El Triunfo: Tiny Village With Big Rewards

We don’t know what’s better, the views or the paella
BY: STEPHANIE MCGLASHAN

El Triunfo is a small, tucked away village that was previously famous for mining, first founded back in the 18th century. At one point in history, this was the largest town in Baja California Sur, with more than 10,000 people calling it home. The town currently has around 500 plucky souls left. The closing of the mines caused everyone to flee the town and search for jobs elsewhere.

eltriunfo2.JPGTourism is now bringing this town back to life, but it hasn’t taken away from the charm and uniqueness of it. If there is any time of year to go, it is now. Just like many areas here in Cabo, the town gets very quiet in the summer months, but as the heat begins to dissipate, the town comes back to life. The main restaurants reopen, locals are in the streets selling homemade crafts, artisanal cheese (don’t go home without some), and the beautiful and delicious magenta colored cactus fruit - pitahayas.

The town is characterized by colonial buildings, chic cafes, and beautiful bike trails. As you drive into the town, there is a warm welcome by the locals along the side of the road, selling a variety of local goods and buckets of the delicious regional cactus fruit.

Something to fall in love with before you even get there is the drive. The fastest and most scenic route is along the old highway to La Paz, from San Jose, cruising along the East Cape. Driving to El Triunfo, you almost forget we live in the desert. It is an hour and a half scenic adventure filled with beautiful ocean panoramas and lush, green cacti, trees, and vegetation. It is jaw dropping to see grass around here that isn’t on a golf course!

The weekends are a bustling time in town, but Sundays are special with paella. Found at the Bar El Minero, this table sized pan of paella will take your breath, and your hunger, away. The smell of the restaurant as you enter is enough to get your mouth watering. And the in-house, handmade sausages are an excellent way to get your taste buds going before the paella. After reading the menu, it’s hard to believe all that goes into the paella until you see it on your plate. It’s a fiesta of saffron coloured rice, seafood, meats and crisp vegetables.

The restaurant itself is like a walk through time. It’s in a 120-year-old building that was previously part of the out buildings of the mine. They have old wooden picture frames filled with old mining plans and historical information about the town.

Before you dive into that big pan of paella, work up an appetite and make your way through the old mining grounds and up to the lookout point. It’s not a very strenuous hike, and is worth the trek for the view. As mentioned before, the scenery is shockingly green and you get a view of the entire mining site with the smokestacks and old tools below. If you do want something a little more challenging, bring or rent a bicycle and enjoy one of the several bike paths that cross through the mountains, connecting small villages.

Another reason November is a good time to visit El Trifuno: El Minero is hosting the second annual Gastronomy Festival on Sunday, November 19 starting at 2:00 p.m. This is a food and wine lover’s dream. The afternoon will be filled with local culinary creations inspired by the southern Baja California cuisine, accompanied by a variety of local wines, mescal and tequila. There will be more than 12 chefs cooking up a storm. There will also be folklore dance performances and a live mariachi band. There is also a pretty cool piano museum. We’re telling you, this is a unique town.

Tickets go for $45 USD if you buy ahead of time, and $50 if you pay at the door. You can buy them at the Villa Valentina in San Jose or at Restaurante La Pintada in Cabo. For more information, you can find the event on Facebook by searching for 2do Festival Gastronómico.

And to pitch in to save the crumbly old historic smokestack, you can buy a brick from www.icfdn.org.