The territory of the Baja California Peninsula, between the Gulf of California and the Sierra de San Pedro Martir, is inhabited by majestic cactus over 17 meters high. Meet them is to contemplate facing one of the most expensive living desert.
One of the best kept promises of Baja California is the Valley of the Giants. His name, which sounds like mystery entry seduces travelers seeking contact with the extreme nature. Therefore, to travel the roads of the northern part of the peninsula is a must to visit the place where the great reign cacti, majestic cactus over 17 meters high and a life told in hundreds of years.
To get there, it is best to take the road from Mexicali, number five, taking the road to San Felipe, and rent a four wheel drive vehicle. Do not neglect this last recommendation, especially if you want to discover the secrets that lie at the end of the ways of the desert; a temptation for intrepid adventurers. And that curiosity can be the best ally in this journey.
The Mexicali-San Felipe road is in very good condition, so the two hour drive becomes a gentle introduction to these dry areas living with the Gulf of California. Before meeting with the giants, it is pertinent to stop at San Felipe, experienced fishermen and people in the region known as one of the places where you can eat the best shrimp on the peninsula. On the boardwalk the simple-but-sold famous shrimp tacos from San Felipe, and the restaurants near the square you can find a more refined shrimp stew.
Decades ago, San Felipe was only visited by a few fans sport fishing. Many were in search of tatoaba, species of fish that can only be found in the Gulf of California, and reaches two meters and weighing 130 kilos. Now is endangered and, therefore, its fishing it is illegal, so the tatoabas only to be seen in San Felipe are those found in the photographs of La Hacienda restaurant Red Lobster, one of the best to try traditional dishes, which are the protagonists huge shrimp and lobsters-and also international cuisine.
There, in the Hacienda de la Langosta, we find Ephrem. With 20 years behind him, this smiling young native of Hidalgo decided to make a stop on his trip to the United States. His reward has been watching from the beach for months, gray whales and manta rays. His description of this natural phenomenon is limited to a single sentence: “It’s an experience.”
In search of that experience, dozens of Canadian and American tourists have made San Felipe place of refuge during the winter. They are retired couples or families who leave the kids play on the boardwalk or the beach, although it is not very suitable for swimming, in winter the water is very cold, and they come in the morning to observe tens of pelicans; or to watch splendid sunsets. In addition, this beach is ideal for kayaking. But the most beautiful beach is located north of San Felipe, near the dunes. There, the waves make temporary tattoos on the sand.
The tranquility that prevails during January and February in contrast to the festive air that you breathe during the summer, when American teenagers use their vacation to make San Felipe a permanent dance floor.
Although the Valley of the Giants is just 20 minutes from San Felipe, many of the villagers do not know, and this is one of the greatest natural treasures of Baja California. There are two main reasons: first, and most significant, is that the valley is on land that is privately owned, the Rancho Punta Estrella, so the place is fenced and must pay $ five-or around your equivalent in pesos, for each vehicle type. The second is that for many of the citizens of San Felipe, especially for those who were born here, cacti are part of everyday life; the majority does not cause great excitement venture into the desert to see cactus and other species of unique flora in the world.What is to lose our sense of wonder!
To meet the giants of the desert, you have to bring water, hiking boots and clothing that allows covered the sun. The road to be taken is San Felipe-Puertecitos; at kilometer 14 of the right side is a dirt road that ends just where an old fence indicates the beginning of Rancho Punta Estrella. Do not give up if the door is closed. Anytime you will be responsible for open and collect the fee allowed to enter the kingdom of cactus.
It is best to take the first miles on the car and when they begin to appear the first giant cacti, continue the walking tour. As one enters the valley, the landscape is transformed into a forest of cacti that look like thin backlit hands of a giant. Its trunk, elongated and earthy, is a living, thin column, which displays at the top branches, like cadaveric fingers that giant living in the bowels of the Earth. When standing next to him, inevitably look up to look at how the coffee that covers most of its trunk, green leaves room for painting the newer parts of the old full of lines that run from the bottom up, as if were wrinkled.
The wonder grows as it is by the first and you look at the second or third. Then multiply the cacti and it is impossible to count them. The thrill to be with them is as large as its size and history, which can be synthesized with some data that will shake the unbelievers: giant cacti only grow in the desert of Baja California, its roots extend approximately 30 meters; the seed is less than a millimeter; when they turn 15 their average height is 30 inches and it is not until age 75 when they begin to flower and produce seeds. So the huge living sculptures that live in this valley are over 200 years old.
You can you spend hours admiring them, guarded by small mountain ranges, and sharing their space with other plants in the region, such as jasmine, those cactus-ball, inhabited by thorns which confirm that nature also known geometry. In this valley are of all sizes, from tiny specimens to half a meter in diameter. Also the governor bush that lives up to its name as master spread in the area; branches provide shelter and umbrella several desert dwellers.
The silence of the area only breaks when, from the small bushes, leaves a hare or a roadrunner, a small sample of the wildlife starts to wake up when dusk arrives. Well here is timed differently; Cacti are reluctant to go fast, and as the men of the desert, take in their brand skin from the sun, wind and sand.
Road to San Felipe, you should stop in the area known as “The Dunes”, a few minutes before reaching the town; Hence, the wind draws thin lines in the mounds of fine sand are just a few steps from the beach.
A second must is on the way back to Mexicali. A little more than thirty minutes of leaving San Felipe is an exit to the salt Juárez year 1972. The small and narrow path may discourage some, but after a few minutes the drive to continue will find a sea of white . It is necessary to seek permission from the salt workers to meet more than three thousand acres of salt fields, most of them still virgins.
WHERE TO SLEEP
Ideally, spend nights in San Felipe. The town has all the necessary services, especially if traveling with children (ideally over the age of eight years for the walk in the Valley of the Giants).
Avenida Mar de Cortés s / n
T. 52 (686) 577 1055
F. 52 (686) 577 1752
You are on the beach of the bay of San Felipe, so their views are outstanding at any time of day. Also has a pool and restaurant.
HACIENDA RED LOBSTER
125 Calzada Chetumal
T. 52 (686) 577 0483
F. 52 (686) 577 0484
www.sanfelipelodging.com / contact.htm
Double rooms at $ 85 plus tax.
It offers good service, quiet and good dining in their restaurant.
FIELD NUMBER ONE
Sea of Cortez Avenue North s / n
T. 52 (686) 577 1139
KIKI’S RV CAMPING
703 California Avenue Gulf
T. 52 (686) 577 1442
WHERE TO EAT
In San Felipe can be found from fish tacos (highly recommended), in positions that are on the boardwalk, to very good Italian food. But it is best to try the traditional food of Baja California, as the crushed lobster.
381 Avenida Mar de Cortés
T. 52 (686) 540 6218
HACIENDA RED LOBSTER
T. 52 (686) 577 0483
From 7 to 23 hours.
336 Avenida Mar de Cortés
T. 52 (686) 577 1057
6 to 22 hours.
Mexicali take Highway No. 5, reaching the town of San Felipe. There, go south on the road to Puertecitos. About 15 miles later, near Punta Estrella del Campo, is the way that leads to the Valley of the Giants.