Sunday, January 29, 2012

Vive Loreto - a guide to discovery

I have written numerous times about different trips and adventures I have taken in the area surrounding my home here in Loreto Bay – trips to San Javier, climbing the Tabor Canyon, hiking the arroyos, boat excursions to nearby Islands – most of which have been self-guided, or with other Homeowners who may have made the trip before and from the feedback that I receive from many readers, these are among the most popular posts I have made to this Blog.  However, in this post I wanted to introduce another of the businesses now established on the Paseo here in Loreto Bay, ”Vive Loreto”, a Tour Operator and Dive Shop offer their professional services and recreational equipment to visitors and Homeowners alike who want to fully explore the amazing attractions that surround us in this unspoiled part of the world.

Raffa and Maria, who run the business along with their Dive Master Julian, came to Loreto from Mexico City about 5 years ago when Raffa started to work for the original Developer.  They both enjoyed an active lifestyle out of doors and when they saw the beauty and natural attractions here in Loreto, they knew this was where they wanted to live and raise their young family.  While Maria finished her education and began teaching at the local University, Raffa worked in management with the Developer and they both pursued their interest in discovering the natural, cultural and marine treasures that surrounded them in their newly adopted home.

When the end came for the original Developer, Raffa and Maria decided to turn their passion into a business and started to plan what became Vive Loreto.  From the outset, they wanted to focus on three areas of interest that they believe are the where the real treasures are in the Loreto experience: Nature, Culture and the Sea.
Nature includes the surrounding Sierra del la Gigante Mountain range and adventures including visits to remote Rancheros to experience a lifestyle that has changed little in generations.  Many of these trips can be tailored to their Guests preferences; they have a large capacity passenger van that can carry your whole group in comfort, they also have 4 wheel ATVs and mountain bikes available for guided tours as well as for rent to explore the countryside on your own, they can even arrange mule rides so you can travel in the traditional way!

Culture combines the spectacular beauty of the surroundings with some of the rich history of this area, beginning with the town of Loreto itself, the oldest in the Baja and home the “Our Lady of Loreto” the first Mission in all the California’s, including sampling local cuisine and delicacies and combining the cultural with the natural with visits to places like San Javier where they blend together.  If you know where to look there are still traces of the prehistoric Guaycura, the indigenous population that were cave dwellers in this region and have left paintings as evidence of their ancient culture.

When it comes to the Sea of Cortez that meets our eastern coast, it is the best part of the experience of living here and Vive Loreto has it covered – with both an open panga and a 21’ cabin cruiser they offer trips to the surrounding Islands to watch the sea-life including sea lions, dolphins a myriad of sea birds.  Or you can combine sea with land and take boat to go for a hike on the beautiful uninhabited Islands of Coronado or Danzante, or snorkel in the crystal clear waters on sandy shorelines. 

While sport fishing in these protected waters is justifiably world famous, Vive Loreto uniquely caters to two levels of interest – both the serious and experienced fishers, as well as couples and family groups who are looking for a more relaxed “fishing for beginners” experience.  In this way they hope to introduce particularly younger visitors to the excitement of catching your supper with the breathtaking vistas that are only available from offshore.

Starting at this time of year, one of the highlights for many visitors and residents is whale watching and Vive Loreto can provide a memorable experience bringing their Guests close to these giants of the sea.  Currently, the Grey Whales are accessible on the west coast of the peninsula at Lopez Mateo, a small fishing harbour about an hour and a half’s drive from Loreto in their large passenger van.  On arrival there you board a panga guided by a local fisherman who takes you out into Magdalena Bay a shallow channel protected from the Pacific by a long sand dune.

This creates a perfect “nursery” environment where the whales can give birth to their young and get them prepared for their annual migration up the west coast all the way to Alaska.  In these usually calm waters, the mothers can feed their babies in a safe environment and teach them to swim against the currents, building their strength and endurance for the long journey to come.

Although less common, in the waters of the Sea of Cortez just offshore from here in Loreto it is also possible to make sightings of the much larger and rarer Blue Whale on organized cruises closer to home.  By contacting the helpful staff when you are planning your adventure, they will be able to advise you what the current conditions are and where and when you will likely have your best opportunity for this incredible experience.  But whether you see the Greys on the Pacific side or the Blues here in the Sea of Cortez it is a truly an unforgettable experience and one that you should add to your Baja Bucket List!

