Hide and seek (the van life version)

Our new camp spot may not have been as idyllic as the canyon trailhead parking, but it did have one thing going for it in its favour… No noisy cattle during the night! With out the incessant ringing of cowbells, I actually had a pretty decent night’s sleep, considering we were parked fairly close to the main highway. Only the occasional sound of a passing car to be heard.

We had moved around a lot recently, so decided to make use of the facilities in the garden to complete a few odd jobs on Ruby. Willow tackled our dusty air filter and gave it a much needed clean. Washing away the many layers of Mexican dust that it had acquired from all of the dirt roads we had driven down during our time in Baja. I too took advantage of the water, giving Ruby a good ol’ scrub, to occupy myself.

A tad cleaner

We decided that we would ask to stay another evening, so asked the owner of the land if he would mind extending our agreement a further night. He agreed, but he was unhappy that we had helped ourselves to the electric. So we paid a higher price to compensate and disconnected the battery charger. Our batteries were so badly damaged by this point, that it didn’t seem to help them that much anyway.

We were joined in the evening by our friends the Thompsons, who brought with them some board games and some fresh fish, which we cooked on a grill. They introduced us to Catan, a strategy game where you need to collect resources to win. Willow came close to winning, before Sam snatched victory out of her grasp right at the death.

BBQ

Tomorrow would be Sam’s birthday, and we were invited to join them at their house for cake and celebrations.

In the morning, we packed away the van, and topped up our on-board water tank before heading into Todos Santos. The brewery was operating a curbside service, refilling growlers, so it was obviously our first port of call.

Hub of the community

With our growler refilled, we ventured in search of some fish tacos. By this point, most of the town was now shut down due to Covid19, however there were still one or two places ignoring the lockdown restrictions, and we stumbled upon a place still serving food. We had not long ordered some food, when a military truck pulled up outside and an armed soldier entered the restaurant.

Just your casual armed guard

Although it wasn’t the first armed officer that we had seen during our time in Mexico, I still didn’t feel comfortable with him just strolling around in a restaurant that we were sat in. He clearly did not look happy about the restaurant being open, full of people like us flaunting the lockdown measures. After a quick discussion with the owner he left. Apparently, the restaurant could remain open for the time being, as long as people were spaced appropriately apart from one and other. So a few of the diners were quickly repositioned and shortly afterwards our food arrived at the table. It would most likely be the last time that we ate out for a while, so we tried to savour the experience.

Bellies full, we headed to the Thompson’s, to join in with the birthday celebrations. The were signs all around the town that it was now feeling the full effects of the lockdown. All the bars and hotels were shut and the local stores were starting to gather care packages to send to those more vulnerable.

Tourist industry completely shut down
It was good to see that there was a plan of action in place

Fortunately for us, there was still plenty of produce on the shelves, so neither of us felt panicked by the increasing restrictions that were happening around us.

When we arrived at the Thompson’s, Jen was still finishing the cake, so we had time for our food to digest before stuffing our faces some more.

Apparently, an American couple they knew had told them that they were happy for us to park on the building site for a house they were building near Cerritos. The Mexican government had ordered that all construction work to cease immediately. It probably wouldn’t be the most glamorous of spots, but we had permission to be there, so should hopefully be safe from the police hassling us. We stayed for most of the afternoon, leaving once we had enjoyed some delicious cake.

Happy Birthday Sam 🎂🎈🎉

The plot was only 15 minutes away and we wanted to arrive before it got dark, as it is always harder to set up when you can’t see what you’re doing. Following the directions that Melody, the owner, had given us, we soon pulled up on a plot of land which we believed to be their building site. We were just about to adjust Ruby’s position, to try and get her more level, when we heard a voice from behind some bushes. A clearly displeased American guy soon appeared.

“What are you doing on my property?” He quizzed us, clearly unhappy about our presence.

“We have permission to be here from the owner.” We informed him.

“No you don’t, this is my land!”

We explained that we had permission from Melody and this was the location that she had given us. Upon hearing her name, he seemed to relax slightly, before explaining that the wasteland we were on was his land and we couldn’t park there. The borderline was not clear, so he showed us where his land started and demanded that we moved the van immediately. A reasonable person would have probably been more empathetic to our current situation and set us stay where we were. He was absolutely not interested in us staying and not wanting to upset our new neighbour, we agreed and moved Ruby further onto the building site.

