Today was the day of our big inland exploration to see some Baja cave paintings. We were scheduled to meet Salvador in front of the Las Casitas Hotel and Restaurant at 8:30 am. We rose early, however got away from the boat a little later than ideal. We ended up making a forced march into town, reaching the restaurant 5 minutes past 8:30. Salvador was dutifully standing out front, with us decked out with backpacks, walking stick, cameras and binoculars around our necks, he spotted us right away. Nothing like being outfitted like prototypical tourists. He greeted us warmly, and patiently waited while we ordered up our box lunches. For 50 pesos per lunch, we each got 3 burritos, hard boiled egg and orange. Salvador lead us over to his van and drove us up to the municipal building, where we signed the register and paid 35 pesos to cover use of our digital camera. We needed to show our drivers licenses when we registered. After tending the formalities, Salvador stopped by a little store and got some ice and soft drinks. We swung by his garage facility, and swapped vans for one more suitable for the drive out to the cave paintings.
The drive is about 30 km in length, and the dirt road out across the desert is primitive. Alternately washboard and rough rock cobble, the drive gave us all a good shaking, and I realized that Salvador’s vehicle maintenance costs must be extremely high. I commented that the road hadn’t seen a road grader in a long time. Salvador laughed and said the road gets graded just prior to each election. We had a good laugh. I got another chuckle over the weathered 40 km/hour speed limit sign, hanging on an old wooden post out in the middle of nowhere. Any vehicle violating that limit would quickly shake apart. We stopped at a fruit stand along the way, and Salvador pulled out his extremely sharp sheath knife, and proceeded to slice up grapefruit, oranges and tangerines for us to sample. The fruit was excellent, especially the grapefruit and tangerines, and is all organically grown. Salvador says much of it is shipped to the US for sale there. We bought a large mixed bag of fruit. Total cost: 20 pesos.
We also stopped at a loop turnout. Salvador is very knowledgeable about the local plant life, and he led us over to several varities of cactus, shrubs, and small trees. He told us the Spanish and English name for each, and provided much information about how each was used for food or herbal remedies. He brought us over to an extremely large speciman of cardon cactus. They can live to be over 500 years, and are the tallest cactus in the world. After they die, the bundle of woody poles inside can be used for building materials. We’ve seen them used as roofing lath, supporting palm frond thatch roofs.
We drove on, passing through two gates which marked the beginning of private ranch property. Salvador has permission to lead tours in this area, but has to pay a substantial fee to the ranch owner. The road ends at the ranch house, where we again signed the register book. The ranch house is in the foothills, and the trail takes off just behind the house. Salvador set a good pace on a well defined trail which wandered over rocky terrain and into a strikingly beautiful arroyo. The sides of the canyon were several hundred feet high, and in many places the canyon width was considerably less than the wall heights. The rock was mostly a brick red sandstone, alternating with layers of lighter colored volcanic rock and areas of conglomerate. A series of dams have been constructed to store water. The reservoirs are currently dry, because of drought conditions. In years past, the trek to see the cave paintings of La Trinidad involved a couple of swims up the reservoir pools. We were able to walk on dry ground the whole way, however, once well back in the arroyo we began encountering residual pools of water, which in some places was actively flowing from one pool to another. Tadpoles and small fish could be seen in these pools. They were very lovely, and in stark contrast with their arid surroundings.
Farther up the canyon we climbed. We rounded a bend and scrambled up to a large alcove which reached well back into the cliff face. The flat surfaces of this alcove were the palette for ancient Indian artists of exceptional skill. In colors of red, black and white, the painters had depicted animals common to the region then and now. Deer, rabbits, whales, fish, octopus, turtles, bighorn sheep, and numerous other animals were very recognizably painted in line drawing form. Outlines of hand prints, images of shamans, and abstract symbols thought to be calendars of some sort were also painted on the cliffs. Salvador had worked years ago with American archeologists who explored and catelogued these sites, and he was a wealth of knowledge about these paintings. He then led us further up the canyon to another cave painting sight, equally delightful to see. We ate our lunch in the shade of the second painted cave alcove, and then retraced our steps back to the ranch house. On the drive back to town, Salvador spotted and pointed out to us a roadrunner and some cardinals. Bouncing along that road, it was pretty amazing he was able to notice them. We were very pleased that we had been able to make contact with Salvador and accompany him on this trek. He’s a fine guide, and gave us an outstanding experience.
After saying our goodbyes, we wandered over to the town square, drank a couple of cokes, and then walked up to the old prison. It’s been closed for over 30 years, and has now been converted to a museum. While serving as a prison, it was notable for the practise of allowing the less dangerous inmates out of their cells each day. The inmates would walk to town to work, and at the end of the day, a prison guard would blow a conch shell horn, and the inmates would walk back to the prison, along with their families, to be locked up for the night. The more dangerous inmates were kept secured within an inner wall and set of cells in the prison. It all looked very austere and no place to be kept, regardless of circumstances. The museum displays were very interesting, depicting local history, natural history, and the story of the prison. While we were there, Sandy asked the caretaker where the banos (restroom) was. The lady showed here the door to the unisex banos. Inside was a nice flush toilet. Outside the door was a big water barrel and bucket. To operate the toilet, you must first fill the toilet tank with water from the outside barrel. Hey, it works.
From there, we went back to town for a little shopping, and then returned to the boat. We walked back this time, and were quite tired by the time we got back. A nice rum and coke in the cockpit, preceded by a ibeprophen tablet, more than took care of the soreness. We ate dinner on the boat, and I went out fishing for a short while. My vantage point in the dinghy provided a front row seat to a vivid sunset. I caught one fish, but couldn’t compete with a pair of local boys who fished next to our boat, using handlines. They are true expert fishermen. We gave them each a rice krispy treat, which they clearly enjoyed.