For those who are attracted to the underwater world Vive Loreto has a qualified dive instructor and guide, whether you are an experienced diver, want to refresh your skills, or discover diving for the first time - the calm warm waters surrounding Loreto offer an outstanding opportunity for all.  With an abundance of sea life including seals, rays and of course multi-coloured fish of every size and shape as well as gorgeous reefs and fascinating wrecks to dive.  A complete selection of the necessary equipment and tanks are available and they can tailor a package to your interest and skill level.

On a practical note, particularly as we approach the “spring break” high season for visitors, Vive Loreto can also provide ground transportation in their van from the International Airport at La Paz, about a three hour drive south of here.  This can open up alternate travel options for many visitors who find the direct flights to Loreto heavily booked in advance at this most popular time of the year for a holiday in paradise.

I encourage you to visit their website and find out more about the wonderful world of Nature, Culture and Sea where they offer their expertise to fully experience all the magic that that this special place holds – reaching out to new adventure and seeing incredible things – perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Vive Loreto is a fair translation in Spanish for “Living Loreto”!        

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Starry Starry Night in Loreto Bay

One of the quiet pleasures of Living Loreto is the night sky.  For several reasons including our latitude near the Tropic of Cancer, the clear desert air and relatively low light pollution, the stars and other heavenly bodies are particularly bright and apparently close, when viewed from here.  In fact, I remember one of my visitors, from my previous home in western Canada, saying that she had never seen so many stars appear to be so close, “it was almost alarming” – if it wasn’t so spectacularly beautiful!

However, like so many things that we see on a regular basis in our day to day routines, we tend to become complacent about this nightly light show, except for the occasional situation, walking home in the evening or taking a moment to look up at a full moon – at times like that we experience again the awe inspiring display that hangs overhead every night.

Speaking of full moons, more than once, as I pass through the inner courtyard of my home on a night with such a moon, I have caught myself checking to see which light I have left on, due to the almost unnaturally bright moonlight that bathes what normally should be in darkness.  Here “moon shadows” is more than a lyric in a song - you can literally read in the light of the full moon!       

So when a Homeowner recently suggested, on our community website, getting together with others who shared an interest in observing the night skies, I responded enthusiastically.  To be clear, I am a novice when it comes to navigating the celestial bodies, I can barely make out the difference between a star and planet, let alone know their names or be able to find them beyond the obvious like the Big Dipper, and Orion’s iconic “skymarks”.  But I did know enough to know what I didn’t know, and I was glad to have the opportunity to observe and learn a little more from anyone who did have that knowledge.

About half a dozen of us got together for an informal meeting one afternoon about a week ago and discussed possible sites for our first “Star Party”.  Ray, who had initiated the idea behind the group, had done some scouting of the surrounding area and suggested a couple of locations within a short drive of Loreto Bay with “near dark” conditions.  But it was decided that our first venture would be closer to home.  The adjacent golf course has several “dark spots” where we would be shielded from the modest amount of light pollution surrounding our development, and we could access them easily without having to drive – a cautious consideration given the possible hazard of meeting stray animals on the roads at night.     

And so, with the location decided, it was agreed that we would meet at the south end of the Paseo main road around 6:00 pm so we could make our way to the viewing site on the golf course in the twilight and get whatever equipment we had, set up before it became too dark.  I offered to borrow one of the golf cart “trucks” from our Office to help transport any bigger telescopes, although I was only going to be bringing a pair of nautical binoculars and a tripod myself.

Earlier on the appointed day, I watched a few wisps of high cloud pass and saw that things were shaping up for an almost perfectly clear night sky.  After I closed the Office I hurried home to change into “warm” clothes (I can hear the scornful sounds of my northern readers now, as they struggle through late January weather, but it’s “winter” here too, and it does cool off at night when the heat goes down with the sun – albeit to 15 degrees Celsius or 60 Fahrenheit) and grabbed a folding chair along with the binocs, tripod and of course my camera, and headed off to pick up the cart truck.

