Adventures at Playa Tecolote

There was another VanLife gathering scheduled for that weekend on Playa Tecolote, and we debated whether we would hang around till then. Still, we were enjoying spending time with our group and so we followed suit when everyone else packed up to head out of La Paz, and followed. We stopped off for a few errands on the way, in particular our compost toilet needed attention. We had spent the morning cleaning it out, but now we need a new composting medium as we had run out of coconut coire. I knew that Home Depot in the US sells this, and La Paz is one of the few places in Baja that has one of these shops. Unfortunately for us, the Mexican store does not stock this stuff and in the end the closest thing we could find that we thought might work was tobacco plant. We reckoned it was no good using something that was already composted as this kind of defeats the object, so we will see if we made the right decision with that one! After stocking up on food supplies at the first hypermarket we had been to in a while, we were ready to hit the beach again.

Around a 40 minute drive north from La Paz, and just past the ferry port where the ferries run to mainland Mexico, we arrived at our destination. As we drove down the beach, we saw the rest of our group walking towards us. Ina came and told us that they were all going to negotiate with one of the fishermen and they were all going together to prove they had enough people to fill the boat. We parked up where we were and joined them. The idea was to hire a boat and captain for a day who would take us over to the island of Espirito Santo. This was apparently filled with beautiful beaches, great snorkelling and also offered some good hiking down the centre. One of our friends had told by another friend that it was possible to hire a boat for around $200 a day. As we didn’t get to do the whale sharks, we were up for a boat trip with everyone. We spoke to someone, who was supposedly the owner of a boat but I think actually just ran a business in this rather than being a fisherman predominantly and therefore wasn’t into discounts. He bluntly refused to offer us anything near what we wanted. He wanted to sell the dream, the full package; all the gear with a full lunch and a never ending supply of beer included. The only problem is he wanted around $65 a person to do this. He then told that it would be $250 alone for just the boat and the captain, when we said that was exactly what we wanted, he then refused to do this either. We refused to pay more, he refused to negotiate, so that was that, we left.

The others walked back down to camp, and we drove Ruby down and parked up forming the last piece in our little camping square. John challenged anyone willing to a game of chess, and we later flipped the board over and tried to learn Backgammon that was on the other side.

It wasn’t till much later on, after dark, that another local came by. He introduced himself as ‘Big Nose’ and wanted to sell us a boat tour. No doubt being told that these tourists wanted to go out but wouldn’t pay that much, he was the negotiator. In the end the lowest he would go to was $50 each for just the boat, still a bit pricey for us, we told him we’d leave it. I think he though we were actually going for it, and was probably quite disappointed the following morning when he realised he wasn’t quite the smooth talker he thought he was.

We watched yet another sunset, together on the beach.

Meanwhile, back at camp it was the early hours of the morning. We were all asleep, as you would expect, when a car pulled up right by our group of campers and started playing incredibly loud music. This last for about half an hour, at which point it then decided to drive in circles around our little campsite, revving it’s engine so incredibly hard it’s a wonder it didn’t blow up. Eventually the moronic driver stopped, and we went back to sleep.

In the morning, we discussed the idiot of the previous night. Apparently he had nearly driven straight into a tent of people and also got his car stuck on the sand. Aforementioned people were now hastily packing down and leaving, and I can’t say I blame them. We wondered whether it had been Big Nose, annoyed that we wouldn’t accept his offer as it definitely seemed like it was someone targeting our group and trying to make as much noise as humanly possible. Needless to say, we still didn’t take him up on his tour.

Instead we decided to find our own beach. Ina rode her bike to go and find signal and said there was a really nice beach in walking distance that we should go check out. She also said it was sheltered from the wind which sounded appealing. John and Ina took their bikes, and me and Lee started walking while the other 3 were still getting ready. From Ina’s description, it sounded like it was the beach just behind the mound you can see in the sunset picture, there was a dirt track up here and headed for it. the other had finally caught up, and waved at us that we should follow them. It looked like they were going to take the road however, and we thought the mountain path looked more interesting so we kept going. In actual fact, the beach was further that we thought. There is quite a nice beach on the other side of the hill, one which you could have had all to yourself if you had wanted.

