Birthday in lockdown

I woke for the final time at Ranch Pacifico Baja on my 33rd birthday. Our week was up and so we had agreed to move on and chance our luck wild camping once again. We had identified an idyllic looking spot on iOverlander next to a waterfall and the reviews said that the spot had fairly consistent internet reception. Water and data, two things we were in desperate need off.

We had popped up to inform Dane and Sabrina of our plans the night before, they had wished us luck and gave us a burnt sough dough loaf from their previous night of baking. It seemed that they were still getting used to their new oven.

All packed away, we hit the dirt trail back towards Pescadero. During the week, the girls of the camp had set about sewing temporary face masks for us to wear when we visited town. It’s not that we believed that offered us protection from the virus, that was most commonly spread through touch. We did believe that it would show to the locals that we were trying to cooperate, and hopefully this would mean we would meet less resistance when trying to pass through Pescadero. 

As we approached the highway, we could see the barrier was still in place. We had hypothesised that maybe it was just a temporary measure over Easter weekend. It wasn’t. They waved us down as we approached and started interrogating us in Spanish. We were able to make out most of what they were saying and tried to explain that we were heading to the supermecado to buy essential groceries. They tested my temperature and instructed Willow to put her face mask on and then hesitantly waved us through. Pulling over to wait the result of the other two campers, we were relieved when we had all passed through with complication and headed off to the nearest fresh grocery store to stock pile some veggies. If we could help it, we would aim to stay at the waterfall as long as possible.

We filled Ruby with the maximum amount of food that we could carry and then headed to another mini market to grab canned goods and drinks, stopping off at a water refill point when we were done to fill our tanks back up. If things went to plan, we could use the water from the waterfall when our tanks ran dry.

There was a real excitement within the group. After the safety of Rancho Pacifico, we were all craving adventure and liked the prospect of trying to hide away in an unusual spot. It wasn’t a beach, so there should be no reason for the police to bother us.

From Pescadero, our small convoy followed the highway south towards Cabo, pulling over at what we believed to be the entrance. The instructions weren’t clear and a few comments had spoken about struggling to find the gated entrance.

Eventually, we found the turn off and we followed behind Carsten and Steffi, with Kerstin and Hanno behind us. The track seemed to turn to the left and follow alongside the river, but for some reason Carsten continued forward, join the sandy river bed. Not sure what to do, we waited for a moment to see what they were going to do. When they showed no sign of moving, we decided to head down to join them, assuming it was suitable enough for us to drive on.

It really wasn’t… and it didn’t take us long to get stuck!

Hanno and Kerstin joined us to see why we had left the track. Carsten explained that he thought it would be easier to drive directly down the river bed, but we weren’t so sure. At least on the track, we had tyre tracks to follow. On the dry river bed, we had no idea where the deepest parts were and so decided to try and push Ruby out and head to the waterfall the way everyone else had. Ruby wasn’t too stuck, but if we couldn’t push her free, we had to titans ready to pull us the last mile if needed.

Ruby clearly didn’t want to rely on anyone else to get us there and so Willow was able to reverse back to the track with the help of us pushing. Pleased to be free, we once again let Carsten and Steffi lead, giving them enough room ahead for us to drive with the pedal to the floor.

After a quick pep talk, I slammed the accelerator down and away we went. Ruby flew into action, she was like a graceful ice skater and the sand was her ice rink. Alright… She wasn’t that great! But she did proper go for it. Somehow we managed to keep going, occasionally losing momentum in deep sections of the track, but just before we lost control, she found some traction from somewhere, I gave her some more gas and we kept on moving. Occasionally the back end would slide out as we turned a slight corner, but she still refused to give up. It was definitely a great birthday driving experience.

Suddenly, the waterfall came into our sight. As we approached the last couple of metres we were starting to lose traction once again, but more worryingly, the engine was beginning to overheat. We stopped only metres away from where Carsten and Steffi had parked. Although we weren’t technically there, we were counting it as a victory for Ruby.

It turned out that the radiator scoop was full of sand, so was unable to get enough air flow to cool the high revs from me putting my foot down. We tied Ruby to the back of Bruno, and Kerstin and Hanno dragged us the last couple of metres to the waterfall.

