Hiding in a desert Ranch

We drove down the main road and into the town of Pescadero, following the two German campers. At the town, we turned off left and headed out on a dirt track into the mountains. The two big rigs rolled easily along in front of us while we vibrated our way across the washboard road on tyres we hadn’t aired down. Fortunately it was only a couple of miles until we reach a sign that announced we had arrived at Rancho Pacifico Baja.

Leaving our rigs parked in the road, we hopped out and walked down through a gate into the campsite where the owners were there to meet us. Dane and Sabrina showed us around the small site, pointing out the fire pit and compost toilet.

They were perfectly friendly, and it made a changed to be welcomed onto a camping spot considering the recent problems we’d been having. Supplying us a with a compost bucket and instructions not to burn the pretty cacti in the campsite, they walked back up the hill to their home and left us to settle in. Our three rigs got ready for a week in the desert.

We tucked ourselves away at one end, while the two bigger rigs took the main space, spreading their awnings out over the camp. We set about unloading ruby, something we were even better at than normal. We piled up our vast food boxes under the van, took the bikes off the back and set up the hammock. We had been told the price here was either 200mxp a night or 1000mxp a week, which is about £34. Fed up with being bounced around and constantly hassled by the police, we were happy to take a week of guaranteed hassle free camping and regroup our thoughts.

We dug ourselves a new fire pit, in the middle of the camp and set about finding some wood for that evening. Lee started digging away at the hard ground with our little fold up shovel, before Carsten came over with a ‘proper’ spade and had a large hole dug in half the time. The joys of having all that space I suppose!

Our first night, we sat around the fire and got to know our new friends a little better. Despite having all camped up together here, we hadn’t really had much of a chance to chat yet. All previous occasions being overshadowed by more pressing matters of finding somewhere to stay. It was lucky for us that our new acquaintances spoke far better English than my German, so we could actually have a conversation! We cooked some potatoes in the embers and attempted popcorn too.

That night, it was odd to fall asleep to barely any noise. I have become so used to camping by the sea and falling asleep to the sounds of the waves, that being up in the quiet of the mountains was a little odd. It did lend itself to a peaceful night’s sleep however, and I soon began to enjoy our new spot.

There were only a few downsides to being here, maybe more so for us that for our friends. Being the smallest van, we carried significantly less water than the other two vans. This isn’t so much of a problem when camped at the sea, as using seawater to initial clean things first, whether it’s yourself or the dishes, greatly extends the life of our freshwater tank. The addition of the solar shower also gives us an extra 15L of water on board. Still, I think we would struggle to make it to two weeks with our supplies. We have started using spray bottles to do the washing up and this definitely helps. We used to get about 3 days of water out of our tank, now it comfortably lasts us a week, but we still only have 20L of drinking water which isn’t much in a hot desert. At least there’s always wine.

The other downside was the lack of signal; we could just about get some temperamental 3G, which was dependant on holding your phone exactly in the right place in the campervan. Six inches to the left, and you lost the connection.  While I am not overly bothered about going totally off grid for a bit, it is annoying to live without signal. This is especially true in the current lockdown, it’s the perfect time to catch up on blogs and YouTube videos, but these are all things that require the Internet. So while it’s fine for a few days, if we are ultimately going to spend a long time in one place we do try and make sure we have signal. It’s also nice to be able to call and catch up with people too.

Speaking of catching up, Lee was about 5 weeks behind at this point so he had a lot to do. While I wasn’t so far behind, it was still good to pick a spot in the sun and crack on with a few bits and bobs for the day. Our batteries were also looking pretty sad again so we came up with an interesting solar panel arrangement to get the most out of the sun. Note the carefully balanced sticks to hold up the back door.

The following day, I wandered around the campsite, and Lee decided to cycle into Pescadero. It’s around a 5km bike ride to the town from the campsite, which is fine on a mountain bike but I didn’t really think Penny, my road bike would be up to it. I stayed at camp and no doubt did something important like trying to make a skipping rope out of a piece string and a piece of cactus. Well why not? The rest of the camp entertained themselves, Hanno and Kirsten cracked on with some work while Carsten made some bread over the fire.

Aimee was busy being Aimee.

I went for a wander around the campsite and found a nice little flat area that looked like it would be good for Pilates. Having been quite a while since we were either alone or had a suitable spot I grabbed our yoga mats and that evening enjoyed my workout with a view of the mountains through the desert plants.  

We were also treated to a beautiful sunset, and I was a little jealous watching Carsten as he sat on the roof enjoying it. Not something that’s possible on our camper unfortunately.

It was now the 9th of April. Lee’s birthday was imminent. I had decided what I wanted to get him, just not quite soon enough. Within the last few days amazon had extended there shipping times from 2 days to 2 weeks. This, coupled with the fact that it either had to be delivered or imported from the US and brought down the peninsula, meant that it probably wouldn’t realistically be here for another 4-5 weeks. Not wanting to tie or selves down again, as we were still waiting on an amazon package I’d ordered several weeks ago, I was out of options. The least I could do was finish the tattoo I had designed for him, he’s got the bottom half of his arm covered in South America, as this is where we initially planned to travel. I set about doing the second instalment, it’s harder than just a regular drawing as you have to imagine how it will be when it’s wrapped around an arm.

Playing around with the layout
Using the window as a lightbox for tracing the final design

The top half is going to be dedicated to North America, and was something I had been meaning to get around to for several years. Unable to use ‘not having the time’ as an excuse anymore, I got down to work. It took me a couple of days, slowed down by the lack of access to a photocopier, but I was pretty happy with the result, as was he, which is obviously far more important.

