On Sept. 12, we left Bahia de Los Angeles and headed west back over the mountainous spine of the Peninsula, and then south to Guerrero Negro on the Pacific Ocean. Guerrero Negro sits at the border between the two states of Baja Norte and Baja Sur. It is a surprisingly delightful little town with brightly colored and welcoming tiendas (stores) lining the main street. In the winter, tourists and locals throng here to see (and touch, if they are lucky) gray whales. We weren’t there for whale season, but we got a glimpse of the town’s other wild inhabitants at a local bird estuary.
We grabbed some street tacos for lunch and picnicked along the estuary, hoping to see a few birds. It turned out to be an amazing birding spot! The estuary was enormous, spanning several square miles, and was brimming with shorebirds and seabirds – herons, egrets, plovers, godwits, pelicans, cormorants and more.
Once we had gotten our fill of food and birds, we motored on to San Ignacio. San Ignacio is literally an oasis in the desert. You know you are getting close when the spaces in between the cacti start getting greener. Soon, you start to see palm trees and a lush, green spring-fed valley. After doing our usual “role-into-town” hotel-hopping, we found a great place (with air conditioning – it was still oppressively hot and humid) walking distance from the plaza and mission. We are finding that, despite the heat, traveling in the low season has its benefits – like having our pick of hotel rooms at cut-rate deals. Our room, which was one of the nicest we’ve ever stayed in, was only $40 a night!
San Ignacio is a gorgeous little village with a 300-year old mission that stands regally over a beautiful, tree-lined plaza in the center of town. It is a town for all tastes – from wildlife lovers to motor heads to sweet tooths. It is the entry point for Laguna San Ignacio, a major whale-watching destination in the winter. It is also on the Baja 1000 off-road race route. Every year in November, thousands of racing enthusiasts roar through town for a few days of mayhem and fun.
It is also a major date-growing area. Dates literally fall off the palm trees as you walk under them. Local specialties include date bread, date pie and date milkshakes. We weren’t there for whale watching or racing season, but the dates and date bread were plentiful and delicious.
We absolutely fell in love with San Ignacio and are so happy we stopped there for a few days. The town is so beautiful and tranquil and walkable. The locals were so friendly and willing to converse with us (painfully for them, I’m sure) in Spanish. From this lovely woman selling some of the best tasting hamburgers we’ve ever had (even better than what you get in the USA), to a local artist painting incredible murals around our hotel depicting underwater and terrestrial landscapes – everyone was so approachable and happy to talk to us.
We attended Sunday mass at the old mission, a magical experience no matter what religion you practice (or don’t). That afternoon, we kicked the soccer ball around the plaza with Maya, and played red light green light and “ninja” – one of her favorite made-up games that involves jumping around and making fighting poses and growling. 🙂 The local kids were also out on the square that night playing soccer. There was a group of old men sitting and chatting on one end of the square. It felt so wonderful and natural to be outside on the square with all the locals just hanging out on a Sunday evening. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfectly Mexican experience.
Next stops: Bahia de Concepcion & Loreto!