The tires were looking a little bald, but we thought they still had a thousand miles or so on them. Or, at least they were good enough for a road trip to the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.
We crossed at Tijuana, escaped a few possible accidents in the craziness of the border town, and quickly got on the scenic toll road Mexico 1. Soon the nerves were settled by endless vistas of the blue Pacific Ocean and golden brown coastline.
Continuing on, we made way for the fishing village of San Quintin. We wound through the mountains and were tranquilized by the warm afternoon sun and fields of blossoming yellow flowers.
In San Quintin, we found a simple hotel on the bay and stayed the night with friends of ours.
Saturday we were off around 9:00 in the morning. Our destination was the colonial town of Loreto on the coast of the Sea of Cortez.
If there’s one thing that a drive south through Baja can provide a person, it would be incredible, raw, vast, sweeping, diverse beauty that allows the windshield to be a medium through which nature and contemplation passes.
From high mountains to boulder fields, classic Sonoran desert landscape to enchanting waters and islands, Baja is an unparalleled 800 mile-long sliver of natural beauty.
Driving a few minutes after a stop at one of the military checkpoints along the way, a huge cone appeared in the distance. The Volcano of the Three Virgins loomed over the land.
An hour or so later (time melts away in Mexico to the point where things are measured in food eaten and places visited) we dropped from the highlands down to the Sea of Cortez.
We drove along the highway, took comfort in the cooler temps, and watched the sea life around us.
Coves filled with Semana Santa campers shimmered in the late day sun, the beachside waters a pleasing turquoise color and the off shore islands a deep golden beetle hue.
With the sun already set behind the Sierra de La Giganta, we pulled into Loretto seeking a bed and a shower. The drive time was a little over ten hours.
In Ralph Hancock’s 1953 book simply titled Baja California, he states that there are three things that define “The Lore of Loreto”: 1. it is historically significant as the first white settlement in the Californias, 2. it is one of the best bases for hunting and fishing expeditions in Baja California, and 3. its people are the friendliest in Mexico.
The Mission of Our Lady of Loreto has an insciption above its entrance that says “Head and Mother of the Missions of Upper and Lower California”. Built in 1697 by the Jesuit Salvatierra, Loreto served as the first capital of the Californias until 1829 when the town was nearly destroyed by a hurricane.
We went to mass at the mission on Easter Sunday evening with the locals. If there is one place to find friendly people, a church in Latin America would be it. They smiled and said “Paz”, extending their hands during the Sign of Peace.
(written 6 May 2001)