For those of you who seek further adventure, 1000 pesos can buy you a panga ride to San Jose Island. An adventure you can completely customize to your taste. Do you want to camp on the island? Want a circle tour of the island? Or want to be dropped off in the morning and picked up in the late afternoon? Want to fish? Want to visit the small fishing village on north end of the island. No problem. Want to explore the northern coastline and visit Delores, another small inaccessible town except by sea or a worse yet road-from hell? I am told there are ruins from the Spanish mission era around Delores. Any of this can be arranged to your taste.
A little about the San Jose Island, volcanic in origin with 2117 hectare has an old private airstrip, a small fishing village and a mountain height of 633ms above sea level has a diverse microbiological environment. San Jose Island is one of 15 islands in the State of Baja California Sur. It was named part of the Escalera Nautica in 2005 as a suitable port in the nautical ladder. It has long been studied by geologists, botanists and other researchers from around the world for decades for its unique variations of the flora and fauna differing slightly from the examples on the peninsula, just 6miles away. It is currently on market for $38 million dollars. Of the hundreds of islands off the coastlines of Mexico, all but a dozen or less are Federal property. The few island private holdings are rare, as a realtor, I will warn you that this is not an easy or clear cut transaction. Private holdings need to be cleared through the courts, as the few private titles were established in Spanish Colonial times and require the Supreme Court to recognize their validity and chain. Some of these titles date back to the 1800’s or earlier and must meet the government strict interpretation in order to be privately transferred and legally recognized. I cannot personally say this island has a purchasable title. So, if you are in the island buying mood, be wary. a transaction like this can require years, tons of patience, money, a team of experts and a lengthy title search/validation. Also, be aware that the Mexican Federal government has zoning control over the islands, despite private ownership and you will need their support every step of the way for any development of an island, even privately owned.
The channel between the mainland and the island are teaming with fish and shellfish. Jacques Cousteau once called the Sea of Cortez "one of the world's aquariums." It is also termed the richest body of water on the planet, biologically speaking, because it has more than 3,000 species of marine life.
When you leave San Evaristo, be sure and make a left in the arroyo at the bottom of the first mountain to continue back to San Juan de la Costa. Unfortunately, I missed that turn on our trip back and continued into the mountains for about 20 miles to a mountain village named Mantancitas, passing El Bosque, Primer Agua and a few unnamed hamlets. It was an error with many beautiful vistas, oasis’ of palm trees and running streams and ranches, but one that cost me about 4 hours on possibly the worst roads I have ever traveled; a road I could rank right up there with the Tres Mujeres of Northern Baja. Rarely getting above 10 miles per hour, and mostly averaging under 5 miles per hour, this road put my neck and back into spasms, and my arms were sore by the time we got back down to our missed turn . But, for those of you that want an adventure and a view of real Baja, the bad roads may just be your cup of tea. When you get to Mantancitas, you can choose the turn off to Las Poscitas which will take you to Highway 1 just north of El Cien. But, be sure to have a full tank of gas, a full day and a spare tire or two on board, because it is another 20-30 miles of rough, back-breaking roads.. either way you leave San Evaristo, enjoy!
Degree of difficulty: Difficult through to San Evaristo after Punto Conejo / 4 Wheel drive recommended. Road to Matancitas, La Soledad and Las Poscitas / extreme difficulty, SUV with 4 x 4 required.
acceptance, although a woman alone with a small child driving into their village, did cause a few questions as to where my man was, and a little amazement my feat of being there singularly. But the few villagers that passed by were respectful of our boundaries, yet friendly, as were we to them. One of the village families even invited us to New Years dinner and celebration at their home overlooking a salt field they created to produce salt for the market. We accepted and were enveloped in the cultural differences and traditions of this modest rural extended family. Here the villagers told me how the road, bad as it is, is only 10 years old, although the village is over eighty years old. Before the road, the trip took days by mules or a panga for over six hours, as these were only ways to get to La Paz. Even today with the road, such as it is, and about a 4-1/2 hour ride to the Y outside of La Paz, I couldn’t help but wonder how these people deal with medical emergencies or troublesome births. How they manage to bring building materials here, carve out their existences with nothing more than willpower, faith and fortitude. It is a real testament to these modern day pioneers, for whom I have real respect. Their homes may not be fancy, but what they have is adequate and completely unaided by a Home Depot or a block yard down the road. I met generations of this family at this celebration, generations that have no desire to join the modern insanity they consider to be in La Paz (and heaven forbid, Los Angeles, or New York), and they appreciate the tranquility they have carved out of the mountains and the sea of their Baja. Even though Gabe didn’t quite make it past 9:30PM on that New Years Eve, the hospitality and genuine kindness of these people put peace in my heart and restored my faith in humanity once again. We were welcomed into a private family celebration, complete strangers, but we left each other with kisses and embraces.
The best thing of all about San Evaristo is the peace and quiet. Finally, two precious days of peace! No phones, no faxes, no computers...ah, delicious! And because the village has no electricity, the stars filled the night sky as though fireworks were being set off in space, a more impressive display I have yet to see anywhere.
