San Isidro, La Purísima, and Comondú
Southwest of Mulegé, the Sierra de la Gigante range separates three fertile valleys from the Gulf coast. San Isidro, La Purísima, and Comondú are worth a visit if you want to experience a slice of Jesuit mission history and see a couple of present-day ranch communities in action. For many travelers, the desert and mountain scenery alone justifies the extra miles of off-road driving.
Surrounded by orchards, San Isidro (pop. 1,000) has several tienditas, a post office, Western Union, and café/taco stand, which seems to be open at random hours. There is also a church, clinic, and barrel gas. Aside from these services, the town offers little to warrant a lengthy stay. Continue on to La Purísima for a larger town with a colorful mission history.
Abundant freshwater and surrounding volcanic cliffs made the settlement of Cadegomó suitable for mission life. Padre Nicolás Tamaral established the Misión La Purísima Concepción de Cadegomó in 1720. The village was abandoned in 1822, and Mexican farmers revived it in the late 1800s. Many of the original date, citrus, and mango orchards survive today, along with the foundation ruins of the mission church (located a few kilometers north of town), which is now part of a private residence.
Services include Abarrotes Goruave as well as a minimarket, llantera, post office, pharmacy, and barrel gas at both ends of town.
Known collectively as Comondú, the twin towns of San José de Comondú and San Miguel de Comondú are beautiful rural communities with lively plazas and lots of architectural ruins from missionary times. Travelers are not commonly seen here, but you’ll be warmly welcomed if you visit.
The towns lie about three kilometers apart from each other and about 20 kilometers south of La Purísima. Date palms are abundant here; farmers also grow figs, mangoes, bananas, citrus, corn, grapes, and sugarcane.
First identified by Padre Julián de Mayorga as one of the early Jesuit mission sites in 1709, Misión San José de Comondú had several false starts, with its location and status changing from visita to mission and back again. Most ruins, including a stone church built in the 1750s, have been incorporated into newer buildings. San José has a small plaza lined with a number of historic stone and adobe buildings.
San Miguel has barrel gas, a post office, medical center, and limited groceries. At Restaurant Oasis (no tel., 8 A.M.–8 P.M. daily year-round, mains US$5–10), located a few meters south of the main plaza, inside the owner’s home, chef Martina serves regional dishes or whatever she happens to have on hand—which amounted to tortillas, avocados, beans, tomatoes, and cheese on a recent visit. She knows the area well and gives reliable directions.
The easiest route to La Purísima, San Isidro, and Comondú follows a paved road north from Ciudad Insurgentes and ends a few kilometers before La Purísima. From there, you can get to San Isidro, but the unpaved road to Comondú has been impassable since Hurricane John blew through in 2006.
You need to return to the paved road and look for the Comondú turnoff in Ejido Francisco Villa. This is a beautiful 40-minute drive through deep canyons, palm groves, and traditional ranchos. The unpaved road surface is suitable for just about any type of vehicle.
A more scenic (and shorter but not faster) approach to La Purísima departs from Mexico 1 at a turnoff south of Bahía Concepción (Km. 60). The branch that forks to Comondú is not recommended.
If you want to turn this side trip into a loop, you can head southeast from San José to San Javier and then on to Loreto; however, the road was in pretty bad shape at last check. The first 32 kilometers can take more than 90 minutes due to rocks and holes, but the scenery is awesome. The last 20 kilometers improve considerably, for a total driving time of around two hours and 15 minutes.
Aguila (tel. 800/824-8452, www.autotransportesaguila.com) buses travel once a day between Ciudad Insurgentes and La Purísima.
© Nikki Goth Itoi from Moon Baja, 9th Edition