FROM WATER TO NO WINE: AIN’T NO GOD IN MEXICO (Honky Tonk Heroes album) – Waylon Jennings
When it rains, it pours. This is not a metaphorical saying. This is Mexico. And this is just my luck.
I was on my third day in Ensenada. I had eaten all the things, seen all the things, and drank more than enough of the things. From numerous people in passing, I was recommended Valle de Guadalupe. The wine destination of Baja California. A mere twenty kilometers from Ensenada, I decided to pack up Van Morrison and make a trip of it.
A detour to Mexico’s finest wine trail…
Doing my best to navigate through the information Google had given me, I found myself in a meager village which seemed to be the centre hub of the most popular surrounding wineries; L.A. Cetto, Vinos Bibayoff, Sol y Barro. I have no idea what this village was called; to even call it a village was a far stretch.
In search of a highly suggested Ruta De Arte y Vino Glamping site to call home for the foreseeable wine-filled future, I passed by very little; a small corner store, an even smaller restaurant of sorts, and a large sign listing multiple wineries with an arrow pointing left. I followed the road as it wound and climbed a hillside blanketed with vineyards aplenty.
Accomodation amidst the wine trail…
It was late in the afternoon, and despite my compulsive urge to drop everything and begin voyaging my way through distinctive tannins and notes of citrusy summer fruits, I chose, for once, the more responsible route and continued up a very narrow, and vacant dirt road to until finally reaching the entrance of the glamping site.
I called the phone number on a sign hanging from a locked gate and was eventually greeted by a gentle looking Mexican man in gumboots and a checkered shirt, followed by two very old, yet very enthusiastic dogs. He and his partial wolf pack guided me around a few haphazardly placed traffic cones to a large field, gesturing to park anywhere.
I parked, plugged in, and quickly realized I was the only patron in existence. The handful of Airstream trailers scattered about the property were vacant. The entire property was unnervingly empty. One lone trailer stood from across the field where I watched the grounds keeper and his four legged companions retire.
I was completely alone. Though a tad eerie, it was a welcomed shift from the hustling city streets of Ensenada. And what did it matter, when I was moments away from diving into an infinite valley of Mexico’s finest vino?
Then of course, like the flip of a switch, the most ominous of black clouds appeared. And with them, rain.
When the weather doesn’t agree with you…
Not easily disheartened, I embraced the shift in weather. One evening of a little rain was hardly grounds to spoil my plans. I had enough water to get me through the night and my unlimited supply of animal crackers would certainly see me through any pangs of hunger.
I put on a Charlie Parker record, cracked open a fresh anthology of Joni Mitchell, and let the pattering of raindrops against Van Morrison’s roof soothe me into a gloriously cozy night of nothing.
At seven in the morning I woke to a consistent splashing of water directly on my nose. The light rain had not ceased. It had multiplied. I was officially amid a torrential downpour of Mexican hurricane rain. And it was seeping into Van Morrison.
I looked above me at the leak coming from the ceiling vent. Perfect. With caution, I opened Van’s doors to survey the situation. Raindrops the size of fists were plunging from the sky like liquid meteors.
Without thinking, I stepped down from Van and lost my foot up to my calf in a puddle of murky brown water; a moat had encompassed us. We were trapped. I looked at the empty bottle of water next to the bed. The pinging of water against the walls was muffled only by the gurgling sounds of my now festering appetite.
It’s fine. This will totally blow over. My thoughts were hardly reassuring, but I had no choice but to immerse myself in denial.
Three PM. Nothing had blown over. Everything had gotten worse. My mouth was dry, my stomach was screaming, and the rain had turned completely sideways. There was not a chance in soaking wet hell that Van Morrison was going to be able to escape his now knee deep watery prison. If I had any chance of survival, I’d have to brave the storm on foot. Start walking and hope for a miracle.
The village was at least a twenty minute drive from the campsite. I had to be prepared for the strong chance that I might very well drown before getting remotely close. But I had no other choice. I wasn’t about to die in this god forsaken graveyard of a campsite.
