A road trip to visit the Mexican cowboys that eke a living from the arid sierras of southern Baja reveals a way of life hanging by a thread.
Somewhere near road marker 101, a beer can dangling from a wisp of Ocotillo cactus indicates it’s time to turn off Baja California’s transpeninsular highway. The side road, if one can call it that, is a faintly discernible skein of dirt track and crumbling rock that rattles the brain and tests the mettle of our rented Jeep Wrangler. “The ranch is right up on that ridge, to the left of El Batequi,” says Trudi Angell, pointing to a lone peak that thrusts into the cloudless horizon. She’s the founder of Loreto-based Saddling South, an outfit that specialises in mule pack trips, and my guide to the Sierra de San Francisco mountains.
I shift into four-wheel drive, and we rumble past giant cactuses, sun-bleached cattle carcasses and rock art that dates back thousands of years. Such a landscape anywhere else would draw crowds. Out here, in the central badlands of Mexico’s dangling, north westerly peninsula, there’s no one in sight.
The above is the introduction to the story published in the National Geographic magazine. You can read the rest of Jason Motlagh’s story here National Geographic
BY JASON MOTLAGH PHOTOGRAPHS BY BALAZS GARDI
Getting there & around
To reach the state of Baja California Sur, transit in the US and fly onwards to either Cabo San Lucas, Loreto or La Paz. Popular transit hubs include Los Angeles and San Francisco, served by airlines including American Airlines.
Tour companies based around Loreto offer tours of the Sierra de la Giganta. Self-guided trips are possible (the town has numerous hire companies.
When to go
October to May is best, avoiding the heat of high summer. Daytime temperatures can reach 30C in autumn and spring, but can be as low as 5C at night in mid-winter, with little chance of rain throughout the season.