Thursday, October 4, 2007

Summer Trip 2007 Baja-Loreto to The Pacific

Tracy and I were re-energized and ready to roll now that the "ToyotaHome" was secure again. The prior day was long and stressful taking a toll on the two of us. But today was a new day and we were fresh with enthusiasm for the upcoming adventure.

The plan today was to head south from our beach campsite south towards Loreto. We would top off on gas and then head west across the mountains and camp on the Pacific. While I have traveled most parts of Baja, today's route was completely new for me. I have heard incredible things about these mountains and had marveled at their beauty driving south. Today we would see them up close.

There are two primary roads that head towards the Pacific. We chose the road to Mision San Javier. The first few miles are paved but I knew that would end quickly and it did. The road was in great shape but had a number of steep grades. We were driving slowly anyways as the views were incredible. We stopped a number of times to get out of the truck and take in the vistas. Birds were abundant and flowers populated the hills. Today was shaping up to be something special.

At the crest of the drive we came to a ranch called Las Parras and explored a small church there. We took a few pictures and continued to marvel at the beauty. Tracy and I were so far removed from the prior day's troubles.

As we drove to what seemed like heaven, we decided that we would cut off from the San Javier road and head towards San Isidro and La Purisima. In order to get there, we would drop into San Jose de Comondo. I had heard great things about La Purisima and we decided to check it out.

I knew these roads were well traveled by the ranchers but was well aware that storms can wreak havoc on them. There had been a number of storms the prior summer and I was not aware which roads had been repaired. My plan was to keep my eyes open for fresh tire tracks. After all, most of the ranchers drive two-wheel drive trucks. If they can get through, I should be okay as my truck is four-wheel drive.

At the turn off for San Jose, the road look to be in good shape. In fact, the road looked as if there had been a crew working on it recently. The dirt road was fairly smooth but did offer some incredibly steep ascents and descents. The country side was incredible and we could see for miles. We passed abandoned ranchos and a few that looked close to being so. I'd rate this road as passable for vehicle with high clearance but four-wheel drive not necessary.

The road to San Jose finally intersected with an East-West road. The area is fairly desolate with volcanic rock prominent. We also noticed, though, evidence of water and thus cattle. We took the road west and drove a short distance until we encountered what seemed to be a mirage.

Below the road about 1,000 ft. was a valley full of lush vegetation and palms. We continue on the road as it winds precariously down the side of the volcanic rock. We are both in awe at the beauty of the valley. We realize this must be San Jose de Comondu. We're excited to check it out and decide to stop for lunch.

We stop at the mission in town. I'm not a history buff but was impressed with the church. It was built in the 1700s from what I remember. It was destroyed at some point and was rebuilt. The building was made of rock and sat below the volcanic cliffs. The building was surrounded by flowering bushes and a small aqueduct that flowed through the valley.

We made a simple lunch at the town square next to the church and enjoyed a beer. We noticed an older man sitting on his patio across the street from us . He seemed very interested with us. I suggested to Tracy that we should talk with him after lunch. We did and it was a great experience.

His name is Leopold and quickly informed us that he has lived in San Jose for the 82 years, his entire life. He tells us the water here is the best in the world and that it is 1000 years old. He says the rain filters through the volcanic rock and tastes sweet. Leopold insists we try the water. We are a bit apprehensive looking at the the dirty and grimy plastic cup he is filling from his garden hose with the water. But after a timid first taste, we are pleasantly surprised.

The gentle man continues to tell us about the village and its magical water. He tells us about his garden and we ask if we can take a look. He invites us on a tour where we find an abundance of fruit trees and a thriving vegetable garden. Tracy and I are both excited about this place and the friendly people but realize we need to get moving if we are to make the coast. We say our good-byes and "hasta luegos" knowing we will be back to further explore this paradise.

We pull out the map and find the road to San Isidro. It looks to be about 15 miles from San Jose. As we leave the valley, the palms quickly disappear and we're back in the volcanic rock. We come to a fork in the road and go left. After a few hundred feet, I realize that the only tracks I see are from the goats. The sign says this is the way so we continue on.

Well as I mentioned before the storms can wreak havoc on these roads and we were about to find out what this meant. The dirt road got progressively worse as we continued on. I thought about turning around but noticed a set of tire tracks on the road coming from the opposite direction. As long as I could see tracks we should be okay. Well after about 4 hours, we covered the 10 miles of dirt road. It was very challenging and technical. Definitely a road requiring 4wd. I would come to find out that the Baja 1000 had planned on using this road but found it too rough and opted for another route. We survived after some tense moments, losing two mud flaps, and some undercarriage marks. We couldn't wait to get to the Pacific.

As we come out of the mountains we see small lakes or bodies of water in the distance down in the palm lined valleys. From what I've read, I know this is San Isidro and La Purisima. We both are relieved but still have no idea where we are going to camp for the night. We get ice and head out towards San Juanico and the Pacific both commenting on the bad vibe we got from the people of La Purisima. In our minds, the people were very unfriendly...(note to self).

The sun is getting low in the sky so we decide to take the first road to the ocean. We are tired and hungry. I really could care less about camp amenities at this point. My objective is to find some place safe to camp.

As we approach a small village/fish camp near the mouth of a river and the ocean, we are stopped by an approaching truck. I know they need something but I'm not in the mood. I just want to set up camp. But I also know Baja Karma and stop. After a few pleasantries, they three men ask if we have an air compressor and point to the almost flat tire on their truck. I reluctantly nod yes and get out of the truck. Normally, I wouldn't blink at this request but I know the compressor is packed in the back of the truck and it's starting to get dark.

It turns out these guys were with the local Vigilancia. After airing up the tire, they suggested we follow them to a camp spot. We did and our good deeds were rewarded with a spectacular camp spot. In fact, this spot would rival any that we've camped at before. It was time to set up camp, crack open another beer, and decompress from the long day. I knew that after the dust had settled, we would look back on today and smile. I also knew we were about to be rewarded as well in the coming days.

Baja works in magical ways......

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