Enjoying the Back Roads Around La Paz

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By Leslie Duncan
We put on our hiking shoes, gathered some snacks and plenty of water, and off we went with Benjamin Duarte, of Baja Biking Explorers, for a back roads tour around La Paz.  Benjamin guides hiking, kayaking, biking and snorkeling tours.
On this hiking/driving tour we took road 286 to Los Planes, through Los Encinos, Buena Vista, Los Diversaderos, and El Salto, along the south east side of Sierra El Novillo. We followed flower bordered riverbeds and arroyos, scattered with “Corriente” or a more Baja-related name, Chinampo.” cattle. These cattle can be traced back to the first cattle brought to the new world by the Spanish as early as 1493, hardy breeds chosen especially to withstand the ocean crossing and ability to adapt to their new land.
We were amazed at the lushness of the areas we traveled through, the silence, and the abundance of clear, flowing water in the streams. We were entranced by the fresh air and delicious smells of wild lavender, oregano, coffee, and sun baked grasses. Overhead we saw flocks of curious Frigate birds, mesmerizing us with the sound of their flapping wings. Newly hatched frogs were jumping along the sand while butterflies and dragonflies were dancing in the breeze. While sifting our toes through sparkling granite sand, we observed several regal iguanas perched on or close to healthy agave plants.
Ben explained the geology of the area as we traveled, particularly highlighting the significance of light and dark stone to growth and health of surrounding flora. He pointed out the tilted granitic fault blocks of the mountain ranges. At one point of the trip, we were able to see the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez simultaneously from a high vista.
We tasted wonderfully nutty acorns from huge and graceful oak trees, while being amused by ranchers’ busy foraging pigs. We admired the elephant tree (genus Bursera) with its distinctive sculptural form resembling that of an elephant, as well as the organ pipe and cardon cactus that were plentiful and magnificent. We tasted the “tuna”, or the cactus fruit, which was surprisingly lemony.
Benjamin was full of information and concern for the rancheros, and appreciative of their beauty and the people’s simple way of life. He explained the use of several medicinal plants, and emphasized the resourcefulness of the ranchero people. With enthusiasm and sincerity, he explained how a tree that “cried blood” was used for tanning hides.
After purchasing hand made macetas from a broad smiling woman and her daughters, and photographing her enormous fig tree, we decided to head home. With a car full of aromas, pottery, queso regional and good will, we stopped for a cold cerveza, very satisfied with our adventure.

To enjoy the poetry of this tour, contact Benjamin Duarte at bikingexplorers@yahoo.com.

Leslie Duncan is a newcomer to the La Paz area.  Leslie and her husband Darrell have recently opened the beautiful Casa de La Paz Bed & Breakfast on Hidalgo street just off the malecon – www.casadelapazmexico.com.

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