Pulling up alongside Dino, we planned where to position our campers so that we could create a sort of ‘U’ shaped, creating a focal point for the camp in the middle. Just as we were we about done, we were surprised to find Dino fire up and drive to the other side of the small valley we were parked in. I wondered whether we had done anything to offended them by not choosing to follow them down the river bed. Maybe they just enjoyed their own space. I couldn’t blame them if that was the case. Occasionally it is nice to keep yourself separated, camping with others can sometimes become a little overwhelming when you are desperate for some down time.

Deciding that we were going to try and last it out here as long as possible, we put the birthday celebrations on hold and we all set about building a camp ground. Hanno and I went to work digging out a toilet pit and I decided to try resting the seat for our composting toilet on top, to add a bit of luxury to the camp site.

We dug out a fire pit whilst Willow attempted to create a hose that could collect water from the falls, filtering out some of the debris in the process.

With the camp starting to take shape, I allowed myself a beer to celebrate turning 33. We all sat around our newly created fire pit and enjoyed our new spot, watching in disbelief as we were visited first by a family of pigs, shortly followed by a cattle of cows. They had all trekked down into the valley to drink from the waterfall, and who could blame them. The spot was gorgeous and just what we needed after hiding away on the dry ranch for a week.

Willow set about cooking we a veggie lasagne as a birthday treat and she brought it out along with a glass of champagne to mark the occasion. Little did I know, but the day before, she had secretly thrown together a birthday cake without me knowing, and so the group joined us back around the camp fire for cake and party games. I felt very privileged to be spending my birthday outside with friends, under the stars around a camp fire. I could only imagine how miserable my birthday would have been if we were isolating back home in Brum.

We spent the rest of the night playing Charades, our German friends doing a brilliant job translating from English to try and act out all sort of stupid impersonations. As birthdays during pandemics go, it had been a pretty decent one and I went to bed optimistic about our new camp spot.

If I’ve learnt anything on this trip, it’s that if I go to bed feeling confident about something, then it’s most likely going to fall apart in the morning.

The camp woke buoyant and eager to continue developing our camp spot. The pit toilet I had dug yesterday wasn’t quite right, so I set about trying to improve it. Willow still wasn’t happy with her water filter pipe to collect water from the waterfall, so she started hacking at pieces of sponge in an attempt to upgrade her system.

The mood in the camp was quickly brought back down to earth by the appearance of a pickup truck. It wasn’t a police or military vehicle, but it still brought the news we were desperate to avoid.

The American driver turned out to be the son in law of the person who owned the land and after visiting yesterday, he was uncomfortable with us setting up camp there and so had sent his son in law to instruct us to leave.

Tony was sympathetic to our situation and you could tell he felt bad having to move us on, but they were concerned that us being here would scare their animals and prevent them from drinking from the fall. To say we were disappointed at this point would be an understatement.

After long discussions, Tony offered us the opportunity to stay on a plot of land that he owned in Cerritos. By the sounds of it, he was building a fairly large complex and we liked the idea of having some extra security on the site whilst construction was halted. He said we could stay one more night, but would have to move on in the morning. He wished us good luck and then left us to contemplate our next plan of action.

Once again it felt like we had been sucker punched. We were trying so hard to find a place to self-isolate to try and help stop the spread of Covid19 and it seemed everyone was determined to keep moving us around. We all knew one thing that was for certain, we were not prepared to give up on our dream and head back to our home countries. We would do whatever it took to see out the restrictions and then decided where we headed from there.

Discussions that night obviously revolved around our next move. Tony’s offer sounded tempting. He even told us that there was a water tank on the property and he could arrange for someone to come and fill it, definitely something which appealed to us. We agreed we would go and look at the plot in the morning and make our minds up from there.

In the morning, there was an official announcement informing us that the restrictions were being extended from the end of April, up to the end of May. Suddenly the idea of staying at a building site for 6 weeks seemed less appealing.

Not sure what to do, we decided to make the most of the water whilst we figured out a new plan of action, so the girls used the waterfall to wash our dirty laundry whilst the rest of us tried to restore the area to how it was before we arrived.

