Banámichi and North

When I left Kino it was 76 degrees and drippingly humid. One hour inland it was 97 and bone dry. It was still dry when I got to Banámichi, but at least it was cooler.
I’d driven up the southern end of the Ruta Rio Sonora. With such a fine name, you’d think the road would be good, but you’d be wrong. Parts of Sonora 118 have been repaved in the

Sonora 118, La Ruta Sonora

last few years, but others seem to have been ignored for a decade. 118 is narrow and twisty, but there are many places to pull over. Beautiful views of the river valley and of redrock cliffs.

I pulled into Banámichi around 4:30, hoping Hotel Los Arcos would have a room available, and it did. Costly. A splurge. But it was lovely and as a bonus, there was wi fi.

Entrance to Hotel Los Arcos

My spacious room held a comfy bed. The bathroom had plenty of hot water and plenty of water pressure – both rare in less expensive places. The bathroom vanity was made of a 2″ slab of mesquite and held a talavera sink.
The ten rooms at Los Arcos surround a courtyard full of potted plants, cozy sitting areas, and small ponds. The perfect place for a book and a cold beer at the end of a hot day.
I took my things to my room, spoke briefly to owners Lynn and Tom, formerly of Colorado, and went for a walk. Evening was falling, so shadows were long and late sunlight intensified colors.

Doorway of an empty building

I found Banámichi to be a mix of buildings that have been maintained, beautifully restored, or abandoned. I strolled about twelve blocks, taking in the sights and sounds of supper time in small town Sonora.

Back at Arco Iris, I settled into a chair in the courtyard with my Tecate. Two Canadian miners nodded at me as they left their rooms and headed out for the night shift drilling core samples in a quest for gold and silver. Word has it the Santa Elena mine is pulling out plenty of both, netting a nice profit for SilverCrest Mines, Inc. The miners went to work and I sat outside until long after dark.

The night was stunningly quiet. An occasional car rumbled up the street. That was it. Even the cars stopped by eleven or so. And then silence. Delicious silence.

Breakfast the next morning in the courtyard. Leisurely.

Courtyard at Hotel Los Arcos

Then it was time to head north. Past small towns, slowing for the topes on both ends of each pueblo. Through dips, some deep. Some had warning signs reading Vado Pelegroso, dangerous dip. Take that sign seriously if it’s rainy season. The vados on Sonora 118 are often tributaries to the Rio Sonora and can run fast and deep.
One other thing about this highway: the only bridges are foot bridges. You won’t drive over the river; you’ll drive through it. The road is simply not passable during rainy season.

As I headed north, I stopped a few times to take in views and made one longer stop just north of the village of Arizpe to wade the river. I saw an egret searching his breakfast and tried to sneak up on him with my camera. Through the river, down an embankment and up to a barbed wire fence. Then I walked the fenceline until I was in the perfect position. And he stepped into the bushes. Deciding he was camera shy, I went back to my car.

Three hours after leaving Banámichi I was in line at the border. Familiar faces greeted me, noted the luggage and cooler in my car, and asked where I’d been this time.

Well, Kino, of course!

Of course, they responded. Of course.

