How to become a Mexican refugee

The mood in the campsite had definitely shifted, change was on the horizon as we prepared to leave the ranch. Only a few things remained to be done, the van needed repacking, the drive shaft boots needed changing and we needed new visas. 

In the meantime, Randy showed up again at the ranch to collect the bed that Julian had been using. This arrangement had not worked out for a variety of reasons, Julian had left. After the previous events, none of us were sad to see him go and it felt like a much more relaxed atmosphere with only Alejandro. 

The bed belonged to the owners of the beach house and Randy appeared in his truck with Bixby the dog in tow and a cooler full of IPA. We enjoyed a few beers in the heat of the afternoon, and then helped strap the bed to the roof of the truck. The plan was to drive back to Randy’s for another pool party. We needed no prompting. His pool and hot tub were a very welcome addition and it would be nice to enjoy them again without the awkward circumstances. 

The only sticking point here was our gearbox. Having got myself the correct tool now, we had checked the oil and established it was low. How low it was impossible to say though, but it clearly needed topping up. In the absence of being able to buy proper gear oil for a manual box here, I had ordered it online. Now it had arrived, but I hadn’t got around to doing it yet. After several beers and an invitation to the pool, we were definitely up for the drive, but it seemed stupid to do it without sorting the oil. Why tempt fate? By now though, it was dark and it was not a tempting prospect to get under the van and change the oil. 

In actual fact it turns out there was a lot more oil than I thought in the gearbox, which ended up making a horrible mess. Still it’s not a difficult job and within half an hour or so we were packed down, topped up and ready to go. At least we now had the peace of mind that our gearbox wouldn’t be damaged, we just had to hope we didn’t get a puncture again as we still had no spare tyre. . 

This time, we arrived and parked up on a bit of scrubby land outside Randy’s house.

We were greeted by a flurry of dogs, but no Randy. A grumpy neighbour appeared wondering what two campers were doing on the drive. We explained we were Randy’s friend and that we thought he would be here as he had left before us. The neighbour muttered, “Whatever”, before treating back inside with his dogs. Slightly confused, we phoned Alejandro and it turns to that Randy had been waylaid by a bar en-route. Shortly however, he turned up and we headed inside for some more drinks. 

A pleasant evening ensued. We drank a lot of beer, ate some rather good Hungarian mushroom soup and swam in the pool.

It must have been around 2am when I went to check on Aimee, and she so happy to see me that I sat in the van for a little while to keep her company. Next thing I knew, I was waking up at 4am, so I wandered back over to the pool where the party was still in full swing. I was clearly done though, so Lee came and helped me pop up the roof, no longer a one person job, and I went to bed. 

I was awoken at around 7am by Lee. He appeared at the foot of the bed armed with a fly swat and announced he hadn’t slept yet. He then proceeded to berate me for not staying still as he repeatedly swatted at a fly that had landed on me. Satisfied it was now dead, he put the fly swat down in bed next to me with the dead fly and promptly went to sleep. Snoring loudly. I think I was quite charitable at this point to let him sleep, so I lay there and dozed for a few hours or so until it became too hot to sleep in the roof anymore. 

Maybe we all felt slightly worse for wear the following morning, but the pool was a welcome relief from the heat.

Alejandro had gone back to the ranch to check on everything and feed the dogs, but he returned around midday and it seemed like an appropriate time to make food. We had some fish we had been planning to do one of our famous fish tacos with, so we brought it in and began to prepare some food. By now we have this down to an art. The boys are responsible for the fish prep and cooking, while Kiki cuts up onions and tomatoes. I make guacamole and some other sides, today it was coleslaw. It’s a relatively quick and easy thing to prepare, especially if you don’t batter the fish and before long we had a pretty good feast, all washed down with hair of the dog. 

It’s probably fair to say that we spent the rest of the day drinking while the cats relaxed in Bruno.

Someone had a bright idea that we should order pizza and then watch a film on the projector while in the pool. Alejandro ordered the pizza, which was helpful as I didn’t fancy trying to explain in Spanish where we were, and soon Hanno and Kiki headed off to pick it up. We decided to split the cost, Randy had been the most generous host this weekend and the least we could do was to supply some food. Soon enough, they returned and we all enjoyed a rather good meal. Takeaways are something of an occasion here. 

Now the sun had set, so we decided to set the projector up. This sounded rather good, until we discovered that we had left the projector at the ranch. Fortunately, it was easy enough to move the TV outside, and so we lazed in the hot tub, jumping in the pool to cool off periodically. Jeff Bridges appeared as The Dude, of which we all thought Randy was the real life version. I’m not sure how much we paid attention to the movie, but we continued to chat and drink and enjoy the pool. Before we knew it, it was the early hours of the morning yet again. We had certainly had a weekend of partying, and at this point I think sleep was much in order. 

It was rather convenient for us to stay one more night however, as we still didn’t have a spare tyre for the camper. This meant that by the time we were ready to leave Randy’s it was Monday morning and we could head into town in search of a replacement. 

Dane and Sabrina weren’t the only ones heading north, Randy too was leaving Mexico within the next few days and so we said our goodbyes to him also. We have certainly got some good places to visit if we come back to Baja, and I hope we can stay in touch. Before long, we too would be saying goodbye, to Baja at least. 

For now though, we needed a new tyre and some gas. Fortunately these were easy enough things to find, and it was mid afternoon when we rolled back up the increasingly terrible dirt road to the campsite. 

With everyone around us packing up and leaving, we wanted to do the same. The time had finally come when we could renew our visas. We prepared the documents we needed and got ready for an early morning trip to La Paz.

Around 7.45am on the 4th of August, we set off. Aimee was left back at camp, La Paz is much warmer than here and we didn’t fancy leaving her locked in the van while we sat waiting for visas. Things went pretty smoothly, and we arrived at the immigration offie at about 9am. We signed ourselves in and took a little paper ticket, we were number 12, now serving number 10. The office was very small and there wasn’t many people in it, so before long we were ready. I did my best to explain in Spanish that our tourist visa had expired, but I was quite relieved when the women spoke good English. We filled in some paperwork and then sat down and waited for a bit, soon enough we were called forward again to sign more documents. As British citizens, we are able to gain a new visa on the basis of humanitarian reasons due to the fact that all the land borders leaving Mexico are currently shut for tourism, the same is not true if you are a US or Canadian resident as borders still permit the return of their countries citizens as this is deemed as essential travel. This also means that technically we are now Mexican refugees, someone in the governement officice there’s a file with my name on it and we have an allocated number in ‘the system’. The whole process was pretty streamlined, and within half an hour we were told we would be granted new visas and that we could collect them before 1pm that day. This was a bit of a relief, while we hadn’t anticipated any issues it was still nice to have it confirmed. 

In the meantime, we went to do a bit of shopping, returning around midday to collect them. Visas collected, we were now sorted for the next six months. This meant we could finally ensure the camper, something I had been putting off doing not wanting to buy insurance only to be denied a visa.

Thinking it might be wise to find good internet whilst in the city, we headed off in search of a bar with wifi. Internet at the ranch had taken a turn for the worst over the last month and we were lucky if we could load webpages, and only that was possible in the morning. While some areas of life have reopened here, La Paz was pretty shut down. After a few unsuccessful attempts to find wifi, included a barbers shop where they thought Lee wanted a whiskey rather than the wifi, we gave up. The internet could wait. Mainly victorious we headed home.

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