Monday, July 30, 2007

On The Road Again ... Where In the World Am I??

This is the start of my first annual vacation and I will be taking three weeks away from Loreto. It seems like a long time, but it is necessary to keep perspective on what I am doing and why. Even along the roads less traveled there is much road work and bridges being built at a frenzied pace. There is no doubt the Mexican Government is preparing for major foreign investment in development projects in the not too distant future.

I started by driving down to La Paz and checking on the newest developments there. La Paz is a very nice business city with a population of 250,000 people. The south end has many new condos and Master Plan Communities, the new marina can accommodate ships as large as 220 ft. There are some very good values for investment in early vacation projects. It has a lot to offer, but I still think the scenery of Loreto is much prettier and the smaller town appeals to me.

Driving south along the East Cape I wanted to check out Los Barriles which is a small seaside community. It is still affordable and offers great scenery. Many of my friends are buying and developing in this area, and it is always interesting to see how this place will change in the next 10 years. Los Barriles is 1 ½ hours from La Paz Airport, and about 50 minutes from San Jose Del Cabo Airport, and fits the lifestyle for many that like to be secluded yet close enough to go to Cabo for the day.

A vacation in Baja would not be complete without a few days in Cabo to shop and party. There is a saying that “What happens in Cabo stays in Cabowhereas “What happens in Loreto … goes all around the world!” I had drinks with my friend Darryl at Margaritaville on the Marina. The drinks are definitely a good start to a helluva hangover. We ambled over to Nick San which has the best sushi restaurant in all of Baja. I highly recommend the black and white tuna … a total gastronomic experience.

On my Alaska Airlines flight back to Victoria, we were greeted by a shuttle bus at LAX to take us to the International Terminal. Apparently the International Terminal will be under construction for several years, and Alaska planes will land at their domestic terminal and passengers shuttled over to Immigration. Make sure you allow more time for this connection and wear good walking shoes. We did get milk and hot baked chocolate chip cookies on the LAX to Seattle flight which made us feel very satisfied and a little homey so no complaints here.

I took a trip with my daughter Carlie and her boyfriend Tom up island to show him the sights. I always make a stop at Goldstream Park to see the giant cedar trees and be among a forest that has been there for hundreds of years. Carlie looks like a pixie hidden in the base of this mammoth tree. The fresh air is intoxicating.

Tom is from Winnipeg and he was very excited about seeing the endless beaches of Parksville that go out for miles at a time during low tide. There are many vacation rentals and homes for sale in this area and it is a very pretty place for family outings in the summer. However, at 70 degrees in the middle of the day… I still prefer Loreto.

A trip up island would not be complete without stopping for the very best oysters in the entire world. This is Fanny Bay where the oysters are 3 inches in size and giant shells are shipped everywhere. Easily these are one of my favorite foods of all time.

Another of my favorite places is Coombs, where only a few years ago the local market had goats on the roof as its trademark. Now the food market is an international culinary dream … even for those not from Loreto. There are a dozen different varieties of smoked salmon, breads, desserts, ice creams, jams, dressings, candies, and every spice and food packaging imaginable from all over the world. What a goldmine for the business owners as well as the visitors!

We were driving down the highway and saw lamas, so I needed to back track and take their picture. On a closer look I realized they were Alpacas of Peru. Carlie asked what was the difference, and I replied that it was a big difference if you were a lama. Their wool is very long and normally their body shape is like a tent, but when they are shaved they look quite adorable.

It is good to be back in Victoria where the cool temperatures, amazingly clean streets, and abundant flowers are an everyday way of life. There are 400 gulf islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland, and it is truly a spectacular place to be on a boat or anywhere near the water.

I received this photo from my Calgary friends Drew and Cathy, FN49, who hosted two dozen Displaced Loretanos aka Calgarians last night. They served tacos and tapas with mucho cervezas and vino. Everyone caught up on their plans for their next trip to their second home. Thanks to all my friends for thinking of me and sharing some good northern hospitality!

