When I booked our trip to Rancho la Puerta, a spa/retreat in Baja California, Mexico a few months back, it was under the assumption that it would be the most vacation-like vacation of my life. I pictured it in my mind as a soft, full-page ad in a magazine, full of promises that I have never desired in a travel destination until recently: stress-free relaxation, time away to rebalance and reconnect with oneself, and an embarrassing heap of lavish, bourgeoisie pampering.
Typically, when I travel I want to see, eat, and do it ALL. I research profusely. I make lists and print out maps. I Google photos of the landscapes, plants, and cityscapes that are available to be seen. I dream of the photos I will take. I spend hours picking and choosing my camera gear carefully, only to change it all up at the last minute and then I wear myself thin, schlepping five cameras, lenses, rolls of film, and first aid supplies (be prepared!) up melting, tropical asphalt roads that no local would be foolish enough to ascend in the midday heat. Somehow, I always end up in the hottest locations at the most punishing times of the day. I enjoy being in and around the ocean, but I am not a relax on a blanket with a pulpy novel and a Mai Tai kind of traveler. I don’t even know what a Mai Tai is other than a vacation drink that comes with a tiny straw. [I am Googling it now].
I travel under the assumption that I may never get back to this part of the world again and I had better make it count. Thailand was the first trip that tested and then quickly destroyed my travel stamina, but it was massive sleep deprivation and allergies to several common Thai cuisine ingredients that did me in. A week laying about reading books, eating healthy, and hiking in fresh air, while also being treated to luxurious spa treatments and body pampering? Please. I half expected to stumble out of there at the week’s end on an uber-rested natural high, if not slightly bored.
But I was never bored. In fact, I could have gone another week without any of the zillions of activities on offer and have been sufficiently entertained and delighted just taking daily walks through the 3000 acres landscape. There was so much to see!
As we neared our destination, I grew eager for the sights of the desert, my excitement buoyed by the wildflower and birdwatching guides available on the ranch website. I stepped off of the bus with a list of expectations, but what I was not prepared for were the immediate, intense smells: a cup of fresh lemon verbena tea; rosemary bushes as high as my elbows; the sweetness of flowering trees caught by the breeze; salvias previously known only as pictures in books and others that I had never heard of before.
Both the landscaping on the property of Rancho la Puerta and the surrounding acres of coastal Baja California desert chaparral are full of resinous, luscious smelling herbs that move around the property with you. Over time I came to understand that the smell is so intense and alive because the plants bake in the warm desert sun, but there were still moments when I was sure that so much smell couldn’t be natural and that the ranch had installed hidden aromatherapy machines, not unlike the quaint music they hide in the bushes at Disney World to heighten your experience. Coming home to a frozen winter climate that is deprived of scent (other than the spray left behind by the neighbourhood pack of feral cats), it is those morning walks into a potpourri world that I miss most.
I have so much to show and tell of the plants, wildlife, gardens, and landscapes I enjoy at the ranch over our week there. Here’s a few to get started.
More images and observations to come.
Please note: Our week at this spa, including all services were hosted/sponsored by the folks at Rancho la Puerta. All opinions, images, perspectives, experiences, and text are mine.