Perhaps another 3 kilometers north is a second extension of the Punto Coyote fishing village, even smaller, if that is possible! At this point, expect a big change in the road quality. Between the mine and Punto Coyote, I clipped along between 40 and 50 miles an hour. Save for a few dips in arroyo-lets causing Gabe to shout “Wee” as all four wheels momentarily were airborne and a few curves where slowing down was warranted, this is a very good road, as dirt roads go. However, if you are not experienced with dirt roads, you may want to travel a little more conservatively! But, if you are not experienced with dirt roads I may suggest that Punto Coyote be your day trip, turn around and head back to La Paz and the comfort of a paved highway. From here on out to San Evaristo the road becomes very challenging. More next issue.
To this point Degree of difficulty: Moderate until Punto Coyote, but SUV recommended. Our trip to San Evaristo is to be continued...
PART TWO - Into San Evaristo
As you may recall, Gabe and I are on a trek, a trek to the end of the road north of La Paz, a journey to San Evaristo. We have traveled pretty comfortably to Punto Conejo, a small fishing village about 40 kilometers north of Highway 1 in El Centenario. Last issue we traveled past beautiful sea vistas to San Juan de la Costa, past the phosphorus mine, the ”painted desert” and into the tiny fishing village of Punto Conejo. We will continue our journey to a little visited pueblo called San Evaristo, the last hamlet of the only coastal road north of La Paz. Join us.
After leaving Punto Conejo, a passage that comes with no pomp or circumstance, you quickly understand that the next level of adventurer is required. The road between Punto Conejo and San Evaristo is challenging, not impossible, but this road does require your attention and skill. Having passed a couple of ATV-ers with flat tires, sweaty and dirty from changing their rock-torn tires, the thought of my having to change the Expedition’s tires alone with a three year old aboard was not far from the top of my mind as this last leg of our trip into San Evaristo transpired across jagged rock roads. The road over the next 40 kilometers narrows substantially, starts to climb up and down the painted mountains sometimes on true switchbacks, it becomes rocky with jagged surfaces and exceeds the comfort of the maximum 20% inclination of US roadway design in many, many places. The road also dips through sand filled arroyos that required my 4x4 switch to be turned on for adequate traction. Signage is minimal, as well. Plan on the final 11 kilometers to feel like 111 kilometers! But, as you round a few peaks and start to descend into the pueblo of San Evaristo with its beautiful protected bay, the island of San Jose just a few miles offshore and the expanse of blue sea is worth the effort and trepidation.
San Evaristo, a fishing village of 15 families and between 80 and 100 people is the real deal, the real rural Mexico. No electricity, no telephone, except in two homes that have satellite service, but those two families were gone for the holidays, so the villagers needed to climb a fairly high hill to even have cell service. A sufficient height to clear to the signal between mountain top cell towers. The village, which takes all of maybe fifteen minutes to explore, and only because of the road conditions, is quiet, has a one room school house and a church. There is a small mini-super, but forget about getting a beer, milk or anything refrigerated. They simply don’t have it!
The bay is calm and protected, and during the next couple of days Gabe and I were there, sailboats and yachts came and went without fanfare. When we entered the pueblo I talked to a family and they told us that we were welcome to camp in any open spot on the beach we wished. With a huge smiles and no charge, I couldn’t help but be amazed at the difference between Cabo and this humble settlement. We set up our camp and stayed in quiet solitude and with apparent
On the road between San Juan de la Costa and At Punto Coyote
Also interesting is that in the area of the mine, which comprises miles in all directions from the processing plant, which is quite apparent if you look at it from Goggle Earth, is semi-devoid of much plant life, even with the fresh water streams in the area. It feels barren, and what does grow there seems dry and sparse. Despite the agricultural benefit of this mineral, my research tells me that an overabundance of this chemical result in a negative balance on life forms, and so a definite difference in flora is apparent.
After passing the mine, the road hugs the coast so close that towering sandstone cliffs actually cover part of the road above you and your passing car. The shore and the mountains meet in grand fashion and you become part of the erosive story of the sea for a few miles. The road then turns inland and starts up the mesas. Soon the desertscape starts to change, the flora returns to a thick brush with mesquite and elephant trees abounding. Cerros or hills of vibrant pink, greens and white start to emerge from the desert floor, growing taller and more colorfully vibrant as the miles pass. The greens range from a pastel green of a soft sandstone that even Gabe can crush in his hands to an emerald green which is much denser and sometimes contains stones and boulders with abundant copper particles, an obvious sedimentary by-product of the earth’s changing history. Pink sandstone and cantera stone swirls above and sometimes between the green layers, with some layers of yellowish sandstone or white gypsum stone as well. Some of these mountains are also sprinkled with strewn volcanic red rock, bringing to mind a layered pastel cake. The layering and weathering patterns are impressive. The colors so vibrant that change with the suns intensity and position that I have nicknamed this area of the Sierra Terabillas and the Sierra Mechudo as the “Painted Desert of Baja”. These mountains all by themselves are worth a visit to the area. This is a great place to ATV or dirt bike off of the confines of the roadway.
