Manuel picked me up at 7:00 a.m. for our Sierra de San Francisco adventure. We met his group at the Fong Hotel, a cheap little place just off the highway. It was a very interesting assortment of friends. There was a Canadian woman married to and Englishman, the two of them had spent their youth sailing the seven seas and are now settled on an island off the coast of Vancouver, BC, with a garden and a woodworking shop. The other couple was a Canadian man, a meteorologist by trade, and his spitfire Mexican wife, Maria. They had lived in San Ignacio for many years, but moved to La Paz ten years ago when it was time for a change. All of them were very smart, interested, and interested. They had all lived in Baja for some amount of time and between them they had a wealth of knowledge about the flora, fauna, and history of the region.
The drive through the valley, en route to the Sierras, was filled with fog. As we rose above the fog were greeted with amazing views, the sea of fog below and the sharp, steep canyons of the Sierra above. Many of the cacti were in full, gorgeous bloom, and the air was filled with the scent of creosote, a scent that always reminds me of cooking artichokes.
I had been warned that the trip would not be possible in my rig. The road seemed fine, until it was no longer fine. Three miles from the cave, the pavement ended and the adventure began. The road was rocky, steep, narrow, and strewn with boulders. One side was a cliff of rock, the other was sheer drop off to the date palm filled valleys below. At times, it seemed like the road was too narrow for our van to pass. The other passengers insisted that I take the co-pilot seat on the return trip, as the seat that hovered on the edge of the precipice and it was a tad too thrilling for the co-pilot on the way up.
Our guide for the Cueva del Raton was Manuel’s uncle, Enrique. He is a fixture at the cave, and an elder in the nearby town. Fortunately, the other visitors and Manuel were full of information about the cave paintings. Enrique was very sweet, but I could hardly understand a word of his Spanish. You can read more about the Cuevas Pintadas of Baja here.
On the way down, we stopped at the goat cheese farm. They invited us in to see the cheese-making process. I bought a beautiful little wheel of fresh goat cheese for 28 pesos, about $2.00. As we continued down the mountain we got stuck behind a traffic jam of the momma goats who so kindly donated their milk for the delicious cheese I just purchased.
The next stop on the tour was a picnic atop the stone-age petroglyphs and amongst the cirulo trees, aka the boojum. Maria pulled out a delicious selection of fruit, white figs, refried beans, tortillas, and a selection of pan dulce. It was an interesting, beautiful, and most unexpected day, and it was not over ~ there were more adventures in store.