My final days of 2013 were spent enjoying the sun and sea in Baja California. I started my journey in Tijuana and traveled to Cabo Pulmo, a marine preserve with an untouched coral reef near the southern tip of the peninsula. Then I headed north and welcomed 2014 in La Paz before returning home. The places I visited are mapped and listed below. Highlights of the trip included camping on the beach, sea kayaking to offshore islands in the Sea of Cortez, hiking through narrow slot canyons, snorkeling at Cabo Pulmo, and eating fish tacos daily.
|1||Tijuana, Mexico||20 Dec 2013|
|2||Ensenada, Mexico||21 Dec 2013|
|3||San Ignacio, Mexico||22 Dec 2013|
|4||Playa Escondida, Mexico||23 Dec 2013|
|5||Loreto, Mexico||27 Dec 2013|
|6||Todos Santos, Mexico||28 Dec 2013|
|7||Cabo Pulmo, Mexico||29 Dec 2013|
|8||La Paz, Mexico||31 Dec 2013|
|9||Mulege, Mexico||02 Jan 2014|
|10||Santa Rosalía, Mexico||02 Jan 2014|
|11||Cataviña, Mexico||03 Jan 2014|
Before starting my Baja California adventure, I visited San Diego for 1.5 days. My favorite attractions were the Maritime Museum, USS Midway Aircraft Carrier, Old Town, and Pacific Beach. Sightseeing in San Diego was a fine way to spend my final days of 2013 in the USA.
The Way of Saint James (El Camino de Santiago in Spanish) is a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, where the remains of the apostle Saint James are believed to be buried. Since the Middle Ages, European pilgrims have started at their homes and walked one of the many routes to Santiago de Compostela. Today, the most popular route is The French Way, a 500-mile journey beginning in southwestern France.
I’ve wanted to trek The French Way since watching the movie The Way a couple of years ago. Last year The Idaho Statesman interviewed Kurt Koontz, a Boise native that completed the journey and self published a book about his experience. Titled A Million Steps, the book is a travelogue about his trek and the connections he makes with other pilgrims. Kurt’s friendly nature makes the book enjoyable to read. I moved The Way further up on my bucket list after reading A Million Steps. I highly recommend this book–especially if you want to trek The Way someday.
The final destination of my three week adventure was La Paz, Bolivia. It’s an attractive city with abundant colonial architecture surrounded by modern buildings. I spent hours exploring the market-filled streets, including the unusual Witches’ Market. I departed Bolivia from the El Alto International Airport, the highest international airport in the world.
Copacabana is located on the Bolivian shore of Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America and the highest navigable lake in the world. It’s a small, quaint town with a Moorish-style cathedral near the central square. A nearby island, Isla de Sol, is the birthplace of Inca civilization. I spent a day on the historic island hiking and exploring the Chincana ruins.
My last day in Peru, I rode a boat on Lake Titicaca to the floating reed islands of Uros. The Uros people construct the islands from totora reeds and anchor the islands to the bottom of the lake with sticks and rope. The islanders fish, hunt birds, and sell handicrafts to visitors. Around fifteen of the forty-two islands are visited by tourists. Most of the homes have solar panels to power lighting and small appliances.
Cuzco was the capital of the Inca Empire and is South America’s oldest continuously inhabited city. Inca-built walls line the central streets and many of the Spanish colonial buildings are built on Inca foundations. Before hiking the Inca Trail, I spent a day in Cuzco acclimating to the altitude (11,200 feet) and wandering the city’s streets. After the hike I visited the city’s museums, my favorite being the Casa Concha Museum. This museum is dedicated to the history of Machu Picchu and houses artifacts taken from the site by Hiram Bingham during his excavation in 1912. (If you’re interested in learning about Machu Picchu, I highly recommend reading Turn Right at Machu Picchu.)