A Mind Twisting Day

I left Kino around noon with two main goals: visit the Home Depot in Hermosillo to price some materials, and to then cut east and return via the Rio Sonora without getting stopped by the cops.
Home Depot seemed easy. The Rio Sonora route, not so much. Technically, US cars need a Mexican permiso to drive this route, and I don’t have one. They cost about $40 and require a $300 deposit that isn’t returned until you turn the permiso back in, on time. Not turned in? You can never get another one. Late? Well, you can get another one some day, but you forfeit the $300. So, big goal. No cops.
But then life happened. 
A friend had told me the Home Depot (henceforth the HD) was right across from the Wal-Mart (WM). I cruised up and down, round and round. I almost pulled right out in front of a car but his angry car horn stopped me dead. I circled and searched. Finally, I pulled into the WM parking lot (I SWEAR I didn’t go in!!!) to try to find someone who could tell me where the HD was.
My luck! Along came a taxi cab. I flagged down the driver and he told me it was across from the other Wal-Mart a few miles south. Turns out I had driven within a block of it before turning around and heading back north for miles.
I zipped down to the HD, parked, and went into the store. Such convenience! It was laid out just like the ones in the states, so it was easy to find my way around and check the prices.
As I wandered the aisles, Stevie Wonder crooned through the store speakers telling me he’d just called to say he loved me. I was touched. In honor of a friend who loves to dance, I did a a little jig down the plywood aisle. A few people backed away.
Got my prices, wrote them down without fainting, then back to the car to head back north to make my way around to the highway that runs from the north along the east side of the city. Then it struck me: I would just have to go way north and then east and then back south. Why not just cut through the city and get to the highway? Heck, I had a MAP! I was fearless.
Well, not quite fearless. I remembered the last time I’d tried to find my way through Hermosillo. I left a friend’s house around 2:00, and an hour later, I found myself circling back past her neighborhood. I’d gotten myself caught in one of the city’s many loops. 
I called her on my Mexican cell phone, got good instructions, and headed back out. An hour later, after wandering downtown,driving twice the wrong way on one-way streets, and circling awhile in a new suburb, I finally emerged onto the highway back to Kino. 
The one hour and fifteen minute drive took me only three hours.
But this time, I had a MAP!
I pulled over and laid out my route. Easy. Follow Johnson to Rodriguez to Kino to the highway. A snap. Fifteen minutes max.
I couldn’t get to Johnson directly and got lost in a neighborhood. I finally made it but almost missed it because it was labeled as Encinas, the whole name being Bolevard Luis Encinas Johnson. I never found Rodriguez (Alberado L Rodriguez. Had it just been called “L”?)
An hour later I was almost out of gas and had made likely the most circuitous route possible to the highway. But I made it. I snarled when I drove past my friend’s old neighborhood and didn’t dare call her to tell her I’d done it once again, but with a MAP.
Got gas, found the highway east and headed toward the Ruta Rio Sonora. Wow! 
Four miles down the road I landed in the wrong lane, missed a road entrance and had to circle under a bridge, drive back west a mile or so and try again. Success.
Now. Why had I planned to take this route? It is longer and it is much slower than my usual over-the-mountain trek.
Well, my tires are old and warn. I didn’t want to take that white-knuckle mountain road. Knew that it could be more dangerous than it usually is to drive it with old tires. 
So. I cruised east on Sonora route 14. A lovely drive past ranches and small villages. Men on horseback rode along the side the road. Many little towns had signs pointing the way to the molinero, the wheat grinding facility. It was rural and rustic, a Mexican blue highway.
And then it changed. It began to slowly climb uphill. Then it began to twist through the hills.  Oh, NO! Exactly the situation I had wanted to avoid!
But it wasn’t nearly so bad as the old white knuckler. This road was a bit wider, and it wasn’t anywhere as steep as the other. Also, there were several wide spots where it would be easy to pull off if necessary, and on the road I’d been avoiding, those spots are few and far between. Plus, there were no mind-numbing sheer cliff drop offs with little roadside crosses planted every few feet. And another bonus, no big trucks.
So, though I initially feared for my life when I saw the rise in elevation complete with twisty road, it was fine. 
In about 70 miles and closer to two hours than one, I found the road north, the actual Ruta Sonora.
I drove lazily, letting my eyes wander over green fields and beyond to the string of cottonwoods that gave away the river’s location. I thought about stopping a few times but figured with my luck a kindly cop would stop to see if I was okay. And then he’d become a little less kindly once he noticed I was without a permiso. So I plodded on.
And then it happened. In the first big town, Baviacora, a kindly cop watched me drive by. He was sitting at a stop sign on a cross street. And he then zipped in behind me.
First concern was there was no posted speed limit, so I was sort of winging it by cruising at about 22. Second concern, of course, was that he’d noticed the lack of permiso on my car windshield.
He clung to my back bumper. I kept driving an even 22. He stayed on my bumper. About a mile later, he turned off. Success! First kindly cop either ignored or missed my lawbreaking. 
On to Banamihci!

