Monday, March 10, 2008

Beach Time

Tenacatita's bay beach along the north shore of Tenacatita Bay draw people year round for food, swimming, and family fun.

Tenacatita, Jalisco, Mexico -- The current population of this village adds up to no more than a few hundred people at most, probably less. The majority of residents are Mexican, with a few people from the U.S. and Canada who found this out-of-the-way place over years and keep coming back every winter. Most of those stay in the one small hotel, or in their own RV or trailer near the beaches. One man we met has been coming here for twenty years.
There are no subdivisions, and no downtown. The village -- if it deserves that title -- straddles a point of rocky land on the north end of Tenacatita Bay, with spectacular sandy beaches on each side.

To the south of the point, sweeping inland to the east, are the bay beaches lined with a dozen or so restaurants. One hotel, two stories tall with a swimming pool, sits back from the beach a block surrounded by palmetto scrub, palm trees and the edge of the mangrove swamp and lagoon. For about $25 you can take a "jungle ride" along backside of the beaches through the mangrove. It's a popular deal for birdwatchers and those looking for crocodiles.
The restaurants are the type found all along the Pacific Coast in smaller towns: a large shaded area covered by palm fronds supported on posts; umbrellas and chairs down to the edge of the water; a utilitarian half-building made of concrete that houses a kitchen, bathrooms and maybe a shower stall or two. Most of the restaurants are illegal, in the U.S. sense, in that the owners do not own the land. They just use it till someone comes along and complains. That's an accepted practice here, and some of these places have been here for years.
In Mexico, possession may actually be nine points of the law.

Where Tenacatita Bay meets the Pacific Ocean

The point where bay and ocean meet rises into the air in a series of short steep hills, decorated with giants rocks where ocean and bay meet, left behind by some long-forgotten volcano and eroded into sharp and beautiful shapes. The swells from the Northwest crash against the ocean side, rocks and beach, sending giant spumes of water and mist into the air. It's easy to get wet standing 50 yards in from the water's edge when the surf is high. It almost always is.
To the north is one of the last great unpopulated beaches in Mexico, sweeping in a long curve, an old plantation of coconut palms marching in a line behind the dunes.
As of last week there are two small houses on the beachside in the first several miles , and those are occupied for less than half the year. Maybe two or three more old places are abandoned and falling down.

Pat taking a siesta at Mario's place, the only new building on the ocean beach.

When we walked on the beach on a Sunday afternoon we did not encounter another walker, though two teenagers on their four-wheelers did ride by on they way into "town."

What we did see as we stepped onto the beach for a walk was a massive whale, coming completely out of the water, turning on its side, and crashing into the sea. he was about a half-mile offshore, and while we could see his spout and some foam on the water, he never did repeat his showy entrance. I was too excited to take pictures.

The beach was noisy thanks to hundreds of seabirds feasting on schools of fish just beyond the crashing surf.

A sign of the future is barbed wire fencing. In one year, virtually every lot along this stretch of beach is marked off by barbed wire boundaries, and an occasional "se vende" or "for sale" sign stuck in the sand.

Bulldozers are carving roads out of the sand, knocking down trees from the old coconut plantation. Speculators are moving in, though so far no one has proposed a condo. There is a rumor, though, that a rich landowner plans to build several homes for millionaires on the rocky point which divides bay and ocean. Right now, battered and dusty campers and RVs are the primary and temporary residents. One Berkeley escapee has her vacation home for sale on the hill. No power. No water. No septic or sewer. But a great view.

North of Tenacatita Bay on the ocean, near Arroyo Seco, reachable only by dirt roads...

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