This coming week I will be traveling to Seattle and Vancouver, both beautiful cities and should have more adventures and visits with our Loreto neighbors. Have a great week!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Life and Images of Baja California Sur

There are so many things to do in this area. Most of us come down “to check it out” and end up buying land to build our second or third home that will offer a lifestyle we have worked our entire lives for and find ourselves dreaming about more each day. A simple life where little is taken for granted and the small things are appreciated because it is a hard life here. Obtaining the basic amenities, services and consumer goods are a task in creativity, luck and timing.

The natural instinct is to become obsessed with building our home, which for some reason must be more perfect than any other home we have owned. It is not that we are building for Architectural Digest, more than we feel these bricks and mortar will provide the conduit and reward to justify the reason we have worked so hard, for so many years, and at times have cost much emotional and physical turmoil. Finally, we are nearing the stage when we can truly see the finished home in sight … now what??

It is time to put the anxiety of building and waiting behind us and explore all the amazing natural spaces around us. Time to get involved in the community and make a difference where we can. Time to live each day with little purpose except to have the greatest day possible and make someone else’s day a little brighter.

There are so many places to explore that I am not worried about Loreto growing into a major tourist development area. As long as it is done with integrity to be environmentally sensitive and sustainable, to respect nature and the life here, to be safe and not become the “gringoville” of other Mexican resorts, we will be happy. The only way to ensure that this does not happen to is to actively participate in the community and the decisions of change. To simply sit back and say “we don’t want another Cabo” and complain about change is helping no one and hurting all who live and invest here.

I have noticed on my road trips throughout Baja California Sur that there is major road work being done. Highways are being widened and paved; massive bridges are built to avoid any further flooding in the arroyos. The Government is spending millions on infrastructure in preparation for the planned growth that will take place over the next 15 years.

We came across this small Windmill Farm which powered a little town. The American residents seemed very satisfied with the results and reliability of it. The only comment was that there needed to be better planned maintenance of the batteries to prevent costly repairs. I remembered seeing the giant windmills in Yuma that truly looked like alien structures seen many miles away and wondered if they will ever become part of the landscape and landmarks of Baja.

Although it is always impressive to see the luxury yachts moored in our harbor, the sight of the local ponga boats lined up with their catch of the day is thrilling. Life here is genuine without airs and graces, just fresh seafood with a cold cerveza and life is pretty damn good.

Getting lost is always an adventure for me since I seem to enjoy not knowing where I am going or how to get there. My only goal is to have a great day ... everything always works out. The amazing diversity before my eyes on this particular wrong turn was astounding. The road was a dirt path with a large mountain bluff on one side, and thick palm trees and ferns on the other. Off in the distance you can see a Cactus Forest reaching for miles, and then barren nothingness towards the mountains. It seems that this oasis of palm trees in the middle of desert and beaches is not as uncommon as I expected.

It is fun to have the toys, although I realize they are environmentally sensitive and politically incorrect. Now there are few rules, but we will be happy to abide by them as more and more people have them. Wave Runners, kayaks, small recreational vehicles both for water and land will be on everyone’s wish list to have.

Many of the islands are deserted and it is still easy to find a new beach or hill to explore. Occasionally, you will run across a lone fisherman or campers that have been brought out by boat for the day to enjoy the solitude. I love to see the seals, crabs and different birds that make these special places their home.

Even the diversity of beaches is surprising. You can find different types of sand and rocky beaches without going very far. White sand beaches are most common near Mulege about an hour and a half up north, but there are also some nice sandy beaches that are not quite white about an hour south as well. I invested in a very nice picnic knapsack complete with wine coolers and glasses, cheese tray, and insulated pack for all my home made goodies. A few beach towels, checkered tablecloth and napkins and it is another incredible memory waiting to happen.

The Pacific is known for the surfing and wave action. It reminds me of California and you meet many characters who have decided to take up residence there. I started this article by saying that most of us initially wanted this place to be our second or third vacation home, but I think the more time you spend here… the more time you will spend here!

I never have to venture far to see the local sights. On the malecon this week were four vaqueros y caballos (cowboys and horses) riding past my front door. They stopped to pick up a few beer for the road and trotted off into the sunset.