Spirit

    According to William Powers, in his book “12 By 12,” kids today can identify around a thousand corporate logos, but most can’t identify ten native plants and animals in their area.
    Whew.
    The number seems high to me. A thousand corporate logos? My initial reaction was, “But there aren’t that many!” 
    But of course there are. And many more.
    I wonder how many I could identify. Too many, most likely. But thankfully I can identify many, many native plants and animals. 
    Of course most kids cant identify native plants and animals. Today, kids spend way too much of their time inside. Sleeping, eating, TV. Computers and video games. School. Church if they do that. 
    Long ago, I don’t even remember when, I realized that the desert was my church. When I need to get close to whatever Spirit  it is that I connect with, I go outside. I can find it inside, too, but I believe Spirit lives outside.
    One if the earliest deeply spiritual moments in my life was in about 1977 or 1978. I was standing at the rim of Canyon de Chelley in northern Arizona, and suddenly I was filled with, well, whatever it is.  
    It  wasn’t that I hadn’t ever been to church. I had been raised attending church, celebrating Christmas and Easter. I’d attended summer church events and church camp. But what I liked most about church camp and summer events was being out of doors. That is where I found peace, where I found myself, and where I found the earliest stirrings of Spirit.
    Then, that summer at Canyon de Chelley, I can’t even express what happened. I just felt deeply that there was a living Spirit In me. It emanated from the Earth and had nothing to do with the God I’d heard of my whole life. It stirred something in me, and that stirring has never gone away.
    More recently, I had the experience of leaning out of a little boat, a panga, on     a lagoon in central Baja California to stroke the back of a gray whale. Spirit was there again.
    In fact, I felt it as soon as I saw my first whale breaching. I knew it was pure goodness, pure Godliness, pure Spirit. Touching that whale, looking into her huge eye, moved me in a way nothing else ever has.
    I met Spirit in Guatemala on a boat while crossing Lago Atitlan, and met Her again when hang gliding, jumping off a 7000 foot cliff in southern 
    Arizona to circle with hawks.
    Of course, it doesn’t take a whale or a hang glide to experience Spirit. She was there today as I sat on a sand bar and looked at the sea. In December, Spirit glimmered in the face of a dead sea turtle. The other day She was in a saguaro blossom.
    All of my encounters with Spirit have been outside. It’s not that She won’t come inside. Of course She will. But Her home is in nature.
    So. What are we letting happen to our children? When we confine them all day in classrooms, cut funds for field trips, and cut back recess time so kids can do better on mandatory testing, what are we doing to their psyches? How are we interfering with their spiritual development?
    I believe in the separation of church and state. But Spirit is not church. She just IS. And She is earth, sea, and sky. She is nature. She is not in a corporate logo.
    This is not something I can prove. I have no evidence. I have only the edge of a canyon, a dead sea turtle, and the eye of a whale to tell me it is true.

