One of the first places on the Mission Trail

By JOHN M. DERBY
TIMES PUBLISHER
March 30, 2017

Nestled in a valley among the date palms is one of the first of the missions built on the Mission Trail which starts in Baja California, Mexico, and continues all the way up the U.S. coast of California.
The mission is called San Jose de Comondu, built in 1707, and located 650 miles south of the border. At one time it was considered for the capital of the state of Baja California Sur.
Far off the beaten path, the mission is fairly difficult to get to, and so we had never attempted the trip in our past 18 years in Mexico.
Three couples from Posada Conception set out in four-wheel drive vehicles on an adventure to see the Mission. It would be a three-day trip from the comfort of our home in Posada and we had no idea what to expect.
Our first night would be in San Juanico, a coastal town known as one of the best surfing beaches in all of Baja. It took almost the entire first day just to get to San Juanico, as it is located on the west coast of Baja, and there are only few roads crossing the Baja peninsula.
San Juanico is an active town with several nice restaurants and hotels. It also has a co-op for lobster fishermen and their pangas line the beach. We were tired when we arrived and the cold winds were coming from the ocean so we tucked in early after a dinner which took forever.
We finally complained after a two-hour wait and we were told they had run out of gas. Finally the meal arrived which was good, but by then we were starved and would have eaten boot leather with salt had it been served.
Our hotel was expensive by Mexican standards at $125 a night, even though it included a marvelous breakfast the following morning.
Up at the crack of dawn the group was ready to take on the new day and after exploring the town of San Juanico and the beautiful beach, we headed on to La Parisma which was the jump off place where the paved road stopped and the dirt road started.
It would be 28 miles of paved road and 30 miles of dirt road to the mission from San Juanico. We expected to cover the distance by lunch time and head on to San Javier Mission, another one on the original mission trails. In the same Baja region, the Jesuits established their first mission — Nuestra Señora de Loreto Concho — in 1697 in Loreto.
La Parisma had not changed much in the past 10 years since we were last there. A sleepy little town off the tourist trail which had not grown in population and just seemed to carry on with the families who lived there and worked in the sugar cane business and also the rare maker of Patate (woven cane mats used in construction in this area of Mexico).
Parisma is probably one of the most beautiful settings in southern Baja, with a nice river and majestic mountain adding to the scenic beauty.
But we were on a mission, and it was time to move on as we were burning daylight. We still had no idea how rough the road would be from La Parisma, and it started out a six on a scale of 10. Before long it was down to a four, and eventually would be a two in places where a grader had rebuilt the road since the last rain storm.
The 30 miles seemed to take forever and any suggestion that we would make it to San Javier Mission by the days end was forgotten. All we wanted to see was the Mission San Jose De Comondu, and we would be happy.
“Do you think there is a place to stay at the Mission San Jose De Comondu?” one of the group asked. We had been told there was, but had no idea what it was like because the person had not stayed overnight. Our group was not prepared for camping out.
It was almost 3 p.m. by the time we reached Mission San Jose De Comondu and that was after driving though part of the river bed. Lucky we had four wheel drive. The mission town was not big and half the buildings were crumbling down, however, the mission itself was very well maintained.
We walked inside and it was like drawing back the curtain of ages past. Walls were 4-feet thick, made of local stone, and the high-arched ceiling looked down on a beautiful alter with Christ on the Crucifix. This was the original location, but for some reason a second mission was constructed only two kilometers away and we were told that the only hotel was located there.
We pressed on and found a bigger town with a newer mission, and on the same street the hotel which we had been looking for. We rented three of the six rooms it had available. We were the only ones staying at the Hotel Don Maria. Cost $60 a night and the rooms were new and had all the modern conveniences such as air conditioning and television.
The manager told us that if we wished to have dinner that evening, it should be ordered now. This seemed to mean that the food for dinner would have to be bought specially for us and it would take some time for preparation.
After the previous night we were ready to order ahead of time. The meal was excellent and the atmosphere was surreal.
We slept well and headed home having achieved our mission.
FOOTNOTE: To our surprise the map showed a dotted line road which turned out to be a perfectly paved road which bypassed La Parisma, heading southwest to Insurgentes. It took less than half an hour to make the 30 miles which had taken three hours the day before.


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