At the Office I met two fellow star-gazers carrying their reflector telescope with its stand, soon the three of us had loaded everything onto the cart and were headed for the meeting place.  When we arrived there were already half a dozen others setting up equipment on a sheltered tee box surrounded on three sides by rocky hills, which gave us a convenient place to view the darkening night sky. 

In addition to two bigger telescopes, among us we had a spotting scope and a pair of celestial binoculars, both on tripods, as well as my own binoculars and several people had brought star charts.  But I was particularly taken by the I-pad that one person had brought that had a “star ap”.  Using the internal GPS, this tablet had the amazing ability of showing a graphic of the star formations in view and identifying them by name, just by pointing it to the heavens, dare I say – star gazing for Dummies!

While the more expert among us identified Jupiter’s three moons and the Andromeda Cluster (a fuzzy glow in the middle of Orion’s sword) and shared their views with the other “beginners”, soon we were all enjoying the magical experience of focusing on that which we take for granted most nights – the celestial light show that has attracted us as a species since the beginning of time.  Pardon me if that sounds pretentious, but it really was exciting to take the time to LOOK, and more to the point, SEE the awesome beauty that is the night sky under circumstances that were close to ideal!

Even with my own modest equipment (a decent pair of 7x50 binoculars but more importantly, mounted on the tripod so they were stable) I was able to focus on a constellation and appreciate the myriad of stars surrounding it, otherwise invisible to the naked eye.  And then I saw a streaking star – no, it must be a satellite, moving at a steady, but leisurely pace across my field of vision – and then, a few minutes later another, and another!  I had no idea that there were so many man-made celestial bodies orbiting above us, in such a tiny keyhole view, and over the span of just a few minutes, it boggled my mind as to what the total population of these artificial “stars” must be globally!

After an hour or so of such heavenly distraction, the couple whose equipment I had ferried to the site earlier were packing it up and I offered to give them a lift back to the main road again, leaving my equipment behind for others to use.  The three of us piled everything back into the cart and began the ride back across the golf course, until we reached the first hill, where the cart slowed to a crawl and one passenger had to jump out so I could make it to the top.  Obviously my cart batteries were now precariously low and I quickly decided that if I was lucky enough to make it back to the Office under power, I would have to park it there and leave it recharging. 

Which is what I did, walking back to the Star Party with my flashlight to pick up and pack up my stuff and then return on foot – glad that I hadn’t stranded the cart in the middle of a fairway overnight, and relieved that I wouldn’t have to find a way to retrieve it somehow the next day.  But this minor inconvenience became another moment of appreciation, as I made my way through the now very dark night, guided by my trusty light, my was focus shifted to how the familiar golf course terrain around me was transformed, and now it was, in its own way, as unfamiliar as the skies above that I had just been observing.     

So ended my first “star trek”, and with thanks to Ray and my other cosmic guides, I look forward to future adventures in the night skies.  I don’t know if I will ever be familiar enough with the heavens at night to find my own way around, but even after this first modest venture, I believe that I appreciate more than ever before what a fantastic show is performed every night right over my head – and I hope I will never take it for granted in the way I have before.  Appreciating the realization that the commonplace can become the spectacular if you take the time to really see what is around you – that is another lesson I will remember about “Living Loreto”!     

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jovina and Ulises - Entrepreneurs in Loreto Bay

I thought I would write this week about some of the new businesses that have started business this Fall on the Paseo, or main street that runs through Loreto Bay.  Two of the more popular enterprises that have opened have a unique connection in common – they are operated by an entrepreneurial husband/wife couple.  Jovina operates Tranquil Massage and Spa, and her husband Ulises runs the Fresh Market in the next storefront.

They met when they were both in the US Military and started their family when they left the service for civilian life.  After the birth of their second daughter they made the decision to move to Loreto, where Ulises’ mother lived in retirement.  When the girls were old enough to leave in the care of her mother-in-law, Jovina made the big decision to pursue her long time dream and move back to the US to take a year’s training and become a registered massage therapist. 