Blue Highways

I’m reading a book I wish I’d read thirty years ago: Blue Highways.
I love the blue ones, and last time I drove to Louisville, I took the blue highways most of the way back to Arizona. Slower, to be sure, but beautiful, and remnants of a time gone by.
I wish I’d read the book thirty years ago because I would like to have driven the same route as William Least Heat Moon.
In fact, I’ve driven many of the roads in his book. I’m just now half way through the book and am astounded at the towns he drive through that I, too, have driven through. I even have taken some back roads he missed.
One town that jumped out at me as I was reading was Scooba, Mississippi. Two years ago, I drove through Scooba. That’s the town I stopped in and bought the Very Best Barbecue Ever. “J’s BBQ, best in town,” says the sign. Heck. Best in the nation.
The big difference between Least Heat Moon’s drive and mine is the thirty year difference. Many of his blue highways no longer exist. He talked about the highway through Scooba being a road, a blue line on a map. When I drove it, it was a four-lane divided highway. Wish I’d seen it the other way, but then, of course, J’s BBQ wouldn’t have been along the side of the road. It’s not likely any black man’s food stand would have been along the side of the road.
Another difference is the food. The author spoke of searching for six-calendar diners. His theory is the more calendars there are on the walls of a diner, the more authentic it is. The problem is today there are few diners. Whenever I run into one, I stop, even if I’m not hungry. I just get food to go.
Evert time I go into a place because it looks cute, it’s a mistake. The food, if I’m lucky, is average. It’s the little diners, the ones lined with locals’ trucks, that are always the best.
One of my best meals ever (besides J’s BBQ) was in rural Oklahoma on a blue highway about thirty-five years ago. I was on my way to the Chicago area, staying off the interstates. I stopped somewhere west of Oklahoma City. My car steered herself right into the parking lot. I no longer remember what it is I ate there, but I recall telling people about it for many months to come.
Even in Kino, I prefer the little stands or the restaurants that cover open air patios with tarps when they’re closed. Sometimes the food is average, but more often than not, it’s excellent – and half the price of the “nice” restaurants. Some of the best places in Kino don’t even have menus. You just tell the waitress/waiter, often a child, what you want or ask what they’ve got. I go for the first thing they mention.
One of my best meals on the whole Baja trip was in a tiny restaurant in which the owner, an elderly man, was cook, waiter, busboy and dishwasher. Oh, that chicken mole! (MOW-lay, not mole, the animal)
Least Heat Moon talked, too, about his time in Selma, and though I was there probably the same year he was, my experience was completely different. He met white folks with resentments over things changed. The shop owner I spoke with seemed to have appreciated the march and the changes it created. Of course, perhaps she was being polite to the Yankees who dropped into her store, but maybe, I hope, she was being honest with us.
One thing I don’t do and couldn’t have done then is enter the little bars with the ease Least Heat Moon did. A strange woman walking into a bar in rural towns wasn’t appropriate, and sometimes still isn’t. In rural Mexico, there are ladies’ bars. They’re a little more upscale than the raunchy bars local men hang in, and the name implies they’re safe for women. The closest thing to a lady’s bar in the US might be a modest bar attached to a hotel. In one-bar towns, unless I see women walking in alone or in small groups, I’d stay out.
The last big difference is a difference of the times. Least Heat Moon picked up several hitchhikers. I used to in the 70s and early 80s, but no longer. Around home I do, often because I recognize the person or couple, but on the road, alone, no more.
Ah, the blue highways. I’m ready to get on the road.

Return to Kino

Riding down to Bahia Kino with Pam, our clothes, books, and food in the back of her truck, wedged in with a washing machine.

Past Imuris and Magdalena, across the low Sonoran desert and into Hermosillow. Past the carnecerias on Soledad and to Santander, the bank where we are charged no fee to withdraw pesos with our ATM cards. Past the town called Calle Doce and finally, we can see Isla Alcatrz in the distance. That’s when we know we’re home.

Nuestra casita - our little house

We pull into Bahia Kino and then to Islanda where our trailers are. Pam pulls up to my little trailer, the one I share with two others, and there is the sea. I smile, jump from the truck, and wham! Bobitos!

I’m assaulted by swarms of the no-see-ums that thrive along this coastal area in springtime. Except you can actually see bobitos, so I suppose they don’t technically qualify as a no-see-um. And thankfully, unlike their cousins that come out in Bisbee during rainy season, bobitos don’t bite. But they are everywhere, and on this day, they were the worst I’d ever seen.

