Sunday, January 26, 2014

Just Another Sunrise in Loreto Bay!

For many of you who have been regular readers of this Blog over the past years, you know that one of my favorite things to do here in Loreto Bay has always been walking on the Beach at sunrise, and since I have not written a "Beach Blog" so far this Season I thought I would do so again this week.

(Satellite image from  
Friday morning I did not have to go into the Office, so a little before 7:00 am. I pulled on a pair of sweat pants, a T-shirt and a sweat shirt and grabbed my camera.  But, as I walked through my Courtyard between the bedroom and living room, I realized that it was noticeably milder than it had been just a couple of weeks ago (see "Winter Weather comes to Loreto . . . maybe") and so I got rid of the sweat shirt and headed for the beach.  As I walked the 150 yards from my home to the beach I saw that the pre-dawn sky was uncharacteristically overcast (Loreto being blessed with well over 300 sunny days a year) and so I was interested to see what color would be in the sky as the sun rose behind the clouds.

Before I continue, it may be worth noting that my attitude towards an occasional cloudy day here is perhaps different than that of someone who is only visiting, as opposed to those of us who live here half the year or more.  While I too relish the typical azure blue skies and almost perpetual sunshine that this part of the world is blessed with on an almost daily basis, the occasional cloudy day is somewhat of a novelty that I appreciate in its own right.

Arriving on the Beach, I looked toward Punta Nopolo (Nopolo Point) that marks the south end of the crescent shoreline where Loreto Bay is situated, behind which the sun rises at this time of year and the cloud covered sky there was filled with color reflecting the rosy light from the sun that was still below the horizon.  (At this point, I feel the need to apologize that whatever my modest photographic skills, they cannot do fair justice to a scene like this, but I do not know of a lens or a setting that would properly convey the full effect of what I saw with my eyes.)

On my many morning beach walks over the years I have come to the conclusion that every sunrise is a
unique experience, but on mornings like this it was "more unique" than usual, with only a small gap of broken clouds close to the horizon allowing the sun's rays to briefly wash the cloud cover with intense colors.  Then, in the space of only 5 - 10 minutes, the angles changed and the colors began to fade as the sun became obscured by the unusually overcast sky.  But before that, I happened to look north, away from the sunrise and towards the town of Loreto with its faint string of lights marking the shore 15 km away - and saw something that was a first for me in the over 10 years I have been walking this Beach. 

A Rainbow - but for lack of a better term, a "dry" Rainbow, or at least half of one, descending into the heart of the town of Loreto!  Not being a meteorologist, I can only speculate on the cause of this phenomenon on a otherwise rainless morning, but because the humidity level was noticeably high (perhaps again due to the cloud cover) my theory is that there was apparently enough moisture in the air, with the temperature close to the dew point, that there was a prismatic effect for a few brief minutes as the low angle of the sun was caught as a Rainbow.  (Again, my photography fails to do justice to the scene I describe, but try clicking on this picture to enlarge it and better share this unique moment!)

As I continued south down the Beach the color in the sky began to fade and it actually got a bit darker as the sun rose behind the clouds.  Reaching the Hotel and the end of the shoreline, I walked across a tee-box on the Golf Course and towards the entrance to the estuary that separates the back nine holes from the south end of Loreto Bay.  There I saw three Mexican fishermen in a panga casting a large circular net into the calm waters surrounded by mangrove which provides both food and shelter for a thriving stock of small fish - probably destined as bait for the larger catch in deep water off-shore.

Here I turned around and began to make my way back as I had come, but before returning to the Beach again, I caught sight of a Grey Heron standing statue like in the calm shallow water, no doubt looking for breakfast.  While seeing this magnificent creature standing all of 3 feet tall was special enough moment in itself, it was even more significant for me.  Many years ago, back in Canada, I participated in an Aboriginal Shamanic session, from which one of the outcomes was being told what my spirit creature was. 

Without getting too deep into another topic all together, suffice to say that mine was in fact . . . a Grey Heron, and as well as learning about this beautiful bird's traits (and how they related to me in some surprising ways) I was also told that I would find myself most "at home" living somewhere that there were these Herons.  While it is not an everyday experience to encounter a Heron here, I have seen them from time to time before, but  rarely enough that I consider these sightings to be a special occasion. 