Braving the rains of Mexico…
So I layered up, booted up, and zipped up the sad excuse for a raincoat I had previously mocked, but now commended myself for bringing to balmy Mexico and headed off. By the time I reached the front gates of the campsite I was soaked. This was ridiculous. I paused to contemplate my potentially fatal decision, but it was too late. I’d already started. I was already drenched. I had to carry on.
Small lakes splayed the entire width of the road. If I wasn’t wading through pools of water, I was using every ounce of balance to keep from slipping on mud and landing directly on my sodden derriere.
I stopped and looked back. Then looked forward. I hadn’t even gotten to the end of the first road. Nope. Screw it. I’m out.
As usual, relying on the kindness of strangers…
And like some wondrous, albeit rather delayed, miracle, just as I was about to turn back and give way to my inevitable termination, a grey SUV took shape from the top of the road. As it slowed and pulled up next to me, I prayed to baby Jesus that the driver spoke english. Please speak english.
“Are you crazy!?!” Oh thank Christ.
“Yes. Without a doubt.”
As we drove I explained my situation, while relentlessly apologizing between sentences for my soaking carcass saturating her passenger seat. She laughed and continued to enlighten me on my craziness. She dropped me at a restaurant in town that stood across from a store where I could stock up on water and sustenance. She told me she was heading out of town, but gave me the number of the campsite grounds keeper for when I needed to be picked up.
“His english isn’t so good, but I’ll call him to let him know to expect you.”
I couldn’t thank her enough. I entered the surprisingly busy restaurant and immediately ordered a gallon of water and un chocolate caliente. The menu was a novel of delectable sounding Mexican cuisine, yet all I could possibly imagine devouring was a big, fat cheeseburger and greasy ass fries.
With a satisfied stomach, I braved the treacherous outdoors once again to cross the street to the shop. Without knowing an end to this apocalyptic rainfall, I gathered as much from the shelves as I possibly could, called the grounds keeper, and proceeded to loiter outside the entrance.
Within seconds the shop lady came out with a concerned look on her face, demanding I come back inside. She sat me on a chair and offered me a cup of hot coffee while I waited, shaking her head at the marinated mess that sat before her.
When the grounds keeper pulled up, he grabbed a brightly coloured blanket from the back seat.
“Para ti.” He smiled.
“Muchas gracias.” The world may have been in the midst of Noah 2.0, but at least I’d have spent my final hours with an array of remarkably generous people.
The woes of a campervan from 1978…
Feeling almost renewed, thus forgetting the universe’s tendency toward cruel humour, I returned to Van Morrison to find his one leak had turned into three major ones. A river of water was flowing from one end of the floor to the other and I had quickly become the resentful owner of a water bed.
Ever tried to ring out a foam mattress in the confines of a nineteen foot campervan? I’d rather not talk about it.
And so, night two in Baja’s glamorous wine country was spent curled up in a sea of damp towels, spooning a bowl of dripping rain water, and trying not to lose my frozen ass mind.
When at ten PM I heard from amidst the pouring rain, incessant meowing from outside my door. Refusing to believe I had in fact lost my marbles, I opened Van Morrison to see a rather chubby and almost beatifically white cat staring back at me.
It meowed in courteous response, then without hesitation, allowed itself into Van Morrison, wandering briefly around his interior before planting itself with curious familiarity on my spongy bed. All at once, my cold, drip bowl had been replaced with a four legged angel. We cuddled, shared animal crackers and spoke of lives lived, all while finding solace from the storm through fast friendship and communal body heat.
The next morning, the rain had not only stopped, but the flooded campsite had miraculously dried up, almost completely. I wasn’t about to waste any time questioning the unlikelihood of this exceptionally efficient outcome when at any moment the skies could open up and sink any chance of Van Morrison’s and my escape. Wine schmine. We were getting the hell out of Valle dodge.
I gave my survival partner one last stroke, as it budded it’s head against mine in solidarity.
Before we left, I pulled up to the caretaker’s trailer to say goodbye. I thanked him for his help, and for sharing his cat. He didn’t have a cat. I looked back but the gato blanco had vanished. Or perhaps it was never even there, my divine little storm saviour.