The path kept going around the hillside, and you then reach another beach which is even nicer. Again there wasn’t many people, a few boat tours were there and some very expensive yachts were moored off shore. We continued to the end, and then decided to walk on the rocks around the headland. The waves have undercut the rocks of the cliff, so at low tide you can walk on the rocks around the base of the cliff.

By the looks of it you could also just walk around the point in the water as it’s only a couple of foot deep. At the end of the point is the Balandra Mushroom Rock. The reason for its name obvious, it’s a very popular photo opportunity for the locals and it was hard to get a picture with this many people in it, let along no one else.

We continued down the beach a little further before we met Ina walking Abbie along the beach. She pointed out where everyone was a bit further road and we went to join them. It turns out the others cheated and hitchhiked the remaining road section, so they were there well before us. The beach here is beautiful, shallow crystal clear water and white sand. It was a shame that it was still unwaveringly cloudy, as this would have been perfect with a bit of sun.

The beach was still pretty full, there was people walking up and down selling fruit in cups, doughnuts and one particularly entrepreneurial guy selling ice creams in the sea.

Ina told me there was some nice stalls back round on the busier section of the beach where the main access is, and along with Rachel we both walked around for a look. After a bit of haggling, we got ourselves a couple of silver rings, but didn’t succeed in finding any more beers. Back on the beach, it wasn’t too long before we decided to head back. It wasn’t the warmest with the sun in and some of our party were looking rather thirsty. We decided to walk back down the road with the other guys, back to our vans. We got enough signal on the way back to check the weather. A little bored of the unrelenting cloud, we decided that if tomorrow was sunny we would have a proper beach day at one of the other less busy beaches but that if it was cloudy we would use it as a good driving day to do the desert section between the north of La Paz and the bottom of the Bay of Conception. At the moment, the forecast promised a gorgeous sunny day and we were more than happy to spend a day outside enjoying it.

On the walk back to the camp, we stopped at one of the beach bars to sample some of their cheap cocktails.

Danny got chatting to a guy named Matt, and invited him back to our camp to hang out later. A few drinks later, we wandered the final half a mile or so back to our camp. As if an omen of the good weather to come, we enjoyed one of the most spectacular sunsets on the beach that night.

It wasn’t much later before Matt turned up armed with a bottle of Rum and some weed, announcing that he’d managed to get stuck in the sand. When even Danny’s recovery boards couldn’t get him out, he abandoned it until morning and came to have a drink with us. We ended up playing Charades or Heads Up on my phone, for nearly the next 6 hours. I never though one game could keep us entertained for so long, but it certainly did. What started off as a team effort of Americans Vs Europeans turned into complete chaos as we tried the ‘Act it out’ feature and the moved on to the music categories. For anyone who’s not familiar, you hold the phone in front of your head screen facing out, the modern substitute for the old fashioned version that uses a Post-It note. The item that you have to guess pops up and is visible to the group, who naturally scream a wide ranging variety of things at you all at once, desperately trying to get you to guess it correctly without saying any of the words themselves. If you can’t get it, you can tip the phone up to pass and when you guess correctly you tip it down to move on to the next item. A combination of alcohol and weed let to some mixed results, which definitely got interesting when we moved on to the acting. I don’t think I will ever forget Rachel, Danny and Ola trying to silently act out ‘Cow Tipping’, Ola featuring as the cow. We also had some good fun with the music category, it’s surprisingly hard to sing the song without accidentally saying any of the words in the name! I’m sure many a camper around us appreciate our seven person strong, semi drunk, screaming rendition of “Drop It Like It’s Hot”.

