A change of plans

I woke with a heavy heart, as today our group would be going our separate ways. There was a triathlon event taking place between the ferry port and Balandra and we had learned at the bar hat the road would be shut at midday, so we had to make move before we became stranded for another night. Which wouldn’t have been the worst problem, if not for a rapidly depleting water supply.

The group’s temporary members Corey and JR paddled out to the nearby coral, returning with a parrot fish. Corey decided to cook his catch and share it with the rest of the group. So we all chipped in the contribute towards some fish tacos. It felt nice to do one last group activity before saying goodbye to some friends.

JR set about enthusiastically hacking away at some avocados with a hunting knife. I brought him over our test tube spice rack, so he could jazz up the guacamole with some chilli if necessary.

Our fire from the previous night was still smouldering and with some wood donated by a Canadian camper who was parked next to us, I soon coaxed it back to life, ready for the prepared parrot fish. It really was turning into a group effort. With everything prepared, we made fish tacos, with wraps donated by John and Ina. The food was delicious, and it would have been perfect, if not for the local insects, which went into a frenzy with all our the food laid out on the table.

Corey and JR thanked us for letting them join us for a night and then set off first in their T25. The rest of us followed suit, packing away our vans in preparation for leaving. Jokingly, I suggested having one last night out in LA Paz to give the group a proper send off, and the idea of enjoying more cocktails quickly became more realistic.

“Fuck it, we’re in!” Was Ola and Rachel’s response.

So in an instance, our plans had changed again and our little family would be staying together for at least one more night. Driving down the beaches bumpy washboard, we had one section of ominous looking deep sand between us and the main road. Putting my foot down, we burst through the patch and were on our way. Heading back to the hypermarket we stopped off at on the way, to get some more supplies.

We were soon parked back in our creepy abandoned school car park, where we had been during our last visit to La Paz. It was a complete tip, but it was so convenient for access the main bar strip. When we left last time, we lost a part of our solar shower down one of the nearby roads, so I set off, beer in hand to see if I could locate it.

About five minutes down the road, a police car pulled up next to me and I was approached by an officer who spoke a little bit of English.

“What was you name again?” He asked me, even though we had never met.

“Lee.” I replied, wary about what was happening.

“Well Lay, this is a public place and you can’t drink here.”

As I had seen no signs forbidding drinking in public and the street was litter with empty beer bottles, I had assumed that it would be fine. Apologising, I put what was left of my beer in a nearby bin.

“I’m really sorry officer, I didn’t realise it was against the law to drink outside.”

“You come with us now to the cell.” Was a response I was not expecting.

“What, you want me to come with you to the police station. Are you telling me you want to arrest me?”

“You come with us now to the cell… Yes?

Panic suddenly hit me, I had left without my phone or wallet, so I had no way to phone Willow to tell her what was happening.

“I don’t understand?” I told the officer, there were no signs telling me not to. It was an honest mistake.”

I tried to explain that I was parked down the road in a camper and I was looking for a part for my van. Something he clearly wasn’t interested in.

“You have your documents?”

“No, I have nothing on me. Everything is back at the van.”

“You have pesos?” The real reason why they wanted to threaten to arrest me.

Emptying my pockets to show him I had no items, he spotted an empty chewing gum wrapper.

“This drugs?” Clearly trying to build more reasons to arrest me.

I explained what it was and after sniffing it, he seemed to believe me.

We were now in a stand off. I was flatly refusing to go with him, stating that they were being unreasonable. I had read online that local police officers will often hassle you for bribes and the best thing to do is to say no. Worse case, ask to speak to their boss in the station. Not fancying heading with them to a cell, I stood my ground, explaining once again that it was an innocent mistake which I would not repeat again.

I could see he was now unsure what to do, speaking to his colleague who had remained in the car.

“O.k, you go.”

And with that I did. Continuing on with my search for the missing part. The cops driving past me two more times, to check on me. Mostly likely disappointed that they picked a skint Gringo to try and fleece.

Sadly, I never found the shower component and went back empty handed to tell the group about what had just happened. Feeling grateful not to be currently sat in a Mexican cell with no way of contacting anyone.

