Hurricane Genevieve in a poptop

We arrived back at Rancho Pacifico towards the end of the afternoon on Sunday. Having forewarned Alejandro of our arrival, we waited in the road for him to come down and unlock the gate for us. He was happy for our return as the water tanks needed filling up the top, a job that is easier with two people. 

While he may have been glad to see our return, it was still odd for us to come back to the ranch. When you travel around you rarely come back to the same place, and if you do it’s not for some time. It was definitely a convenient place to wait out a big hurricane though, as the Sierra de Laguna mountains offered us a lot of protection from the storm due to the wind direction. Tucked away at the bottle of the hill we were pretty confident we wouldn’t get any damage, as long as we prepared for it properly. 

With the hurricane forecast to hit on Wednesday, we headed into Todos Santos on Monday to get a few bits of shopping. As people like to do, we had been told the horror stories from when the last major hurricane had hit five years ago, no food! No water! No roads! Still it’s better to be over-prepared. 

We stopped off at the garden centre on the way, an activity I miss from back home. We had wanted to buy a coriander plant, as we love to use fresh coriander in our food but the weather is hot and fridge space limited to try and buy pre-cut herbs. We though a plant would be a nice addition, but as the lady in the garden centre explained it was too hot. Instead we ended up with a citronella plant which would hopefully at least keep some bugs away, that was until Hanno ruined it by researching that this is actually not true. Oh well, at least we had something green in the camper. We drove on towards Todos Santos with me eyeing up the succulent selection in the rear view mirror. 

After dropping off our laundry, we had some time to kill until the afternoon. Mexican laundry is quite efficient, you drop off a bag of clothes and within half a day it’s ready to collect, dried and folded. Of course it might now have a few extra holes in it. In order to wait for this and until the post office opened at is ever awkward time of 4pm, we headed to get some tacos from our new favourite taco place and a couple of drinks while we waited. Before too long, it was time to head off, we had a few parcels to collect from the post office, as did Hanno and Kiki. 

The we picked up our laundry and headed home, with a quick stop off at Mr Tuna for some local fish. Tomorrow was looking like another taco night. With a whole day in town, we got back just in time to catch another beautiful sunset. 

Back at the ranch we had one more day before Genevieve would be here and we slotted back into our rancho life. We did a few bits and bobs in the day, making up things to do to keep ourselves entertained, while bemoaning the lack of signal. A week of wifi had been a rare luxury. We also experienced proper rain for the first time in months and used the opportunity to grab an outside shower.

In the evening we invited Alejandro down to watch Rock and Rolla and some tacos. In the end he cooked for us, making us some excellent tacos which included melting a layer of cheese between two tortillas before stuffing it, something we will be replicating in the future! 

Rico and Chela came with him but Cholo wasn’t up for it. He had recently ben diagnosed with Lyme’s Disease and while he was now on some treatment for it he had gone from a chubby, bouncy little puppy to a skinny sad looking dog. He was improving, very, very slowly but it was sad to watch how much weight he’d lost and how tired he looked. 

When Wednesday arrived, we spent the morning packing down everything in the campsite. Everything was tied on or inside. We even got our front hammock out to put additional stuff in for the first time so far, as we knew we’d be sleeping with the roof down tonight. We headed back into El Pescadero briefly, as Hanno and Kiki needed water and we wanted to stop by Cerritos as see if there were any crazy waves yet. While the storm wasn’t forecast for a few more hours, we took Aimee with us just in case.

We were to be disappointed by the sea, it truly was the calm before the storm and the palm trees stood still against the grey sky. 

Back at the ranch, Dane messaged us and asked if we could help with some hurricane preparation up top, so that afternoon we went up to see how Alejandro was getting on. There was only so much you could do, the ranch sat exposed on a small hilltop, with the palapa being the only solid structure, even that had no walls. Alejandro said he planned to spend the night sleeping in the car with the dogs and his cat as this was the only real shelter available. I didn’t envy him trying to fit three dogs and a cat into an estate car. We said he could always come and hide down the bottom of the hill with us if things got bad. In the meantime, we had a few beers and watched as the clouds began to spiral in the sky above us and the wind picked up. As it grew dark the wind was getting stronger and we headed back down to the van. 

It wasn’t a night for sitting outside, so we headed inside our respective campers for the rest of the evening. It was a bit windy, but nothing particularly out of ordinary. We watched something on the laptop and let Aimee out for as long as we could. The last thing we wanted was to be searching for her outside in a hurricane. 

As it neared time for bed, it seemed like it had all been for nothing. There wasn’t too much wind at all down here. We had been prepared to sleep downstairs tonight as high winds and a pop top don’t mix, but we were nearly tempted to try our normal bed. Sleeping downstairs requires a lot of rearranging. However, with the eye of the storm due to pass in the early hours of the morning, we decided to play it safe.

Sleeping downstairs requires us to sleep staggered, as there is not space for two people side by side. I was towards the back of the van, and while I wasn’t really expecting to get much sleep, I was still quite disappointed when a strong gust of wind blew some rain into my face. Clearly our seal wasn’t very good there. It’s been a long time since Ruby weathered any kind of rain. 