In my eyes, up my nose, and in my ears. And of course, because I have to keep opening the door to carry my things into the trailer, soon my trailer is abuzz with bobitos too.

A friend here has a room that is mostly screened. She also uses a mosquito coil and keeps a ceiling fan going, and with all of these in her favor, there are few bobitos and she can sit outside. My patio is open, and though a nice breeze moves through it, it’s not enough to keep the pests at bay.

Day two. I rise early, watch the light spilling over the sea. I take my morning walk with a few friends, stopping for coffee at our favorite little restaurant where the proprietor greets me with a hug, welcoming me home, telling me it’s been way too long since I was here. We sit with our coffee in his open air restaurant, thankful that the bobitos aren’t out this early.
Strangely, when we get back to Islandia, the swarms of the nasty bugs aren’t around.

There are a few, and they remain all day, but it is actually okay to sit outside in the evening to drink a beer with friends. There are bobitos, but not many.

Where did they all disappear to in one day? Is it the end of their season? Is it my presence that struck fear into their evil little hearts and made them leave? Whatever the reason, I’m delighted to know I can roam the beach, sit on my patio with coffee, and attend tonight’s pizza party without fear of the swarms.

That’s right, pizza party tonight! I was here last fall when the autumn party was held, and the spring fiesta is tonight. Fresh pizza, handmade dough, a perfect assortment of toppings, and the pie baked in an outdoor wood-fired oven. To celebrate, I’ll make up a big batch of guacamole and bring along a Negra Modelo.

A perfect ending to a perfect Kino day.

Manhattan

The Village. The Lower East Side. Bleeker Street.

They had always been words to me, words that conjured up vague images of coffeehouses, art galleries, open mic poetry.

And here I was I the heart of it all.

Washington Square

Step outside. Just a few blocks to Washington Square. A lovely park, grass and trees already turning green, about two blocks square. It was full of people walking dogs, mommies and nannies pushing strollers, and some just sitting on park benches. I sat and took in the people, the buildings. When I walked, pale peach blossoms swirled at my feet.

On the north side of the Square was a tall building, wedding cake shaped like a smaller Empire State Building. The upper floors had broad patios complete with trees. It was so odd to look up seventeen stories and see trees spouting from what I’d thought was simply a roof.

The new Freedom Center rising in Manhattan

Step outside. Just a mile south, straight down the street, the new Freedom Center rises from the ashes of the old Trade Center, built atop the souls of those who died there. To me, an obscenity. It is a place that should have become a memorial to the thousands who died, as did the Mura Building in Oklahoma City.

Step outside. Look for a cup of coffee. There were probably a dozen places within a block and a half. Everything from what I was warned was absolutely awful coffee to Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and small delis spilling delicious aromas out their doors and down the streets. How could I not? For under three dollars, I had egg and cheese on a Kaiser roll. I hadn’t thought that kind of price was available anywhere in Manhattan.

The small apartment I was staying in was a second-floor walkup.  Thankfully, not the sixth floor. I learned that without rent control, this little place could go for up to $3000 monthly.

Bars on the east windows because the fire escape was there. No bars on the west windows that gave a view across a small courtyard toward a hundred other windows.

Night in the city was surprisingly quiet, only an occasional siren in the distance. And it was warm. I had no need of blankets at night or my jacket in the morning. It was in the eighties yesterday when the plane landed.

Step outside. Leave this small apartment and head down the marble slab stairs, worn in the center from nearly one hundred years of shoes. The buzz of the city charged the air. People, cars and buses at all hours. There was a vibrancy I am not familiar with. The subway just a few blocks away. No sunlight on the street because the streets are really the bottom of deep canyons formed by concrete, brick, or cut stone. Trees somehow grew in these deep man-made canyons.

Peach trees in full bloom

Fruit trees were in full bloom, whites and shocking pinks almost every direction I looked. Iris and crocus peeking up from spring soil, in full bloom. All this vibrant color was about a month early.