That night, we were joined for a film on the projector by our friends Rob, Jen and their kids. Along with their arrival came confirmation of the news we had been following that day, a Todos Santos roadblock had come into effect. Convinced that all tourists are diseased, the locals have decided to close their town to them. Nevermind, that there’s already cases in the village and we’ve been in Baja for several months. Clearly we’ve brought it with us and we’re all to blame.

The unmanned roadblock at the other end of the town

While our friends as local tenants were fine going through the roadblock, we knew that there was no way Ruby would get through unnoticed. With this new realisation and the information that our post still hadn’t arrived we decided to distract ourselves and settled down for a film.

We watched I Am Legend, in the spirit of things and enjoyed Jen’s homemade snacks around a campfire. With everything that is going on in the world right now, I couldn’t help but feel fortunate that we still had this amount of freedom. No doubt, someone somewhere in England is sitting in the small high rise flat and debating whether today is something worth participating in at all.

 Having been at the ranch for nearly a week now, we were getting to the point where our water reserves were dangerously low. We also had a huge bag of laundry. The current thinking in camp was to wait until Easter had passed and then try to drive to a nearby waterfall on Tuesday. A nice looking spot on iOverlander, it had the one commodity we really needed to stay anywhere long term, fresh water. We were not convinced we would get there, apparently the road is soft sand and while ruby is not too bad, she’s certainly no 4×4. Our friends had promised to tow us all the way there if necessary, so we decided that before Tuesday, we should cycle into town and get the washing done.

I risked it on my bike this time, which turned out to be a decision I would live to regret. The vibrations of Baja’s roads meant that the front wheel of my bike had lost one nut. While it wasn’t going to fall off, it definitely didn’t improve handling in the sand and I nearly fell off several times on a painfully slow bike ride to the town. At the end of the road we were greeted by the sight of another roadblock. Glad we had taken the bikes, we causally cycled around the side of it and made our way to the laundrette.

Naturally, it was closed. We decided to go and use some Wi-Fi at Baja Beans so at least we hadn’t come all this way for nothing. Still open against all the odds, the coffee shop was serving it’s one other customer, Shane.  We caught each other up on the situation, and he gave us two bags of rice as he had no means of cooking in his palapa and was living on a diet of cold beans out of the can. Feeling glad that we at least hadn’t got to this low point, we spent some time drinking our coffees before heading to the shop. We picked up a few bottles of water in town to try and eek out over the last few days in camp and began the long and now uphill cycle back to the camp.

I arrived very hot, sweaty and slightly light-headed. Clearly exercise was not something my body was familiar with, especially in the heat of the day. This seemed like the perfect time to make use of our shower. Having saved it for a good few days, and knowing we’d be moving on soon to refill the water we treated ourselves. Unfortunately, it seems we hadn’t managed to fill it all the way, as we had just been pouring it in rather than using a pressurised hose. Therefore I got a shower, and Lee got half. This ended with me drizzling water out of a water bottle on him so he could wash the last of the soap off. I, on the other hand, was feeling refreshed.

Our hosts had invited us up to watch the sunset that night, so with around an hour to go, we headed up the little footpath to the top of the hill. A row of chairs sat lined up on the edge of the hill and we settled down to enjoy a few beers and watch the sun slowly sink into the sea for the glorious vantage point.

Sabrina and Dane really were living in the wild. They were in the middle of constructing an eco-village. The idea being that like minded people would want to come and live this simple life out here in the middle of nature. They had built a solid palapa that served as the kitchen, and were working on constructing the rest. For the first time, the bread oven had been fired up and Sabrina used it to bake her own sourdough recipe.

Dane passed around his own recipe for a spliff, which consisted off a local plant called Damian, while Sabrina informed me that I could smoke several of the plants in the surrounding desert. Good to know I suppose. The view was indeed spectacular, and we enjoyed it along with some of Sabrina’s homemade kombucha.

After darkness had truly fallen, we were the last to head back down to the camp. Sabrina and Dane set up their hammocks across the palapa to enjoy the last of their evening and gave us a sample of her sourdough bread to try. It was incredibly good, and soon I will definitely try and make my own.

Before we knew it, it was Monday. Easter was over, leaving many a disappointed Mexican, who had been unable to party like normal, in its wake. Tomorrow we planned to head to the waterfall, it was also Lee’s birthday.

In the absence of having a present, I thought at least I could make a cake. Managing to find a recipe that I had all the ingredients for, aside from a bit of borrowed milk, I set about sneaky cake baking in the van. The end result was a little on the rubbery side, as I find is often the case if you substitute butter for oil, but it tasted good enough. Following tradition, it was also a weird one. This time the main ingredient was courgette. Now all I had to do was find some icing sugar to finish it off, time will tell how easy that is down here.

Having finished my cake and also made some bread, we decided to finally walk the trail near the campsite. Dane hand pointed out the perimeter trail when we had first arrived and somehow in over a week we still had yet to wander along it. The others had gone and said there wasn’t actually too much of a walk there, but we decided to look for ourselves. The walk climbs up the hill to the right of our hosts residence, where the path forks near a tent.

We turned right and headed down into the valley where the remains of a dried up riverbed is evident.

Turning to follow this up the valley we walked up for a short way before the path became too spider filled and too constricted to be enjoyable anymore. Surrounded by giant cacti, we took a moment to consider what this landscape would look like with the river in spate, rushing down the mountain.

Then, retracing our steps back, we picked up another path which looped us back around to the top of the hill again.

From here it was a short walk back down to the camp. Not the longest of trails, but it’s always fun to wander through the alien looking plants and scary looking spiders for a time.

As darkness fell, we settled down for the evening’s entertainment. Hanno had retrieved an enormous cactus from somewhere and cut it up ready for the fire, night’s here are considerably colder than the days. To give ourselves a break in apocalypse themed films, we watched The Hobbit, our projector still partially set up from last time and the fire roaring next to us.

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