When she returned to Loreto she first opened her own small studio, but due to the H1N1 scare the timing was bad for starting a new business.  Soon she found work at an established Spa in Loreto, gaining practical experience as a masseuse and learning to be a nail technician as well.  After a brief experiment with business on the mainland, Jovina returned to Loreto and, with some help from past clients, started to develop a clientele in Loreto Bay.     

About a year later, when the opportunity arose to open a storefront location in Loreto Bay, Jovina was one of the first lessees to sign up.  But the logistics of operating a massage studio required her to expand operations and provide other services including hair dressing and manicure and pedicure services as well, to better utilize the space and to have staff in the studio so she can do her massages without interruptions.

During the summer she and her husband planned the renovations for her, dividing the approximately 550 sq. ft. space into two sections, the larger spa side with a reception desk, a small display area for shampoos and other retail supplies, the hair dressing station, manicure table and a pedicure chair.  Behind the partition is the massage studio - true to the name, a Tranquil space tastefully decorated and a relaxing oasis.

There is a fulltime nail tech doing mani/pedicures and a hairdresser from town who currently comes out twice a week for appointments, while Ulises’ mother Eva keeps the reservation desk so that Jovina is available for an almost steady schedule of massages.  Although most of her clientele is female, I can personally vouch that she does a great massage and encourage more men to take advantage of her services – otherwise you’re missing out on a great experience!  

Ulises had some experience working in construction in Loreto Bay so both he and Jovina had got to know Homeowners and understand the community, so Ulises was aware that there was demand for a good source of fresh fruits and vegetables, since the selection in town was unreliable at best.  Although he had previously operated a number of other businesses in the town of Loreto including a clothing store, and a restaurant, and he had enjoyed cooking since he was young, the produce business was new to him and so he set about learning more about it by doing some research on line.

Then, this Fall, he rented the storefront adjacent to Jovina’s Spa, did some basic renovations to set up an area to wash and prep his produce and installed some refrigeration units, display tables and shelves.  In the beginning he drove an hour and a half to the nearest big supermarket in the next town a couple of times a week , where he purchased his stock, but soon he arranged to purchase from wholesalers who would deliver much of the regular produce to his store.  As he became more established, other producers sought him out and he began to receive regular deliveries of oranges, onions and other locally grown crops.  Part of his regular routine is to check with several local fishermen in town every morning and pick up filets of the “catch of the day” – and it doesn’t get much fresher than that!  He also has a local source for fresh free-range chicken, which he sells plain and marinated.

Having an expanding source of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as seafood and poultry is a great convenience to Loreto Bay Homeowners, as well as those who live in Nopolo and the surrounding area.  The store would be popular for the convenience factor alone, by reducing the necessity of having to go into town as often for fresh supplies, but the fact is that the quality and freshness of the produce is usually superior to what is often available in town.   

Like good businesses everywhere, Ulises listens to his customers and he is always happy to take requests for things he does not regularly carry and look for them when he makes his regular trips to wholesalers as far away as La Paz.  Very often he has hard to find delicacies like eggplant and mushrooms (sometimes even Portobello!) when they are impossible to find in even the biggest grocery stores in town.  He also is able to refrigerate the produce that is perishable so it is in the best possible condition when he sells it. 

But not everything has to come from afar.  Recently, he was asked for firewood by a Homeowner who has a fireplace in their home.  Knowing the town as well as he does and where to find whatever is available is one of Ulises big advantages.  He knew where to find the firewood and brought some into his store for that customer and another new product was added! 

In the future, he is planning on doing some cooking classes, focusing on traditional Mexican cuisine and possibly even some of his Thai specialties. Over the past Holiday Season he has done some catering for Homeowners parties and this is another business he wants to expand, now that the market is operating smoothly. 

Jovina and Ulises combine their Mexican heritage with an understanding of North American culture, and with their true entrepreneurial spirits, they are working together to provide goods and services that contribute in important ways to the quality of life for our community here in Loreto Bay.  Seeing new businesses created and thriving, and watching how they add to the quality of life here, that is an important new dimension to “Living Loreto”.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Healthcare in the Baja

One aspect of Living Loreto that (thankfully) I have not had personal experience with is the healthcare system, but I know that this topic is one of significant interest to many people who now live here, or are considering spending more time here in the future.  That is why, when a friend of mine suffered a nasty broken bone near her hip after fall, I asked her to consider sharing the experience of her treatment and recovery with the readers of Living Loreto.