So, what started as a not frequent enough departure from my regular morning routine - a soul-refreshing walk on the Beach at sunrise, which never fails to put me into a reflective frame of mind, and that often help me to put the day to day  issues that I deal with into a clearer perspective. On this morning, an unusually cloudy one that helped me appreciate the many sunny ones that are the norm, accented by the surprising glimpse of a Rainbow on a rainless morning, and then culminating with a visit from one of the most beautiful creatures that shares these shores (and a soul connection for those that believe) is it any wonder why I know that I have found my place here, "Living Loreto".             

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Small can be Beautiful . . . in Loreto

I have written frequently about "big" events (by Loreto standards) that have happened here over the past several months, so this week, for a change of pace, I am writing about a "small" event that took place last week.

In fact, the subject of this posting actually happens on a more or less monthly basis, and I wrote on the same subject back in October last year - this week marked another Full Moon Party on the Beach.  This time the event was organized by the Nopolo Property Association, made up of Homeowners in the community surrounding Loreto Bay, and it was held on the beach in front of a parcel of land at the north end of the bay, about half a mile north of the Loreto Bay community.

At this time of year the moon rises well before sunset and so it was already fairly high in the sky as dusk changed to dark after 6:00 pm, when I joined the couple of dozen other "Moonies" who had already assembled around a blazing bonfire.  It was a perfect evening, with gentle breakers washing the shore, little or no wind, and a milder evening than some we have had recently.  With plenty of driftwood washed up on the Beach, the bonfire was well supplied with fuel and provided most of the illumination and some comforting heat - if you sat close enough to feel it.

Al and his wife Kathy organized the evening, arranging access to the Beach through the normally fenced off property and providing a big pot of delicious home-made chili con carne served with grated cheese, chopped onion and herbs as a garnish, along with natcho chips and soda crackers.  Some of the others brought their own hotdogs for roasting on the fire and most people brought chairs and something to drink. 

There was music playing from a truck parked nearby, and there were several people taking pictures of the moonlight on the water and the bonfire on the beach.  While there were a few others there from Loreto Bay, most of the rest lived in the Nopolo community, with some more joining the party from town.  Conversation flowed easily between friends and acquaintances, catching up with each other after the Holidays, or exchanging news and/or gossip about local affairs affecting life in the community.

Several people I talked with during the evening speculated about the impact that Carlos Slim and his recent investment in Loreto Bay would have - with the general consensus being that when one of the richest men in the world (Sr. Slim is usually in the top three with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet) decides to make a major investment in the community where we live, it will be a GOOD thing!  I offered my bit of information about having seen the delivery of two tractor trailer loads of new mattresses to the Hotel across from my Offices about a month ago, while others talked about recent improvements in the condition and appearance of the Golf Course, both of which properties were among Slim's recent acquisitions.

Internet access was another topic of interest that affected a number of people around the bonfire that evening.  Since before Christmas, when the primary Internet Service Provider for Loreto Bay ceased their operations in the community, our access to the web and email has been has been in somewhat of a state of flux.   There are currently two wireless providers servicing the community, one of which has been operating here for several years, and the other is a new venture that began operations a couple of months ago, just weeks before the recently departed service provider who controlled the fiber optic cable that connected all Loreto Bay homes, closed up shop.

While I'm sure that everyone reading this Blog, wherever you are, has had occasional interruptions or problems with whatever Internet provider you may use (such problems are not uncommon for anyone connected to the "World Wide Web"), within this community of over 600 homes, when more than half of the houses permanently lose the internet connection they have been using for years, the impact is considerable!  Of course, the two remaining service providers here have been scrambling to add as many of the disconnected Homeowners as possible, but their physical and technical capacity to do so has had limits, and hence Internet access, connectivity, and speed are popular topics of conversation currently.

Some of us without access within our homes have had to rely on wifi hotspots within Loreto Bay, like the Community Center and several of the business establishments here, making do as best we can with what may be the only connections available.  I was fortunate to have been one of the "early adopters" of the newest wireless service a couple of weeks before the fiber optic provider that had been supplying me since my house was first completed, shut down their operation.  However, because of the departure of the hard-wired provider, I did lose the Internet in my Office, which poses another level of inconvenience, especially when so much of our day to day business now involves internet access for email and other services.