Not the most picturesque spot that we’ve stayed im

It seemed the drama wasn’t over yet. Aimee had decided that she wasn’t finished exploring the surrounding bushes and so bolted as Willow went to grab something from out of the cab. We then spent the next half an hour chasing her, as she dived in and out of the shrubbery, visibly enjoying the experience. Our efforts weren’t helped by the fact that it was now dark and we opted against using torches, as we want the angry American getting suspicious of us rambling around his house at night.

To make matters worse, a confused looking lad emerged from a large tent on the site. He turns out to be the on site security, guarding the site from unwanted intruders. Thankfully he speaks a little English and we explain that the owners had given us permission to stay at the site. He did not sound pleased to hear that and informed us that his colleagues were due on site tomorrow morning and that we would need to speak to his boss. We had been here less than an hour and we already felt that it would be an unsuitable long-term solution to our camping problems.

If that wasn’t stressful enough, Aimee had now decided to head into the angry American’s property. Climbing underneath his SUV. With no treats or laser to lure her out, we just had to wait until she eventually got bored and returned to us.

She did eventually come back and we thankfully got her back into the van. We decided that we would walk around the site properly in the morning, to see if we could scout out a more suitable position to camp, away from the ruckus of the workmen.

We woke the next day to the sound of the workmen arriving to the site at 7am. After a quick discussion, they pretty much confirm that they would cease work at the end of the day, before getting to work finishing off what ever they had come to do. Staring at the weird Gringos parked on their site in a classic VW. We’re unable to find a more suitable place to park Ruby in the daylight, so decided that we’ve already had enough of the site. Neither of us felt relaxed and definitely didn’t want to spend however long we would need to isolate under constant scrutiny of the locals.

Our new home

Stopping off to buy essential items to keep us going for at least a week, we head for a beach spot named Agua Blanca, marked on iOverlander just north of La Pastora Beach. Following the dirt track down to the beach, we pull over just before the sand. As much as we would have liked to tuck ourselves away a little better, there was no way our 2 wheel drive would handle the deep sand, and so we would have to chance our luck on the side of the track. Hopefully, we would be far enough away from the town that nobody would bother to check that restrictions were being adhered to.

No one around except t
Enough supplies to last a week

As we started preparing for a week off grid, we spotted the roofs of two other campers parked a little further down on the beach. Compared to Ruby, these were more like tanks and probably had little difficulty navigating the treacherous sand. What I would have given to be able to park where they were right then.

We set about arranging the camper a little better. We stored all of our food supplies in plastic containers and placed them under the van. We cleared out the back section so that we could access our clothes cupboards better, and I even took the bikes down so we could get to stuff from outside. With the windbreaker up for a bit of extra privacy, our camp was starting to take shape. Willow began digging a toilet pit and I started gathering large rocks and wood to build a campfire. Our anxieties from the building site soon washed away, and I felt like we had found a spot that would be sufficient enough to see out at least the next week. Now we had nothing left to do but chill out and see what would happen.

I popped down to the sea to fill a bucket with seawater for cleaning, as I sat on the shore, taking a moment to appreciate the beauty around us, an official looking pickup truck pulled up alongside Ruby. Two guys in facemasks got out and approached Willow. That familiar feeling of disappointment returned, and I imagine I would return to find out that we had once again been moved on. We hadn’t even managed a day.

Their conversation with Willow was brief and before leaving they took a picture of me on the beach and then drove off.

“Well that didn’t last long!” I say dejected as I return to Willow.

“They said we could stay!” Willow beamed with delight.

The officials actually agreed that this was the best place for us to stay and told us to go nowhere else, other than Todos Santos for shopping. I couldn’t believe that someone had actually just applied common sense to a decision.

Reassured that we could actually relax and enjoy our new spot without living in fear of eviction, we spent the rest of the day chilling. Cooking our evening meal over an open fire. Finally, for the first time in what felt like forever, it felt like we could just go back to enjoying our trip.

There’s nothing like a west coast sunset

It’s now our first morning at Agua Blanco and it’s the weekend. As we sit outside enjoying the sun, a vast number of cars drive past. Most took one look at the empty beach and headed back. The occasional car stops and a Mexican family heads down to the beach armed with some cervazas and blankets.

In the late afternoon, a group of locals arrived at the beach to do some fishing from the shores. Tomorrow, I would try and take our fishing rod down to the beach to see if I could catch us anything.

As we sat, watching a show on the laptop before we went to bed, a light out at sea catches our attention. It was acting incredibly strange, occasionally pointing to shore.

“Who would be out fishing in the dead of night?” I wondered.

Whoever they were, they definitely weren’t fishing, and after a while the light disappeared and we were once again alone.