In just a few days, it was time to leave. As we waited for the van that would take us to the airport, a man in an old Mercedes pulled up and jostled his way into a parking spot I never would have tried to get into. He then hopped out and opened his trunk. Pulled out a collapsible bicycle, opened it, and pedaled off.

 

 

The Last Day

Last day.
I wanted to turn around and head south, but guess I’ll have to wait.
Both of us are such early risers that we were up, showered, packed, and coffee made before six. Arizona time. It was an hour earlier on the coast. So why wait? We hit the road.
Usually I don’t like to drive in Mexico at night, but at this early hour I expected very little traffic. We took it nice and slow off the mountain then met a few other early risers when we got into Ensenada. It felt great to be through the city before it got busy. We cut northeast and did the wine country route. We were a bit regretful that it was so early and we couldn’t stop for samples. 
Tis is a beautiful drive and through the wine area itself the lanes are wide and smooth. We knew we were out of wine country when the road narrowed and was filled with potholes.
We soon came to a hilly area set in with fog. Most of the fog was a bit west or north of us, but we hit a little. Seeing the fug snuggle in the valleys made for a beautiful drive.
To Tecate where we sat in line at the border for almost exactly one hour. Zipped right through – one of the benefits of gray hair.
There is nothing much to say about the drive once we got back into the states. The area around Tecate was hilly and green, and we passed through a small piece of tribal land, the Campo tribe. After that, interstate.
After more than two weeks driving in Mexico, our highways seem so large! And so smooth! Four lanes, divided. The right hand lane in each direction has a shoulder wide enough to be used as a third lane. These two lanes plus the shoulder are almost as wide as four lanes in Mexico.
So, what stands out from this trip?
The narrow roads and the  malfunctioning bathrooms.
The kind, helpful, and generous Mexican people.
Friends, both old and new.
The crazy signs and/or lack of signs, right when you need on the most. 
(However, this is more than balanced by the wonderful people.)
The beach and the sand between my toes.
Islands in the distance.
La Bufadora.
Sunrises and sunsets.
A good traveling companion.
The food!!
And of course, most of all, the whales.

North to Ensenada

We left Bahia de Los Angeles early and went straight to the Pemex for gas. It wasn’t open.
Soon a man arrived in a van, went to a pump, pulled out a key. He turned on the pump and filled his van.
I wandered over asking when the place would open. He thought it should be open, checked the door, hollered for someone and gave up. He assured me it would open soon.
We read awhile, then I went to check the man’s pump and see if it was still on. No luck.
Then someone else came in. I dashed right over and asked if here were any other stations. Felt like a fool. There was one about a block away! The other driver and I zipped right over and filled up.
Back through the gorgeous desert. In forty miles we saw no other vehicles. And we made a few stops to wander this glorious desert and take photos. We were on that road well over an hour and saw no one after we left the Pemex. We did see a few cows, though, and a cluster of burros along the side of the road.
Back to Highway 1 and north. We’d had to get gas in Bahia de Los Angeles because we knew there wouldn’t be a station for nearly 200 miles and we already had quite a few miles on the previous tank. Do NOT pass up a gas station in the Baja unless you’re certain another one is coming up soon!
We stopped near Catania to look at petroglyphs but our guidebook didn’t get us quite there. There is a petroglyphs site just north of Catania, but it’s an official government site, guide and fee required. Just like not passing up a gas station, don’t break laws in Mexico. I don’t even want to think of the fines or the insides of a jail.
Eventually we got to the twisty turnies. This is a stretch of highway maybe forty miles long that goes up and down, twists and turns, and each lane is only about nine feet wide. Oh. And there are drop offs, sheer rock walls, and no pullovers. 
I have spoken to a number of people about this stretch of road. There are stories upon stories of people driving RVs who lost a driver-side mirror because one or both vehicles headed toward each other don’t scrunch over to the right side quite enough, and mirrors collided.
This is  not a stretch of road for the faint of heart.
Headed north, after the worst of the road, comes the town of El Rosario. At one of the curves in town on the east side of the road is a restaurant called Mama Espinoza’s. Eat there. No matter the time of day, stop and eat. Heading south, El Rosario is about twenty-five miles or so south of San Quentin, and Mama Espinoza’s is at the first curve to the left.
After a hearty lunch with Mama, we headed on through San Quentin and eventually into the lush agricultural area south of Ensenada. Green the color of a golf course spilled down hillsides and out across the valleys. Some areas had acres of greenhouses of tomatoes and lettuce while other fields were planted with grapes and nopales. 
Just inside the south edge of suburban Ensenada we cut west to see La Bufadora. La Bufadora is a spot on the coast where the incoming waves enter a cave and blow out a hole in the top of the cave. Water shoots out the hole, sometimes as high as about one hundred feet. That water splashes for quite a distance, so it’s best to go on a warm day. Trust me. 
After enjoying La Bufadora, we headed just a short distance down the road and took the one and only motel, Motel La Bufadora.
I heartily recommend seeing La Bufadora. The motel, not so much. It was a bit worn and all rooms are on the second or third floor.
But I’ve got to say we had a view. We were high on a hill looking northeast across the bay at Ensenada. It was beautiful and it was quiet. Perfect for a good night’s sleep. Oh – and no water on the bathroom floor, and lots of hot water!