Coincidentally (?) at about the same time as we lost our hardwire access in the Office, I discovered a "new" wifi signal being broadcast from the Hotel across the street, that provides a fluctuating level of bandwidth, but usually it's enough for me to receive and send essential emails and get limited access to some websites.  This recent experience with limited internet access is similar to other shorter and temporary interruptions we have had here in the past, insofar as it reminds us again how dependent we have all become on the internet for so much of what has become essential to day to day life in the 21st century.

However, considering how Sr. Slim, through his various companies, owns and controls access to most of the internet and cellular communications throughout Mexico, I think it is reasonable to expect that when he is fully invested and operational here in Loreto Bay, we very well may have "state of the art" access and speed someday.  While obviously that is something that most of us here would welcome, I want to point out that for an ex-pat community like ours, internet access is, if anything, an even more essential link with the rest of the world than is the case for most people living in North America with variety of other resources. 

This is because the Internet  is often one of our only ways to stay in touch with family, friends, business
interests - you name it - in the rest of that world!  In fact, I would go so far as to say that I would bet that a large majority of the people who have moved here over the past 10 to 15 years would not have done so, if access to the Internet had not revolutionized the way the world connects.  Many of the people who are used to living in a "connected world" and have chosen to spend part of the year here in Mexico, probably would not have done so, were it not for the fact that they can stay in touch from here through the Internet.   

So one evening this week there was a small gathering of a couple of dozen friends and neighbors around a beach bonfire on the night of a full moon - some delicious food was shared, a few drinks were imbibed and it was an opportunity for some of us to chat about the day to day things that are important to us.  Nothing much happened, but everyone appeared to be having a good time and were enjoying themselves and each other's company - in other words, it was a small example of why we all appreciate "Living Loreto".  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Winter Weather comes to Loreto - maybe!

News of the "Arctic Vortex" - the punishing winter weather that most of North America has been struggling under since before Christmas has even reached as far south as Loreto - albeit courtesy of satellite TV and, if I do say so myself, it has brought some comfort and perspective to those of us who spend the winter here in this extreme southern Temperate climate.

Comfort and perspective, because for Loretanos, living as we do just north of the Tropic of Cancer, this is our winter season as well - admittedly a kinder and gentler form of winter than is the case for many of you living in the Great White North, but relatively speaking - winter none the less.  From about the middle of December until about the middle of February is the general time frame for our version of winter this far south, and along with shorter daylight hours come cooler nights - much cooler nights! 

Most of the homes in Loreto Bay are built around a central open air courtyard, and for most of the year the doors and windows can be left open day and night.  But at this time of year I leave interior doors open to the courtyard when I am away during the day, but after I return home, once the sun has set about 5:30 pm, I close up the house to keep the daytime warmth in and the cooling evening air out.  Likewise, I keep the bedroom closed up during the evening and overnight to keep the chilly air out.

While this has been a predictable pattern for this time of year ever since I have been here, I don't think it is my imagination to say that the cool evenings have been cooler than usual this year - which is perhaps not surprising, when one considers the impact that the record breaking "Vortex" effect has been having over much of North America in the past several weeks.  After all, however far south we may be from where the extreme weather that has been breaking records further north - we are still connected to the rest of the continent and our ambient temperatures have to be affected as Arctic air plunges further south than normal.

Add to that, this is also the time of year when we can get prevailing North-easterly winds blowing down the length of the Sea of Cortez which of course moves more of the cooler air further south. Fortunately, although there has been several windy days in the last few weeks, the winds don't seem to be as strong or frequent as I have experienced at this time of year in the past. 

However, when the sun rises it doesn't take very long to start warming air again in the morning, and I notice a big difference in that air temperature between 8:00 and 9:00 am when I leave my bedroom to walk through the courtyard to the living area for breakfast, and an hour later when I am leaving the house for my bicycle commute to the Office.  Typically, by about 10 am on a calm day, with the sun shining out of a usually clear blue sky, we have almost reached our daytime high in the mid-twenties Celsius or mid-seventies Fahrenheit and all is forgotten about the chill in the air from the night before.

