Now that Dane and Sabrina had left the Rancho, we were keen to follow suit. There was a matter of a few other small jobs to be done. We were satisfied that we had fulfilled our work agreement with regards to the campsite, but we needed to do a few bits to the vans first. Kiki and Hanno also had their own list of jobs to be getting on with so we decided to stay a few more days and get our rigs ready for the road. This also included a final desert brewing session.
For us, this meant changing the CV boots on one side. While checking the gear oil I had noticed that the boots were torn and letting in all kinds of dirt as we went along the inevitable dirt roads. It’s not a difficult job, in fact as removing driveshafts go, it’s very easy, but it is a dirty one. It’s also one that is possible on the floor, but comfortable on a ramp. Needless to say we didn’t have that, so I wiggled underneath to remove the shaft so we could work on it properly. It was definitely in need of some TLC and we had been able to buy some new boots on our last trip to La Paz.
With the shaft removed, we cleaned all the old grease out of the joint by disassembling it. I did one side, and then left Lee to sort the other one. This was one of my favourite jobs to give to my previous students. I would demonstrate one side, and would return later to cries of frustration and balls all over the floor. Then there were the ones who did it straight away, but got the pieces incorrectly located, as it’s possible to put this joint back together incorrectly so that it can’t move in and out. That wiped the smile of their faces when I told them it was backwards… So I thought I would give Lee the pleasure, under strict instruction not to lose any balls.
These are the times I appreciated having a proper workshop. Having the incorrect tools makes a simple job a hard one, but in the end we wrestled the circlips back on and packed the joints with grease. We then clingfilmed the lot together, as if you don’t keep the joint straight the balls can fall out and get covered in bits. The last thing you want in your newly greased joints is bits of desert. The clingfilm kept the dirt out and held the joint together while I got everything into position and it wasn’t too long, until we were ready to drive again.
Before Sabrina had left, she had given us some sourdough starter and some kombucha. Ina had given me some of her starter a while back after I had tried some of her lovely bread, but I had never used it for some reason. Now I finally had a go. Maybe I thought it would be too complicated, or I was never sure when the starter was ready, but now knowing I could also get more if I messed it up, I finally had a go at making my first bread. I was pleasantly surprised, not only was it very easy, but it tasted really good. This also fixed the yeast problem, it’s not always an easy thing to buy here. Now with a starter, I never have to worry about buying it again and I also won’t go and make an enormous batch of bread, only to discover that my yeast was dead. We ate flatbreads for weeks after that incident. The only downside of sourdough is the wait time. Unlike conventional bread that can be ready in a few hours, sourdough takes a few days. This just means you have to be a little more organised if you always want some bread, something that isn’t really a problem if like us you have plenty of time.
The other fermented item was kombucha. This looks much more scary and features a scoby, which basically looks like a thick layer of mould, floating in tea. Sabrina had spares, as with fermented things, when you feed them they grow and you get more. She gave both of us one which I really wanted but had no idea where to put. In the meantime, I made it a nice macrame holder so it could be hung outside the van as it was a bit of a fly magnet.
The turn around time for Kombucha is pretty quick, and we made our first batch with Sabrina on one of the last days of their stay. She boiled a giant vat of black tea into which she simply added some sugar. This was allowed to cool before being added back into the jar with a small amount of the already fermented tea. It seemed simple enough. I watched her as she stuck her had in the jar and pulled out a slimy brown and white scoby. “This is a great one!” She announced, bits of slime slithering off it. Somehow it didn’t look like something I should drink. But we knew it was good. We had both tried her flavours and they were really nice, we had also bought some from the local supermarket and they were also really good. They were also really expensive, so maybe I just needed to get over the gross look of the thing and give it a go.
The kombucha hung in the tree for a few days before I tried it. I didn’t think it was too bad, Kiki wasn’t sold though. We bottled it plain as we didn’t have anything to favour it with at that point and I decided I would persevere and try some new recipes. It’s nice to have something to drink that is plain water or alcohol, our normal go-to drinks.
On the whole, we are pretty good at keeping ourselves entertained on the ranch. Sometimes you get those days though when the boredom creeps in, especially after two months of the same spot. I sat in my chair and glowered at the ants everywhere. Lee sensed my impending bad mood, and suggested we go for a walk. “Where too?” I demanded, “it’s the desert, there’s nothing here! It’s too hot in the middle of the day anyway.”
Nevertheless shortly after, we were walking up the hill towards the ridge where the road begins its descent into the valley on the other side. We had been saying for days we’d walk up here…
The view from the road was beautiful. The hazy mountains of the Sierra de Laguna stretched out in front of us, a dry river bed running down from them into the valley beneath. As always, when there is a peak to be climbed nearby it seems rude not to. We walked off the road at the bend, you would often see cars stopping here in the day and while we had suspected the reason, it was now confirmed. They were dumping rubbish. The whole side of the hill was covered in litter, which was a pity. If you picked your way past this however, and some trophy underwear hanging in a tree, you got to small hill which offered even better views.
I was also distracted by the cholla cactus. This is the cactus that forms an interesting skeleton when the softer parts have rotted away, and I had been wanting to collect some good bits. Since seeing Lesley use a piece of this wood as a holder for succulents I had been sold. I wasn’t the only one who liked it though, all over the ranch bits of cholla lined the paths and held up signs. Dane was also a fan, probably why I couldn’t find as much on the ranch. Out here it was everywhere, and I got a likely looking bit under the pretence of using it as a walking stick. This did serve a purpose however, the hill was steep, gravelly and covered in spiky plants, and we had attempted it in flip flops. Stopping periodically to pull spikes out of our feet, we made it to the top and were rewarded with some awesome sea views to one side.
I had always thought that we were quite private on our little rancho camp spot, this is the illusion you get when you arrive at the gate and then drive down a short steep hill to the camp. From one side we are probably hidden, however from further up the road our vans are very obvious. Two little campers nestled away in the desert. You can just make us out at the base of the hill, with the rancho perched on top to the left.
We managed to make a loop out of the walk, picking our way back down the other hill, and forging a path of least resistance through the spiky shrubs at the bottom of the hill. It was certainly a hot hike up the hill in the midday sun, but it had definitely broken the day up in a much needed way.
It was only a matter of a short few days later that we were ready to leave. Before we left, we decided we should share our walking experience with the others. We left a little later this time, heading up the track towards the end of the evening, Alejandro also joining us.
As we watched the sun fading into the valley below, we saw one of the locals towing the local road clearing machine. This consists of an old mattress frame with two tyres tied on top of it. I’m not sure how effective it is as a road clearing device, but they seem to think it helps.
We continued on up to the bigger hilltop, despite the late evening it was still an easy 3o degrees making any kind of exercise a warm thing to do.
Admiring the view from the top with the dogs in tow.
It was a nice evening to enjoy the sun as it set over the sea with the backdrop of desert cacti and plants.
Finding the path a little easier this time, we made our way out to the road and helped the dogs remove the spikes they had inevitably hot in their paws. This time we were better prepared, actually wearing trainers which made the whole thing a lot easier.
The night before we left we invited Alejandro down to the camp for some drinks and a film, and that morning we said goodbye. We had decided that as things are a little unclear at the present moment, in relation to travelling in a pandemic, that we would take a couple of weeks to travel around the southern tip of Baja, before returning to the ranch. We could then collect any post we had and see how we got along back on the road. We had no idea how easy it would be too wild camp now, the last time we had really tried had been months ago. So, we said temporary goodbyes and headed towards the beach, the rancho gate padlocked behind us for the first time.
So that was it, that morning we packed up the vans and left.