What follows is her story, and while like any major health procedure conducted anywhere it has not all been “fun and games” I am pleased to say that when I saw Jane earlier this week she is continuing to mend and should be off her crutches hopefully by the end of the month.  I want to thank her for contributing this first person account about an important aspect of life: 

Health Care Options In Baja

Have surgery in Baja? Not exactly the first place you might think of when faced with the prospect of a major procedure. Most of us living here have heard a horror story or two about health care experiences and so hopefully I can debunk a few myths as well as provide a little information, although by no means do I have all the answers.

As I write this I am recovering from surgery for a broken hip. At first I thought maybe I had jammed my leg after a fall down two tile stairs, and so I iced it and waited a couple of days before getting an X-ray here at the hospital in Loreto. However, when that showed that the bone was broken I knew I had to get to La Paz “muy pronto”, because the necessary surgery was going to be beyond the capability of the local Hospital.

Consulting La Paz phonebook I was surprised with the number of Orthopedic specialists listed and narrowed it down to two; OrtoMedix and a Dr. Luis Vargas, where I scheduled an appointment for the following day and I also scheduled an appointment with Dr. Mondragon, an orthopedist that I had previously seen about a knee injury. Both doctors seemed very professional and competent but I decided to go with Dr .Vargas for several reasons, mainly because he proposed a surgical procedure that I felt was more appropriate for my kind of fracture.

After his examination and consulting my X-Rays, Dr. Vargas wanted to operate immediately but I felt I needed to go back home to Loreto and get organized. I was going to be spending one night in the hospital, then a couple nights in a local motel with daily check ups. So, my husband and I drove back to Loreto to have my pre-op lab work done and get packed and organized, before returning to La Paz in a few days for my operation.

The facility I had my surgery in is known by several names: Central de Especialidades Medicas, Fidepaz, and “that little purple Hospital”. It is a private hospital and the access to the surgical facilities and the overnight stay were included in the fee the Surgeon quoted me for the procedure, which also included the anesthesiologist fees as well.  Fidepaz, as I will call it, is far nicer than most medical centers in the United States. First of all, it is a small facility, (important to me because it meant potentially less exposure to germs), and each patient gets their own private room. There are no set visiting hours and they encourage a family member to spend the night by providing a really nice couch in the room.

Like most medical specialists with high levels of education, my surgeon, Dr. Vargas spoke fluent English as did my anesthesiologist, who also had a great sense of humor. He played retro 80’s music in the OR and, because I had had a spinal tap and was semi-conscious through the surgery, he gave me updates on the progress of the operation.

Although the doctors all speak English, the nurses do not - at all! My Spanish is terrible and I had difficulty even communicating that I needed another pillow. Hospital food is usually a challenge and that’s true in Mexico as well.  I thought the food was, well, weird and couldn’t eat it but that didn’t stop my husband Greg from taking care of that aspect on my behalf.

About 3 or 4 hours after the surgery, the effects of my spinal started wearing off and boy was I in for a surprise! At my pre-op, the doc explained that my surgery really wouldn’t involve a lot of pain and that thinking ahead about it would only make it worse. I should have clarified this. As I eventually learned, he is anti-medication. After no sleep that night due to agonizing pain, I finally got a small shot of something around 5am to help me sleep. When the Dr. came in at 9 we had quite the conversation about my pain management!

While I agreed with him that American Docs tend to overmedicate most of the time, surgery isn’t one of those times, and a five inch incision that included drilling through my bone and putting two long screws into my hip bone was indeed major surgery. He said morphine and opiates were for the dying, which seemed appropriate to me as I was wishing I was dead at that moment. He finally gave up four (four!) pills of some kind to get me home and in bed. Lesson learned. I would definitely have surgery down here again, but not before the surgeon and I had an understanding about pain management!