This cooler weather also has a noticeable effect on people's wardrobe at this time of year.  First of all, for the native Mexicans this is winter for them, perhaps the only winter they have known, depending on where they may have lived, and so it is not unusual to see them on these chilly mornings bundled up in their warmest clothes - down vests, fleece jackets, and scarves wrapped around their necks.  Because, of course, as acclimated as they are to the extremes of heat here in the summer, the chilly mornings at this time of year must seem as cold to them as below zero temperatures do to the inhabitants living with winter in most of North America.

This also results in some unusual sartorial contrasts between the local Mexicans and the ex-pat population here in Loreto Bay - when a quilt jacketed Mexican meets up with a Gringo wearing shorts and a T-shirt it is obvious that there are two parallel realities happening here!  But the differences in clothing can be more subtle than that.  For instance, because I have been spending more than 8 months of the year here for the past 6 or 7 years, I too have become somewhat used to this climate and feel the "cold" here more than someone here for a short visit from up North.

Therefore, it is fairly easy to identify those of us who spend more time here from those "just visiting", as they are wearing the shorts and T-shirts that they packed for their Mexican winter getaway - while we "long timers" are often in long pants, long sleeves and even light jackets.  Also, because most of the restaurants in town are at least partially outdoors, let alone the more casual street food vendors set up at the side of most main streets in town during the evening, when I say that at this time of year we "dress" to go out to dinner, I mean we wear the warmest clothes we have here, and some of the better places have patio heaters to make dining "al fresco" more comfortable.

So, in our own way, we too are dealing with winter - just on a more comfortable scale.  In most homes that have built-in air conditioning the a/c units can also operate as heat pumps enough to take the chill out of the air in a room.  But, as I have learned, using the system in heat mode is just as expensive in power consumption as it is cooling in the hot weather, so Mexican blankets are a popular living room accessory.  Also the adobe-style construction of most of the Loreto Bay homes provides great insulation against the cold air, as well as holds daytime heat that warms the interior at night. 

The purpose of this week's Blog is not to make those of you who find yourselves enduring record breaking winter conditions jealous of our milder version of the season (well, maybe just a little), but instead to point out that we too have different seasons here as well.  And while our "winter" is much kinder and gentler, it is still a change - and one that ultimately makes us appreciate even more, the warmer days and milder evenings that we will be enjoying here in just a few short week's time.  Taking a moment to recognize the passing of the seasons, and be grateful for the near ideal climate that comes with the natural beauty of this place, helps me realize why I love "Living Loreto".

 P.S. In answer to the difficult challenge of how to illustrate "weather" (especially as benign as it is here) I decided instead to use pictures I took this week of some of the beautiful landscaping that surrounds our homes here in Loreto Bay - our version of a winter garden!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Appreciation of Visitation - Loreto Style

As I mentioned last weekend, I have been enjoying the company of Guests for the last week and so, along with the Holiday celebrations, my normal routine of working most days in the Real Estate Office  here in Loreto Bay has changed during their visit.  This has reinforced my belief that one of the important benefits of having guests here is that their visit can be the motivation for those of us who live here to do things, and go places, that we may not during the rest of the Season - and this is particularly true for me, occupied as I am more or less full time with my business.

For instance, I was happy to be able to take my guests to La Picazon, a great little restaurant that is one of  my favorite places to go, it's about 10 km north of the town of Loreto, spectacularly located right on the shore across from Coronado Island, let alone being one of the best restaurants in the area.  However, because it is about a half hour's drive each way, and lunch there is a leisurely affair that can typically take a couple of hours, this was my first visit there this season, since my return here in the Fall.

Surrounded by the excellent hospitality of Alejandro and his wife Imelda, the Owners of La Picazon, we  enjoyed some of the freshest and tastiest seafood anywhere, and then relaxed in a sunny corner of their patio to enjoy more of the perfect afternoon on the Sea of Cortez, with beautiful Coronado Island in the distance.  It is perhaps not surprising that several times during this memorable lunch I found myself wondering why it had been so long since my last visit to this place, and promising myself it would not be so long again until my next!

On several trips to town during their stay with me, I have taken my Guests to a few of my favorite shops where they found a few well chosen gifts to take home with them - which I hope will become the basis of some of their own memories of their visit to Loreto.  Again, by showing them around "my town" in this way, I too came to re-appreciate some of the appeals Loreto has, and by answering their questions and relating stories about things that have happened to me here, I reminded myself again of some of the reasons why I love living here. 

