Native Paipai and Kumiai Arts Descriptive Itinerary

Descriptive Itinerary


April 7: San Diego – Arrival Day
You may wish to arrive a day or two ahead. San Diego offers many sightseeing opportunities, and you will be fully rested for our adventure.

Sunday, Day 1
Our trip will begin with a 9:00 am meet up at a central location. Our chartered van will deliver us to the U.S./Tecate border. Tecate is a charming small town; crossing there avoids the hustle and hassle of Tijuana. Upon crossing, we will be met by our ranch host and transfer to their vehicles for the 1 ½ hour ride to our destination, Rancho La Bellota. On the way, we will stop at a supermarket for purchases of wine, beer, etc. if desired. We will arrive at the ranch, settle in, meet our pottery instructor, Daria Mariscal, and enjoy a delicious welcoming lunch. After lunch, we will dive right in with Daria, view examples, and begin our Native Clay Workshop. The Paipai are the only native people in Baja California who still produce pottery in the traditional way, without the use of a potter’s wheel or kiln. We’ll break for the day at 5:00, relax, and finish the day with a classic dinner of carne asada prepared by our host. After dinner, we can sample a premium tequila flight on the house. Our host has visited Tequila, Jalisco (where all spirits labeled “tequila” are made) and can share the process of creating fine tequila – lot of work goes into that golden libation!

Monday – Day 2
Early risers can wake up to coffee or tea and fresh baked muffins. Just wander into the kitchen after 7 am, grab a coffee mug and say “café por favor” and you’re all set. A full Mexican breakfast buffet will be served at 8:30 am each morning. Afterwards we will resume our clay workshop, continuing to hand build our pots with Daria’s careful guidance. We’ll learn coiling and “paddle and anvil” methods of producing forms. The process is engaging and relaxing, so we may not even notice when it’s time for lunch, but the old-fashioned triangle bell will ring around 12:30. We’ll return to the pots after enjoying our meal. BTW, there will be plenty of clay to make more than one project, so bring your ideas or be inspired by Daria…either way, you’ll have several wonderful items to bring home from your journey. At the end of this session, we’ll take a short walk up the canon to view ancient grinding stones – morteros. This region was a seasonal camp for early indigenous people. We’ll wrap it up around 6:00, relax, and gather for a traditional dinner.

Tuesday – Day 3
After our morning workshop, sit down for a hearty lunch because we are in for a treat! Horseback riding is a wonderful way to survey our ranch’s expansive landscape. Whether you are a novice or experienced rider, the ranch has the perfect horse for your ability level. These are cowboy trained working horses; steady, surefooted, and calm. They respond to the rider’s level of experience. We’ll go out for a short ride. Those who don’t ride can relax by the pool, take a hike or stroll, or continue on clay projects. All rides are led by the ranch owner; he will determine your fitness for riding. The riding is amazing, and the views seem endless! Another ranch dinner will be served with all the traditional sides, making a delicious finale to our day.

Wednesday – Day 4
After breakfast, Daria will teach us to burnish our creations. Burnishing is like polishing with a smooth stone. The process both hardens and compresses the clay, helping it dry faster. Once we bring our pots to a lovely sheen, we will leave the ranch for a scenic drive to Valle Guadalupe, “Mexico’s Napa Valley”. 90% of the country’s wine is produced within 150-miles of this region. The craft of winemaking was imported by the Spanish padres to make wine for church services. Centuries later, you can now find boutique artisanal wineries, traditional family vineyards, and large corporate mega-vineyards.  A wine paired luncheon will be a highlight of our visit – price included.
When we return to the ranch, we’ll continue burnishing our pieces in preparation for tomorrow afternoon’s pit firing – a unique visual and cultural experience.