Also in the middle of the day a few naval officers were out for a stroll. In 100 degree heat what I noticed first was that they were in full uniform, boots and hats. I noticed the riffles second and realized that their base is further down the road. I never thought about it, but they are close by which makes me feel a little safer.

Have a great week!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Fishin For the Mission Tournament

Restaurants and Bars were busier this week as many people were coming into town for the Fishin For the Mission Tournament this weekend. This is a local event that was started 16 years ago by Americans living and visiting this area to support the Loreto community. It happens in the “July dark moon” which is about the 3rd week each year.

It was a private event until six years ago when it became public and attracted some big sponsors. Last year they raised $25,000 USD which was donated to the Mission, the local orphanage, and buying books for the library. The generous donation of the many sponsors raises about 40 to 50 prices in addition to money. The registration fee is $150 for a boat with 4 people. Very cheap for 3 days of fun and a good charitable project!

This is the President Jim Duggins(left) and Vice President Troy Cline of the event. They were very happy to share information about their event and look forward to many more participants next year. One of the things that came through was that this event is real appreciation for the locals and all they do to help the fishermen all year long. At the beginning of each event is a party at the Marina for all the local boat captains and ponga drivers and their families with food, beer, and lots of good laughs.

This is an annual “not to be missed event" for many people that live here and come back just to “Fishin For the Mission … where the Mission is Fishing”. My friend Brenda Calger has been part of this group for the last 10 years and is well established in the local culture. She is between two very nice young local Loreto men, Andres who works for me and J.D. who will be working with her on Brenda's new “concierge” business to take care of foreigners’ homes and events so they do not need to. More to come in the next few months…

There are shirts and souvenirs donated and all money raised goes towards the local community. Check out their website at and see how you can participate next year!

I did not fish this weekend as I had made plans to explore the west coast of Baja California Sur to find the freshest seafood available. My motto is to always seek assistance from the experts for things that I do not do so well myself. We went over to the West Coast to see the different beaches and was surprised how much cooler it was. It was a very pleasant 85 degrees, when it was over 100 degrees in Loreto.

We found an abalone depot where the many ponga captains brought in their fresh catches each day. They were shelled and cleaned and sold for about 600 pesos per kilo, or $29 USD per pound. Abalone is illegal to harvest in Canada and is on the black market for over $100 a pound if you can get it.

The shells were beautiful and large, and hopefully sold for crafts and jewelry. This is big business and I hope that they do not over harvest the abundance now available.

You can buy fresh fish off many beaches in remote destinations if you time it right. Usually between 11 am to 2 pm, depending upon weather. There was a little shop with this truck full of ice and fish waiting for the right buyers to come along. There was grouper, halibut and some mahi mahi, all very fresh. I am sure that it would be delivered to the bigger cities and sold for higher prices.

Another little spot we found was scallops by the boat full. The whole family, including kids about 8 years old, was shelling scallops on this restful Sunday afternoon. The little house was all equipped with weighing machines, freezers, and everything needed to do business. Not sure what they did with the shells, but there were many mobiles and crafts, as well as shells in the pavement for decoration scattered all through this little town.

I apologize to my many friends for being late with this weeks’ update, but I have some spectacular scenery pictures to share with you next week once I get some rest! Covered a lot of ground in a very short time, and I always encourage everyone to take the road less traveled and see what surprises you may find. Have a great week!

Monday, July 09, 2007

What is New in Loreto, Mexico?

I truly must say that after one year of living in Loreto, I can only remember 3 bad days. This is pretty incredible when I think of all my working life, the countless times that some “catastrophe” would happen that would put me in a bad mood and stress me out, and basically affect the rest of the day. Now when “stuff” happens, I just shrug my shoulders and say, “Oh Well, nothing I can do about it now. Let’s see what happens and deal with the consequences.” Perhaps this is the evolution process of becoming older and wiser, and perhaps it is because in Loreto, there is not a damn thing you can do but give in to the inevitable. Life happens …deal with it. This is not to say that every day is a bed of roses, but I have grown accustomed to the little thorns.

