The El Marmor Onyx Mine is an abandon open pit mine from the 50s/60s. The onyx was hauled by truck to the Baja coast where they would load the rock into small fishing boats and then use the small boats to transport the onyx to a large ship. The ships would then take the onyx to California to be cut, polished and sold. At the mine there is the ruins of an old school house that has 3 foot thick walls made of onyx. There is also an open well and ruins of other buildings. Our camping spot was at 2200’ elevation, so it did get a bit cold at night.
We left the mine at about 9:45 am, after letting some air out of the van’s tires. When we travel on the highway I keep the tire air pressure at 60 front/80 rear. This is the recommended pressure for the weight of our van. It is good for the highway, but is very stiff and rough if there is a rough road. When we are on dirt roads, if we lower the pressure, the van will ride much better, especially on wash-boarded roads. At the mine I lowered the pressure to 40/55 psi.
With lower tire pressure the ride back to the highway was a little smoother. Once on the highway we continued south east across the Baja peninsula. The main highway is highway 1. It goes along the coast from Tijuana down to El Rosario, and then it turns east and heads towards the Gulf coast. Our camp was not quite halfway across the peninsula. About 10 miles from where we got back on the highway, we stopped at a cave that had some pictographs in a small cave. It was about 1/4 mile walk from the parking area to the cave. We also met a young couple that was traveling Baja in a van. They were from Springdale, UT, down by Zions NP.
Frenchie Telling the History of the Area
Most of the Group
Starting at the cave we entered a Mexico national park. It was a scenic area of granite boulders and lots of cacti. It was quite pretty. There are many varieties of cacti that we have not seen before. It is a little too early to see the flowers bloom, but it was interesting to see all the variation in the plants. There are a lot of Cardon cacti that are 50-60 feet tall, and from a distance it looks like a forest of pine trees on the mountains, but they are cacti. We learned that a 50’ Cardon cactus is probably 500 years old.
We stopped for lunch in a small town called Catavina. There was a very nice hotel out in the middle of nowhere. The restaurant was more expensive than our lunch the day before, but it was a full sit-down restaurant. Eva had a beef taco plate and I had avocado stuffed with shrimp. Both meals were very good. It cost about $18 for both our meals. There was a small grocery store across the highway and I ran over and bought some bananas.
After lunch we backtracked about 3-4 miles and turned off the highway into an arroyo. An arroyo is Spanish for a dry wash. We lowered our tire pressure again as we were going to be on dirt road for the next 3-4 days. I lowered them to 32/45 psi (cold). After a few miles in the arroyo, we joined up with at dirt road that was not too rough. This dirt road would take us south-west, across the peninsula to the Pacific coast. This road took us through the mountains and the cactus forests. We drove for about 2-1/2 hours until we stopped for camp.
Night 2 Camp
After setting up camp we collected dead cactus skeletons for firewood. I thought this wood would burn too fast, but it was amazing how well the fire burned. The skeletons were a very hard fiber, and were very dry. It burned long and hot. Since they were so dry, there was very little smoke. We sat around the fire that night and talked. We also learned a new trick. This wood made very nice coals, so we put a shovel full of coals beneath our chairs, and that worked real well to warm you, from the bottom up. We were in bed around 9:30 pm.
Cero or Bujum Cactus