Sunday, March 1, 2009

Leviathan Uncertainty?

Anyone who is currently connected with the Loreto Bay development knows that this is a time of uncertainty. With three prospective new owners involved in a confidential bidding process for the entire development, those of us who live here find ourselves in a unique period of “limbo”. We are waiting for the other shoe to drop; waiting to find out who will guide the future course of this project, which harbors our homes and our dreams for the future.

For some of you reading this, that probably sounds like a precarious situation - particularly with the reality of the current global economic situation and specifically the real estate component of the North American economy. However, for those of us living here in the winter of 08/09, that uncertainty, while it can't be ignored, is tempered by the day to day experience of enjoying a lifestyle in a beautiful place with an ideal climate.

In practical terms, the cost of living here is significantly less than where most of us came from. Food is less expensive to buy, and the selection has improved greatly in the past few years (see the previous posting: “Hunting & Gathering”). If we choose to eat in one of the restaurants in town, we can expect to pay about half of what a comparable meal would cost up north. Beyond those basics, the fact of the matter is, unless we travel to one of the “big” cities like La Paz or Cabo, there really isn't much else to spend money on here and what there is often qualifies as a bargain by North American standards.

For an example, one neighbor had to replace a pair of glasses and found that he was able to get his prescription progressive lenses in comparable frames for about a quarter of the price he had paid for the original pair that was purchased in Canada. Other medical expenses, although not covered by insurance, are also bargains. My wife, Cathy, spent 2100 pesos (about $200 CDN or $150 US) on a root canal in the offices of the local English speaking dentist, while cleanings are similarly discounted. She is also contemplating a dental implant, the price of which is 14,000 pesos (about $1280 CDN or $1000 US) while the same procedure in Canada would be at least double. Is the care as reliable as that up north? All experiences we have heard of have been positive.

Due to the government run Pemex monopoly, the price of a litre of gasoline is about 60 cents CDN or 50 cents US. While that may not be much different than the current prices at home, consider the fact that it was about the same price last year, when North American prices were at least double. Oil changes and other car maintenance and repair costs are far less than we are used to, and the quality and resourcefulness of the mechanics is excellent. Another automotive related expense is car washes. While prices here have risen in the past couple of years, you can still get a exterior hand wash with a thorough interior cleaning, approaching detailing standards back home, for the equivalent of less than $10.00!

Is there uncertainty in living here? Yes, of course, but where in the world isn't facing a higher degree of uncertainty of all kinds this winter? Having said that, I firmly believe in the future of this development and that we will look back at this period of time as the needed transition between the early visionary days, when we first were bitten by the Loreto bug, and the future realistic execution of construction in the newly restructured development. In the meantime, I can't think of a better place than here to weather out the storm battering the economies up north. Needs are simple, we live a healthy lifestyle, mainly outdoors, in an ideal climate, surrounded by spectacular natural beauty and in the company of a growing circle of friends and neighbors who share those experiences with us.

That sense of belonging to a community is an important buttress against the uncertainty and a fine example of that friendliness is the recent party that was held in the Bocce courtyard of the first cluster of mainly completed homes. What started as an informal get-together of the immediate neighborhood, quickly grew to include many of the friends and acquaintances currently residing in the Founders Area. Most everyone brought a snack of some sort and their beverage of choice and enjoyed meeting and visiting with each other. There was music playing and on-going Bocce games (with varying levels of expertise) and the conversations carried on until dusk, when people reluctantly headed for their homes before flashlights were needed to navigate the streets.

Another enrichment of the Loreto experience at this time of year is the fact that this is whale watching season. This activity can also can bring people together, sharing the drive across the peninsula and spending a magical day together experiencing one of nature's rituals of rebirth and nurturing. The adventure begins with an early start for the hour and a half's drive south and west through some dramatic mountain scenery, highlighted by the low angle of the rising sun. This takes us most of the way to the next major town of Constitution, before we turn off the main highway and head for Lopez Mateo, a small fishing port on Magdalina Bay on the Pacific side of the Baja.

While during most of the year this is a working commercial fishing port, in the spring the fleet of open pangas converts to the more lucrative enterprise of conducting whale watching tours in the protected bay that is separated from the Pacific by a dune covered barrier island. It is because of this protected water that the Grey whales have chosen this spot to give birth and nurture their newborn offspring. Depending on the size of the crowds of watchers that day, you may have to wait a short time for the next available boat, then you depart, typically in groups of about 6 passengers, for tours ranging between one and two hours. This year is proving to be one of the most rewarding in recent years, with more whales and more activity than usual.

The mother whales give birth about the end of January to a single calf weighing in the order of 600 kg or 1000 lb. By this time of year their young are nursing, growing fast and gaining strength. As part of their training, the calves are taking “swimming lessons”, where they venture closer and closer to the north end of the barrier island where the strong currents from the Pacific give the 15 to 20 foot “babies” a workout, developing the stamina that they will need to complete the long migration north to Alaskan waters that will begin in a few short weeks.

Once onboard the panga boat we are soon heading north or south from the marina, depending on where the activity is greatest on the day. All eyes on the boat are “peeled” for the distinctive back hump cresting through the calm water, sometimes accompanied by a plume of spray that spouts 20 or 30 feet in the air, much as a snorkler clears their breathing tube of water before taking the next breath. This activity usually draws nearby boats trying to anticipate where the next sighting will occur. Often, there will be a second smaller back cresting beside, and in rhythm with the mother, revealing the two or three week old “baby” swimming alongside.

Every trip out is a unique experience, with different encounters and memorable “Kodak moments”. The presense of these massive mammals (with adults twice the length of the boats and weighing many tons, rising effortlessly within feet of the boat, perhaps within touching distance) is a moving, almost religious experience. If you are lucky enough to see rare behavior like “spying” where an adult will literally “stand” on their tail and raise their head 10 or 15 feet out of the water to have an extended look around, or even just the flash of the tail fin as they take a strong stroke to plunge into the depths below, then you have truly won the “lottery” and have a lifelong memory. Regardless, there are no “ordinary” days spent in close proximity with one of the largest species on earth!

So, whether it is a spontaneous neighborhood get-together enjoying the simple pleasures of games, conversations and food, or a dramatic and memorable experience rubbing shoulders (quite literally!) with one of the ocean's most magnificent creatures, these are the diversions that temper the uncertainty of the times we live in, for those of us lucky enough to be “Living Loreto”

In closing, I have a special announcement to make, my blogging mentor and now business associate; Miss Nellie has made a new posting to her blog; so be sure to check it out and catch up on where in the world she is!