San Isidro La Pursima

South of Bahía Concepción, the paved Transpeninsular continues to Loreto, but at Km 60 a graded alternative route crosses the Sierra de la Giganta to the twin villages of San Isidro and La Purísima. Sometimes referred to as the 'Shangri-La of Baja,' the area is a desert oasis shaded by vast stands of date palms. If you've crossed the mountains from Mulegé, you'll hit San Isidro first. La Purísima is just under 3km (2 miles) further on.

La Purísima was the site of Misión La Purísima Concepción, founded in 1717 by Jesuit Nicolás Tamaral (who later founded the mission at San José del Cabo) at the base of Cerro El Pilón, a steep volcanic plug presiding over town, just north of the Arroyo La Purísima.

Only foundations of the mission remain, but the setting is as spectacular as ever.

San Isidro has the area's only lodging, a few stores with basic provisions, a tire shop, a school and a tiny playground ringed by multicolor tires half buried in the dirt. In the center of town, the simple but friendly Motel Nelva (r US$15) provides extremely basic accommodation with shared bathrooms and saggy beds. Better are the two rooms at the yellow, unnamed casa de huéspedes (r US$20) at the south end of town (on the way to La Purísima); look for the faded Tecate sign.

GETTING THERE & AWAY

San Isidro and La Purísima offer bus service to La Paz (US$26, five hours) with Autotransportes Aguila.

At the time of research, the road from the Transpeninsular was manageable only for high-clearance vehicles, the result of heavy rains from Hurricanes John and Paul in 2006. Conditions have likely improved but check before heading out. The road from Ciudad Insurgentes is paved but horrendously pot-holed. Take it slow and watch for sections of the road that have washed out.

Neither San Isidro nor La Purísima has a Pemex station, but both offer barrel gas at about a 25% markup. The casa de huéspedes in San Isidro sells gas.

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