Rescuing Chico

An easy week rolled by in our new campsite and before we knew it, it was Friday again. I can’t say I missed a single aspect of the casita, not even the convenience of running water or a hot shower. Wildlife buzzed in the air all around us as the desert started sprouting up with new greenery in readiness for spring. Hummingbirds were a daily sight in our camp, but I’ve yet to be fast enough to catch one on camera. Aimee was still loving the freedom of the outdoors and not having to compete with other cats over space.

We had added a few rustic bits and bobs to our campsite, including a surfboard tale and setting up the projector screen.

it was also the first time we had flown Steve in a while. We tried for a good aerial view in an attempt to help Dane and Sabrina map out what would be a good area for us to help them extend the campsite.

Friday night is normally pizza night, and so we headed up the hill equipped with drinks and pizza toppings. Sabrina was in the midst of the weekly bread bake and we enjoyed another lovely sunset from the perfect viewpoint. It turns out they were planning to have friends round on Saturday, and therefore we were invited to join them the following day for pizza and some drinks.

That morning we headed up the hill again to give them a hand with a few things around the ranch. Tasks ranged from collecting dog shit to building a new fire pit for that evening’s pizza night. We were all happy to actually have a chance to contribute to our free stay here and set about doing as much as we could in the time. We built a new fire pit and levelled the area around it with a few steps on the hillside so that you could sit in chairs without sliding down the hill. Dog shit was duly cleared, while Pancho cleared up the palapa from last nights baking. Dane and Sabrina were in town, selling their sourdough and cinnamon rolls.

We had enthusiastically thrown ourselves into the tasks at hand, to the slight alarm of the current employed labourer Pancho. He allowed us free range at the ranch for a few hours before it hit midday and he told us to stop, as it was too hot with the sun. He ushered us into the palapa and looked a little happier now we had stopped manically digging fire pits. I think he was worried we were going to show him up or something similar, but by this point, we had an area cleared for the fire and were happy that we had at least contributed. In the heat of the midday, two out of their seven dogs slept in the cool of the palapa.

With a few hours, until Dane and Sabrina would return, we headed back to camp. Later that afternoon, we made our way back up the hill equipped with a few things we could contribute to pizza night. Currently, it was only Sabrina, as Dane was out collecting two of their friends. It wasn’t long, however, until he returned and we were introduced to Randy and Ramona.

Randy was certainly a character, which became increasingly clear as the night developed. He made a good impression on me, as he generously offered us some Sierra Nevada beers he had brought with him. This would have been a kind gesture at any time, imported American craft beer not being a particularly cheap commodity. In Corona times though and considering that Baja is currently dry, beer is like gold dust. Shoving an ice-cold IPA in my hand, we were soon chatting away.

Ramona was equally sociable, telling how she was also used to the travelling lifestyle as she works on boats and so we definitely had some common ground. We both extolled the virtues of Baja, especially in comparison to her home state of California. Mainly in monetary terms.

Dane and Sabrina then decided to show them around the property, including the new highlight of a compost toilet with a view. Being fairly well acquainted with the ranch at this point, we sat and watched the sun begin to set again over the familiar hills between the ocean and us.

As we sat there, another car pulled up and another couple emerged. Introducing themselves as Joella and Jan. They stood and watched the sunset for a little while, before heading down the track on the hillside to explore their surroundings.

Shortly after, Hanno and Kerstin joined us at the top and the group was complete. Sabrina made an extensive amount of pizzas, and Hanno and I set about cutting up the toppings. With the bases pre-baked, we made a selection of different pizza ready to go back into the oven for a final cook.

The wood fire made short work of this, and before too long we sat in the bakery, eating pizza and drinking.
It was at around this time that we learned that one of the health food shops in town, called Pura Vida, was owned by Joella. This is the only place so far on this trip that I have been able to buy certain spices, and the go-to shop if you need something that might be loosely referred to as ‘weird’. Having congratulated her on being the own place in North America to actually sell fenugreek, pizza night continued.

This was the first time since the outbreak of the virus that I think I have felt like everything was back to normal. While according to the local news, Todos Santos was experiencing an incredible spike in cases and we seemed far from the end of the quarantine, you wouldn’t have known at this particular moment in time. It was so nice to spend time hanging out with a group of people, some of whom we knew and some we didn’t, just chatting and enjoying ourselves. No one mentioned face masks, or quarantine, or vaccines and that in itself was quite a nice break from the norm. It felt like we had a little snippet of that travelling experience back again.

A few hours rolled by, and we migrated over to the new fire pit. By this point, Dane was a little worse for wear, and soon Joella and Jan called it a night. It was close to midnight before Randy and Ramona headed off to camp up in the tent. We still hung around the fire for another hour or so, enjoy the last of what had been an enjoyable evening. Finally, at the point where it looked like Dane was struggling to stand, we headed back down the hill to our own beds.