After a few hours of fitful sleep, interrupted only by getting a wetter and wetter pillow, the eye of the storm passed us. Closer than predicted by various weather stations, the storm passed down the pacific coast of Baja, the outer edges of it brushing the coastline. 

We lay in bed and listened to the wind howl around us, the camper rocked enthusiastically and I was very glad that we hadn’t left the roof up. There were a few moments when I questioned the strength of the glue holding down our new solar panel, while it is used to taking a slight headwind when driving, our roof rack blocks most of the wind. Now being hit from the side we had a small sail attached to the roof. 

Fortunately for us, the only untoward noise we heard was not of our panel ripping the pop top off, but something further away. A loud metallic sounding noise. Lee told me it was just a pizza tray blowing around the campsite, my face was too wet to care.

The winds had subsided by morning, and as we lay there before we got out of bed we could hear a loud banging noise from the top of the hill. They obviously hadn’t been so lucky up there. We began to pack our downstairs bed away, as it’s pretty impossible to use anything else in the van with it down, when a worried Dane contacted Lee. Apparently he was struggling to get hold of Alejandro and wanted us to go check it out. 

The campsite wasn’t looking too different. The water had cut a clear path through the middle taking some of the kitchen with it. I wish it had happened in the day time, considering we didn’t really have any sleep anyway, it would have been pretty cool to watch. I’m glad the road through the valley cuts across the arroyo (river bed) that the campsite is built in and diverts the water, or we would have been presented with quite a problem. 

Half an hour would easily sort the campsite out, we headed up the hill to see how Alejandro was, that loud banging noise continuing with every gust of wind. From about halfway up the hill, some of the destruction became obvious. The roof of the panaderia was gone.

As we climbed the final section and came out on top, we were glad to see an unscathed Alejandro with the dogs. Bagheera the cat was still in the car looking unimpressed. The cause of the loud banging was now apparent. The former roof of the panaderia had blown across the ranch and ended up lodged between the palapa and the shower, half attached sheets of corrugated metal flapped in the still strong gusts of wind. 

Chairs were scattered around the campsite, and the umbrella was no longer an umbrella. The wind had removed all the plastic mesh from the sides of the palapa, sadly along with a birds nest. It had also removed it from one of the water tanks. The palapa itself was unscathed, apart from a very wet interior.

The pretty tree that always featured in my sunset pictures was gone. Further down the hill I spotted the remains of our solar panels, now ripped apart.

The former toilet, now turned electrics cupboard and solar supply, was lying on its back.

Aside from that there was just a huge mess. Even with prior knowledge of the storm, there wasn’t really anywhere to store things safely and so everything was scattered around the top. Surveying the mess, we promised to come  back and help sorted out the bakery roof later, when the wind had subsided. 

Later that afternoon, we headed back up the hill armed with a drill. It seemed the only thing we could really do was take the roof apart and move it out the way, it would need to be rebuilt again later and clearly with some more substantial fixings. We clambered onto the somewhat unstable structure and began to remove the panels one by one, now only held on with the odd screw here and there. This was relatively easy and we now looked at how we could move the wooden frame. It was quite heavy, and wedged in. We couldn’t disassemble anything that was not already broken as it was held in with massive nails and not easy to take apart. In the end we took off the upright supports with some levering and wiggling, leaving only the frame for the roof itself. After a bit of shunting, the five of us managed to lift it up and off the tank, resting it safely on the ground. The good news was that it looked like most of the frame could be reused, with a little work. The roof panels were definitely ruined though. Ironically only just fitted before they left, in hindsight the whole thing would have probably still been intact if they had not been fitted.

With the roof safely dismantled, we spent a bit of time helping clear up a bit more around the site. The force of the roof hitting the water tank for the shower had shifted it to the edge of the platform, it had stay in place though and would just need to be pushed back into place when it wasn’t full of water. While I’m sure Dane and Sabrina would have been upset by the damage, it wasn’t too bad. At least the main palapa was unscathed and fortunately the electrics all appeared to be intact when we pushed the wooden hut back into place, the solar panels cushioned by falling into some bushes.

We rescued my solar panels from the lower down the hill, and out of interest tried to wire them up again. They were very battered, and much to everyones surprise, working despite they were now very scratched and one of the four panels had been ripped off entirely. 

This last months has been one of surprises, I never thought I would have to weather a hurricane in our little van. It turns out she did pretty well and we found out the rear seal had come out of its channeling, explaining my soggy pillow. All in all we were lucky, as two people had unfortunately died not so far south in Cabo. While we were all ok, I’m not sure I need to experience any more hurricanes, hopefully we would be leaving Baja in the near future for something new. 

2 Comments

  1. Yep. Hurricanes are no fun, especially the cleanup. The loss of life is the really tragic part, though. I am glad that you were in a protected spot. That open hilltop place took a real hit. When do you return to the States?

    1. Yeah, it was said to see it destroy all their hard work but at least no one was hurt. We have no plans to return to the states now, our vehicle isn’t permitted there anymore on it’s important waiver and the borders are still shut so we plan to head to Guatemala instead or at least mainland Mexico.

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