Loreto is the prettiest little town. Old trees and cobbled streets, the town square and church, nestled between the mountains and the jewel blue sea. It truly has an ‘old world’ feel about it, like stepping back in time.
What town exploration in Mexico would be complete without a wander through the church? None of course!
Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó was founded by the Jesuits in 1697, the first successful mission and the oldest Spanish town in Baja California. There had been many attempts over the preceding years to settle the Baja without success and Spain was reluctant to fund any more endeavours. The Jesuits were given permission to try again provided they funded the expedition themselves, and with that the missionary Juan Mariá de Salvatierra, in the company of six soldiers crossed the Sea of Cortez from what is present day Cuidad Obregon to Conchó, present day Loreto. Conchó was the indigenous name meaning ‘water hole’ and the location of a settlement of about eighty of the local Monqui Indians. A few days after arrival and obviously with no qualms about displacing the current inhabitants, Fr. de Salvatierra persuaded the Monqui with the promise of food to provide labor for the building of a chapel a few hundred feet from the Monqui camp. Upon completion the chapel was dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto and the surrounding area was proclaimed Spanish territory.
Unsurprisingly, the Monqui were a little miffed by this and about three weeks after Jesuit settlement, they attacked the mission resulting in a few Indian deaths and a few Spanish injuries. Fortunately for the Mission, just then a ship arrived with more missionaries, food and soldiers and lured by the promise of food again, the missionaries had the locals build a wall around the mission to fortify it's defences.
With very little water in the area the mission relied on food brought in from the mainland and so never really thrived as an outpost until the San Javier Mission was in full agricultural swing. However, it was a great base for further exploration of the Baja, stretching as far north as San Francisco in the United States, and the Jesuits continued their program of conversion by establishing more missions up and down the peninsula.
The present day church was completed in 1744 and the population of Loreto expanded with the arrival of many Spanish settlers . By this time the Monqui people were all but extinct, the victims again of Old World diseases. While the mission ended in 1829, the church has always been in use and continues to this day.
After our lovely walk around the town and yet another fabulous meal, we headed back to the marina to to continue to prepare our boats for departure. We needed to head back to La Paz and Winterlude were heading to Santispac in search of warmer weather. As it turned out though, the weather was taking a turn for the worse and we wouldn’t be going anywhere after all. Well, we did move out to the mooring field and aside from a couple of very wet trips into the marina by dinghy, we spent the next week hunkered down catching up on work and waiting for a break in the weather so we could leave.
Cruising is a funny life in some ways, always saying goodbye to friends and fellow cruisers as we go our separate ways after companionable travel for a time. We bid safe passage to Winterlude as they left for their trip further north and we headed south, we probably wouldn’t see them again until the end of the year.
A short three hour trip on flat calm seas (and accompanied for a way by dolphins!) had us back in Agua Verde, our stop for the night on our way back down the peninsula. Such a pleasant trip compared to the previous week spent rocking and rolling in the mooring field. Fewer boats in the anchorage this time meant we had far more options for a good place to drop the hook and we did so with far less drama than our last visit! We hopped in the dinghy for a quick trip ashore to explore the western end of the bay where there were a few shacks on the beach and a road winding up and over the hill towards the village. It was much more steep than we realized, washed out in places and slippery with loose gravel and huge piles of burro poop. So really it was more of a trail than a road and I can’t imagine anyone driving up or down it anyway, it was so steep. The view over the bay was spectacular though, the many colours of the Sierra de la Giganta foothills a stark contrast with the clear turquoise water in the bay. Heading back down the trail was easier said than done. The gravel had us slipping more than walking and just as I was saying to Daz how terrible it would be to fall into a pile of burro poop, I slipped and landed flat on my arse in a pile of burro poop. Inevitable really.
We spent a blissfully calm night here and were up bright and early for a sunrise departure. Our original intent was to stop at San Evaristo for the night but we decided early on to push through and go straight to La Paz. The weather was perfect, seas were calm but with little wind which meant Daz could catch up on some work as I kept an eye on things from the cockpit.
It took us fourteen hours to get back to La Paz and we were pretty tired as we pulled into our slip. We dashed up to the Italian restaurant in the marina for a restorative gin+tonic and a pizza before crashing hard for the night. As always, we had a huge ‘To-Do’ list for things we had to get done in the coming weeks. Why the rush you might ask?
We had a plane to catch!
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