizes, the largest were the size of hockey pucks and the thickest as thick as fillet mignon. The elderly man at the store had lived in the United States for 30 years, spoke great English and liked Barbara so much that he hugged her good-bye. Barb has a wonderful way with everyone we meet and all fall in love with her. In all honesty it’s a team effort. Ron talks to everyone and gets all the info while I ask a few personal questions and smile. It works quite well. We tried camping in a parking lot that shortly started filling up with cars – it was a wedding reception and we were invited in. As we weren’t quite dressed for the occasion, we only stayed to watch the first dance where the bride and groom danced with all the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins twice removed. The dance lasted about 45 minutes. Their customs seem similar to ours. The bouquet and garter were thrown (the garter was removed modestly) and people could pay to dance with the bride. The whales were not in the lagoons yet (Dec 15) so we did not make the drive down. We plan on going on our way back.
Our next stop, San Ignacio, has an old mission on one side of a wonderful zocalo (square) filled with huge trees. We met Clint, a retired American who has lived there for 7 years. Within an hour he had given Barb a beautiful Kokapelli pendant carved from bone (another secret, apparently whale bone is illegal to take across the border). We camped at his home, cooked a scallop meal for him in the camper and he gave Barb a complete shell collection with some wonderful polished shells. Barb bought one of his spectacular abalone boxes which sell undercover in a store in town (it is illegal for foreigners to make a living in Mexico). We also participated in a ceremony in town where Joseph and Mary figurines are moved daily from house to house for the week before Xmas (it is an honor to have your house selected) and a special song is sung. People inside the house sing the part of the innkeeper and the crowd outside sings the part of Mary and Joseph asking for a place to sleep. San Ignacio is a huge date palm oasis. We hiked up the side of town onto a bench and then down through the oasis. It was my first hike through a palm forest. Beside the church we visited a museum which showcases the incredible cave paintings at Sierra de San Francisco that Ron had visited with Jan, 10 years ago when they were in Baja.
Onto Mulege, a town on the Sea of Cortez with a huge date palm ‘forest’ and many expatriates. We went down to El Coyote, a beach on Bahia Concepcion, the largest bay in Baja and one ideal for kayaking because of the limited winds. We camped there with Dave and Marilyn and Steve, BCers we had met in Bahia Los Angeles. The camping was free, on a spectacular white sand beach, and the back of the camper was 10 feet from the water. Every morning and all day long, we are accosted by venders selling everything from blankets, jewelry, tamales, and fresh vegetables from their trucks. Barb is such a soft touch. She feels sorry for them, doesn’t like to bargain and pays full price! (full price is still cheap by our standards.
In an incredible coincidence, one of Ron’s oldest acquaintances was camped on the same beach. Brian Falconer lived across the street in Glentworth, Saskatchewan, a town of 100 people (they moved away in 1959 and our family moved in 1960). Our families (their 4 boys were all the same ages as our 3 boys) had remained close since then but I had not seen him since 1998 when we had a joint “family” reunion in Kelowna. Brian was the captain of the Maple Leaf, a sailing schooner stationed in Duncan and is a well-respected ecologist on the west coast. He is a director of Rainforest, a large conservation organization and presently owns Walk Softly, an ecotourism company that runs sailing trips to Turkey and trekking trips to Yunnan province of China and Tibet.
The next day, while doing the laundry in Mulege, we ran into Kim, the fellow who runs the water taxi business on Slocan Lake! His partner, Sydney attended Barb’s wedding and they hadn’t seen each other for 30 years!! They are building a house in Mulege. It was an unbelievable 2 days.
Nine of us had a lovely Christmas dinner, complete with mariachi band, at one of the hotels in Mulege. We even danced. Seven of us went on a guided tour to the cave paintings at La Trinidad outside of Mulege, along with 20 other people! The paintings were mediocre compared to Sierra de San Francisco but the canyon was beautiful with pools and fresh running water. Ron camped on the beach outside of Mulege and the next day kayaked the 20 miles back to El Coyote. Mulege, since then, was devastated by a hurricane and the resulting flood waters were over the high bridge in town. Maybe the town won’t recover which would be a crime.
The next stop, Loreto, is the location of the first mission built in Baja in 1697 and is filled with cobblestone streets. We were planning on camping on the street by the water, but were soon surrounded by young men drinking beer and playing loud music. It was also the cruising street and very noisy. We had Credence Clearwater Revival blasting behind us and Mexican accordion rock and roll driving past. Everybody here is very pleasant and generally, despite their relative poverty, a jovial bunch. We moved and drove down one of the narrow streets under trees pruned to form arches over the street. They were a little low for the camper and we brushed some branches. We were soon surrounded by police, but after many muy sientos (we are very sorry), they consented not to take us off to jail. The zocalo here is beautiful with lights everywhere and a great Christmas tree. We camped for free on a side street not far from the mission. With the solar and shower, it is easy to dry camp and campgrounds have little to offer. Our parsimonious nature enjoys the free camping and the streets here are very safe. We’ll be moving to the beach in a few days after visiting San Javier Mission and then will head farther south. We of the sunburned noses send you all the best for 2007.