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Published: December 28th 2017
Cabo San Lucas, Mulege and San Ignacio
2 – 28 December 2017
If you remember , we changed our original plan of spending a month in Cabo to two weeks. That was a good decision as Cabo, although a much smaller town than the vast sprawling La Paz, is an acquired taste, very busy, visited by large cruise ships, sometimes two or three at the same time, and an enclave of North Americans, both from the US and Canada. Everyone speaks ( a version of) English and every hundred metres around the Marina can be found special ATMs to deliver American dollars. Everything is priced in dollars. Apart from the bar names and souvenirs, probably many made in China, there is nothing Mexican about Cabo Marina. It is huge. With a narrow entrance on the Sea of Cortez side, it is designed to provide as many moorings as possible so wraps backwards and forwards in straight lines with lots of sharp right angle bends. To walk from one end to the other took us about an hour. It could be located in many different parts of the world as it has designer shops and is identical to
Marinas in Europe, the US, Australia and Dubai and many other places I am sure.
Do we like it? That is an interesting question. As you walk on the Marina the touts selling everything from boat trips, water taxis and fishing excursions to beauty parlours and massages try to stop you every twenty feet or so. That is not an exaggeration. We wanted to buy T shirts saying 'We do not want to buy anything, Thank you'. But to be fair they are not pushy and as long as you can say, 'No Thank You' every five seconds without going crazy it is not a problem. Some people just ignore them but I can't do that. Jim found it more irritating, than I did but that is the least attractive side of Cabo.
On the plus side, it is set on a narrow, rocky spit of land, quite high in places, which extends out to an arch at Lands End. This ridge separates the Pacific Coast from the Gulf coast, or Sea of Cortez. The Marina and two beaches are on the Gulf side. One of
the beaches is an extension of the Marina with bars, umbrellas and all the beach paraphernalia you might expect. The other, accessed from the opposite end of the Marina has nothing but sand, sea and some shade from the wall of a disused tuna canning factory and is frequented by locals. On Sunday it is busy with Mexican families. We used this beach as we were undisturbed by sales people and the snorkelling from the beach is good.
We also loved the Pacific beach which is much wilder, with fewer people and very dangerous for swimming because there is a big trench or undercut under the water and a very steep edge to the beach so the under-pull current makes it a risky place to enter the sea. There are signs saying it is forbidden to enter the sea because of the danger however of course a few people ignore the sign. But what is interesting is that the beach in theory is open to the public as all beaches are. However accessing it is difficult. The reason is that there is one line of hotels and condominiums along the rocky and steep
approaches to the beach and they block access. Each complex has an entrance drive off the access road and there you find a security man at an office controlling movement of people in and out and they only allow guests through. (Neo-liberalism rearing it's head again Gilli). We were lucky that one of these guards told us about an access door. At another complex, by the guardhouse, is a locked door set into the wall with a tiny sign saying public access to the beach. If you did not know it is there it is difficult to spot. The security man has to unlock it and let you through the door and then once inside a path takes you around the edge of the complex and on to the beach. They really do not like letting anyone in so you have to be persistent but clearly they received planning permission based on providing access.
Watching the sunset from this beach is beautiful and one evening we also saw whales passing by and Jim spotted one breach right out of the sea. Then we saw something we have never seen before. Sting rays jumped
right out of the water just off the beach as if they were trying to fly!
At the very end of the Marina by the port entrance is a bar that we enjoyed visiting. As boats return to harbour a couple of sea lions check them out. They soon identify which are the fishing charters and then they try to climb on board at the back until they are given some fish. It is fun to watch them as it is as if they are charging a fish tax to allow the boats home.
So overall we really enjoyed Cabo, seeing it's excesses as well as the natural and very beautiful rocky setting and we were lucky that our hotel was conveniently placed only five minutes walk from the Marina but was quiet enough to escape the noise. Most visitors only seem to spend a couple of nights there, often flying to and from the US and Canada for a long weekend so they go wild for a couple of days and then return home.
We took the bus
from Cabo back to La Paz where we stayed another night at Perla and ate at the Tailhunter bar for the last time sadly. Then the next day took a bus for the seven hour journey to Mulege further north on the Sea of Cortez.
Mulege is an oasis spread along a narrow river valley a couple of miles from the sea. Our accommodation, Las Casitas, a rustic style hotel, looked very cosy and seasonal decorated throughout with Christmas lights and having a big fire in the open dining area. We needed it. The weather suddenly turned chilly, especially at night. The patio garden is attractively filled with foliage and unique and interesting sculptures and fountains, which are visited by humming birds throughout the day. The food is very good in the restaurant. The one, very important, failing at Las Casitas, is that the beds are truly diabolical. We started of in a room with a small double bed and we could not get a decent sleep as the bed was too small, lumpy and creaky. So we asked for a transfer to a twin room. It had more space which was good
but unbelievably the beds were even worse. Lumpier and creakier with broken springs popping up whenever and wherever you turned in the night. The first night I kept drifting in and out of sleep dreaming that all sorts of creatures and insects inhabited the bed as I felt them moving under me. We loved Mulege but were very pleased to leave those beds behind.