The following morning, we got a message asking if I could go and have a look at their truck. Apparently, there was an unpleasant noise coming from the front wheel and with a trip to Canada imminent, they needed it sorted. The mechanic had told them the wheel bearing, but Dane wanted a second opinion.

Last night as we had sat around the fire, there had been the occasional whiff of an unpleasant smell. Unsure of what it was, drunk Dane was sent to move the large bucket of dog shit we had collected in case that was the culprit. When it transpired that is wasn’t that, no one investigated further.

They had found the source the following morning. The remains of a half-dead deer or similar had been found by the dogs, meaning that now a rather hungover Dane had had to cope with digging up rotting carcass that morning. He didn’t look too impressed.

Heading over to the truck, we jacked up the front and had a look. Nothing looked amiss and the wheel didn’t have any play that you would expect from a worn bearing. We attempted a small test drive up and down the hill next to the palapa, but without any noise being apparent I felt like I couldn’t be of much use. I could tell him that the bearing wasn’t worn, but aside from that, I didn’t have much to offer. Feeling a tad useless, as I couldn’t give him any kind of concrete advice, it was up to them to decide what they wanted to do.

By the time Monday morning rolled around, a decision was made in camp. After a lot of deliberation, Kerstin and Hanno had decided they wanted to go and rescue Chico. We needed to head into town to get some supplies anyway and a highly necessary visit to the brewery was due.

Bruno was packed down and we all set off down the increasingly bumpy washboard track into Pescadero. I wasn’t sure I believed the others when they told me that Bruno was loud on the dirt roads. Surely Ruby was hard to beat. I do think we have found a camper to rival ours for noise however, Bruno is not the quietest. So we turned up the music and shouted at each other to compensate.

It’s about a half an hour drive into Todos Santos from our ranch spot. We decided that we would go to the casita first, then we could always go back later if he wasn’t there. We hoped that Herman, Francesca’s ex husband and designated casita spy, would be out, but we were prepared to walk in anyway if he was there. It’s not like he was going to care if the odd gringos wanted a stray cat.

We pulled up outside the gates and I and Lee were first through the entrance. To make things easy, Herman wasn’t there and we had obviously timed this right. The other day, Hanno had left behind a bag of cat food and a note asking Herman to feed the cats when they had left the previous week. This gave us a little hope that he might still have hung around if the food was still available. As for water, they had to hope the door to the downstairs toilet blew open and that they could drink out of the toilet.

We walked into the kitchen, where we saw a half-eaten bag of cat food lying on the worktop alongside Hanno’s note. Herman hadn’t even bothered with a bowl, leaving the plastic bag on the side where the cats had chewed through it to get access to the biscuits. We walked around the kitchen, whistling and calling for Chico who didn’t appear to be there. We didn’t have to wait too long, however. Soon enough a familiar meow, and patter of footsteps announced his arrival from the upstairs balcony. He had waited for us! Quickly we scooped him up and passed him over to Hanno, before making a speedy exit. Mission accomplished.

It would have probably been nice to give some time to adjust, but not wanting to hang around he was dumped in the back of Bruno and we headed back down the street to the shop. It became obvious straight away, that he wasn’t very well. He had a golf ball-sized swelling on his chest, and a vet visit, while already on the cards, needed to happen sooner rather than later.

As we already had the vet on WhatsApp we went sent her a message, and within a matter of minutes had him booked in for that afternoon. A quick trip to the shop for some cat supplies and the brewery took just the right amount of time and we headed back out of town towards the vet, hoping nothing major was wrong with him.
We didn’t have to wait long. The vet soon confirmed it was just an infection from where he had got scratched but that he also had a fever. She gave him a course of antibiotics and pre-emptively arranged an appointment for next week to get him neutered if the infection had cleared up. Suddenly there would two cats again in quarantine camp again.

So far, he was doing rather well at van life. He didn’t look too bothered as Bruno bumped back down the road and seemed to be acclimatising well to being a vehicle. Once back at the campsite, Kerstin attempted to put him on a lead and let him outside, unsure of how he would react to being somewhere so different. Like any cat that wears a harness for the first time, he was not impressed. He made a beeline straight into the engine bay, leaving his harness behind him somewhere in the engine. After quickly extracting him from the top of the very hot engine, it seemed like it would be better if he were just released. It seemed unlikely he would run away, he had already spent several days in Bruno back at the casita and like a lot of cats, he had chosen his owners.

In actual fact, it would have been nearly impossible to lose Chico. He wandered around the campsite keeping up a continuous string of meows as he investigated his new home. Aimee was a little unsure, but not that bothered by his presence. Hopefully, they would even be friends in a week or so. It took him a matter of hours to figure out how to get into Bruno through the mosquito net, while Aimee still resorted to sitting outside the door and howling at us in confusion for our setup. He seemed as happy to be free of the casita as we had been, and settled into the desert camp easily.

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