“A bumpy road,” he said, the guy at the Chavez Motel in San Quintin. “The Borja Mission is on a bumpy road, but I went there in my motor home.”

Mikey went and looked up The Borja Mission, first in the Church book, Camping in Baja, then in the Lonely Planet book on Mexico. It was barely in the latter, not in the former.* Since there were supposed to be hot springs at the Borja Mission, we pointed Myrtle straight for it and surged forward.

Bumpy road”, my foot!

This road was “bumpy” like childbirth “hurts.” Let’s talk…

  •  Tooth-filling loosening
  • Organ re-arranging
  • Brain numbing
  • Kidney busting
  • Pee inducing

We had some literal hearts-in-our-mouth moments, when Myrtle was climbing up some road almost vertically, in 4×4, and I had to get out and guide because we couldn’t see ahead, for the stark drops and falls. And we were thinking, motor home?! That guy made that road in a motor home?! Unless his motor home was one of those adventure van things with full on 4×4 and high clearance, he was lying his ass off. No motor home could make that; we barely did.


another traveler in the desert
another traveler in the desert

Mikey and I got to joking about how the road was like a test of faith, right?, for the righteous, that you’d get all that way (and I’m talking about 2+ hours of crunching your teeth and feeling your intestines unwind) and then you’d get to a big sign, “JUST JOKING! NO HOT SPRINGS! BUT YOU SURE PASSED THE FAITH TEST!” mwahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!


Happily, they weren’t sadists and the place really was there.


We stumbled out and Mikey went over to find the scoop on camping while I nursed an extremely pissed off MacQuinn and contemplated the exquisite mesas which surrounded the Mission.

IMG_4481 IMG_4482

Mikey came back, said he met the family that lives there and that we were to move to the palapa up on the other side, so that’s what we did. The Mama came around to talk money. She wanted $25 a night. Mikey raised his eyebrows, took out his wallet and opened it and showed her all the money inside. He said (in Spanish, which I can’t quote) that that was all the money we had. He asked her if she would take less. She settled reluctantly for $20 a night.

The place was lovely.


Full on oasis, with date palms dripping with dates, grapes, pomegranites


DSC_0393 DSC_0369

Pools of water, both cold and warm

DSC_0394 DSC_0396 DSC_0397

They said that the pools had been there for hundreds of years – the lower portion – the upper portion was re-stacked more recently

IMG_4486 IMG_4494The family that lived there at the mission were evidently descendants of the Indians who lived there when the Mission was first built, in the 1700’s. There was Mom and Dad (- Dad had lived there his whole life), 5 kids (- all born there). 4 of the 5 kids attended the small school on site that used to exist; it shut down before #5 came – she never attended any school, she said. She was taught to read by her older sister, learned a thick slab of English from the visitors to the Mission, and was learning the ropes of the internet from good ole Facebook.

I asked her what she wanted to do, if she wanted to continue to live there, or if she wanted to move to the closest village, where her sister now lives (with her four kids, aged 10, 8, 4 and 2). She said she didn’t know, maybe she’d stay, maybe she wouldn’t. Noni is 20 years old.

with a photo of her family from the Mission

with a photo of her family from the Mission

I thought about when I was 20 – I had completed my bachelor’s degree and I was teaching second grade in Macau (which was still a Portuguese colony on a Chinese peninsula at the time). I knew exactly what I wanted, and I knew that because I had been exposed to a lot – I had traveled quite a bit by the time I was 20. I had lived on my own, I provided for myself, I was a hard cracker.

Options are more clear, I think, when you know what options might exist. I had been to the world by the time I was 20; she had had the world come to her, person by person, car by car.

Neither the path I followed or the one she is on is better, they are simply different.

But I thought about this a lot, and I am still thinking about it. Just how paths form, the paths we follow, the paths we choose in our lives. What makes “normal”, what makes “different”. What makes it possible for a deaf white American girl to teach second grade in Macau when she’s 20 years old and what makes it possible for a hearing Mexican girl to live on the land her family has tended for generations, and what would it be like for the situations to be reversed? For the Mexican girl to be teaching second grade in Macau and the deaf American girl to be tending the land her family has lived upon for generations (- which is a stretch in a country as young as America, but still).


I digress! I’m sorry. This happens, doesn’t it. Back to the Mission.

DSC_0314 DSC_0312

We walked all over the inside of the Mission, in and out and all around and it was truly a work of art.

DSC_0304 DSC_0300 DSC_0296


We were so grateful to be able to see it and experience its light

DSC_0307 DSC_0290

The old walls.

DSC_0323 DSC_0332 DSC_0334Steep stairs, on and out to the sunshine and a show of handmade crafts

DSC_0363 DSC_0354 DSC_0352

We stayed for two nights – all of our money! – and noone else came. We were alone. Noni came and stayed with us throughout the day – I thought it was because she was lonely and enjoyed the kids, but Mikey told me later that her father had sent her over. Ooops. That makes me wince. I wish I had known.

But her father also told Mikey that the place can get packed, especially during festivals. He said there are lots of people just hanging out, drinking, smoking and doing crystal but that he doesn’t like that because he’s “not Catholic”; he’s “Christian”. [insert expression of laughing incredulousness]


I have mixed feelings about our experience there. Yes, it was lovely. And it was freezing (- on par with snow-blanketed Lassen or Mammoth). The hot springs were either cold or lukewarm; not hot, so it was hard to really get warm when we were cold. But it was so lovely my eyes felt bathed in beauty, so it all evened out.

I think my own feelings of ambiguity lie more from the larger questions that spring from the delicate, uncertain line that exists when money is not equal, when friendship feels like it may be a commodity. When I can’t stop thinking the ‘what if’s, when privilege, disability, power and opportunity become tangled and all I want to do is unravel and understand them.


It actually was in the Church book – we found it after we had left.  ALSO NOTE – the ride from the Mission to Rosalita was nothing at all compared to the ride from Bahia Los Angeles. I believe the guy went in his motor home IF he went to and from Rosalita. Which is the way that any sane person would go.


Font Resize