Sunrise signalled a new day, and so we tried to put our problematic sliding door behind us, looking forward to driving into the mountain region of Santiago to isolate at the hot springs. Before leaving the town Los Barriles, we decided to pop into the local mini market to stock up on a few supplies, before following the main road south towards Santiago.
As we made our way in land, there was a noticeable shift in the air temperature around us, as we left the comfort of the coast and it’s cooling ocean breeze. Now, the air was thin and suffocating due to the heat. Keeping cool had never really been an issue for us back in England, but at that moment I would have given anything to trade our heater matrix for air conditioning.
Santiago was a complete contrast to La Paz. As we drove through the village, we passed the small run down shacks of the local villagers. But what they lacked in modern living, they more than made up for with the gorgeous mountain scenery which surrounded the town. This was simplistic living, and it felt great to be immersed in.
Now, only minutes away from the hot spring camp spot, we reached a closed gate with a notification upon it. The pandemic measures had finally reached their peak, and as of a week ago, the hot springs were closed until the end of May.
Sat in disbelief that they had actually closed the hot springs, we discussed where to go now. Phones out, we had limited data, but managed to locate a camp spot at the start of a trail head around an hour away. There was a second hot spring in the area, but we would have had to drive all the way back to the main highway to get to it, and neither of us were convinced that it was actually going to be open anyway.
Deflated, we were on the move once more, following limited directions to our next destination. We followed a mountain track, full of menacing pots holes, and treacherous sand pits either side of the track. It was definitely not a place you would want to have a breakdown.
Eventually we re-joined a tarmacked road, and headed into another small town. Driving past the houses, hoping not to cause suspicious, we reached the end of a dead end road. The sat nav informed us that we were still 5 minutes away from the parking. As we now had slightly better internet, we checked on our phones and spotted a crossing over an arroyo, which would take us to the trail head parking for Cañón de la Zorra. Turning road, we arrived at the passing point to find the entrance chained off, a big banner declaring that the national parks were closed until further notice due to the Covid19.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I moaned.
Everything suddenly felt very claustrophobic, and it felt like we were quickly running out of options to go.
“Let’s just move the chain and drive to the parking point anyway.” I suggested. An idea Willow was not initially keen on.
Along discussion ensued, until I was eventually able to convince Willow that we should cut across the river, as opposed to wasting our time driving around to get to the alternative route to the trail head. Moving the chain, we drove down the descent to the dry river bed, hoping that we hadn’t been spotted by any of the locals. The last thing we needed was to be reported.
Across the arroyo, we followed a dirt road past an adventure centre which was also closed, and shortly pulled up to the parking for the canyon trail head.
“I doubt anyone will find us down here,” I remarked confidently. “It’s a dead end road in the middle of nowhere!”
Feeling confident, we started to unpack the van and set up the solar panels, trying to avoid leaving them on the ground, as we were surrounded by cattle. It felt good to be away from La Paz. Big towns and cities don’t really appeal to us, so it was refreshing to once again be out in ‘the sticks’. We were disappointed to be unable to appreciate the hot springs, but we were near a water supply and had the potential of the canyon walk to keep us occupied over the next couple of days.
As evening approached, a pick up appeared and a guy got out to feed the local cattle. Relieved that it wasn’t the police, we just prayed that he would mention our whereabouts to anyone who may have a problem with us being there.
You’d think, being parked up at the end of a dead end road, in a car park for a canyon, that we’d get a peaceful night’s sleep. Sadly, sleep was not pleasant that night. The surrounding cattle apparently had other ideas and instead of settling down for the night to allow us a quiet slumber, they spent the entire night wandering around the van. Cow bells ringing incessantly throughout the night.
Our experience didn’t get any better in the morning. Just as we were finally starting to relax in our new camp spot, a police car rolled up, followed with another car containing some health officials.
“Here we go.’ We sighed. Almost in unison.
We weren’t sure if it was a random check, or if the guy who had turned up to feed to cattle had reported us. Either way, it didn’t matter now. They were here and we wouldn’t need to speak great Spanish to understand what they were going to ask us.
“You can’t be here.” One police officer tells us, in very broken English. “This area is closed.”