I also realized how my normal week-to-week routine has gradually become more or less pared down to the necessities; like getting cash from the Bank, dropping into the same three or four stores to pick up my groceries and other supplies, and then making my way back home again to Loreto Bay - without taking the extra time to drop into a few other shops, or drive around the town a bit, if only to see what's new and keep up with the changes that are going on, but can be too easily overlooked, if one is blinkered by routine and habit.

Another thing I wanted to share with my Guests while they were here was the special experience of the Sunday Market.  Although you may recall that I have done postings about this market in the past, it has been several years since I have written an update about it.  But once again I blame my routine and other circumstances for this situation, since Sundays are one day I count on taking off, and between publishing the Blog and some of the other more mundane housekeeping realities, it has been too long since I chose to take the time to "hunt and gather" at the Market.    

Of course the other thing that has changed since my last visit to the market is its location - last Fall when the arroyos flooded with runoff from the mountains the previous site was washed away, necessitating a change of venue.  I knew that it had been moved to the north end of town, somewhere off the main highway, and so, last Sunday morning, we headed off to find the new location to show my Guests some of the local color that is market day in Loreto.

Highway 1 skirts around the west side of the main town site and continues north through a "less structured" suburb area called Miramar which is located on the west side of the road.  Because the new market site is not within view when you are on the highway, I had to stop and find out where to make the turn, which I found out is Calle Delfines, the first main road to the left, past where the divided road becomes the two lane highway heading north.  A couple of long blocks later you can't miss the hubbub of shade awnings, cars and people that fill what is usually a sports field but on Sundays becomes the social and shopping center of Loreto and the surrounding area.

After grabbing a vacant parking space we headed into the maze of stalls and people to get our bearings and see what was available where.  While the old market location was one long alley with booths on both sides set up facing each other, this new arrangement was more muddled with a sort of "main street" core surrounded by other booths (possibly late-comers, or with less seniority) squeezed in more or less randomly where they could fit. 

For the ex-pat community the main attraction of the market (aside from people watching and socializing) has usually been focused on the several fruit and vegetable stands which have a wider variety and often better quality of produce than what is regularly available in the "brick and mortar" grocery stores in town.  That is, however, changing, with the increasing competition from retail newcomers like the Lay Super Express that opened this Fall, and the improvements made by the previously existing stores in town in response. But for the large majority of the customers drawn to this weekly market, it is much more than chance to pick up fresh produce. 

Here you can find just about anything; clothing (new and second hand), shoes of all shapes and sizes, hardware and household items of almost any description (again new and used), children's toys, jewelry, etc.  There are also a couple of open-air restaurants doing good business for the Mexican equivalent of "Sunday Brunch" as well as peddlers wandering among the crowd selling cotton candy and just about anything else people want.

After a quick tour to get my bearings, my focus was on one of the smallest and least significant booths - just a folding table with three chest coolers and a scale - but it was what was IN the coolers that counted - SHRIMP!  To put this into perspective most of the time I have been living in Loreto shrimp has been a staple/delicacy usually easily available from vendors with the ubiquitous coolers, selling out of the back of a pick-up or parked car, often at the side of the road or outside some of the bigger grocery stores.  However this Season shrimp has been very hard to find, with even restaurants having trouble finding enough to keep it on their menu.

So when I saw the sign for "Cameron" I joined several other customers and waited my turn, while watching the lady behind the coolers scooping a dwindling supply of large, fresh, shrimp in the shell out of the ice and water.  Fortunately, when it was my turn there were still some left and I was able to buy a kilo (2.2 lbs.) of 6" shrimp for 300 pesos (less than $25 US) before she ran out.  To put that into perspective, that was expensive based on past year's prices, but given the scarcity so far this season, I was happy to pay the price and add Coconut Shrimp (one of my "house specialties") to the menu before my Guests finished their visit.

And so as we begin another New Year, and conclude another Holiday Season, it is a time for reflections about the year past and the year to come.  For me, enjoying sharing my Home and Community with first time Visitors from Canada, has given me a gift I resolve to appreciate and remember.  That is the gift of seeing and experiencing again the many things that attracted me to this special place - and that sometimes I can take for granted.  Receiving the gift of seeing again, through other's eyes, reminds me why I love "Living Loreto"!