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N E W S L E T T E R new!!
Por. Walter Bishop.

From the city of Durango our home base to the port of La Paz Capital of the State of Baja California Sur, you have more or less 500 miles plus 8 hrs of ferry leaving from Topolobampo in the State of Sinaloa, all this finally translates into three days of getting there time. This considerabl e amount of time and a few border like inspections by the authorities make you think, even if you do not want to, that you have arrived to another country.

Distance was undoubtedly the reason because of which Fernando Jordan called the peninsula of Baja California " The Other Mexico " but he also names it "he Magic Country" and this was the Baja California that we were looking for. Part of this magic we found in the Magdalena Bay and its gray whales.

This bay is one of the best natural protected areas in the pacific ocean, and it is the place where some of the 25,000 gray whales Eschrichtius robustus, which now swim in the pacific, choose as their winter home to have the young and mate. It is also here where Excursiones Pantera does its whale watching excursions.

Sensational, is probably the best word to describe the experience we have lived every year we have been here to see the whales, and this year was not the exception. At the begannig of the season, We saw whales jumping, playing, in child labor, mating (pretty impressive) Later on we saw them with their young curiously wanting to see us, and the best at the end we were able to have voluntary contact with them, giving us the feeling of hope that all is not wrong with the environment, and that maybe one day man will learn to live in peace with the other species of the planet.

Here I would like to thank the hospitable and kind inhabitants of the port of San Carlos on the shores of the bay, where we do our over night stay, at hotel Alcatras with Doña Maru welcoming us. This is a typical Baja California small fishing village. I would also recommend the tacos stand in front of the police station and the hot dogs on one of the corners of the plaza.

Once the Whale season was over, we continued our traveling through this beautiful land and with in an itinerary of 12 days with a group of French men ( the youngest was 72 years old) and we went on the visit the incredible Cave Paintings in the San Francisco mountains, near by San Ignacio. To get here we are talking about a mayor effort, for we are speaking of around 400 miles of the narrow Hwy 1 and it is really not my intention of weighing you down with the details of our troubles through these parts, so I will just continue with this story from the dirt road that takes you from the paved Hwy 1 to the ranch of San Francisco with in the mountains of the same name.

These beautiful mountains are a system of rugged canyons and mesas where one or several groups of ancient and millenary inhabitants, that of course were no the ones the Jesuit missionaries met when they arrived about 1698, using their artistic intuition, painted in several places these magnificent murals that we now call cave paintings, to leave as witnesses of the existence in this land.

The paintings are so beautiful that they have been declared patrimony of humanity and are compared with the cave art of Europe and Australia, which was the reason for choosing them for our visit and they really outdid our expectations that we had of them.

So back at our arrival to the little San Francisco which was definitely exciting for the view that we had from the sierra and the Cirios which are very mysterious cacti had already set the climate of the expedition and as always the confusion of our arrival turn into total chaos as we tried to load the burros with the supplies for the camping and the decision of how many mules we would need to ride down into the canyon. Anyway it was an apparent organized mess and we finally came out with 10 loaded burros and 11 saddle mules which included the three mules of the local guides. So around two in the afternoon heat, 12 souls and 21 support animals started down the trail.

As we passed the tiny ranch of Guadalupe where our guides lived, one of the burros fell over, breaking the glass of the Coleman lamp we had, a concerned inhabitant of the ranch let us borrow one making me promise I would return it intact, as it was his father property. We continued down the trail through a big mesa which in a short time brought us the edge of the canyon where the " O' lala" or O how beautiful in French was the appropriate exclamation.

We began a difficult descent which over a few hours led us to the ranch of Santa Teresa. Next day we continued until we arrived at a camp site by the creek, where we set up our camp where we would stay for two nights. That same afternoon we visited the La Soledad Cave, which brought another round of "O' lalas " with the particularity that some of the paintings are some what abstract sort of like a checker board. We returned to camp and after a goat over coals dinner, we went to sleep dead tired.

Very early in the morning I cooked a continental bre akfast for the French and a fried kidneys and goats heart with onions for the guides . More less at about ten in the morning we left to which would be a great day and to what we had come for, from so far away. After maybe an hour of trekking up the side of the San Pablo Canyon in real broken terrain we visited the Las Flechas Cave and what a sight. I am not going to say anything about the walkways the INAH installed at the side of the cave, for they would get mad at me, but the mural that these unknown people painted on the rock wall is truly amazing. Enormous figures of ochre deer with great antlers, and ghost like human forms stuck with arrows on several sides decorate the impressive massive layer of volcanic agglomerates.

In the distance and on the other side of the San Pablo Canyon you can see the Cave La Pintada and again we had to go down one side, cross and up the other fighting the terrain all the way. This cave can be considered the prefect example of Baja California Cave Paintings for the way it describes the phenomenon. The cave is about 3 or 400 feet but is only about 100feet that is covered with 40 extraordinary figures of human forms, deer and wild sheep in very well conserved state, that really get your attention. There is also a very big whale and a great number of jackrabbits and birds decorating the rest of the cave.

After watching in awe for some while, we went down again on the side of the canyon to a truly beautiful pool of water in the creek at the bottom, where a very important detail about all this had escaped my attention , perhaps because of the paintings. So after taking a splash in this really clear water, I sat there naked on the rocks and started thinking about the beauty of the canyon itself, and the reason that made these people paint the fabulous murals here, was so clear even more so than the water. The San Pablo Canyon is an impressive natural cathedral of unchallenged beauty, with its sections of volcanic walls, the running creek down at the bottom with water coming from springs that come right out of the rock, and the palm trees and cactus that adorn this setting, is a tender caress of mother nature for anyone that passes through this land better know for its rugged dryness than for its cool kindness. A frame of paradise to express a life of penitence.

For dinner we had a sort of goats barbecue cacerol style, next morning we woke up very early and suprisingly by nine o'clock we were on our way out of the canyon. Six hours later we were back at Guadalupe. For Manuel Arce, his son and Rogelio Leree our most sincere thanks for all their help, they know that we are hooked and waiting for next year, so we can visit them again and this time go the Arroyo del Parral and its Cave of the Serpent.

The trip did not end here and it took us on to the Cave of Palmarito down by Santa Marta (great), the gray whales of the Lagoon of San Ignacio the fr iendliest of Baja, and the enchanted land of San Isidro, La Purisima and Comondu for which I will make a special section later, but as an advance the country side looks as if a dinosaur could jump at you at any time from the side of the road. Our regards to Mr. and Mrs. Mason, Mr. and Mrs. Verrier, Mr. Amory, Mr. Navarre, and also to our nationals Hiram, Walter Jr., Manuel Arce , his son, and Rogelio Leree. Thank you Walter.


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