A lengthy discussion follows, we say tell the officials that we have nowhere else to go and that we thought people would be happy that ‘us foreigners’ were trying to keep out of the way. Their stance doesn’t change and we ask them where we can go, where we won’t be asked to move on and we can isolate safely away from potential infection.
“Back to your own country!” The office splits out venomously, followed by a laugh.
This obviously didn’t go down with us, and after more lengthy discussions, the office did warm up a little and told us that he was just following orders and we could not stay where we were.
Our discussion going nowhere, we accepted defeat and agreed to move on, conveying our annoyance about the stupid decision to move us on back towards populated places.
Fortunately, they didn’t wait around for us to pack up. As we waved them off, that little voice in the back of my head decided to pipe up once more…
“You should have gone with the other to America.”
For the first time since the others had left, doubt started to creep in, and I wondered whether we had made the right decision to stay in Baja.
With the national parks now closed, we decided to make the long drive back round to San Pedrito Beach, as we had been speaking to Shane and our old spot was still free. We planned to stop off at the Costco in Cabo to grab a few supplies.
We followed the dirt track back down past the closed adventure centre. Deep in the wilderness, we tried to follow the sat nav’s directions, until we realised the route it intended us to follow no longer existed and we were heading back to re-join the track we were already on, only further back.
Trying again, we saw a turn off and followed it in the hope of getting out of the mountain and returning to an actual paved road in the local town. Driving past the local police station, we try to get through the town without any incidents.
Soon we’re on the highway again, bound for Cabo, we took a wrong turn however and ended up on a toll road, but it is fairly cheap and should have potentially got us to Cabo quicker, only we missed the turn off. So in the end, it takes us just as long as it would have taken us on the normal highway, only it cost us money.
We go to Costco first. It is our first time back at Costco since the Covid19 restrictions were implemented and it was apparent that the store was now taking more precautions. Offering hand sanitiser and swiping down the trolleys as you enter. The tasting booths had also been taken away, which was the most enjoyable part of going to Costco, so I walked around miserably, sad that I wasn’t going to get to try some new random products.
With some supplies to help us last off grid a little longer, we popped into Walmart before heading back to San Pedrito.
On the way back to the beach, we received a message from Shane. Apparently, the police had just been and cleared every one of the beach. As of then, all public beaches were closed! It seemed things were quickly going from bad to worse, and our potential camping options were quickly running out. We agreed to meet Shane at a coffee shop near San Pedrito to formulate a new plan of action, as we had no idea where to head next.
We met Shane at Baja Beans, a hip coffee shop which had the added benefit of Wi-Fi. Shane went on to tell us how he had been visited earlier by health officials who had told him that he was fine to stay at the beach, as that was the safest place for him, and it would stop him moving around, potentially spreading the virus. Clearly to sensible an idea for it to work. Shane was later visited by the Police, who had instructed him to move on. Like our experience, there were no suggestions of where to move to.
Shane had been coming to Baja Beans to use their Wi-Fi for over the past week, and had previously met an American lady renting a nearby casita. He was seriously thinking about upgrading his living quarters and took us over to show them to us.
The casitas were basically small shacks, with a living space and a partitioned shower and toilet. They looked nice enough, but we really wanted to avoid spending money on an apartment when we already had the means to live in Ruby. We were interested in paying to park for the night though, as it was getting late and we currently had no other options.
Shane spoke to the owner, who agreed we could stay the night for a small ‘propina’. Handing over $150mxp, roughly £4, we had a spot for the night sorted. The grounds were immaculately kept and had plugs and taps and a flushing toilet. So all in all, it wasn’t the worst place to spend the night.
We hooked up our battery charger to give our batteries a proper charge and used a grill to cool a giant pizza that we had bought from Costco.
We sat around the fire, enjoying our pizza with a few beers. Neither of us predicted Baja shutting down as much as it was. We debated about heading up into the canyon region near Bahía Concepción, but we’re reluctant to move there if it too was going to be shut. In the mean time, our friends Rob and Jen had posted on the Todos Santos news feed, enquiring whether anyone local had a plot of land we could stay on during the lockdown. The post had received a few replies, so in the morning we would chase them and see if they lead to anything.
So we hit the sack, not hidden in the mountains, but parked in a random garden, close to the main highway. With the beaches now closed, it was about to get a lot harder for us to live in Baja!