San Javier, Baja California Sur – The longest 50 km of our life

Actually the day didn’t start too bad. Some fishermen casted off in the middle of the night and return in the morning. The men weigh their catch, write down everything, and load it to a waiting truck. I ask the person responsible, which seems to be the man with book and pen, if I can buy a fish. He answers: “Yes.” Nothing else. I’m trying to be patient, but after a few minutes I point to a flounder I’d like to have. The man manages to ignore me what’s not that easy in the face of my height, but it’s also not so easy to get rid of me. I am waiting 15 minutes until all fish is weighed and loaded.

The fisher stares for some minutes into a gaping void, but since his wish I might dissolve into thin air doesn’t come true, he turns his attention to me. He asks me how much fish I want, climbs onto the truck, and holds two big mackerel into the air. Since I assume discussions with the taciturnity are useless, I dutifully nod and ask how much I have to pay. “Nothing.” Superb. Since I intelligently forgot to bring a bag I have to carry the fish, each in one hand. The fishers probably will have something to laugh about until the evening. I don’t care, I’ve got the fish.

Then we follow the mainly paved 40 km to Comondú that actually consists of two villages, San José de Comondú and San Miguel de Comondú. Both oasis communities grow dates, fig, mango, banana, citrus, corn, grapes, and sugarcane, again fed by a river with water from the volcanic mountains. The second village had one of the largest missions of the entire California, which was built from 1751 to 62. In the first decades of the 20th century it was torn down to build a school and private houses with the bricks. What is left was probably the missionaries’ accommodation, and is used for services today.

We follow the signs to San Javier. According to my description the first 30 km of the track shall be in pretty bad shape, but improve significantly on the last 20 km. That is the understatement of the year. I have to admit that this information might have been true when it was printed, but the situation changed dramatically after the last rainfalls. The gravel road isn’t actually passable any more with its serious washouts; unless on is an incurable off-road fan, has the corresponding vehicle as well as the experience, loves the thrill of possibly falling into the hundreds of metres deeper valley since the track just isn’t wide enough, and is willing to invest four and three quarter hours for 50 km, wherefrom nearly four hours are allotted to the first 30 km. Actually I am not, but I don’t know that in advance.

As we realize something is wrong with this track it is too late to turn back. There is just no turning area, and when the first only halfway secure opportunity to turn occurs, we are already gone so far that we don’t want to turn anymore. One always thinks it can’t be worse. It always can, that’s why this day goes down in my annals of history. The washouts are perpendicular or lengthways, most of the time the gravel is completely washed off the big foundation boulders. The situation is especially problematic at the many ascends, slopes, and in the hairpin bends where the water ran fast and took everything with it what was not heavy enough to stay. The only bright spot is that there must have been one vehicle before us, whose tracks are discernible, although this car had a narrower wheelbase and probably a lower centre of gravity. Joerg will say to me tonight that he saw me somewhat stressed for the first time in his life. That must have something to say.

In the end of the day we reach San Javier, a pretty town with paving stones and one of the best preserved missions on Baja California. During the first church had to be abandoned in 1699 due to an Indio revolt, and decayed, today’s mission was built from 1744 to 58 and shows three valuable baroque altar pieces, carved and gilded. We realize in a relieved manner that we can complimentary camp behind the mission, near fields with onions, guavas, papayas, citrus, corn, grapes, chillies, dates, and roaring cows.

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