North – and East to the Sea

We awoke early and soon slid the window open. Cool air and the sound of singing birds rushed into the room. Soon the man next door cranked on his TV so its sounds could accompany the birds. Thankfully, he turned it off after a short while.
Cinda braved wading through the bathroom to the shower. Its floor, ironically, was dry, but not for long. She turned on the shower full blast, trying first the hot and then the cold knobs, but neither gave out hot water.
This little motel has wi-fi, and it even reached our room (it didn’t reach our last room). Presumably they offer it because more and more patrons want or need wi-fi as they travel. However, I guess the owner of this establishment doesn’t think travelers want or need dry floors,flushing toilet, or hot showers. Wi-fi should clearly be enough.
We headed out later than usual, close to eight, and zipped right through the checkpoint between Baja California  Sur and Baja California. Then through the military checkpoint a short time later. There, as before, I had to present my passport, and tell them where we were coming from and where we were headed.
We’d decided we weren’t done with this road trip yet so we cut east across the peninsula yet again to Bahia de Los Angeles. A beautiful stretch of desert with boojums sprinkled throughout. We were there in under three hours, but due to the magic of time zones, it was only around ten.
The approach was stunning. Down out of the hills, and out across the water were islands and islands, all of them desert rock jutting up. No tour ship will ever reach these shores. It’s fine for little boats but surely impossible for large ones.
There was no actual town. It was more like a strip of services stretching for a mile or so along the shoreline. I can’t think of another Mexican town I’ve been to that didn’t seem to have an actual downtown.
We found the city buildings a block up from shore, and there was a park across from it, but it was more of a playground park. Around the corner was a little museum.
We roamed the entire stretch of shoreline from the southern edge to miles out of town at the area called La Gringa which was a camping area with seemingly no services. There were a number of hotels and motels along the northern shore, all priced high. One was quite fancy, with suites on the ocean, a swimming pool, and a seaside restaurant. The rooms off the lobby were affordable but a bit blah. This place was also offering beachfront lots for sale to no avail.
We found a great little campground, overpriced. But if the wind hadn’t been blasting and swirling sand everywhere, we may have taken it. The owner, Antonio, had been involved with turtle rescue, and we liked him. 
The northern shore was overpriced because electricity isn’t there yet. Every place we visited had solar panels, a generator or two, and maybe even a wind machine. We stopped in one place two different times, and although the motel rooms were open, no one was there.
Most of the north shore was rocky, not sandy, so there is no beach. Tide was at its lowest and flattest, so there wouldn’t even be much good splashing going on. We headed back south, into “town” and checked into La Hamaca for $450P, and it was probably the nicest room of the whole trip, barring, of course, the fabulous room with friends in El Sargento. Nothing beats that!
We had lunch on the beach and headed to the museum, but of course it had just closed (open 10-1 only). We did some beach wandering and when we found a small area sheltered from the wind, I soaked up some rays.
The night was absolutely quiet. There were several  lights in town plus a string of weak streetlights running along the highway, and unfortunately each room of our motel had a light over the doorway. Ours was off but the others blazed. No stargazing from the porch or even from the beach.
This is a sweet, sleepy little town, but there are few tourists. I can’t imagine it will survive without a tourist resurrection. Some of the camping areas north of town were busy, and one camping area in town was busy, but the motels, for the most part, were fairly empty. Actually, the camping areas held a number of trailers, but they appeared to be there year round and many were closed up.The only other gringos we ran into who weren’t in their own little trailer or RV had sailed in from Vancouver and were staying on their boat.
This is a good place for an escape, for quiet. Expect to walk the beach and fish and maybe do some hiking in the surrounding mountains or charter a boat to tour the islands. 
Oh – and you can assist with the turtle rescue, which is a catch and release type program. But even the turtles weren’t around. They are hibernating this time of year. 

