After this morning's whale adventure, it is actually refreshing to get in the car for the quick 4 hour drive to Mulegé. The scenery remains breathtaking and about every five minutes someone will exclaim--I can't believe I touched a whale! And you did! Way to go!
Now we are crossing the Baja Penninsula from the Pacific Coast to the Sea of Cortez, passing through (you guessed it!) more desert. The scenery on this leg of the trips changes a bit from the typical desert scenes we have seen thus far to dramatic fields of boulders.
Additionaly, there are some beautiful mountains and old volcanos on display. Plus, some spectacularly steep and narrow highway curves, enjoy!
You will be rewarded during this thrill ride by the stunning Tres Vírgenes Volcanos.
And next by the stunning Sea of Cortez.
The first town you pass through on the gulf side is Santa Rosalía. Never mind the ancient remnants of industry as you enter town; this is not your final destination. It is a good opportunity, however, to familiarize yourself with the smattering of beer stands you will begin to come across. Sadly, there is not a Bohemia Obscura in sight, but this far South, the lighter beers are more refreshing anyways.
I am partial to Modeloramas on account of their fun name, and because I like Modelo in a can, but there are Tecate shops, too. Ask for your brews 'con heilo' (with ice) and you will receive either a bag or a box with your requested beers and a nice scoop of ice, perfect for the beach! This ice is usually meant to just keep your beers cold, so don't use it for your cocktails, OK? Unless, of course, they are iodine cocktails.
The small village of Mulegé is set back a bit from the sea and surrounded by a lush oasis.
You will also find a lovely old Misión here.
All this beauty aside, let's be real: this is where we eat our first Almejas Chocolatas (chocolate clams) of the trip.
Chocolate clams are a specialty of the area and you are about to see why. Typically, clams are not my first choice for raw shellfish, except when here. In Mulegé, and throughout this region, you can find these clams prepared in a myriad of ways with the constant being they are absolutely pristine and fresh. Chocolate clams are sweet, tender, buttery and only a little chewy with a beautiful chocolate brown shell and flesh which spreads out onto both halves and tastes of the sea. There is also an interesting bright red 'foot' which is similarly tender.
This thatch hut has prepared several meals for me which have all been amazing. The specialty here are shellfish cocktails and if you are lucky enough to have them shuck your clams to order you are indeed in for a treat. We ordered a medium cocktail with chocolate clams and 'callo' (scallops) for about 5$. So delicious was this cocktail, we vowed to return for another. The clams here are so fresh with just a bit of pleasant chew and the scallops so small and tender, they melt in your mouth. This clamato was tangy and bright with cilantro, had good crunch from a bit of onion and just a tiny bite from the specks of jalapeño.
We scooped up big bites of our cocktail on tostadas and saltines and added a squeeze of lime and a dollop of hot sauce, the house made version being an obvious favorite. Still, we tried out all the different bottles for fun.
We also ordered a few fish tacos, our first of the trip. Plus a scallop taco for research purposes. The portion of fish was a little skimpy but it was nicely fried and the batter was crunchy and perfectly seasoned. The scallop taco seemed to use strips cut from larger scallops and was a little too crispy and a bit dry. I wish they'd have used the same tiny guys we enjoyed in out cocktail. All in all, though, this was a tasty and affordable meal.
On our second visit we tried the shrimp taco and it served us well. Two large shrimp in that same perfect breading, crunchy, hot and juicy, I thought this to be much better than the scallop. This time we received a 'campachana' instead of the 'cocktail' we ordered. Campachana is similar in the shellfish, but is prepared in it's own juice and you add ketchup and other seasonings to taste. Many people prefer this style and you will often see folks order a cocktail and a campachana to share. We preferred our shellfish cocktail style in clamato, but in both the seafood is pristine, so no big deal, you know?
Cocteles y Mariscos Kaluly is situated very near the river and was a quick walk from both our hotel and to the mission. I have had the pleasure of eating here many times and ate here twice on this trip, the first being the more memorable and not just because we received the cocktail. I believe our late in the day arrival required freshly shucked clams whereas on our second visit they may have been pre shucked. You can't blame them for needing a head start! They are really fresh either way so eat up!