For general medical care here in Loreto, we are fortunate to have a handful of competent English speaking doctors. Most charge approximately $200 pesos ($15.00 US) per office visit. One doctor, Dr. Gerald Ramos, has in-office X-Ray and ultrasound equipment. However medical services here are limited, our local hospital is comparable to a walk-in clinic in most places in North America and it is necessary to go to larger cities like Constitution (2 hours drive) and La Paz (4 hours) to see a specialist and receive more than first aid treatment.

As I understand it, Mexico’s medical system has a number of tiers, not unlike that of the United States. At the top of the pyramid, receiving the best care in the best private facilities are those who have private Mexican health insurance, (some US insurance may be accepted) or, are like ourselves, are “self-insured” and pay directly for the procedure, (the cost of which, in this case, was a small fraction of what it would have been in the US).

Government employees have their own hospitals, under the ISSTE system that provides a variety of subsidized social services. These hospitals are located in Constitution and La Paz and I’m told they are on par with the Seguro Social Hospitals and clinics. The Seguro program is a government health insurance plan that provides basic coverage for most paid employees and can also be purchased by American and Canadians for approximately $300USD/yr. My private doctor in Loreto works two days a week at the Seguro clinic here and I believe that may be a requirement for the local doctors. I know several people who have been very satisfied with Seguros services, and this is also a way to obtain referrals to see top notch doctors in La Paz.

Last of all, there are the general hospitals in Constitution and La Paz for the general population without some form of insurance or personal resources. Briefly, you would not want to end up here, by North American standards they are crowded and unsanitary.

While I have heard there are some specialists in near-by Constitution, I prefer to go to the much larger city of La Paz (population over 200,000) and have relied mostly on word of mouth for referrals to Doctors I have seen there. For example, a consultation with a dermatologist will run you $500 pesos ($40.00 US) for a head to toe skin check. The biopsy I had done on a precancerous lesion left less scarring than one that I had done in the States by a Facial Plastic Surgeon! Most of these Doctors speak English, some even having American training or credentials. However, rarely do their office staff speak English, but you can usually get by with “Spanglish”.  

It’s been a slow recovery and I still have sleepless nights but after two months it’s getting easier. I’ll be on crutches until the end of January, which can’t come soon enough. Like many things here in the Baja, I learned by experiencing it and will be a more informed patient if something else happens and I need medical services again. 


Thanks to Jane for the story about her experiences with the medical system here in the Baja, being better informed about the options and realities of something as potentially important as healthcare is certainly an important part of “Living Loreto”.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Flying to Loreto from San Jose - Up Up and Away!

My return journey to Loreto began dark and early one morning this week.  Although I had set an alarm for 3:00 am – yes, that was three o’clock in the morning! (perhaps that should have been spelled mourning) I didn’t really sleep, dozed, I guess, but I was either too excited about returning home again after my Christmas visit back to Calgary, and/or I was paranoid about sleeping in and messing up the whole plan!  In any event, I was up at three and on my way to the Airport by four to check in for my six am departure.

Being from western Canada, I am familiar with the early morning scheduling of outbound flights to sun destinations, but it still amazes me how many people manage to get up so early for their departure times to these warmer climes.  Particularly when it is this close to the shortest day of the year and there are so few hours of daylight (forget about warmth!) the motivation is clear, but it is still a remarkable sight to see some of the biggest crowds of the day at the airport before 6:00 am.

Not surprisingly, my flight to San Jose del Cabo was full, but it was surprising to me the number of very young kids on board – but I guess young parents deserve a holiday too!  Regardless, the flight was uneventfully and we arrived in San Jose almost four hours later.  I was able to clear Immigration fairly quickly, handing in the remaining half of the exit document that I had completed on my outbound trip – reversing the process that most of the tourists were doing on an inbound flight.  My bag took a little longer and there was a bit of a delay while a couple of “first timers” were somewhat baffled by the X-Ray equipment that all incoming luggage had to be screened through before leaving the baggage area.

After pushing green on the Customs entry button I made my way out to the exit through what is usually a gauntlet of timeshare and other hucksters, but at 10:30 in the morning the day had not really begun yet and there were only a couple of bleary eyed “Ambassadors” who made only a half hearted effort to entice me with their wares.  When I cleared the terminal I packed my jacket and sweater into my bag and headed to the other terminal half a mile away.  Having just arrived at the main International Terminal (Two), my next flight was to depart from Terminal One, a building which I had never been in before. 

