Working on Rancho Pacifico

We had agreed to a carry out some kind of work on Rancho Pacifico instead of paying for campsite fees while we stayed there. It was however several weeks before Dane and Sabrina made it clear what they wanted us to do. One afternoon they came down to the campsite with some tools and some tape. After establishing that it was too hot to do any work right now, we walked around the campsite and they set about marking out a perimeter of the area they wanted us to clear in order to make some more camping spots for other rigs. 

In the weeks that followed we chipped away at clearing the area, digging out the shallow rooted lomboy trees and relocating them to the boundary fence in order to provide more protection against the dust of the road. We relocated any cacti to new spots cut back the trees so that the newly cleared area was accessible for vehicles. The daytime temperatures easily exceeded 40 degrees in the shade and we therefore work more in the evenings in the few cooler hours before sunset. 

Along with the campsite extension there was also work to be done on the rancho itself. During our Canada Day party the lights in the palapa had turned out due to some issues with the solar system. Hanno took charge of this, and went about rewiring the panels into parallel, as they had unhelpfully been connected in series. It also seems that the charge controller had malfunctioned as it was systematically boiling the batteries. As no-one was interested in purchasing our old system, we gave it to the ranch. There’s no way we could haul around 60kg of tired battery power, and our relatively new flexible solar panels were pretty shite anyway. Despite the fact that the system cost about $800, it was no good to us. At least if I had to give it away I was happy it was to these guys, they had done us a big favour by giving us a free safe haven during the pandemic and one good deed certainly deserves another. 

Despite the fact that our old batteries weren’t great, they hadn’t been boiled at least and for a while the ranch scraped along as we had done for many months on a small charge controller and slightly knackered batteries. Dane had ordered some new controllers which we would help to fit later. 

There was now a firm deadline to their departure and the new ranch caretaker, Alejandro, had arrived. The final week was upon them, and suddenly work at the top of the hill picked up pace. A new roof was fitted to the Panaderia.

As a group we helped out a lot in the final week of their stay. The once perilous to fill shower tank now had a feed hose that meant both this and two smaller tanks could be filled easily from a water pump. From these smaller tanks we installed two irrigation systems that would water the large selection of plants that would turn this desert hilltop into a garden oasis. 

The new solar charge controllers had now arrived, and these were fitted onto their existing panels along with our old batteries. They even splashed out on a small fridge, and after two days it appeared that new solar setup could not only keep the lights on at night, but also run a fridge which is definitely a bonus. A few other minor things were also on our to do list, including install a security light and a changing the sinks plumbing to water the plants. 

Dane had also got the road resurfaced and found a new water delivery guy, this meant that the usual job of filling the water tanks was easier. Previously the other water delivery guy hadn’t made it up the hill and had filled a big tank about halfway up. From here water had to be pumped up to the other tanks on the main site. It was therefore a surprise to us when we saw a water truck blasting up the hill one day. While the water was more expensive, the savings in time and effort were probably worth it we surmised one evening, over a nice cold Caesar. This meant that the original blue tank half way up the hill wasn’t really needed and it was decided this would be the water supply for the campsite below. 

Down in the campsite we still had a few bits to do to finish levelling off the marked out area. I had also made a set of signs for the campsite, in an attempt to make it look a little prettier and hopefully professional. 

This flurry of activity meant that soon enough a week was up and as we finished up a few jobs on the ranch it was the day of their leaving party. Alejandro, now permanently living on site was joined by Julian who was also there to help out. The party was to be at Randy’s house, who we had met a few times previously on rancho pizza nights. He was neighbours to Dane and Sabrina at their beach house sitting location and had invited everyone around for food, drinks and to use his pool. After a day of installing an irrigation system in the midday sun, this sounded thrilling. 

Alejandro had opted to stay behind and look after the ranch, while the rest of us packed up and drove down to El Pescadero. We parked up outside the beach house where we planned to stay the night and walked over to Randy’s. We were greeted with open arms and cold beers into his beautiful casita. After returning to the beach house for a speedy shower as I couldn’t justify putting my filthy self into anyones swimming pool before one, it wasn’t long before we were enjoying some ice cold Pacifico’s in the pool under the stars. 

It would have been a perfect night, where it not for the inappropriate gropings of Julian, who put rather a downer on the evenings events. While I won’t spend long on the details, it certainly took the shine o what would have been a far more enjoyable night for me and Kiki. 

Fortunately, Dane and Sabrina had a good night, as within the next few days they would be leaving for Canada and we wouldn’t be seeing them again for the foreseeable future. 

They had kindly agreed that we could still access the beach house to make use of the shower and washing machine after we had gone, which was nice. It was certainly useful to have somewhere with a hose, as we discovered the following morning while slightly hungover that we had somewhat of a maggot infestation in the compost toilet that needed to be dealt with. 

Back at the rancho, we turned out attention to finishing the campsite extension. Dane had already bought all the pipe needed and we decided to try and run a water system from the tank up on the hill to the campsite below. It would need to run a shower, where the used grey water would be capture and stored for watering plants and also a sink for the campers. 

We started by running pipes down the hill roughly where they would be used and then suddenly it happened. Dane and Sabrina appeared in camp, packed and ready to go. The car was full of dogs, five in total, and ready for a weeks worth of travelling back to Canada. We showed them the potential shower setup and after getting the go ahead we would go about completing the system once they had gone. Now it was time for goodbye. We had stayed on the ranch for three months and are incredibly grateful for their hospitality at a time like this. I have found that the pandemic can either bring out the best or the worst in people and these guys had not only given us a safe space but included us in their lives and become friends. We wished them safe travels and watched the truck bounce down the road, dogs everywhere, for the last time. It was a sad moment. 

Their departure had also galvanised us into action however as with them gone and Alejandro in place, we had no real reason to stay on the ranch. We wanted to finish our campsite water system however, so after spending the rest of the day running pipe work and getting the water pump to prime the system, we did just that. By sunset there was water in the camp. Not without a few hiccups and maybe a few futures tweaks, but we had a functioning shower and sink. Here is the first moment we got running water and it became apparent we had forgotten to glue on of the connectors.

Water shot out under a large amount of pressure making it nearly impossible to glue the piece back on. we could isolate and drain the pipes, but this meant losing a lot of water out of tank with only small amount in it. In the end, i turned the shower on as it was up the hill to relieve the pressure slightly, and Kiki managed to jam the connector back on with glue. We had proper running water!

The only downside was the limited amount of water in the tank. Maybe there was enough for us to use the shower once each, but as we were planning on departing within the week ourselves this wasn’t too much of a problem. 

The fact that the tank was also much higher than the campsite meant the water pressure was phenomenal, almost too good in fact at the sink where you couldn’t wash up without getting thoroughly soak. For the shower it was fantastic. A jet of lukewarm water blasted out, which was caught in a piece of tent laid under the paving slabs and directed into a pipe for future collection. We were quite proud of our new system. 

While our days were mainly used for constructive purposes, we still had plenty of downtime. Mainly in the evenings. The projector was out most nights while we sat around a small fire, mainly for the purpose of keeping away bugs than for heat.

We also got to see a fair bit of desert night life, large scorpions that glow under UV light making an increasingly common appearance around us.

This was quite cool, but the large increase the bug population made our outside taco evenings a little more complicated.

An awesome picture taken by Kiki of our little camping setup.

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