When off roading goes wrong!

As we were still in new territory, we were both hypersensitive to any potential danger around us. We had decided to dip our toes into the water so to speak, and so spent the night wild camping. As it turned out, we barely saw a single car, let alone a group of robbers looking to take advantage of some foreign travels.

Hidden away

The reviews stated that the beach was fantastic for finding clams and sea food, so I spent the morning combing the beach for a sign of anything edible. My spoils included lots of lobster shells, a funky smelling oyster and a dead fish head. Now I like a cooking challenge, but I wasn’t quite desperate enough to bring them back for tea.

Willow had a different agenda for the beach… Shells.

She had run out of room to collect pine cones, and she had recently acquired some new plants from Lesley, so her attention shifted to scouring the beach for sea shells. Poking at anything which looked remotely interesting.

Eventually, we decided to move on, Willow had found an interesting sounding campground, which has a half completed hotel. Intrigued, we set off, planning to stop off in a small town along the way in search of pesos and beer.

Armed with some simple phrases, we were able to make enough conversation to buy a few items. We even managed to exchange some of our dollars to pesos. We didn’t have much, but it didn’t look like it would be a problem. Everything was so cheap in comparison to California. A lot of the stores we popped into seemed to have card machines as well, which suited us, as we’d prefer to keep as little cash on us as possible, just incase we did run into anyone dodgy.

We took a dirt road off of the main highway and headed to the hotel. We were starting to experience more washboard roads, and where not enjoying the experience.

As we were trying to move further south as quickly as possible in search of warmer weather, and so by the time we arrived, it was late afternoon. You could see that the hotel was going to be quite a grand building compared to the shacks we had driven by. The owners must have run out of money, as the building worked had ceased from the first floor up.

I wonder if they will ever finish it?

We parked up in the car park, which had water and a hook up point. Plugged into the grid, and toasted another Pacific sunset.

This would make a great album cover
Pretty skies

I spoke to an American couple, who were parked next to us. They were getting ready to drive back to Oregon in the morning. We had only been in Baja three evenings, but it was already surpassing our expectations for how chilled out we were feeling. It felt like we had definitely made the right decision to head south as opposed to heading to Canada for early March.

Tropical sunset

In the morning, we paid 50 pesos to use the shower facilities in one of the rooms, I desperately needed a shave and a hair cut.

Feeling refreshed, we set off south once more, finding a little canyon site right next to the sea.

Our new neighborhood

Pulling up, we received a warm reception from three local dogs. They had been mentioned in the comments on iOverlander, and people were not sure if they were owned or not. There were two older dogs and a smaller one, which couldn’t have been more than a few months old. After giving them water and some of Aimee’s food, we decided to name them Jake, Gina and Rosa.

He had crazy eyes
Baby Rosa

Someone had put a lot of effort into making the campground appealing to travelers. They were multiple spots with palapas and BBQs. There was even a put toilet, which wasn’t the most appealing, but it was at least functional.

Settling in

We one the next day to find our new dogs family sleeping outside. We took it upon ourselves to give them some more water and food. Aimee was even warming up to them, even if they were eating her grub.

Rosa seemed to have some scabs on her face, most likely from an overexcited playing session with Jake or Gina, so Willow cleaned the wounds with some salt water.

Cleaning Rosa’s battle scars

We went for a stroll down the beach, accompanied by an enthusiastic Jake. The trail was tricky at times, but in didn’t seem to deter Jake.

Wait… That’s not Aimee

The beach was full of locals, bagging up large rocks. It didn’t look enjoyable, and I bet they weren’t earning much for their troubles.

Later that day, we were joined by another van which made it’s way down into the canyon campground, we noticed the license plate had a Swiss flag and the initials for Zurich. Other European travelers?

A couple came over to introduce themselves. David and Katy. They were a German and Swiss couple who had been traveling roughly the same time as us. Only they had driven across Canada to Alaska and then made there way down to Baja.

It was kind of nice to meet fellow Europeans. Our only other encounter had been with an English and German couple who we briefly met in Natchez, after our time in New Orleans.

I set off down the sea to collect some fire wood, so we could chill out with our new friends. Returning with enough fire wood for at least two nights of fires.

Shortly after, we were joined by another European couple, this time from Austria. Five months in the US and we hardly met anyone doing anything similar to us, and after four days in Baja, we had met two other couples.

