Friday, July 3, 2015

Loreto Life

Loreto, a quiet Mexican town along the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez, where kayakers skim above crystal clear waters and anglers fly a 1,000 miles to pursue the abundance of fish; is no stranger to newcomers.  More than three hundred years ago she hosted the first mission on the peninsula and became the capital city of the newly formed California, a fact hard to believe in June when this little town siestas through the heat of its off season, leaving the few tourists like us to wander through empty streets, empty shops and empty beaches.

Loreto, the first capital of both Baja and Alta California. This little plaza was once the political center that governed territory including our own Los Angeles, as far north as Monterey, California.
Inside of the Mision Nuestra Senora de Loreto which is a working church.

As Kip so reverently pointed out, Jesus has many fans.

Walking through the empty plaza and around shady, tree-line streets on an afternoon too hot for everyone else.

The malecón on a Saturday afternoon, empty of tourists in the heat of the afternoon, but in the evening the street along the malecón became busy with young Mexicans driving their cars and trucks up and down. It reminded me of kids "cruising"in the little town in West Virginia where Kip and I lived as a teenagers.

Table for two, waiting for you.

The night sky was anything but empty though. In the evening, after the kids had gone to bed, Kip and I sat on the balcony, still warm from the day’s heat, and stared at the mesmerizing night stars, moving slowly across the night sky, interrupted only by the few upstart stars that shot across the velvet on their way to oblivion. 
We stayed in Loreto for four days spending the first exploring the town, its souvenir shops and cafes. Because we were driving our own car we also got lost enough to drive around the rest of Loreto where the fisherman, waitresses, shop owners and hotel maids live. Like every other part of Mexico there was the familiar mix of built and unbuilt, paradise and poverty, and dogs -- always stray dogs everywhere.
The second day we hired a local captain to take us to the national marine preserve on the Island of Coronado. For less than the price of taking our family to a day at Sea World we spent the morning surrounded by nature --  seals, fish, birds, the indigenous blue footed booby, even a majestic manta ray leaping above the water like a flying fish. Our boat ride ended on a white sand beach where we spent a few hours swimming and snorkeling in the warm water where you could see not only your toes but the fish that swam several feet below them.

He let our son drive.

Hi seals!

Boating around Coronado Island was like being immersed in a nature documentary, beauty everywhere.

Water so clear you can see fish through the water.

Arriving at the sandy side of the island.

Typical, here we are in paradise and I am consulting the guide book to see what we should see.

Hopeful guy waiting for a fish

It was Sunday afternoon and this Mexican family were enjoying the beach, the fishing  and an afternoon together.
While we were in Loreto we stayed in a casita in the Loreto Bay area, a sprawling community of freshly built vacation homes laid out like Italian villas in Mexican colors, each home with its own private courtyard, the houses connected by lanes adorned with perfectly manicured native plants. Like the rest of Loreto, it was nearly empty, waiting its time between the snow bird season when retirees from United States and Canada made their winter homes there, and the height of fishing season in late summer.

View from the tower of our home for our Loreto stay

Fountains and native plants everywhere in the community around Loreto Bay
Beautiful color and Mexican mission style everywhere

Beautiful walk through the community to the bay

Not the beautiful waves of the Pacific Ocean, but tranquil shore of Loreto Bay on the Sea of Cortez

There is plenty of room under the hotel's palapas which are free for people staying in Loreto Bay to use.

Taking in the sunset after an afternoon of swimming.

They say Loreto is where the mountains come to play at the sea.

Kip getting into the peace of this place so far from work.
We spent several hours enjoying the community swimming pool and the bay where we rented kayaks and stand up paddle boards and explored the shallow bay with its own giant rock peninsula where exotic fish hide behind corral rocks.

Kip and our son in a kayak

Kayaking around the rock. Around the rock we discovered some of the best snorkeling conditions we have ever experienced, beautiful fish, warm water and calm bay waters.
We borrowed some snorkeling gear we found in our rental house and I had the most pleasant snorkeling experience I have ever had. We saw puffer fish, sea urchins, star fish, others that I don’t know the name of but remember seeing in aquariums. Our son said he felt like he was swimming through Finding Nemo.

Kip picked up a beautiful shell for our daughter, and when he brought it back to the house we found it had a surprise.

Hello hermit. We took him back to the bay.

By the end of the third day in Loreto we seriously considered canceling our hotel in Cabo San Lucas and staying in our own private paradise for the rest of the vacation time. To stay in Loreto would save us hours in the car and after our long, somewhat frazzled drive from Ensenada to Loreto, and none of us were anxious to get back in the car -- except for our son who reminded us that we needed to find out what happened in the story we had been listening to in the car.
Loreto locals, tourists and residents, offered vague warnings about Cabo like “So you are headed to Cabo? Yeah, it’s really busy there.” While no one said, “don’t go,” they clearly preferred their quiet peace half way up the Sea of Cortez.
We hesitated, but my weather forecast phone app predicted several days of rain in Loreto and sunny skies at the bottom of the peninsula, and Kip had a goal of driving ALL the way down the Baja, so on the fourth morning we reluctantly packed up and left our perfect little retreat for the famous tourist destination we had heard so much about.
We were so glad we did.
My son and I went for one last snorkeling session early in the morning before we left for Cabo.