Baja California, Sur, Mexico! Yet another Mexican state on this voyage. We arrived to Guerrero Negro on Thanksgiving Day. A date with significance to very few of the residents of this town! We drove through and took a look around at the city commerce which seemed to be bustling. We settled on a place to park for the night and went out for our own Thanksgiving special. Two scoops of ice cream on a waffle cone from Thrifty Ice Cream. YUMMY!
And there in RV parking lot we spotted the beautiful Mercedes-Benz rig we had seen on the road in Punta Banda. And of course, Mike wanted to say hello. We met the nice folks and learned that they are Canadians who own a campground near Quebec City. They are also on a three-month exploration of Baja- and they were going to tour the salt factory in the morning. We gave them a sticker and made arrangements to join them for the tour in the morning.
When we arrived at the front office of the salt factory we learned that there had been some confusion. Tours are supposed to be booked off-site with local tour guides using their tourist vans and arranged the day prior. However, we stayed fast to our desire for a tour and before long the papers were being prepared and our two vehicles would be permitted to enter the plant for a custom tour. A guide was sent up front, and he climbed in the front seat of our van. Of course, according to the “Rules of Mango” if you are in the front seat you must hold her in your lap and scratch her periodically. No exceptions.
The tour was fascinating. We drove along salt bed roadways in between pools of evaporating salt water. We learned that the guide has been working here for 28 years and knows every job on site. We also learned that the company is owned 51% by the Mexican government and 49% by Mitsubishi Corporation. He quizzed us about the industrial uses of salt (and we did poorly) for which 98% of this is exported to China, Japan and Korea for glass, auto parts and technology parts.
The manufacturing process involves letting ocean water into the 4 huge drying beds and then waiting for evaporation to occur. It takes about 1.5 years for a bed to fully evaporate, but they begin scraping the edges and processing it within about one year.the processing section, where they are dumped in 45 seconds and run through a chemical cleaning process. Then loaded onto ships and sent to sea. There is so much activity here that the plant is open 18 hours a day and the employees work in 6 hour shifts to maintain the pace.
We posed in front of some huge salt crystals and also in front of Everest, the name of the mountain of salt that is waiting to be loaded on the ships, as did our new friends. We captured images of the equipment, and movies of it working. We learned a great deal about salt production at Guerrero Negro. If you are interested, I understand that a movie was made about this. Perhaps you can find it with some research.
We also stopped to see the oldest church on the Baja, in San Ignacio. This church was completed in 1759. The church is HUGE in scale and proportion. It is made with lava rocks from the nearby hills. The altar area is painted in gold with beautiful, dark frescos of religious scenes. The ceiling has cupolas with angels hanging in them and each corner has a different gargoyle. The walls, doorways and floors show the wear of many generations of worshippers passing through.
In front of the church we met some other travelers. An older man and his adult son who travel in a Suzuki Samurai and have been in many exotic (and some dangerous) locations. His son has Down’s Syndrome and is a swimmer with Special Olympics and speaks German, English and Thai. The father is applying for Guinness Book of World Records for his son’s accomplishment in swimming in so many major bodies of water as a person with a disability. (Tigres, Euphrates, Red Sea, Dead Sea, Caspian Sea, Nile, etc, etc) But the record book has no category for people with a disability so he is urging them to start one. He told tales of travel in Kazakhstan and Egypt and more. It was an interesting story, which unfolded from two curious characters who have led well-traveled lives. We pondered this conversation for many miles afterwards.