One of the benefits of traveling the “Gringo Trail,” i.e. staying in hotels and following the recommended itinerary in guidebooks like the Moon Guide or Lonely Planet is that you end up interacting with like-minded travelers. This can be a blessing and a curse. It can tend to insulate one from the local culture, but at the same time, the exchange of information among fellow travelers is invaluable.
Some of these encounters are more valuable than others. I know it sounds corny, but sometimes you lock eyes with another person, and they “light up.” Some call this “serendipity.” Others call them “Guardian Angels.” I call it “the Firefly Effect.” 😉 Whenever I cross paths with a person that seems to light up, I get a sense that if I will stop and listen, they will have something to tell me. Such was the nature of the nice man on the bus who told me about Mulegé (pronounced “Moo-leh-hey.”) “Don’t miss it. It’s got a really great vibe…”
Mulegé is a tiny little town located where the Rio Mulegé meets the Gulf of California, at the northern end of the Bahia Concepcion. With fewer than 4,000 people, it is one of those towns that shouldn’t have any infrastructure or comforts and conveniences for the traveler, but it does. Mulegé defies the odds.
Moving further south, the weather in Baja is warming up, and I have finally crossed over the Baja Peninsula to the Sea of Cortez. It feels really good to be in shorts and sandals again after the cool ocean breezes off the Pacific. There is a brisk breeze, but the air holds that soft, tropical warmth. The tall swaying palms and lush green valley have earned it the term, “oasis.” Although Mulegé has a very “tropical” look due to the abundance of water along the river, it does not have the same level of humidity one might expect of a town being near the ocean due to the arid desert that surrounds it. The weather in a word? Perfect!
In strolling by the Curio shop, I see a tee-shirt for Mulegé emblazoned with (…drum roll…) a lighthouse! Anyone who has followed this blog knows how I love a lighthouse! I start asking questions of the shop proprietor. “There is a lighthouse here?” “Yes, but it is far. Five miles. But it is a nice walk that should only take you 15 minutes.” Okay, five miles in fifteen minutes, we have obviously lost something in translation here. But I take off down the road to see for myself. What I discover is a beautiful, paved, palm-lined path that follows the Mulegé River all the way to the mouth of the ocean. Locals are out in their black yoga pants, power-walking the trail. I am amazed to find such a nice wide hike and bike path in a town of this size!
At the end of the walking path, I find the lighthouse, not a conventional one, but scenic nonetheless. I walk up the hill as far as I can before it is fenced. Then return back down for a margarita at the beautiful El Patron beach bar. Two women are at the adjacent table, and they invite me to join. Carol and Jayna spend their summers in Montana and winters in Baja. Carol has written a book, “The Boomer’s Guide to Lightweight Backpacking; New Gear for Old People.” We have much to discuss, it seems. Yet another “Firefly Effect” moment. 😉 So I decide to stay and have dinner at El Patron and enjoy the stroll back to town with these two, picking their brains for backpacking tips all the way.
This late afternoon stroll to the lighthouse has become my daily pilgrimage. Another great meander in Mulegé Is the climb up to the Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé. Founded in 1705, it is one of the oldest missions in Baja. But the best part is the short climb to the overlook, which offers a great view of the river valley below.
Mulegé offers so many traveler conveniences, but none so sweet as the little bakery, Magos Coffe and Sweets, just a block from my hotel. It has become a part of my daily routine to wake up with the sun, slip into my jeans and make an early run in the cool morning down the quiet street to grab a perfect Latte and a muffin “para llevar,” (to go,) then come back to my room and curl up beneath my mosquito net.
I haven’t seen a single mosquito yet, but I am still taking advantage of the soft, shadowy “cocoon effect.” What a great way to start the day in Moo-leh-hey! Next up: “The Beautiful Bay.”