|The altar is covered with gold leaf imported from Spain. There
are eight 18th century oil paintings and a fine statue of San Javier.
Where We Be
|San Javier is sometimes called the jewel of Baja missions.
It's certainly set in a splendid 14-carat-gold mountain setting.
|Loreto -- Baja Peninsula, Mexico
The big highlight of our visit to Loreto 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 big blue that
popped up near our boat when the motor was
off and we were chatting. It surfaced four more
times at ten-minute intervals before 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.
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.
|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 if they hear a motor. They can also dive down deep for 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 tails as the blue whales 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
|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.
|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
|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