Wandering the Valle de Guadalupe we decide to turn east toward the small village, central to the region, of El Porvenir. This is a parallel route to Mex 3 passing through the other side of the valley.
We passed by a few places that promised wood fired pizza, a rowdy but shaded park with a pool wild with shouting children, and one after another campistra-style restaurants. A few kilometers later were out of town and back into farmland, with blue signs pointing this way and that to the caves, restaurants, and tourist lodgings.
We turned off the main road onto another dusty dirt road when we saw the sign for Finca Altozano, our destination, crossing an arroyo that we could not have managed without our Baja-ized Tacoma. (I suppose most vehicles enter from Mex 3 which is easier if you only have a 2WD.)
Locals on 4x4s and dirt bikes were enjoying the challenge of slipping and sliding in the sandy, rocky arroyo and we longed for our KTMs, which were unfortunately still down in Mulege. There are plenty of dirt roads we could explore on our bikes, Jonathan said, and as long as we didn’t drink the wine, or too much wine, we could check out all these places that much faster.
But the Valle de Guadalupe is for lingering, as we would soon discover.
soon appeared and we entered via an optimistically vast parking lot, sliding up beside a Mercedes Sprinter labeled Volkswagen that ejected trendily-attired Mexican tourists, the Millenniasl all sporting fedoras.
We tried to take photos of Finca from every angle to capture its ambiance, but none of them do it justice. It is like being on a friend’s patio—a friend with a farm and a large barbeque and a staff to bake bread and cook delicious small dishes and pour exquisite local wine and beers. The smoked food out of the grill was too delicious, we learn more here about food than in the last year at home with our cook books. A friend with really good taste in music, like ambient trance meets jazz and blues, but not too loud so only after a half hour of gazing out on the farm you realize that you’re grooving to some sound as you sip a cold, mineraly, chardonnay from grapes that came from just over there, beyond the tower where a few people are lounging on pillows inside a giant wine cask, taking in the view.
Across a wide empty stretch of earth in front of a slight rise there’s a stage that that’s used for concerts, says our waiter. Hence the vast parking lot, I think. Our waiter, who manages not to speak much English yet still make himself understood, says that the concerts are suave, and does a slow little dance with his head.
The pulpo (octopus) is marinated in lime and orange juice with a secret ingredient, a little gin, says our suave waiter. It is the tenderest pulpo we have ever, ever sampled. There is a meaty, pulpo broth with a finely-chopped cilantro and we soak it up with hunks of bread the type of which I have never tasted outside of Italy, its crust hard and crunchy and the inside moist and rich.
Did I mention the oysters? They come from San Quintin, where we often stay on our way to Baja Sur. The valley, it seems, is at the perfect crux of land and sea.
After lunch we stroll the property admiring the architecture. Many places in the valley feature an ingenious and unique mix of ancient and industrial. Here, corrugated aluminum walls are the backdrop for a rock garden of cacti and succulents of various shapes. The bare bones of tree branches are hung from the ceiling, creating texture that is most probably at its loveliest at night with the lights strung through.
The garden is lush with salad greens, herbs, beets, chard and all the vegetables that are on the menu. Beyond that is the chicken coop and then the pigsty where half a dozen specimens frolicked in porcine gaity, crowding one another out of mud holes, one even lolling in the watering trough, much to the consternation of its cousin.
On our way out we noticed that there is a B&B across the road and we stopped to check it out. La Casita del Companario, is a gated property with five rooms and a casita starting at $80 per night. We thought, what a great location for a group of motorcyclists, with Finca across the way and all, so you can drink and walk back. Simple, clean, and centrally located, it gets a wholehearted thumbs up.
Heading south again to join Highway 3, the Ruta, we passed by Campera Hotel Burbuja, ten casitas encased in space capsules and separated by hay bales. These twelve 215 square-foot “glamping” units were designed in France and feature clear round roofs so you can stargaze in the comfort of your bed for about $200/night. Adjoining is their “short” golf course—9 holes with par threes ranging from 66 to 175 yards.
We passed Laja, the original gourmet farm-to-table restaurant in the valley, and set it in our minds to try next time, and then, before turning east onto Highway 3, stopped to buy olives, olive oil, and honey from a man named Raoul from his rickety stand at the side of the road. We looked longingly at the small, round watermelons he was also selling, but it’s forbidden to cross the border with fresh fruit. At home we would discover that the olive oil we spent just a few dollars on is far superior to the pricey bottle we bought from an Italian oil importer. Likewise, the honey, which truly tastes of flowers.
An hour later we stopped at the vendor stand where a woman sells cold drinks to the line of vehicles waiting to cross the border. Well, we were the only ones at the border, so we stopped in the empty road to give her a banana and an apple leftover from our trip. She smiled her nearly-toothless smile at the banana, the apple would have to go to someone else, I suppose, and pulled up to the border guard.
He told us to remove our sunglasses and asked us where we’d been and what we’d bought. Our two-liters of wine, we said (that’s the limit for California residents), plus olive oil and honey. He waved us through and we were back in the USA and another hour, back home again.