The departure area of Terminal One is basically a large open area with a few small tourist shops along the outside wall and most of the rest of the space taken up with crowd control barriers snaking the lines of passengers towards check in podiums on the far wall.  First of all I determined that both International and Domestic flights were handled out of this Terminal, and after observing the traffic figured out that there were separate entrances to check in for the different types of destinations.  Even though my departure was late afternoon I wanted to figure out where my flight would be checking in, as I had been told that since Aereo Calafia does not have their own podium they used an unidentified space beside the Aero Pacifico desks.  I figured out where the likely check in location was going to be and observed that before you can enter the area to line up, first you had to have your bags scanned through a big X-Ray machine and then push another Red/Green light button, pushing a Red light apparently necessitated a further hand inspection of your luggage – the Mexican authorities apparently take security on these Domestic flights seriously!

Having thus oriented myself, I also had observed that there were no food services on the public side of the check in, and, since it was now after 11:00, it had been a long time since the yogurt and muffin more than 7 hours earlier.  So I headed back the 10 minute walk to Terminal 2, (still dragging my luggage) where there were more services – more but still no food without a boarding pass for a departing flight that permitted access to the departure lounge and food court on the second level.  At this point I sat down and let my somewhat befuddled brain consider my options.  While there was a bar counter where I was on the main floor, there was no apparent food service and I knew it was too early to start drinking – let alone the fact that it would be 3 or 4 hours before my flight. 

However, when I asked around, I found out that the bar could in fact order from the food court upstairs and so I settled in with a cold beer to wait for my cheeseburger and fries for lunch.  I was even able to plug in my computer at the Bar and start writing this Blog.  As it turned out, the soccer game that was on the tube when I arrived was soon replaced with – be still my pounding heart – coverage of the Spengler Cup hockey championship from somewhere in Europe.  This SKY TV broadcast was a live feed of raw video, including unedited live audio from ice level and coverage of the dressing room pep-talk by the coach between periods – all without voice over or play-by-play, not surprisingly, as I guess there must be a shortage of hockey commentators here in Mexico!  Who knew I had to sit in a bar in Mexico to get this close to a Canadian team playing hockey in Europe – small world!  So that’s how I spent my afternoon, drinking beer, eating a cheeseburger and watching hockey – welcome home to Mexico!  Soon I struck up a conversation with a couple who had just arrived from Washington and were Canadian Hockey fans and over several post-luncheon drinks we solved some of the world’s problems.  

Following this pleasant interlude, I made my way back to Terminal One around 3:30 and went through the aforementioned baggage scan, got the Green light and avoided inspection and finally made my way in the general direction of the Areo Pacifico desks where I met a couple who were waiting for the same Loreto flight.  We visited for 15 or 20 minutes about Loreto, they were joining friends who were Homeowners in Loreto Bay, and then we were joined by two other couples travelling down to see their parents who were also Homeowners.  So now we were 7, more than half full for a 12 passenger plane – looking good!

About 4:15 a young man and woman arrived wearing Aereo Calafia logoed clothing, our ground crew had arrived, and our little group of passengers broke into spontaneous applause, evoking an embarrassed, but good natured response from them.  Boarding passes were issued and overweight charges assessed, the checked luggage limit on this flight is only 15 kilograms, about 33 pounds – I was about 10 kilos over and they charged me 339 pesos or about $25.00 – not bad, considering that they charge by the actual weight and not a flat charge if you exceed the maximum.  Considering the generosity of Santa, I was happy to pay the extra for what I was bringing with me.

After getting the boarding pass I proceeded through another typical pre-boarding security screen and then a nice food court, smaller than Terminal Two’s, but a good variety of International Fast Food brands.  Looking around I thought that it was too bad that I couldn’t have checked in for the flight earlier in the day, I could have spent my time quite comfortably there, but then again, perhaps I would have missed the Hockey game!

