When we finally found the will to tear ourselves away from paradise in Baja Concepcion, we decided it would be nice to visit some more of Baja’s missions (and find a place to shower…) so we headed to Loreto.
The Loreto mission was established in 1697 by a Jesuit explorer and was the first permanent Spanish settlement in the Californias. The town of Loreto has a lot going for it, a nice beach, a beautiful and clean Malecon along the waterfront and a charming area around the mission. But to be honest, something was missing here. There was no life in this city, it felt like a ghost town. We struggled to find restaurants open at night and even walking around on a Sunday, it was totally devoid of people, both Mexicans and tourists. It felt a little sad. After visiting towns like Santa Rosalia which was an old French company town and just jumping with vibrant locals and energy, Loreto disappointed. We left after just one night after we showered and stocked back up with groceries.
From Loreto we headed to Juncalito beach to free camp for the night on the Federal owned beaches (it is a national marine reserve). Again we were totally alone on a beautiful beach but the wind was intense, like it can get all along this coast, and it made us desperate to leave the coast the next morning.
The next morning we headed into the Sierra de la Giganta mountains to Mission San Javier. The drive up was just stunning, however, many of the roads were recently washed out in the rain and just repaired that week. Always inquire in town with locals about road conditions before you head up on this road (or honestly any road you do not know much about that is unpaved).
The Mission was in a really small palm oasis town that had the same feel as San Ignacio. The mission is built out of volcanic rocks and is the only mission in Baja that has not been rebuilt. It was really beautiful.
As we drank cold beers in the town square I convinced the troops that we should take the dirt road from San Javier to the Pacific coast which would mean boondocking for the night in the middle of the desert. They all agreed (I am very persuasive) and we set off down what we now refer to as the river crossing adventure. The dirt road meandered through lots of rural ranches and the rivers that gave them life. We passed many gauchos on horseback with full cowboy gear on: chaps, hat, whip, boots. It was an awesome drive aside from some super sketchy river crossings, we crossed the river over 14 times. Some crossings were so deep we did not even want to walk them.
Even though we were in the middle of the desert, as we were making dinner a little boy showed up (who looked like Chunk from the Goonies). He lived at a ranch about a mile away and had a GIANT machete with him. He started hacking at the trees around our campsite, jumping in the air and dramatically slashing. Sam, Ashley and I were all in the XP and Richard was outside alone with him. We were watching through the windows at the drama unfolding and it was really entertaining. Richard pulled out his Spanish dictionary as the little boy attacked the trees. Richard was such a good sport, he just kept trying to talk with him and smiling. Eventually his older brother showed up and we offered him a beer and Richard again tried to communicate with them both (we were cooking dinner). Eventually they said goodnight and gathered up all the slashed tree branches (I think they feed them to the goats) and left. It was funny how at our most remote campsite we had visitors, they were really curious about the gringos camping in the middle of the desert and the next day drove by us honking and waving from their truck. It was a fun adventure.