We had a few pre drinks and a quick game of chess (John beat me multiple time again) and then set off into town to find some grub. It was a Sunday night, but from our experience of Baja so far, that seemed to be the main party night, so we were hopeful that everywhere would still be open, even if Covid19 was continuing to cause problems on a global scale. Thankfully, many of the bars and restaurants were open, the only probably we had was indecisiveness. No one really knowing where we wanted to eat. The decision was not made easier with a third of the group being vegetarians.

Picking a sister restaurant from a franchise Danny had eaten at previously, we eventually got a table big enough for our group, only for some of the group to decide that they had something else in mind. So we tried to head back to the bar with the pool table, as John and Danny were craving the steaks they had seen served there on our previous visit. They had since tried desperately to subdue their cravings with their own attempts at steaks, but were never satisfied with the results. The bar was closed though, so that was out of the question. Mango Blues was shut also, so we didn’t have the option of cheap veggie tacos.

Wandering around aimlessly for a further ten minutes, we passed bars full of local youths, no sign of the Coronavirus effecting nightlife in La Paz. There was a Mexican football match being screened in most of the bars, I couldn’t tell who the teams were, but it was clear that they were playing in an empty stadium. Maybe signs that Mexico was starting to pay attention to the pesky virus.

With no where really appealing to the group, we ended up at the first restaurant which we sat at, or really surprised to find our table now occupied. Speaking to the same waitress who first brought us over menus from our first visit, she was a little confused as to what we were doing, but she did have some seating available upstairs, which we thankfully accepted. At this point I would have eaten just about anything, so wasn’t too fussed about the options. With food and drinks ordered, we devoured a complimentary bowl of nachos in minutes whilst waiting for our orders to arrival, which followed shortly after, with another serving of nachos. My fish tacos weren’t the most exciting that I had tasted in Baja, but at that point, food critiquing wasn’t high on my priorities.

We left the restaurant and returned to the same bar from our original visit for Jerome’s birthday. I think the whole group was desperate for some more of the delicious cocktails. Compared to our last visit, our group was now a lot smaller and there was definitely a different vibe throughout the group, who were now starting to contemplate the idea of heading back to the States, just in case things started to escalate here in Baja. My reasoning was that if La Paz was still open, then there really couldn’t be much to worry about. There was talk back home of people people laid off work and the possibility of enforced isolation. Something I could never see happening here.

I don’t know if it was because of the chill from the cold night air, or due to the worry about the possibility of some people’s time in Baja coming to an early end, but we didn’t stay for anymore cocktails, choosing to instead head back to camp, stopping some again at the same Oxxo store to grab some beers for the walk back.

The group’s morning discussions revolved entirely around future schedules and they effect the pandemic might have on them. Our only looming date was a VW gathering at Silverado. Although there had been no cancellation confirmation, America was starting to ban gatherings over a certain size, so we assumed the event would no longer be happening. John needed to be back in New Jersey, to help preparations for the summers race schedule, but again, he was hearing news that the courses were not opening. Ola and Rachel had Vanlife App meeting commitments, but after the cancellation of Tecelote, they were fairly adamant that the rest of the events would soon be cancelled also. Danny’s only timeline restraint was Bodhi requiring a vaccination, something we would able to get done in Mexico if required.

With all of our uncertainties, the group decided it would be best to wait it out a little longer, to see how the situation developed in the next couple of days. We all agreed that we had a great time in Todos Santos, so agreed to make the short journey back, heading for the actual beach Matt and Sam had recommended to us when we ended up getting moved on in Las Palmas.

Stopping off once more at Home Depot to try and buy a replacement part for our solar shower, we left disappointed, as they didn’t have one. After coasting through the check point without being stopped, we were soon at the beach of San Pedrito. Considering La Paz was going to be our last day as a group, I was relieved to be in a group with what the current events going on around us. It was reassuring to be able to discuss options with others who were in a similar situation.

We were soon joined by the rest of the group and Danny set about collecting wood for a fire. After a weekend of group socialising, I think everyone fancied some alone time, so we all spent the night in our vans alone. If things continued progressing the way they were in America, we may still have lots of time to socialise as a group in Baja.

It was definitely a strange and uncertain time, with no one knowing what tomorrow would bring.