In the last few months my blog has been gaining a wide readership with over 1600 hits a month. It started as a personal journal and means of communication with those that wanted to know what I was doing. Now it has evolved into a central place to keep in touch with what is happening in the area and stay connected with virtual friends.

This is a lot of responsibility and I was considering the thought of discontinuing writing after my first year. However, this week I had many friends visit who encouraged me to keep writing and they told me how much they appreciated what I was doing. This was very important for me to hear and I value their comments and kindness very much. It is always nice to see my neighbors and friends. Please drop by and say hello whenever you are in downtown Loreto. It does get lonely here … especially now as summer approaches.

There has been much development in Loreto in the last six months. It seems things happen very slowly, and then all of a sudden you notice changes and wonder “When or How did that happen?Quien Sabe! The streets of downtown Loreto have been a mess for months with every road being ripped up with detours and pot holes everywhere. What we have been told is that the State Government gave money to fix the roads before the rains came. The city decided to take this opportunity to redo the sewer and water pipes, and now this has finally been done.

The first new road to be paved was the entrance to Jueves which is the main street behind Bridgestone Tire. They used a new type of asphalt that lasts longer and is more durable in this heat, and I must say it looks beautifully smooth! For now it is the only block in the entire city that is finished… but a great start!

The Bridge over the arroyo between Loreto and Nopolo is almost finished and should be open this week. You can see the side road to the left that we have been using for months, which was a strip of uneven surfaces, dirt and gravel, and no lights or dividing lines. The new road will be much faster and I hope they enforce speed restrictions as it will be tempting to go very fast along the new smooth surface. We look forward to seeing how it holds up in the next hurricane storm.

Loreto Bay has also made major progress in Phase II Aqua Viva and golf course. You can see that a substantial area has been cleared and they are starting on 80 AV homes very soon. The canals are being dug and the retention walls going up. The golf course will be ready to start seeding this season and be ready to open next year. Not sure of dates, but as long as things keep moving forward … it is all good.

I was astounded by the estuary that has been completed behind the golf course lots in Founders Neighborhood. It is much larger than I expected and already home to many birds that neighbors can see from their windows in the mornings. This combined with the golf course when finished and the mountains as a backdrop will make the homes on this side of the road very desirable.

Here is a photo of the back of the Golf Course Village Homes, many of which are now completed and have sidewalks. It is a community starting to happen and I introduced three different home owners who were down this week accepting their homes, that all just happened to be within a few houses from each other. Small, small world!

The new hospital is coming along very quickly and it has been painted with doors, windows and gates. I do not know when it will open, but the building looks almost completed. Of course, I am sure getting equipment and finishing the interior is always more work, but they have come a long way in less than a year.

There is a new large tire shop as you enter Loreto. With the streets being what they are, and many times we are off-roading on dirt paths or beaches, tires get much wear and tear. I recently replaced my two front tires with new No Name Brand tires for 1600 pesos. This is about $80 USD a piece including installation and wheel alignment. I did not check to see if they replace shocks or brakes, but that is a great business here too.

Just a few blocks from the tire store is a new nursery. I have not had the need to go and explore there, but it is always nice to have options and what makes a home here are the plants and flowers. The plants look healthy and you can’t miss the large selection as you drive into town.

There are many investment deals in Loreto. This week I am showing a rental investment for sale. It is a brand new home, well located on a quiet street in downtown Loreto with a 2 bedroom suite that would rent for $700 per month and a 1 bedroom suite that rents for $500 a month, with parking. This is for sale at $150,000 USD and a good immediate return. There is zero vacancy in Loreto and the rental accommodation will not change anytime soon. We can advise you on the many real estate options in this area, including Loreto Bay. Just email or drop by for more information.

The term of Mayor or Presidente is three years and not renewable. Loreto will have an election in February 2008 and the new candidate will officially take office in May of 2008. We can start to see campaign signs going up and it looks like it will be a very aggressive race in this up and coming little town. By the way, this photo is taken at the only stop light in Loreto and it is now functional again, after being turned off for several months due to road construction.

Have a great week!