We spent the night, sharing our tales around the camp fire, listening in awe as they described their visits to Banff and Alaska. Certainly two places we had to make it to before heading back home for good.

Fire and friendships

We both woke excited to move on to our next destination, however we were sad to be leaving the dogs, especially little Rosa. They had pretty much stayed by outside the entire time that we had been there. We did seriously consider taking Rosa with us, however in the end, logic prevailed. With the shop not really taking off, we could barely afford to get by with Aimee, so another animal really wouldn’t have been sensible. And so we headed off, the dogs chasing after us. It broke our hearts to watch little Rosa struggling to keep up with us.

Heartbreaking goodbye

We spotted a local sea lion sanctuary, only a few kilometres down the road at a national park and so set off. Katy and David decided to join us, as we were both heading in the same direction.

To get to the sanctuary, we had to leave the main road and drive down a dirt track. Although we are not 4×4, we do have a lot of ground clearance, so we decided to take our chances. Our new friends were driving in a 4×4 VW/Toyota hybrid, so could hopefully help us out if we encountered any difficulty.

Off roading

We made our way down the treacherous dirt track, weaving and winding, searching for suitable paths to creep along without seriously damaging the radiator which was positioned under the van.

Bit tricky in places

I must admit, there were a couple of moments where I gripped a little harder onto the steering wheel, as we crawled, almost at a 45° angle, trying to avoid suitable parts of the track.

We were slow but we made it, David couldn’t believe how well Ruby did, admiring us from behind as we had made our way to the end of the track.

Parked up, we walked out to a viewing point, placed over an alcove where sea lions lived. From above, you could hear the thunderous roars of the male sea lions, challenging each other to become the dominant male. Baby sea lions were nestled sweetly next to their mothers.

Made it to the sea lions cave
Baby with her mother

We spent sometime exploring the interesting coast rock formations before heading back to the vans. We wanted to hit El Rosario, a small town just down the road. We desperately needed to do some laundry, and we had run out of water and food. We just had to negotiate the tricky dirt road one more time.

Cave entrance
Some interesting rocks

Just like our route in, we made it out slowly, only once hearing a horrible metal scrapping noise, as we ground the bottom of the van on a steep valley section.

Back on the main highway, we set off to the town. Our first priority was to find a taco stand. We had been in Mexico five days, and we still hadn’t tried proper Mexican tacos.

We were in good spirits, but things quickly changed when we stopped for fuel. David rushed over to us in a frantic panic. The fuel attendant was also desperately trying to tell us something.

As it turned out, we must have caught the oil sump on the harsh dirt road, and it was literally pissing oil out all over the petrol forecourt. The problem only becoming apparent when we turned the engine off.

Obviously, the situation was pretty bad. We are prepared to fix many problems, but this is not one of them. Luckily, we had phone signal, and a quick browse online revealed a mechanic who was only a couple of minutes down the road. Our main concern soon shifted to finances.

We pulled up outside of the mechanics garage and was greeted by the owner, who fortunately spoke a little English. Trying to explain the problem, he had me pull Ruby up to his workshop to examine the problem. Just as before, as soon as the engine shut off, oil started gushing out onto the floor.


“This is gonna hurt our budget.” We admitted disheartened.

With the mechanic working on our sump, I set off to meet David and Katy at the local launderette, whilst Willow stayed behind at the garage.

Our man’s on it
Ruby bleeding all over his floor
Badly damaged sump

I returned about two hours later, shocked to find the work already complete. It turned out that we must have hit a rock right on the sumo bolt. The impact had caved part of the sump inwards, causing a small crack in the metal. What was even more shocking was the bill for the repairs. We were bracing ourselves for a big hit on our budget, so we had to double check when he told us 500 pesos (£20). Surely we must have been mistaken… But we weren’t.

With Ruby no longer leaking oil all over the place, we topped up our water, hit the local supermarket and then set off after Katy and David, who had already set off to our evening spot. A cactus field in the middle of nowhere.

We arrived after sunset, and so we couldn’t see where our new friends had parked, so we settled on a spot isolated from the dirt track we drove in on.

We made it to the cactus field
Best my camera could do

Our first off-roading adventure may not have gone the way we had planned it, but we were only incapacitated for two hours, and thanks to the cheap repair, it hadn’t really hurt us financially either. Maybe in future we may need to be a little more careful though, when navigating tricky roads, if it ever happened again, we might not be so lucky next time!