Not long after, Karsten and Steffi shocked the group shortly after, by informing us that they did not wish to camp on a building site and so they were going to head off on their own. To be honest, with a rig like theirs, I couldn’t blame them. They had the capability to go much further off grid than we could ever do. They could potentially find a spot where nobody would hassle them. It was a shame that the group was splitting up as it had been great having new people to spend our time with, and it gave us a sense of security we didn’t have on our own.

Karsten and Steffi soon finished packing, waved goodbye and drove off back down towards the highway, leaving us to finish off packing away ourselves.

Hanno and Kerstin had spotted a casita to rent on the Todos Santos news feed, so we decided to go check it out with them and if it was no good, we could check out the building plot. Our only problem would be navigating the road blockade that had been erected to stop tourists like us from entering the town. Hopefully, if we could translate that we wanted to rent an apartment and not camp nearby, the volunteers would let us in.

There were still a few minor obstacles for us to overcome before we could get to the casita. Firstly… we were stuck. And without Karsten and Steffi’s beastly Dino to tow us, it was now left to Kerstin and Hanno in Bruno to get us out. Saying that, Bruno was pretty beastly as well, and neither of us doubted that he wouldn’t be able to get us going again.

With Ruby strapped behind Bruno, they literally dragged us, the radiator scoop trying it’s hardest to make things difficult for us. It didn’t matter, we were soon out of the valley and back on the highway. After re-pressurising out tyres, we set off once again back to Todos Santos.

With the southern exit still blocked off, we would have to convince the civilian road blockade to let us into the town. Not something we were confident would happen.

With the road blockade looming, we put on our homemade masks and crossed our fingers. Hanno and Kerstin were in front and some locals working approached their vehicle. Shortly after, another local approached us, sadly he didn’t speak English. In very bad Spanish, we tried to explain that our friends were looking at a casita to rent, looking unimpressed, he went to speak to the other guys speaking to our friends. After a long discussion, they agreed to let us pass, not before spraying out hands with sanitisers, because obvious that would stop the virus from entering the town!

We pulled up outside the casita, which turned out to be only a stone’s throw away from Rob and Jen’s house. Kerstin and Hanno informed us that the guards were happy to let them in as they had seen Bruno around town before, they were less keen on letting us in however, as apparently the had never seen us before. We found that quite amusing, as normally Ruby tends to stand out whenever we’re driving around somewhere knew.

“I wish I’d known that,” I said. “I could have shown them all of the pictures of us drinking at the brewery!”

At the casita, Hanno and Kerstin met the owner Francesca, who also ran the turtle sanctuary that we visited all those weeks ago on our first visit. We left them to view the casita and popped down the road to see the Thompson’s, as we were not really interested in renting a casita. We had some more post that we were waiting on, and so had decided that we would wait around until that arrived and then would head north towards Bahía Conception, where would attempt to rough it out in the canyons until the beaches reopened. Our post was a week late, so it should have been arriving anytime soon.

We explained our situation to Rob and Jen, and asked if we would be able to take them up on their offer to stay in their garden for one night, hopefully our packages would arrive and then we could head off north. Thankfully they agreed, and so we parked Ruby up and headed over to inform Hanno and Kerstin, who had decided to rent the casita for a month.

They informed us that somebody had posted a picture of our vans on the Todos Santos newsfeed, with a panicked message about how the blockade was not doing its job and that tourists were invading the area. The post had been removed before we had a chance to see it, which is probably a good thing because I was livid. Social media is a fantastic medium for connecting people and sharing information, but certain cretins use it in a poisonous manner, sat behind their screen typing unnecessary shit to provoke trouble. If people have a problem with me, I would much rather they say it to my face, to give me a chance to rationally explain or defend myself, something this cowardly filth would never reason to do.

Thankfully, it turned out that everyone we had met in Todos Santos leapt to our defence, and so instead of rallying a crowd of locals to chase us out of town with pitch folks, the town rallied in our favour and after a complaint from Rob, who had seen it also, the post was removed. It’s stupidity like this at times when people are scared which causes further panic, and in some cases, concludes with people getting hurt. I was thankful to the people we met for having our backs and preventing an unnecessary scenario.

With temporary accommodation sorted, we left our German friends to settle into their new home and joined the Thompsons for some food and a movie.

This certainly wasn’t how I expected our trip to go and I prayed that the morning would bring with it a change in fortune!

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