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 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.)
A mudslide prevented me from entering Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate. Instead, we descended from Wiñay Wayna on the porter’s trail and walked along the railroad track to Aguas Calientes. After days of hiking, we rode a bus to Machu Picchu with the visitors arriving to Aguas Calientes by train. My disappointment dissipated after taking in the grandeur of Machu Picchu. The ancient city is stunningly located, perched high in the Andes with the river Urambama running through the gorge far below. The city consists of more than 200 buildings, and it was fascinating to imagine how it would have looked during the height of the Inca Empire.