Sunday, January 9, 2022

A Newcomer's Baja California Sur Impressions

Sand, Sand, and more Sand
In Austria, or in Canada, I am always afraid to get stuck in the snow in Winter, having to call a truck to pull me out.  Here in Mexico, I am worried to be stuck in the sand when driving in the countryside.  But not only there, sometimes my tires don't find a hold on some parking spots away from the main roads.  One day I even heard the sand scratching at the underside of my car and feared every moment to be stranded far away from any civilization.  But thank goodness this hair-raising experience ended well.  A truck or a 4-wheel vehicle is your best bet here or an ATV.

In Baja California Sur, sand reigns from the waves of the Sea of Cortez up the hill to the mountain cliffs.  Next time, I will purchase a pair of cowboy boots. They seem to be the best outfit for sandy soils.  Texas or Mexican cowboys know why they wear them!

Cows and Goats
The melodic ringing of cowbells is something I grew up with - but hearing them in the Southern part of Baja California was surprising.  It felt like home in the European Alpes.  The ranches in the Baja are often so large that farmers cannot afford to fence the animals in and maintain the fences.  So cows and goats are often not confined to the ranches that are tucked into the hills but sometimes even are grazing in towns.  And crossing country roads without regard to the traffic around them! 

This is where it becomes dangerous. In Europe when a driver is flashing its light to the upcoming traffic, they warn you about speeding radar installations, but here in the Baja, they warn you of cows on or next to the road that could cross any moment.  Flashing the headlights might have saved already a lot of serious accidents.  There are lots of warning signs for cows on the road and drivers should take them seriously and adjust the speeds accordingly. 

I was surprised to see Mexican males often wearing the same outfit as I knew it from Western movies.  But it makes sense!  The cowboy hat shields from the sun, and the boots are the best footwear in this sandy environment. 

My friend Marcela calls those who speed in 30km-zones or generally are speeding and passing without regard to the oncoming traffic or guys who are kind of reckless also cowboys.  One needs to monitor carefully other drivers, as they may act erratically and some even drive without lights at night...  Better not to have an accident here.  Also because there are lots of exclusions in the Mexican car insurances. 


Flora & Fauna
Arriving in the Baja California Sur (for the first time) in November, I was amazed by the number of yellow-blooming Palo de Arco, that bordered the country roads.  Such a fantastic, cheery shrub!  I collected lots of seeds, planting them all the way around the fence of the Tango Azul Resort.  Palo de Arco has been a staple in Mexican folk-medicine for centuries and adopted for landscaping throughout Mexico, as well.  It thrives even in the hottest, sunniest locations in this arid climate.  Artisans in the Baja build wonderful fences and even walls from the sticks of Palo de Arco.

However, besides these attractive shrubs, I found dozens and dozens of other interesting plants, from low-growing sedums to majestic Neem or Palo Verde trees.  About 6,000 plants can be found in the Baja. Hundreds of them are endemic, growing only in this part of the world. 

Water & Hot Spring
In rural areas of the Baja, municipal water and sewer services are not so common as we know them from city life.  Most houses have water tanks on the roof that are filled by water tank trucks.  Taking a shower, flushing the toilet, or watering the plants is fine with this water.  However, for drinking and cooking, using bottled water is the safest way.

Amazing that despite the arid climate and the lack of rain, there are quite a few springs - actually hot springs - just a ten-minute drive from La Ventana. Digging into the sand causes warm or even hot water that stems from former volcano activity.  Visiters built round pools in the past, using rocks, so "bath tubes" are ready to use them for free. 

Other hot springs, for example around Santiago (a 90-minute drive from La Ventana), lay on private ranch ground.   The owners charge between 150 and 300 Mexican pesos entrance fees - which is certainly not much, as they provide picnic areas, washrooms, and parking spaces, etc. 


El Norte & Endless Beaches
La Ventana is ranked in the 
Top10 places in the world for kiteboarding and is famous for strong, consistent wind from November to April.  But not only kite-boarders are happy here, but surfers, stand-up paddlers, kayakers, and swimmers are also frequenting the beaches in town.  Just two miles out the sand is even more appealing, and guests have the next 10 - 15 kilometers for themselves.  A long walk, a mountain bike ride, or an ATV trip will bring you to unspoiled beaches - where the desert meets the sea.

Inexpensive Services
Marcela, the co-owner of the Tango Azul Resort, introduced me to Isabel, a laundry lady, and to her son, who offers detailing.  After I received an offer from a detailing company in Ottawa three months earlier of 115 Canadian dollars, I could not believe what I was charged here for the same work: 100 Mexican pesos!  I certainly gave him a tip.  It looks now like brand new, as it would just come out of the shop.  I am so happy about my clean and shiny car.

The same surprise came up when I had to visit a dentist in La Paz.  One of the hotel guests told me about the "Dentista", a wonderful caring, and gentle lady.  She did such a great job that I let her do more dental work.  All she charged me, was only a third of what I would have paid in Canada, let alone the US.




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