Monday, April 06, 2009

A Slight Difference in Latitude

A couple of inches of snow fell last night, meaning that the view from my back door this morning looked pretty much like this again, though it has mostly melted since:

That's actually a picture from Sunday morning, March 29. Roughly 48 hours later, thanks to the infrastructure that makes modern travel possible, I was able to point my camera at this view:

This is the Pacific Ocean at Punta de Mita in the state of Nayarit, Mexico, on the last day of March, 2009. Here in Estados Unidos de América, most of us have heard of Puerto Vallarta. I never actually saw more than about 10 minutes of The Love Boat, yet somehow I know that PV was a major port of call for that vessel. To an even earlier generation, The Night of the Iguana put the town on the map.

Not so Punta de Mita, also simply known as Punta Mita. "I say Punta Mita and I get blank stares," said an American expat we met during our visit. "So I say it's near Puerto Vallarta, and that gets a reaction."

Puerto Vallarta lies midward on the enormous Bay of Banderas, where the Rio Cuale meets the sea, a setting made all the more picturesque by the Sierra Madre in the background. Punta de Mita is a peninsula that defines the northern extent of the Bay of Banderas. The peninsula has a slender neck and more generous proportions toward its tip, with a small set of high hills marking its interior. From there, the land slopes to the sea, mostly in a way suitable for building. The peninsula is ringed by over nine miles of shoreline, sporting the classic white-sand beaches that make it into brochures but also rocky cliffs that look down onto scenes such as this:

As a resort- and second-home development, Punta Mita is in rompers. Serious development of the peninsula really only got under way in the late 1990s, with the Four Seasons Punta Mita opening in 1999. Later developments include a St. Regis resort, which opened in 2007, a number of residential properties and a couple of Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses. A fair amount of other development has yet to be realized, though in the fullness of time I don't doubt that DINE, the master developer of the area, will achieve its aims. DINE, formerly a unit of Mexican conglomerate DESC but now a standalone commercial developer, probably Mexico's largest, is also at work on properties at Punta Ixtapa and Punta Gorda on the Pacific coast of Mexico.

My visit was in the dry season, so outside the lush green areas of the resorts and residential properties -- with their bright flowers and towering palms -- brown and gray and other earth tones dominated landscape, something like the one I see from my window at home this time of year. Northern Illinois is waiting for sustained warmth. The coast of Nayarit is waiting for the wet season, which I was told evokes a sudden, tremendous eruption of greenery and wildflowers.

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