Thursday – Day 5
This will be a day to let the clay dry completely before firing. After breakfast, we’ll meet Virginia, our basketry master teacher. Our next art experience starts just up the canyon to collect fresh willow shoots for our baskets. Springtime is basket making season for the Kumiai people, when creek willows send forth new, supple growth. These young branches are ideally flexible to shape into any basket form. In short order we’ll have plenty of material to work with. Virginia will teach us to use this for the body of the basket. Her guidance will help us work from the bottom up, with breaks to shape and tighten the forms as we go. By the afternoon, we’ll have our baskets well on their way.
Late in the afternoon, we’ll check our pots and help load the firing pit under Daria’s watchful eye. The traditional firing fuel is dried cow dung, and we have no shortage of that here in Baja! The magic begins as we light our fire pit. As the flames grow, then reduce to coals, we’ll watch with anticipation to see how the flames will dance among our pots. The hottest contact points will produce the characteristic fire marks we cherish – the “kisses” of the inferno. We’ll have dinner before checking the fire once more before bedtime.

Friday – Day 6
After coffee and muffins, we’ll start to dig out our pots from the ashes. So many surprises await us! The unpredictable qualities of fire , carbon, clay, and air will have created truly unique surface designs.  Once we admire our pieces, we’ll continue with Virginia and our baskets. After breaking for lunch, we are off to Ensenada for sightseeing, shopping, and a Margarita. Mexico’s most famous cocktail was invented at the former Riviera Casino, and we’ll explore this historic “grand dame” of Ensenada. We’ll return to the ranch around 5:30 and enjoy another classic ranch dinner. 

Saturday – Day 7
After breakfast, we will continue to enlarge our willow baskets. The forms can be open like a bowl or closed like a vase. A cover can be added if you like. The Kumiai traditionally made huge baskets, some 3’ tall. They were used to store food, especially acorns, over long periods of time. As a migrating culture, the Kumiai lived along the seashore in the winter with plentiful seafood. The summer would find them in the Sierras of Baja, hunting game and collecting pine nuts – piñones. Between these seasons they camped along streams in the foothills, collecting acorns in the Fall to eat in the Spring. Large willow baskets of acorns were buried in the ground. Willow is a natural insect repellant, so over the months, the acorns in the basket were protected and preserved for the tribe. After lunch, we’ll be off on another horseback adventure. If you choose not to ride, you can relax, take a walk, play a game of pool, or just be.

Sunday – Day 8
After breakfast, we will finish our baskets with Virginia’s guidance. We’ll have time to photograph and pack our baskets and our pottery pieces (bubble wrap and boxes will be supplied). After lunch, it’ll be time to pack up as we prepare to leave our magical ranch. We plan on a 2:00 departure to arrive at Tecate by 3:30 pm. After a very quick re-entry through U.S. Customs, we’ll meet our driver to return to San Diego and the real world. Be prepared for the transition – after 8 days at the ranch, you’ll notice how busy our world seems. Hold on to that feeling of peaceful calm, it’s a precious resource on our fast-paced side of the border!

Please use this as general information only.
Guests are welcome to use their time as they wish while visiting the Ranch.  You are welcome to bring other art/craft materials (paint, sketchbook, colored pencils) to work on your own. Outdoor activities may be re-scheduled during inclement weather.

What’s Included?
Small group (maximum 10 participants)
Professional group leader throughout
Our ranch owner is our guide in each destination
All accommodations (7 nights)
7 Breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners – one lunch is a food/wine pairing in Valle Guadalupe
Transportation to and from San Diego to Tecate border
Transportation in Mexico (private vehicles)
All workshop activities and materials, horseback riding, 2 off-ranch excursions

What’s Not Included?
Flights to/from San Diego
Passport/visa fees
One additianal/optional wine tasting
Trip insurance

Accommodation Style
You can expect to share a comfortable cabin accommodation, double occupancy, with a private bathroom on this trip. We’ll be staying at a privately owned working horse ranch which is off the grid.  Lighting is by kerosene lamps and candles in public spaces and solar powered lamps in the cabins.  Cell phone/camera chargers are available.  This is a working horse ranch, no daily housekeeping is available.  Your room is your private space. 


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