Baja, Sea of Cortez to Mission San Fernando, April 17th 2001.

The Enchanted Islands are all very close together and we could have paddled past all of them in one easy day. Since there were no more islands to explore, we decided to start back home early and do some land based exploring instead. Konstantin said that he has been to Baja many times to kayak but has never had time to explore things on the land. Sid has spent time exploring some places in Baja and wanted to go back and show them to us.

We paddled down the mainland back to Punta Bufeo past a long line of summer houses along the beach. There is a road along the shore here that runs up to San Felipe. Apparently a lot of US citizens have leased land here and built houses between the road and the beach. In some places these houses were clustered together like houses in a subdivision. Why would someone try so hard to get away from it all just to get back to a crowded strip of houses again?

Soon we were back at Punta Bufeo and packed our gear in my truck. We drove out to Bahia Gonzaga and discovered that you can buy gasoline there! Counting a five gallon can that I had filled up in El Rosario, we probably had enough gas to get back to El Rosario again. But it was close and there wouldn’t be any spare for exploring. Filling the tank again at Gonzaga meant that we could relax and take a few side trips.

The first side trip that we took was to an onyx mine nine kilometers down a side road from Highway One west of Catevenia. Onyx is the material that you used to find chess sets carved out of in cheep tourist places. Apparently it has been replaced by cheaper plastic materials and the mine is abandoned. The school, made out of onyx stones, is collapsed and missing its roof. I wonder if the sun used to be able to shine through the onyx walls when the school was in use. The “mine” is a huge area of churned up soil. Apparently there was a layer of onyx close to the surface. It was drilled, blasted, and churned up to the surface were it could be cut into smaller pieces and hauled away. We walked around through the devastated land and picked up small pieces. I took those home to run through my tumbler and find out what they look like polished.

Our next stop was the Mission San Fernando. The mission was abandoned hundreds of years ago and is just a few vertical walls of mud still standing in the middle of a mound of adobe. We drove past it late in the day and continued down the narrow dirt road looking for a place to camp. We camped in an arroyo near a petroglyph site that Sid knew about. It was late in the day and we saved the petroglyphs and the mission for the next morning. I looked through the leftovers from my camping food and designed a menu.

Ingredients: One bag of success rice, a few tablespoons of olive oil, one tablespoon of sesame oil, one medium onion, a small handful of dried mushrooms, a few tablespoons of pine nuts, a half a cup or so of mirin (Japanese cooking wine), a splash of soy sauce, and a half a package of “A Taste of Thai” brand Thai Peanut Dressing mix. At one time I was under the mistaken impression that this “Taste of Thai” mix comes from the same company that makes the “Tasty Bite” Indian food pouches that kayakers are fond of taking camping.

I boiled water, threw in the success rice and brought it to a boil again. The instructions say that you have to simmer it for 10 minutes, but at Konstantin’s suggestion I just set the pot aside for 20 minutes off the burner. I cut the onion up and started sautéing it in olive oil flavored with a little sesame oil. I added some dried mushrooms that I only re-hydrated for a half an hour or so, longer would have been better. I added the pine nuts when the onions were starting to turn clear (just to brown the pine nuts a little). I poured in some mirin and soy sauce and let it cook down until it started to thicken up. I added some more mirin and then sprinkled the peanut dressing mix over everything and stirred it until it started to thicken up again. A whole package of Success Rice looked like too much so I gave half of it to Sid for his dinner and poured the rest into the sauce and stirred it until the rice was evenly coated. Use a slightly larger onion, add some more mushrooms, re-hydrated red bell peppers, or other vegetables, and the sauce will cover a whole package of success rice and should serve four people if you have other entrees to go with it. I expected a half a package of success rice to fill me and leave enough left over for breakfast. But it was SO GOOD that I ate it all right there! Konstantin and Sid both had a taste and agreed that it was a very good dish. And it was made from leftovers that I had carried in my kayak for the whole trip!

All text and images Copyright © 2001 by Mike Higgins / contact