The next enclave of habitation is Punto Coyote. This tiny hamlet is located on a beautiful dark grey sand beach cove, a fishing village with perhaps three permanent homes and a half a dozen lean-to structures. On our visit, we found the village “closed up” with fishing pangas pulled high up out of the tide line and shrimp boats anchored off shore. I was later to find out that many of the fishermen of this area go to La Paz to be with family during the holidays or migrate to the Pacific during the windy season on the Sea of Cortez. But, I was also able to find out that much of the shrimp, clams, and fish that is supplied to La Paz comes from this tiny little village, as well as San Evaristo itself. And if you pass through when the fishermen are there, you can purchase the freshest of their daily catch for your dinner that evening at a fraction of the store prices.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Every Sunday, dirt roads throughout Baja beckon me. My trusty grandson, Gabriel and I find some of the most secluded, beautiful places in Baja…Allow us share our experiences with you. If you have a great spot off the beaten path, let me know, we’d love to check it out and share.
SAN EVARISTO - A world Apart
With the Christmas behind us and the towns’ people of Los Cabos off to visit families all over Mexico there wasn’t much chance of accomplishing a lot the week between Christmas and New Years. My birthday, which falls right before New Years, seemed like a great time to explore a part of Baja I have always wanted to go. So, Gabe, my grandson, and I packed the Expedition and headed off to a remote part of the peninsula not many people have traveled. This was to be Gabe’s first camping venture, so I packed well for any eventuality, including our guard dog. Normally, I am a pretty gutsy gal, but with my three year old grandson in my care, my gustiness had to be tempered by a little wisdom and safety in mind. Destination: San Evaristo, the last point on the coast route of the East Cape, north of La Paz. I had never heard anyone speak of journeying to this destination before by road, so I had no idea what to expect, hence, we packed everything from parkas to spare fan belts!
The travel between Cabo San Lucas through Todos Santos and to La Paz is easy and usual. Go through to La Paz and head
towards the airport. North of the La Paz airport there is a Pemex station. This is where the Y in the road is located to begin
the adventure. Instead of heading towards Constitucion to the left, veer straight at the fork labeled with a small sign that says
“San Juan de la Costa”. The views along this paved road of the desert and El Magote eventually narrow to a coast-hugging
road with beautiful vistas of the coast and La Paz across the bay. This paved easy road, goes all the way to the “bedroom”
community of San Juan de la Costa.
San Juan de la Costa is not a destination in itself. It is a town specifically developed to house the workers for the adjacent
Rofomex phosphorous mines. There is not even a mini-super there to buy a coke, so don’t feel bad if you don’t go all the way
into ”town”, there really is nothing to see. It is here that the paved road has another Y. One to the left goes to San Juan which
is paved, and the one to the right turns to dirt. Proceed to the right onto the dirt road labeled with a sign “San Evaristo”. The dirt road is good and hugs the coast with numerous photo ops along the way, but it is also be flanked for miles by the side truck route belonging to the mine. You may soon see a busy beehive of activity of trucks and workers from the mine. The mine is enormous and is a surface mine operation that, for at least for the last 20 years, according to an employee, has been mining an enormous deposit of phosphorus. Although Mexico doesn’t even register in the top 5 of the worlds producers, this mine ships tons of phosphorus to the mainland to a processing plant in Lazaro Cardenas in Guerrero each year. The phosphorus is refined on the mainland for agricultural use. So what is phosphorus, you may ask: Phosphorus is a basic element on the chemical chart. Is a non-metal, just above nitrogen and is highly unstable in its raw form, binding easily with other chemicals and is usually found in its natural state in combination with other elements. Remember that from high school? You may also recall that certain forms of phosphorus are chemically reactive to oxygen and produces “light” as it “burns”. Remember phosphorescence, or glowing in the dark? Not all phosphorus is reactive to oxygen, but phosphorus exists in all known forms of life. Inorganic phosphorus in the form of the phosphate PO43- plays a major role in biological molecules such as DNA and RNA where it forms part of the structural framework of these molecules. Living cells also use phosphate to transport cellular energy and it is a key regulator of cell events. Phospholipids are the main structural components of all cellular membranes. As such, phosphorus is an essential plant nutrient and one
of its major uses is as a fertilizer for agriculture and farm production in the form of concentrated phosphoric acids. Global
demands for such fertilizers have led to large increase in phosphate (PO43-) production in the second half of the 20th century.
Due to the essential nature of phosphorus to living organisms, the low solubility of natural phosphorus-containing compounds,
and the slow natural cycle of phosphorus, the agricultural industry is heavily reliant on fertilizers which contain phosphate,
mostly in the form of superphosphate of lime. As a result, according to some experts, the global demand on this raw mineral
resource on our planet will see a depletion of this resource in as little as 55 to 345 years.
Our Baja mine, although, not even on the world’s map of significant phosphorus mines, has been running non-stop for at
least 20 years, producing piles of grey powder that gets placed on a continuous conveyor belt traversing the length of three
football fields over a man-made levy, across trestles in the sea and dumping onto huge ocean freighters for its voyage to the
mainland. When Gabe and I passed the freighter and these conveyor belts, they were running full bore. It is quite interesting