The Aereo Calafia staff had told us that the Airline did not have an “Announcer” to call the flight in the Departure area, so we had been told to hang out in the vicinity of Gate 1 and watch for the ground staff to come to the gate around 5:00 pm.  When they arrived our little group of passengers quickly handed over their boarding passes and then followed them out the doors, onto the tarmac toward our plane, which was waiting nearby.  Our luggage had been loaded onboard from a small pick-up truck that was parked nearby and with no further ado we climbed aboard. 

The single engine plane had four rows of seats, a double and single in each row separated by a narrow aisle, with the “cockpit” with two bigger, more official seats directly in front of the first row.  Occupying the left hand seat was our Pilot, (no co-Pilot on this flight) and once we were all seated he fired up the engine and we proceeded to taxi out to the runway.  Soon, with a roar of the propeller, we picked up speed and were quickly airborne, climbing over the Cabo coastline before heading north.  Taking off before 5:30 we had about a half an hour before the sun began to set, below a spectacularly coloured fringe of clouds on the western horizon.  But until then it was fascinating to observe the coast and rocky hills from so much closer to the ground than the typical jets fly, and in places it was possible to see across the entire peninsula to the Pacific coast in the distance as we flew up the Sea of Cortez.

After darkness quickly fell there wasn’t much to see out the window and I caught myself dozing off a couple of times, it had been a long day and night before, and now that I was on the last leg of my trip I could start to relax – I would be home again soon!  Less than an hour later I began to pick out a few faint lights on the ground and then a bigger cluster directly below, which I was able to identify as the Villa del Palmar resort from the distinctive turtle shaped swimming pools brightly illuminated at night.

From there I picked out a few other landmarks, the town of Ligui, and the Juncalito fishing camp and even some car headlights on the highway that runs along the coast as it approaches Loreto from the south.  And then, up ahead, through the high front windshield of the plane, I saw the surprisingly bright lights of Loreto, with the cluster of fainter lights below of Loreto Bay, where my home is, as we gradually descended for our approach to the runway at the Airport.  After a smooth landing we taxied towards the Loreto Terminal, looking quite large and impressive from the perspective of this small plane, and, with a few words of welcome (the first of the trip) from our Pilot, we disembarked and walked into the north end of the building, my first arrival on a Domestic flight.

We waited in the arrivals area inside, until our bags were loaded on the conveyor and then, after claiming them, made our way past a couple of fatigue wearing soldiers, who did a couple of final random inspections (more of that Domestic security) and then finally into the concourse of the Terminal – Home Again!

I have commented before about the current limited air access situation here in Loreto, with only one International flight on Alaska Airlines from Los Angeles arriving 4 days a week (Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Fridays) using a 76 passenger turbo prop.  For this reason, I was glad to have the opportunity to check out this Aereo Calafia option which started this Fall, flying from San Jose del Cabo to Loreto on Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons and the reverse route from Loreto to San Jose on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings – making convenient connections with most of the International arrivals and departures.  Although currently with only 12 passenger capacity, these three flights a week don’t make a big difference in the number of seats available in and out of Loreto, they do open up some lower priced options for direct flights to Cabo from many different cities with this connection.  Hopefully, with more bookings, there could be additional flight days added to the schedule and perhaps even the possibility of a bigger plane in the future.

I should also mention that there have been occasions when this flight has been cancelled, and some people have experienced problems with reservations booked on line, and, as I observed, there is a somewhat “informal” approach to ground arrangements, but, after my experience I would certainly consider using this option, as an alternative to the 5 ½ hour drive each way, that I described a few weeks ago.  For those of you who are interested in finding out more about this flight check out the website at: but it will be handy to have a translation “ap” at the ready as the site is in Spanish.  Also, be careful to select “San Jose del Cabo” as the location – the Airline also flies out of the “Cabo San Lucas” airport to Loreto as well, but this is a considerable distance ($75 taxi fare?) from the San Jose del Cabo Airport where all the International flights arrive.

Returning home, after a winter “vacation” in Canada, and experiencing a new travel connection that may be the beginning of improving air access, these too are parts of “Living Loreto”.

 ¡Féliz Año Nuevo! And Happy New Year to you All!