We got to appreciate our first decent night’s sleep in ages, falling to sleep to the sound of the waves gently brushing against the shore.

The next day, I took our fishing rod down to the beach and set attempted to set it up. After a couple of minutes, it was obviously that we were in the wrong place, with the wrong type of rod to try shore fishing and so give up.

We’re not back at Ruby long before a police car pulls up next to us and turns on its lights. Three officers armed with automatic rifles approach us.

We knew this wouldn’t end well
The officers where not interested in what we had to say

Unlike the health officials who visited us yesterday, they immediately tell us that we need to leave.

“You can’t be here. The beaches are closed.” One officer informs us.

We explain that two health officials had advised us to stay where we are and that it made sense, as asking us to move meant there was more chance of us potentially coming into contact with the virus and spreading further. The officers were not interested in what we had to say, and when we asked him where we should go, he simply laughed a said…

“Go back to your own country.”

Their attitude was frightening. We were in the midst of a global pandemic and they were treating us with such hostility. Surely the priority should be making sure that everyone is safe. Which at times requires common sense to look past official guidelines, treating each scenario based on the situation.

Nothing we could have said would have persuaded them to change their minds, so we gave up. Once again dejected about losing what was a perfect spot to self-isolate. They took my details and then headed over to the other campers parked on the beach. We start dismantling our camp and pack Ruby away.

Once they were gone, we headed over to the other campers. We had received a message from David and Katy in the morning telling us that the campers were German friends of theirs, and they had mentioned that they had seen us.

We introduce ourselves and learn their names. Hanno and Kirsten, who were travelling in their blue Iveco prisoner transportation conversion named Bruno. The other couple was Carsten and Steffi, travelling in their beastly Iveco fire truck conversion named Dino.

They were obviously feeling as disappointed as we were and weren’t really sure what they were going to do next. They too saw they strange lights the night before and suspected that it was a police boat, searching the beaches for campers. If that was the case, parking on any further beaches would prove to be incredibly difficult if they were just patrolling them at night, looking for lights which stood out in the dark. If we thought our encounter with the police was bad. The office told them that he didn’t like Germany because of Hitler!

We exchanged contact details and then said goodbye, offering to message one another if we found somewhere suitable. We decided to head towards Punta Lobos, to see if we could hide behind the half built campus, and if they didn’t work out, we could at least head back to the building site if things didn’t work out.

Stopping for a few supplies, we then made our way back to the familiar surroundings of Punta Lobos. Deciding to park Ruby in the actual half built remains of the university campus. As hiding spots go, it was our best chance of being parked up near the sea, without being seen by passers-by. I sent our new German friends our location and we quickly received a message back, telling us they would come and check it out.

10 out of 10 for effort

There was nothing left to do but wait and see what would happen. So I opened a beer and walked around the building to see if you could see Ruby from the roadside. You couldn’t!

The loud noise of hydraulics signalled to us that the Germans had arrived, and they quickly drove round the back to join us, laughing when they saw Ruby tucked away in the ruins. Hanno and Kirsten thought about attempting to get Bruno in as well, but quickly realised he way to tall with the surf boards on top, and so decided to park behind the building, using it as shelter from the road.

We had not long set up some chairs in a circle, when two security guards from the nearby hotel appeared and instructed us to leave. Carsten asked if it would be possible for us to stay just one night, as we had nowhere else to go, and they said they would have to speak to the General Manager. They left and returned about 15 minutes later with an American lady who ran the hotel. She informed us that the hotel managed the site on behalf of the University and that they had been instructed by the military to keep the site clear of travellers. She was sympathetic to our situation and did offer us the opportunity to stay the night, but warned that armed military may turn up at anytime to force us away. We told her that we were now use to this, so it wouldn’t be too unexpected, but we’d prefer it if we could stay without fear of being moved on.

She left and we discussed as a group what we could do. Hanno messaged a Canadian guy who owned a nearby ranch, which was on iOverlander. We agreed to drive to it to check it out. Although we would all rather avoid paying for somewhere to camp, we had pretty much run out of options and a couple of days of peace sounded perfect right about now.

Following a dirt road from Pescadero up into the mountains, we were greeted outside the ranch by the owners Dane and Sabrina, who let us in and showed us around the campsite. It was a simple campground with a fire pit and a composting toilet. But for $1000 a week (£35), we weren’t really expecting anything else. It also meant that if we decided to stay the week, we could enjoy some peace and quiet, no longer having to twitch every time we heard a car approaching. Something we were all desperate to go back to!

Hopefully this will be a decent short term solution

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