By around midnight, we really had exhausted all the categories and Danny had long given up trying to balance on his chair. We all headed off to bed, hoping for a sunny day tomorrow.

The morning was indeed sunny, and with the cloud forecast to come back in the afternoon, we headed made our way back to the beach around mid-morning. We decided to hike up again, and go to either the first or second beach that would be less busy. Me and Lee set off before the rest, as we had decided to take Aimee with us. We didn’t like leaving her locked in the van all day as she misses human attention and also being allowed to wander on her own accord. This also makes her a complete pain in the arse at night. Knowing we would be much slower than everyone else, we set off with her on her lead. Initially she seemed quite taken with the idea, and bounded along next to us. It wasn’t long though until she had decided she had had enough. We persevered and got to the beach a while later, through a mix of carrying her and letting her walk short distances. It was a very hot day and we kept needing to stop in the shade and let her cool down. Eventually we reached the beach, the second of the two. As the others arrived a bit later, it turns our she wasn’t the only one struggling, Danny’s dog Bodhi wasn’t doing too well in the heat and delighted in plunging himself straight into the sea at the first opportunity, not something Aimee was into.

We had all now arrived, and set up ready to enjoy a day in the sun. We set up next to the cliff face as it had a good amount of shade for our various pets. We had hoped once Aimee arrived she would relax, but she wasn’t all that keen on the idea and went and hid herself in a bush, refusing to come out. Had we arrived 5 minutes earlier we would have had a great spot, but as we were settling down a boat came into the beach from one of the very expensive yachts in the bay. A crew of two set up a gazebo, table and chairs and even placed a step by the water so that when they bought back the boat’s incredibly rich occupants, they didn’t have to get their feet wet. They set this up right in the middle of where we were going to sit, meaning we all had to move up the beach a bit, leaving all our stuff and animals on the other side of them. Two people emerged from the boat, a younger girl and a guy who was old enough to be the father. We discussed among ourselves whether this was a date, or a dad and daughter day, as the both sat there staring out to sea with their headphones in on opposite sides of the table. Whatever the relationship, it seemed a clear example of the fact that money can’t buy you happiness, as for all their shedloads of cash, they shared the same beach as us. We also looked like we were having a much better time, and they didn’t stay for long before the crew came and took them back before packing everything away.

Aimee was still not impressed with the beach, and when Lee went to check on her in the bush he found her not only surrounded by some rather poisonous looking spiders but also having escaped from her harness.

Deciding that we couldn’t relax like this and that she wasn’t particularly happy, Lee said he would take her back to the van. John gave him the combination to the bikes padlock, parked on the other side of the hill, so that he could get there and back faster and also the keys to their bus. Ina wasn’t feeling to well, so the plan was that Lee would grab one their bikes to get back to camp, pick up their bus and drive around to the beach. He set off with Aimee in the rucksack, hoping she wouldn’t mind being carried this way.

The rest of us enjoyed the sunshine, and most people enjoyed a few beers except for me. We hadn’t planned on staying this extra night and had run out of supplies. We stopped at the bar on the way, but declined their offer of 45mxp per can, generally you can buy a 6 pack for this price. Settling instead for fruit juice, I relaxed on the beach and waited for Lee’s return.

Nearly 3 hours passed before we spotted him, walking back down the beach. This already meant something had gone wrong as he should have come from the car park in the other direction. We had forgotten that there was a triathlon event running this afternoon, and that from 1pm the road to the beach was closed. Not only had he got stuck in the traffic here, but he also hadn’t been able to use the bike as Aimee wasn’t co-operating with the rucksack. This probably adds a good 20 minutes on to the walk itself, and that’s if you’re not trying to fight an angry kitten. To top it all off he’d slipped while holding her and had two very clear set of claw marks all down his side to show for it. While, I had enjoyed my beach day, he hadn’t really had one! On the plus side he’d brought beer from the cheaper bar. We enjoyed a couple of cans before packing up to leave as it was getting cooler and the sun was sinking.

