San Ignacio, with a population of only 750, proved to be one of my favourite places to visit in this region – thus far. It took 3-hours to get there from Guerrero Negro, on a very comfortable bus operated by the company Aguila. The only problem was being dropped off along the highway – about 30 minutes walk from the centre of town. Thankfully I managed to thumb a lift.
“With its lush, leafy date palms and pretty tranquil lagoon, sleepy San Ignacio is a welcome oasis after the endless desert that accompanies you here. Jesuits located the Misión San Ignacio de Kadakaamán here, but Dominicans supervised construction of the striking church (finished in 1786) that still dominates the picturesque, laurel-shaded plaza. With lava-block walls nearly 1.2m thick, and surrounded by bougainvillea, this is one of Baja’s most beautiful churches.”
Again I found and excellent hotel, La Huerta, with lovely rooms, and a great restaurant, admittedly I only sampled breakfast. There just happened to be restaurants with a better ambience, for an evening meal, scattered around the main plaza.
During my stay I met a delightful family from Bristol. Mark and Lisa were travelling with their daughter and son – Isabela and Ollie. We spent Christmas Eve visiting some nearby cave paintings. It was compulsory to have two (Spanish speaking only) guides to accompany us. Mark drove and I helped with some translation assistance. In the evening we ate in a lovely little restaurant, on the edge of the plaza, that rustled up a mean Chicken Fajitas.
“The sheer quantity of beautiful petroglyphs in this region is impressive, and the ocher, red, black and white paintings remain shrouded in mystery. In recognition of its cultural importance, the Sierra de San Francisco has been declared a Unesco World Her- itage site. It is also part of the Reserva de la Biosfera El Vizcaíno.”
Cueva del Ratón, a cave named for an image of what inhabitants once thought was a rat (or mouse) but is more likely a deer, is the most easily accessible site. Drivers can get there on their own after registering and paying the park entry (M$70 per person) and additional guide fee (M$200 for four people).
The existence of the cave paintings was known to Spanish missionaries in the 1700’s. They only became known to the outside world in 1962, when an expedition was initiated by mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner. The painters were probably ancestors of the Cochimi Indians who were early inhabitants of the area, but the motives for their primitive art are still unknown.
Originally, the paintings were thought to be somewhere around 2,000 years old. Recent carbon dating tests have suggested that some of the paintings may have been painted as many as 7,500 years ago.
Next stage: San Ignacio to Santa Rosalia.