The first thing that artists and photographers will notice as they drive into the fishing village of Asunción is the quality of light. Their art is a perfect media for capturing the experience. A writer, on the other hand, has to work a little harder using words to recreate a sense of this light, so rarefied it appears to literally shimmer. Asunción's local artist, Nancy Pridham, attributes this to the fact that the Pacific air is fresh and free of pollutants from industrial complex and main roads. So, I might say the air itself is free to shine in Asunción.
Until most recently the road from Vizcaino to Asunción was a washboard challenge and subject to all weather conditions. I had usually bypassed the turn off, usually on my way to Mulege, but I always wondered what it would be like. The road, now paved, has long stretches of easy driving and is enjoyable enough, only hampered by occasional road work. The drive to the coast is an open vast plain with periodic salt flats along the way. I do admit to wondering if I was ever going to get there. If you are in search of a new adventure, take the road to Asunción, you will be rewarded. For others who have already discovered this hidden gem they return again and again or, as some have, stayed to start a new life.
A Pemex is under construction just as you enter town. Still the folks who live in Asunción are proud of their one gas pump that has furnished petrol for decades. After the long drive in from Highway 1, I totally understood. Right across the street from the old pump is a modern chat room, bringing everyone online. A windswept road runs through the quiet community. It may be surprising to find a hospital in such a small pueblo, but medical care is first rate with a doctor on staff, available 24/7, ambulance service and emergency response Medevac flights to larger hospitals. The little stores are well maintained, given that deliveries come from so far away. Hidden off the main road is Tacos Don Ramon. By far, the best shrimp tacos found anywhere on the Baja peninsula. It has something to do with the fresh shrimp cooked to perfect tenderness, but also the unique toppings that include sesame seeds marinated in olive oil. To die for! The town supports their youth by helping them develop their surfing skills. When they are good enough they are supported financially to attend state wide competition. A modern baseball field with AstroTurf is another expression of local pride. The friendly atmosphere all over town suggests the community is doing well, even in these economic times.
The reason for their more stable economy is due to a very strong fishing cooperative. The whole town's survival depends on a common front to protect their way of life. Because of this vigilant group, watching out for their livelihood by protecting against poaching and polluters, these are clean waters and the fish are abundant. Abalone fishing is still a thriving business here, but with very strict regulations. Anglers are welcomed and can hire experienced guides for a day and many do go the extra mile to fish these pristine waters.
With light that shimmers and a paint brush that can capture the invisible, there would have to be an artist. Nancy Pridham has been a painter for 30 years and has shown her work from Vancouver to Sausalito and Carmel to, more recently, Los Cabos Amber Gallery. As well as capturing the Asunción light, Nancy fashions art from metals found on the back roads and beaches. Straight out of her imagination and with a whimsical flair she uses rusted bed springs, causing her sculptures to come alive with movement. Galería Bahía is opened by appointment.
The light bounces off the quiet azure waters of Bahía Asuncion, beckoning the beachcomber to long stretches of uninhabited beach. The clarity of the water makes snorkeling and diving a joy. While on the Pacific side around the point the open water is perfect for surfing and wind sailing. Low tide exposes the volcanic rocks and offers hours of peering into the tiny world of tide pools. Southern Baja summers can be extremely hot. Asuncion is a good destination in Baja for the sweltering summer months as the wind is fresh off the warm waters of the Pacific and the temperatures just right for water sports of all kind. There are pet friendly rentals and space for Rvs on the beach for weeks of rest and play. It can't get any better than this “under the Asuncion sun."
A bit of wanderlust and map mania teased me to try a different route south to Abreojos along the Pacific. The dirt road was well graded all the way to Puenta Prieta and my old Taurus had no problem. From that point on I was in way over my head and found myself sand-sledding through the dunes following the telephone poles as my only hope of finding the road again. I can now say I have been there and done that and with a rueful smile suggest this would be great fun for ATV fans; the arroyos are truly frightening. Ah, adventure for adventure's sake. Baja does seem to bring it out in people.
Boat photo of a painting by Nancy Pridham