Sunday, May 16, 2010

Above and Below - Punta Nopolo

The title photo above is of Punta Nopolo at dawn. This rocky point that gives it’s name to the surrounding area of Nopolo, and marks the south end of the Loreto Bay development, is in front of the beach at the Inn at Loreto Bay.

As the time for my departure from Loreto draws nearer (I am planning to return to Canada at the end of this month) and the demands on my time selling Real Estate here has dropped off, with the reduced numbers of visitors at this time of year, I am making an effort to do some of the things that I haven’t made time for during the past winter.

On one of my now more frequent walks on the beach this week, I decided to climb to the top of this landmark and enjoy the view. Approaching from the beach I crossed over the picturesque 15th green of the golf course and found the access point for the beginning of the climb and began the scramble up. Making my way up the dry rocky slope brought home to me what the natural desert terrain is normally like here. Surrounded by lush plantings in the community courtyards, that are scattered throughout the development, and living in my home with irrigated gardens, one looses touch with the fact that we live in an otherwise harsh desert climate here.

In spite of the fact that this rocky promontory is bone dry – it’s been months since we’ve had even the lightest precipitation, and we are at the beginning of the hottest and driest months of the year – remarkably there is plant life, if not flourishing, but surviving. The hillside is made up of sand, gravel and rocks, with solid outcrops of apparently volcanic boulders, leaving a record of the tumultuous events eons ago that created this dramatically beautiful, arid landscape.

As I reach the halfway point I pause in my climb and turn to appreciate the breathtaking view of Loreto Bay and the Inn and Golf Course that stretch out below me. The green velvet of the fairways wrapping around the estuaries are surrounded by the rugged Sierra Gigante Mountains, providing a dramatic contrast between man-made and natural terrain.

Below me, at the base of this hill, begins the beach in front of the Inn at Loreto Bay, washed by the usually gentle, warm water of the Sea of Cortez. From this distance the hotel property looks pristine, but abandoned, as it awaits the guests that will return when full operations resume. Given the beautiful location on this sheltered bay, it is believable to me that the day will come soon, when this property will be busy with the activity and life of vacationers falling in love with this special place.

About two thirds of the way up the slope, I reach the first view over the other side towards the ocean, where the rock cliff drops 150 feet straight down into the deep blue water. The sea side of Punta Nopolo has been carved almost vertical by wind and water over millennia. This sculpted rock stands as testament to the powerful forces that can be unleashed during those occasions when this now placid body of water can be whipped into frenzy by extreme weather and lash the shore.

The last third of the climb becomes much steeper and is composed of solid rock outcrops with almost no vegetation. As the going gets tougher I become more conscious of my “dislike” of heights, and I pay closer attention to my hand and footholds – now would not be a good time to slip, slide away! When I reach the pinnacle of the climb there is the first of two surprises, a tiny shrine carved into a small cave-like crevice in the rocks, protected by a loose web of cords protecting a candle in a glass and a small picture of the Virgin Mary. I pause at this primitive, but sombre memorial for a moment and my first uncomfortable reaction is gradually replaced by an appreciation of the effort and devotion that someone has had to create this remembrance of a loved one.

A little further up I find another unexpected addition to the peak, a hand-made ceramic plaque inscribed with the words:” Loreto endless beauty shared with the world” and a date 06/28/08 – I couldn’t have said it better myself! This plaque is further decorated with a starfish studded with pearls – perhaps in recognition of the bounty that comes from the living waters stretched out far below. Here I pause again and contemplate who might have been responsible for this little piece of human creativity, paying homage to the breathtaking beauty of the surroundings. I think I’d like to meet that person – on second thought - I hope I already do know them, among my friends and Homeowners in the community below.

Another 10 or 15 feet further up I reach the top and, in spite of my growing anxiety over the height (I was now over 200 feet above the shoreline below) my fear was replaced with awe over the view that stretched as far as my eyes could see in all directions. Across the calm, deep blue water there was Ilsa Carmen framing the horizon to the east, Danzante to the south, merging into the rugged cliffs stretching beyond my position on this point. The manicured grass of the fairways, divided by the estuary rimmed with mangrove, wraps around the hundreds of pastel coloured homes making up the village that stretches along the gently curving shore. To the west and north the jagged peaks of the Sierra Gigante range make a dramatic backdrop to this breathtaking view – and I crouch from my perch atop Punta Nopolo, speechless at the beauty that lies before me!

After enjoying this reverie, I carefully retrace my way down to the base again and then I begin to circle the shoreline that has been exposed by the low tide. Around most of the perimeter of Punta Nopolo extends in a solid rock shelf at the low water mark, presumably created by eons of wave action. This remarkably flat surface is broken by occasional boulders that are composed of harder material and have withstood the erosion that has shaped the shore here.

Large rocks make stepping stones into the now gentle water and create some wonderful spots for angling into the deeper water a short cast further out. While I am standing there I hear and see a splash in the water, followed a short time later by several others. While I reach for my camera I see first one, then several, and finally more than half a dozen, foot long blue hued fish jumping in unison and travelling 15 or 20 feet through the air before splashing back into the emerald green water. After they have disappeared I marvel at the energy that must have been required by them to swim fast enough to breach the surface and then launch out of the water and fly that far. I can’t help wondering if this brief aerial exhibition is the equivalent for them to what a quick plunge into the ocean is for us?

On the east side of the point, which is exposed to the full force of the occasional
storms, the cliff is almost vertical with undercut areas near the base. Seabirds have favourite perches, painted white with guano, from which they primp and preen, or just rest and observe their surroundings. About three quarters of the way around the base there is a tumble of huge boulders that require scrambling across and over to reach the quiet south side. Here there is another flat shelf of rock that divides into more stepping stone boulders just above the surface of the water and the cliff is undercut even deeper by the waves at high tide.

This is also the entrance to the estuary that I had observed from above, with a breakwater of big rocks stretching half way across, to protect the calm water and mangroves beyond. I make my way to where these rocks meet the edge of the hill and soon am back on the grass surrounding the green where my exploration began. Looking back up to the crest of the hill I recall the views from there and then the solid rock shoreline surrounding this point of land and I think how appropriate the local saying is, that describes this area: “Where the mountains come to swim”.

Taking the time on a perfect day to re-explore and appreciate again the natural beauty that surrounds us here - but that we too often take for granted – that is another special moment I will remember about “Living Loreto”.