Back to Guerrero Negro

We left our new friend in San Ignacio and followed her suggestion that we visit a beach area known as Campo Rene.
First thing north of San Ignacio was the military checkpoint, the same one that actually searched our car on the way down. They were just as busy enforcing the law this time through, but shortly after that we cut southwest to the beach.
What a wonderful area of coral and shells! We could have spent a day – if we’d had a whole day and if it hadn’t been chilly and windy. But once again, weather conspired against us and we moved on.
The rest of the trip was just a few hours long and we were back in Guerrero Negro.
We pulled into the same motel, the San Ignacio, and we greeted as old friends.  Although we like this little motel, should you come this way there is one thing you need to know: the bathrooms are pretty bad.
In our first room, the toilet didn’t flush, that is, until it chose to overflow. Then it actually did flush but it flooded the small bathroom.
In this room, the toilet flushes. Sometimes on its one, but it flushes. There is also a leak and the floor is always wet. No problem. Our friend here gave us a mop to use. 
After settling in (and mopping the bathroom a few times), we went to dinner and had one of the least expensive meals on our trip at one of the more interesting restaurants.
Keep in mind here that “interesting” can be used in many ways.
Our restaurant of choice was not a restaurant but a figon. What is a figon? It’s a fonda. What is a fonda? Why, it is a little restaurant!
In Spain, there are figones rather than cafes. The old owner of this little place- just five tables – called it a figon because figones are taxed at a lower rate than restaurants and cafes.
This little place was old and a bit musty. There were four windows, but one of wall openings was filled with what seemed to be a very old, dimpled plastic shower enclosure that had yellowed. 
The windows each had limp orange curtains drooping from bent rods. Except for the window filled with the old shower enclosure. Since no one could see through, I guess the owner felt as though that window didn’t need curtains.
The walls were decorated with old photos, mostly of the nearby salt mining operation. One wall had a mural of a lighthouse. A plant filled one corner and maintained a small colony of spiders.
There was one very inconsistent decorative item – a photo of a couple sitting at our very table. I figured it might be the old man’s kids or grandkids. When I asked, he shuffled to the counter and picked up a few papers to show us. One was a copy of the photo and the other was a promo for a movie. The movie, Bajo el Sal (below the salt) had been shot in Guerrero Negro, and one piece if it had been filmed in this figon. The owner was delighted to have had his business in a movie and delighted to tell us about it.
A sweet old dog came in after we arrived and dozed on the floor with one eye open, monitoring our table for food that might spill, but he left disappointed. We are every bite.