Where We Be
San Javier is sometimes called the jewel of Baja missions,
and it's set in a 14-carat-gold splendid mountain setting
Loreto -- Baja, Mexico
Loreto could be called Mission Central since it
has not one but two famous missions. The first,
directly in town, is called the Mission of Our
Lady of Loreto and is the oldest mission in all of
Baja or Alta California, having been founded in
1697. The second is called Mission San Javier,
and it is the more famous of the two -- and the
more remote. You have to drive an hour or so
into the Sierra Giganta mountains to get to it but
it's well worth the effort. What sets it apart is its
powerful architecture in a spectacular setting.
Many consider it the jewel of the Baja missions.

The other highlight was our full-day blue whale
tour in Loreto Bay with Sea & Land Ecotours. We
saw not one but four blue whales during our
excursion! Now you have to understand, seeing
a blue whale is near the top of Robin's must-do
lifetime list, so this was a big deal. Our favorite
sighting was the blue that popped up near our
boat when the motor was off and we were all
just chatting. It surfaced four more times at
ten-minute intervals before finally showing its
tail and diving deep. We also saw a humpback, a
healthy pod of dolphin, and literally hundreds of
manta rays sunning themselves on the surface.
Gotta work on my selfie technique!
Loreto Bay National Marine Park is the largest marine natural reserve in Mexico.
Five islands dot the bay, creating a protective shelter for abundant marine life.
Early on we saw a humpback whale, a healthy pod of dolphins, and a huge number of manta rays sunning
themselves on the surface -- or occasionally doing flips in midair -- but the blue whales remained elusive
Our fully furnished apartment came complete with kitchen and large
bedroom / bath. The special rate averaged out to less than $60 per night.
Our week in Loreto included some quiet time too. We
stayed at Hotel Tripui and enjoyed relaxing by the lovely pool.
We celebrated Valentine's Day with a fine dinner of
fresh sea bass on the patio overlooking the pool
Then our luck changed and we saw not one but four blue whales over
the course of the next few hours. The first sightings were distant...
Then the sightings got closer. Mostly we saw a lot of backs and dorsal fins. It’s tough to see much more
of a blue whale since they don’t breach and are quite shy. Unlike grays or humpbacks, when they hear
a motor they tend to go the other way. They can also dive down deep for twenty or thirty minutes at a time.
"See a blue whale" was high up on Robin's list of things to do in her
lifetime -- and after several tries she's finally seen one (okay, four!)
We were lucky to catch a few glimpses of blue whale tails as they prepared to dive down deep.
That's the tail of the largest animal that has ever lived -- larger than the largest dinosaur.
Loreto Bay -- Blue Whale Tour
Hotel Tripui
View of the Sierra Giganta mountains from
the front porch of our Hotel Tripui apartment
Getting to Mission San Javier is half the fun. You follow a paved scenic highway through
the Sierra Giganta mountains. (Note: a short section was unpaved due to a washout.)
The 34 km (21 mi) of steep, twisting road takes
you past some excellent mountain scenery
However, because we came after two days of heavy rains, we had to pass through two wadis filled with water. This
was the easy one! We almost turned back but pressed on after I was able to walk through ankle-deep in my tevas.
This wadi doesn't look as bad but was actually harder on our car because it was deeper.
The heavy rains had also caused quite a few rocks to tumble down onto the road.
At the marina we watched an amazing display
of pelicans dive-bombing the water one after the other
Afterwards we parked near Loreto's malecon (ocean walkway),
had a terrific little picnic, and strolled over to the marina
The altar is covered with gold leaf imported from Spain. There
are eight 18th century oil paintings and a fine statue of San Javier.
Getting here was an adventure -- but it was worth it. The tough road conditions made the mission feel more
remote than usual. Imagine how remote it must have felt to the Jesuits when they first arrived here!
This is one of the best preserved missions in Baja. It's in remarkable condition when you consider it's over
250 years old. Limestone was mined from the surrounding hills to provide material for its construction.
Back in downtown Loreto, we visited the oldest mission -- the Mission of Our Lady of Loreto -- considered
to be the origin of all other California missions. It was founded in 1697 by the Jesuit Father Juan Salvatierra.
Our blue whale tour started from Puerto Escondido south of Loreto