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Mexico - Baja California

Mulegé Cave Paintings

( Sightseeing / Archaeological Sites )

A Karen Brown Recommendation
Mulegé
BS
Mexico

If you are interested in prehistoric drawings, we recommend taking a day trip from Punta Chivato to Mulegé to see the cave paintings. The paintings, located on a private ranch, Rancho La Trinidad, approximately half-an-hour’s drive along a rugged dirt road, can be visited only with a private guide. Salvador Castro Drew, one of the two authorized tour guides, has as his base of operations (until he builds his own office) the Hotel Las Casitas in the center of Mulegé. The hotel is easy to find but, for an additional fee, Salvador will pick you up at the Posada de Las Flores in Punta Chivato. Wherever you rendezvous with Salvador, you will have to stop in town at the government offices as they require that individuals register and show proof of identification before being allowed to access to the caves. You also have to pay a small fee per camera (30 pesos at the time of our visit). For this excursion, you wear comfortable shoes and pack binoculars and bottled water.
Salvador offers a variety of tours of different lengths. We recommend that you request the abbreviated version of his full-day trip—four hours should be ample. Your first stop is at an organic citrus farm, then you enter the boundaries of the Rancho La Trinidad, which encompasses 5,500 beautiful acres and produces goat and cattle for cheese, milk, beef, and leather products. The next stop is to explain and identify the various plants and cacti (some of which are incredibly 400 years old) before continuing on to where, seasonally (April through September), you can observe goat cheese production, as well as the making of lassos and whips, and the process of tanning leather. A final stop is at the caretaker’s cottage where you must register once again. Then it is just a short distance to where you park and begin a hike on a trail that climbs up over boulders and the barriers of an old dam into the beauty of the red-rock canyon. In about 20 minutes, you come to an open cave where the paintings date back to the Neolithic period—some 1,500 to 4,500 years B.C. This area was later home to the Cochimies Indians. It is incredible that these prehistoric paintings are unprotected, left just as they were when first discovered—the only restriction is that one stand at least 3 meters from the paintings. Salvador provides an interesting narration of the history and explanation of the various paintings and their significance. You see fish, deer, children’s handprints, and warriors painted in hues of red, black, and white. It is possible from here to journey farther up the canyon to view more cave drawings (although the first are considered the best) and even swim in a high mountain reservoir, but we suggest returning to the van and using the time to see some rock etchings. Salvador will point out to you the first of what turns out to be many etchings—fish, turtles, warriors, animals—carved in boulders above a dry riverbed. Salvador Castro Drew can be reached directly at P.O. Box No. 9, 23900 Mulegé, B.C.S., Mexico; tel: 615-153-0232. Price for a four-hour tour is about $50 per person. Note: There are other caves to visit, many which are found in remote canyons through the sierras of Baja, and many of which were discovered by the famous naturalist, Harry Crosby. Said to rival the paintings of Lascaux in France and Altamira in Spain, one of the most stunning is the huge mural at Cueva La Pintada in the overhanging rocks in the Cañon de Santa Teresa. Ten meters high and stretching for over 160 meters, the mural is of mystic animals and stylized people with hands extended into the sky. You might also want to consider traveling to San Ignacio, which is central to the majority of the cave paintings. Pictographs are found in caves and arroyos north of San Ignacio. It is possible to arrange tours from Guerrero Negro to an area called the Sierra de San Francisco, named as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993. In each case the access is rugged—not for the casual archaeologist—and you must always have a guide and a permit, a government regulation designed to protect these precious relics of the past.

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