March 20 – March 27, 2018.
We ducked through the diminutive doorway, what could almost be describe as a hole-in-the-wall, underneath the San Ignacio Mission and descended a few steps. A friendly guy greeted us. We fumbled a bit in Spanish and determined we were in the right place, the INAH (Mexican department of History and Anthropology) office. Usually at this point, if who ever we are speaking with knows English they will switch languages, but our history guy continued in Spanish. We were looking for information on a tour of rock paintings. Feeling more confident in our Spanish as we continued with the conversation, we learned there were two tours, how much the guide cost, how we got to the site and arranged the guide, which was the better tour, and when to come back to get our free permits.
I left energized, not as much about the tour as the conversation. After 4 years of studying Spanish, I had just had my first real conversation in Español that was more than just exchanging pleasantries. I hope our tour guide doesn’t speak any English, either, I thought to myself!
Before I go on, I need to tell you how we got here. After leaving the grey whales in Ojo de Liebre we headed towards the east coast of Baja California Sur to Santa Rosalía, where we started heading south along the Sea of Cortez, stopping briefly in Mulegé before continuing on to Bahía Concepción where we camped on the beach for 3 nights.
At Bahía Concepción we met and talked to many nice travelers, mostly Canadians heading home. In one of those conversations visiting the cave paintings of Sierra de San Francisco came up as something worthy of doing. I knew a little bit about these cave paintings from my iOverlander app (a crowd sourced camping/traveling guide which was pretty much our only source of information about anything in Baja), but the details of how to find or arrange a tour weren’t clear. By this time we had already decided to turn around and head back to the USA, so after we got tired of the beach we headed back up to Mulegé to find some Internet and do a little research on how to find and arrange a tour, which led us to the little “hole-in-the-wall” under the mission in San Ignacio…
We were told to meet at the INAH office at 8 am the next morning where we found a different guy manning the desk. He sized up our broken Spanish and quickly switched to talking to us in English while we filled out permits and he lined up our tour guide.
After a very long and interesting trek in Ballena Blanca we finally met our guide, Armando. He was young and pleasant and didn’t seem to know any or much English. Unfortunately, he didn’t chew our ears off in Spanish either. I did get to say things to him when we were hiking straight up a cliff like, “Necesito descansar” (“I need to rest”) or when my heart finally stopped pounding 5 minutes after we reached the top, “Creo que voy a vivir” (“I think I’m going to live”).
The paintings were special. Are they graffiti, were they a way for the Cochimí Indians to talk to each other or to tell a story? Whichever, I’m not sure any of us understood what the paintings were trying to communicate. I pointed to one of the figures, “Qué es?” “Coyote,” Armando replied. Remembering one our guided National Park tours, I wanted to say, “Oh, yes, we’ve heard folk lore about the mischievous Coyote,” but I didn’t have the Spanish words to say it. Instead, I just replied, “Oh, coyote,” in a sort knowing way. Armando smiled. Who needs a lot of fancy words to communicate, anyways?
* All pics are click to enlarge.