Serendipity and San Antonio
By Fern Corraini
La Paz, BCS may be best known for its location on the magical Sea of Cortez and for its stunning beaches, but plenty of opportunities also abound for hiking in La Paz, Baja California Sur. Here, our writer, Fern, shares a recent hike she took with her family to the nearby village of San Antonio.
In January my twin nephews came down to visit me here in El Centenario, just outside of La Paz, Mexico. Yes, they came to visit their Auntie…but I think the Baja sun, food and activities were the big draw. I don’t blame them. If MY aunt had lived in the Baja when I was their age, she would’ve had to pay to have me hauled away.
The last time Paul and Graham were here we concentrated on the Sea of Cortez. We did our share of “beaching”, kayaked on the island, snorkeled with the whale sharks and ate our weight in seafood. But this time the boys wanted to explore inland, and they were keen to go hiking.
I’ll get back to this later. But first, you need to know something about the magic of living here in Mexico. The expat community will tell you that you don’t need to live here long before you’ll find yourself in a chain reaction of harmonious connections and wild new experiences. Serendipity abounds!
The week before Paul and Graham arrived, my friend CJ and I were on a mission to find a guide book on hiking trails. Believe it or not, no such book exists, so we came out of the bookstore empty-handed…but lo and behold, right across the street was one of the most popular fish and shrimp taco stands in La Paz. We took our serendipitous place in line…the first link in a beautiful series of events.
In front of us was a large family from Mexico City visiting their son who lives in La Paz. By the time we had our tacos dressed, there had been been introductions and much hand-shaking. We were invited to join their table, and by the time our plastic plates were empty, we were all friends. And coincidentally, the affable bilingual son was not only a walking encyclopedia of the area but he had a burgeoning career as a private guide for tours and hikes in the area. WHAT?!
And that is how it happened that we met Jafet, which in turn led to an absolutely perfect day exploring San Antonio with my nephews.
Jafet was a perfect guide…knowledgeable, conscientious and just fun to be around. We started at El Triunfo, an historic gold and silver mining town about an hour south of La Paz. At one time, it was the largest town in Baja California Sur, with a population of over 10,000 people. Today El Triunfo is a charming little Baja pueblo that is known for its huge cinnamon buns and by its smokestack (no, it was NOT designed by Eiffel as the local legend goes…I’ve been spreading that lie for years!). There is also a piano museum/concert hall here protecting pianos that had been left behind when the mines closed in the early 1900s and the wealthy European mine executives and their families abandoned the area.
We carried on to San Antonio, just down the road and off the highway. Having been isolated all these years from highway commerce, it’s a smaller, humbler town (population 470). But in the late 1800s, San Antonio was a major metropolis because it was here that the ore mined in El Triunfo was brought to be processed. San Antonio was also the capital of Baja California Sur for a brief time after Loreto was virtually destroyed by a hurricane.
Jafet had lots of surprises in store for us as we explored the quiet town and hiked the surrounding hills with 3 happy dogs in tow. He and a local young man, Adolfo, kept us apprised of the flora, fauna and local history throughout the hike to the well-preserved ruins of the brick smelter ovens. We carried on, and outfitted with hardhats, we made an interesting foray into an abandoned gold mine.
Once back in the village we dined in Berta’s kitchen where she served up a typical Baja country meal…and a lot of laughter. But there was more! Three local women welcomed us into their shady outdoor kitchen where they prepared traditional buñuelos, and as we happily munched our sweet treats, Adolfo regaled us with stories about the town. (Ask him about Bon Jovi!)
The whole experience was genuine…an up-close and personal peek into small-town Baja life both past and present…and we felt privileged for the glimpse.
I’m grateful that I live in such a beautiful and sunny destination, and that visiting family and friends appreciate it too. Makes me wonder though… Do you think the nephews would be making big plans to return if I lived in Iqualuit, Nunavut?
If you go:
Fitness level: Regarding the fitness level required for this hike: the nephews are young and fit, and it was a piece of cake for them. CJ and I found it a tad more challenging, but made up for it with enthusiasm. Not recommended for couch-potatoes. Take hiking poles if you have them.
Our guide: Jafet Badillo: 52 1 (612)219-0240 jafetbad@gmail.
Jafet will give you suggestions for hikes/walks/daytrips based on your preferences and fitness level. He will accompany you in your vehicle. The cost for his custom-made tours is very reasonable…and worth every peso.
Fern Corraini is a veteran traveler and explorer who moved to La Paz from Canada eleven years ago and is happy to call Mexico home. In addition to her international travels, Fern has been an English teacher in Canada and Guadalajara, a customs officer, a beekeeper, a sandblaster, a travel rep in the Dominican Republic and a motel owner. When she’s not busy keeping Vista Properties organized as our administrator, Fern loves to cycle, visit the beach and spend time with her two rescue kitties. She loves La Paz and adamantly believes that the taco is the perfect food.