John and Ina had already left, and we weren’t sure if they would wait for us the other side or not. When we rounded the final section of headland though, they were still there to give us a lift back to camp. Their two bikes were still locked up at a ruined building nearby, so we volunteered to pick them up as we wanted to grab another cheap cocktail at the bar on the way home. There is a pack of stray dogs in the area, and John insisted on giving us a breaker bar in case they were a problem. In reality though they were all bark and no bite, and we cycled off to the bar where Danny was already waiting.

A few drinks later, and in the dark, the three of us walked back to camp. We didn’t fancy our chances of trying to pick a solid path on the rocks, around the sandy patches which make it very easy to fall off, on a bike with no lights at night.

Back at camp, we decided to finally have our fire, the wood of which Lee had gathered a few days ago. It was a good way to round off the day and also our time together, as it seemed likely in the morning that we would all be going our separate ways. We were also joined by another two guys that had arrived in their vanagon that day. I believe they had come due to the VanLife meet up, which had of course been cancelled. They came over and joined us for our fire, and it turns out that one of them was actually one of the founders of @idletheorybus, a pretty big name on Instagram who we had heard of but never actually met.

In the morning we began to pack up our respective campers, ready to make a move. We needed to be off the beach by around 1pm as the road was going to be closed again for another day of the triathlon.

Corey had gone spear fishing over the reef that borders the shore between our beach and the island, and it wasn’t too long before he came back holding 4 parrot fish. He offered to cook them all on the fire and that we could all make fish tacos, which sounded like a pretty good plan. We borrowed a few bits of wood from a camper next to us and relit our still smouldering fire from the night before. The fish were cooked whole, before being taken over to their bus and dissected into an edible pile. In the meantime, JR went about making some guacamole while the group generally rallied together to provide whatever was needed in terms of sauces and seasonings and tacos.

It was pretty awesome to have made our own little feast from scratch, and I think for me it kind of captures what it’s all about in so many ways. There’s the self sufficient aspect, being able to catch, kill and cook your own fish is pretty satisfying, even though I wasn’t the one who actually did it! Then there’s fact that you can make a really nice meal from not that much, a few simple ingredients can be great. Don’t think just because you live in a camper you need to live of ramen everyday. My favourite part is the community side, JR only has to mention that he might need a lime and everyone else dives for the fridge searching out the necessary lime. Within 5 minutes, he’s bombarded with limes from all directions.

Ina gets there first, “Here you go, use mine.”

I’ve found a few in the fridge, “Oh, have these one too in case you need some more.”

“We didn’t have any limes, so here’s all our spices in case you can use any of them.” Rachel offers.

No one questions how much it costs them, or expects anything in return except to be part of our team meal. In the end we had a pretty great spread. We have a coleslaw, some spiced guacamole, fresh limes, hot sauces and of course the fish with a choice of either tostadas or tortillas to have it all on. Everyone tucks in, enjoying a fish that was swimming in the sea less than two hours ago.

Soon the food was gone and as seamlessly as all the ingredients appeared they are tidied back. Us vanlifers are definitely good at unpacking and repacking, we do it every day. I wash up, someone else cleans our table for us and someone else deals with chucking the rubbish in the wasp infested bin. It was truly a team effort, with special thanks to Corey for the main event, the fish.

Then it was time to think about leaving. Due to the whole spontaneous fish taco event, it was now a bit later than we had planned. We also needed to stop in La Paz on the back and get some fuel and food, which would make it even later. We had planned to do a big drive that day, clearing the central desert section and heading around 5 hours north. It was now midday though, and a bit late to start. John mentioned one more drink in La Paz, and we thought why not. La Paz is on our route, so it makes sense. We can then set off first thing in the morning if we do all our shopping this afternoon. Danny doesn’t take much convincing and as soon as he’s in Rachel and Ola change their plans to stay one more night at Tecolote and we agree to meet up in the creepy school car park for our last night together, again.

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