One day we took an interesting trip to see cave paintings and the guide was telling us that the weather has changed in Mulege. Until recently they suffered storms or hurricanes very infrequently and they were not usually severe. However since 2010 they have experienced two really severe hurricanes and houses that were selling to people from the US and Canada for $750,000 cannot be sold off now for $50,000. The storms have been so bad that the water funnels up the valley causing heavy flooding and damage.
Unsure whether or not we were taking a risk we ate shrimp and fish tacos from a street stand in the square and I have rarely tasted anything as good. I am tempted to
stop off on the return trip to Loreto to have some more.
We had booked bus tickets to leave Mulege at 3pm on Christmas Eve to arrive at our next location, San Ignacio, by 6pm. The bus was more than two hours late arriving. No-one seemed to know why. We could only think that it took much longer than usual because it was full of Christmas travellers which caused a delay at the check point on the road between Loreto and Mulege where all luggage is thoroughly checked. The bus left Loreto on time but somehow lost two and a half hours on a journey lasting not much more than an hour.
Finally we arrived at the small bus office for San Ignacio, a tiny building on the main road a couple of kilometres outside the village itself. We were the only people getting off the bus but it stopped for a few minutes for smokers to jump down and have a cigarette. I had visions of the bus pulling away and being left in the dark as there was no sign of a taxi and
we knew there was only a rough road into the village, too difficult for our bags. So I asked the co-driver if he knew how we could find a taxi. He disappeared and returned to say we should climb into the 'little white car' parked close by to stay warm until the taxi arrived. We did that to find a lady already inside, then her husband returned to the car, quickly put our bags into his boot and we were off. They had decided it was easier for them to drop us by the hotel as they drove through the village. It was very kind of them.
Now we have fallen in love with San Ignacio, a tiny hamlet of only 720 people, having a beautiful Mission church first established around 1730, a square full of giant trees providing shade and home to thousands of birds, less than a handful of tiny shops and restaurant/bars and little else apart from our modern motel style accommodation which is clean and spacious with two large double beds which are fantastically comfortable. What bliss!
Christmas dinner was eaten in
the evening by the square watching people going into the church for mass amidst the fantastic Christmas lights and we had a delicious meal of nachos and spicy sauce (this usually accompanies every meal and even just a beer), cream of onion soup, grilled chicken breast with baked potato and vegetables, a desert of three milks cake and three beers each. Not exactly traditional but a truly sumptuous meal. At the end I was offered a wine on the house by the owner but as I had to walk back to the hotel, all of three minutes, and remembering when I last mixed drinks in Lanzarote, I politely declined. It had been a lovely evening.
After the holiday we took a trip out to the Cueva Raton (Mouse cave) in the Sierra San Francisco to see some rock art. It is called mouse cave because one of the paintings is black and early explorers thought it was a mouse. It is hard to understand why, but now it is considered to be a puma. See what you think. The human figure painted in red and black is common in this area and more
complex works can be seen further into the Sierras but it requires a three day journey on horseback so we are giving that a miss.
We were on our own with the driver. The journey started out on the main road for forty minutes and I was just thinking that the day might prove boring when our guide told us that we would soon turn off the main road on to a secondary road for seven kilometres and then on to a 'very bad road'. He was wrong, it was bad but could not be called a road. How he managed to clamber up the rocky track in the very modern mini bus I don't know. The track really needs a 4x4. By the time we returned down from the mountains 'boring' on the main road was a very attractive prospect to give us chance to recover from the mountain climb with its bumps, bangs and clangs. It added to the suspense going onto the rough road that our driver made the sign of the cross after each jolt. He also crossed himself each time he overtook on the main road.
The scenery changed as we climbed higher into more arid terrain but I was fascinated by the variety of cacti and how they survive on precipitous ledges. The ranch that owns the cave provides a guide and they protect it behind a locked barbed wire fence which is a good way of ensuring it remains for future generations. They have tested the paint and rock and decided the paintings are at least 7,000 years old and that some were painted up to a thousand years before others that were painted over the top of existing work.
There is a bay here where whales come to give birth and we hoped to see them. The official whale watching season starts on the 15 December but this year the whales are late so we might not get a view. They are meant to be very friendly here for some reason and come up to boats to be petted. Jim says it probably gets rid of mites. But it looks as though we will be moving on too soon so will miss them.
a couple of days we are moving on to Loreto, and I will tell you about that in the next blog. There are lots of birds in the photos but that is one of the reasons we are here. The mix of La Paz, the traditional Mexican seaside town, Cabo, the party town, and Mulege and San Ignacio, the isolated rural villages, has provided a great contrast and enough to keep us occupied. We are really pleased we moved further north to see the beauty of the desert and the fascinating cacti.
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