The Happy Ruster

One of the most magical parts of traveling is the people. We’ve met Canadians, Idahoans, Floridians, Germans, Argentineans and one happy ruster from Ejido Bonfil. Everyone we meet adds a new texture to our experience, adding a different perspective or outlook on the world. If we were living just the two of us in the Westy away from everyone else life would be less interesting—although we managed it during one summer in the Idaho backcountry. People give us something to talk about, write about, laugh about.


We meet Glen in Bahia de los Angeles. Rather, he meets us– he’s excited to meet someone else from the “north country” as he calls McCall, Idaho home. He keeps a semi-permanent trailer on the beach surrounded by potted plants and a downstairs tackle room. He fishes most days and co-founded Gringo Domingo where all the old ex-pat men get together and eat the best birria—beef stew—in town from a local woman’s antojitos stand. In evening conversation Glen gives us some stories. He was fishing once out in the Strait and had something big on. Suddenly, the fish stopped fighting and he reeled in half of a yellowtail. Then he saw a fin and a Mako shark surfaced and gave him a big black eye that said, “I want the other half of my fish.” Glen threw it in, and off he swam. We leave with stories, and fish—Glen gives us a Ziploc full of fat yellowtail fillets caught that day.

We first meet John, Mandi, Joe and Josée in Bahia de San Luis Gonzaga and they follow us or we follow them, in hopscotch fashion all the way to Mulegé. These two couples left from Florida on an overland adventure. Though they planned mostly the same route–from Florida to Alaska and down the west coast–and started three days apart, they didn’t meet up until seven months into their journeys in Tecate, Mexico. They plan to head to the tip of Argentina, traveling for at least two more years. Joe and Josée will then ship over to Africa.

John and Mandi drive a suped up Ford van. It’s painted bright orange, weighs over 9,000 lbs, and looks like it’s built to explore the Amazon (and it might). But the inside is truly a work of art. They spent four months gutting out the van and converting it into a completely customized and colorful home. A vibrant interior makes use of every possible space, with shelving held in place by bungies and kitchen utensils hanging by caribiner from the padded walls. Their careful set-up gets me excited to look again at Pépa (Westy now has a name!) and see how I can best utilize our small space.

It is in Volcan de las Tres Virgenes that we befriend the happy ruster, Oscar, from Ejido Bonfil. Rooster doesn’t phonetically make sense in Spanish, and when he tells friends his email he wants them to get it right so he spells it ‘ruster.’ Oscar and his wife help to run an eco-lodge cooperative in a pristine desert ecosystem in the shadow of a 6,000 ft volcano.

When we arrive Oscar greets us and allows Nick to ask him in Spanish if they have any camping. He explains that they just have cabanas but we’d be welcome to camp there. We struggle on in Spanish for a bit, but soon realize that he speaks excellent English and was graciously allowing us to practice our skills. He invites us in for coffee. The wind’s howling out, and in this higher desert there’s a nip to the air. We gratefully accept.

IMG_6321We are wary at first because our experience in Baja has been that everyone wants to charge you for everything. Understandably people need to make a living but we are also trying to stick to a budget. We see soon, that Oscar does not want our money, he is genuinely interested in who we are. It is the people—those who visit las Tres Virgenes from all over the world—that fascinate him.

Oscar points us to a trail we can bike down to the lava fields coming off the volcano. With the sun setting we ride the sandy trail dodging fallen cactus spines. We return and go to the lodge to see if there is dinner. We find Oscar in the kitchen with his wife and he invites us in:

“Neek, Paige, Come in!”

He gets us tea and cookies and we talk with him for an hour. We talk about the hunting expeditions of big horn sheep that the cooperative hosts each year. We talk about the American want to travel and the Mexican want to stay put. We talk about the joys and simplicities of living out on the land. We talk about the subtleties of language. We learn about Oscar, his wife and his two boys. Before we leave Oscar offers us a night’s stay in a cabana as a gift. We thank him for his amazing generosity but head back to Pépa, filled with the graciousness of good people.


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