9.2 mi / 10.8 mph / 400 ft. climbing
Home: Libra Adventure Hostel & Campground
One more relaxing morning at ‘The Wave’, with another relaxed luxury breakfast at La Esquina, where, once inside its brick walls, it feels like you’re sitting in an garden-filled, open-air European village square. Elfi was an awesome, generous, old-school AirBNB host (a gallon of drinking water in the room, a gift of fresh strawberries, a stay-as-long-as-you’d-like checkout time), with the desire to let others experience this place stronger than her desire to get rich. But still, Todos Santos as a whole was a budget-buster for us sandwiched between two even-more budget-busting vacations, so we needed to find a way to get some cheaper living in.
With some Internet browsing I’d stumbled upon “Libra“, an under-development hostel + campground ten miles south of Todos Santos. In the U.S., this place would be listed on Hipcamp, which is sort of an AirBNB for landowners who explicitly carve out a bit of their land for people to camp on. Some are just like “hey, here’s a spot to park your RV on my ranch for $80/night”, but others are given names like “Fiddle + Fern”, are designed as part of a sustainable eco-project that extends from the personality of their owners, and have Instagram-worthy campsites. Created by world-adventuring French-Canadians, Libra seemed very much like the latter. And as world-adventuring Americans, creating such a place of our own once we settle down feels within our cone of possibilities, and since it would give us some more time to stay sustainably on the Pacific Coast, let’s check it out!
Once we managed to wrestle down the getting-out-of-town demons (groceries, a backtrack for cash, a low-pressure tire for me now), the short ride was easy enough, and gave us desert views with still-unseen Baja character. The toughest part was the half-mile of surprisingly-busy dirt road we had to navigate after leaving the highway. It was pretty hilly and difficult to tell if any spots would turn into sand-pits, so for safety’s sake we just walked the bikes the whole way.
Turning in, we were welcomed by Francisca at the shipping-container/dwelling, and she took us down the super-steep hill to give us a choice of campsites. All the close-in desert vegetation was quite a bit drier than it was in their photos, and down there in the mid-day sun, it felt like a less-than-relaxing place that we’d come to.
But that’s where the “hostel” aspect showed its value. While that part still mainly exists as a concept, the existing container already provides a central gathering place, surrounded by an outdoor kitchen, dining room, and bathroom, and topped with a covered deck up a spiral staircase (and, the whole family was in fact doing construction work to prepare for the installation of at least two additional shipping containers, so it was nice that they let us stay at all).
And that deck revealed the wild divergence in microclimates in this place. Coming up the 30 feet and into the open from the still air of the desert floor already increased the comfort-level considerably, but then, ascending another 15 feet, to a level where both the view and the airflow from the mile-away ocean were unobstructed, it got legitimately cold! I mean, we didn’t quite need to go get our down jackets, but we definitely had to move into the sun to warm up after sitting under the shade of the canopy for a little while!
The other big draw of the communal area was the incredible bathroom space. The sink, shower, and even toilets were built up Swiss Family Robinson-style, a mix of living and formerly-living plant life working simultaneously as construction materials and decorative features. And though the look and feeling was primitive and natural, there was still running, heated water, and lighting and electricity. Rett declared her shower the best shower experience she’s ever had. The gray water is of course routed to use to prime the virtuous circle of greening in this desert space.
And once cooled and refreshed, the beauty of our camping area revealed itself in a way that had been invisible a couple hours earlier. Those close-in desert plants defined intimate winding trails, with secret seating areas and other surprises around each corner. And while still not super-green, there was tremendous variety and detail in the vegetation, now feeling softer in the hazy glow of late-afternoon light. Our hosts are essentially terraforming their patch of desert here, and the love and care that they are adding to it is at least as important to that project as the water is.
For dinner we walked down the dirt road in the direction of the beach. There is essentially a whole “town” spread out here heading to Playa Cerritos, which explains the unexpected amount of traffic, but it’s also still something hard to get our heads around (most towns that sit right on Highway 1 in Baja don’t have this many stores/restaurants spaced along them; any perpendicular dirt road like this would usually have nothing but a half-finished pile of concrete blocks and a pile of trash marking its end in 100 meters!)
We ended up at Shaka’s Delicious Wood Cantina, a super-gringo-y place whose giant central palapa was covered inside with banners from U.S. professional and college sports teams, and the Seattle Mariners were playing on the TVs. Again though, our waitress still expected us to use Spanish, and the food was really good, and we got to hear a bit of live music (the main reason we decided to stop) from the smooth reggae sounds of ‘No Polution’. That was a Baja first for us, and they were pretty good, though they were better (and a lot more unique) during the sound-check when they were just jamming and we thought they were a band without a guitarist (he was way too loud and grating when he showed up…maybe a reason to participate in the sound check, my brother!)
Turns out we didn’t even really need to go there to hear the music, because we could still hear it perfectly fine a half mile away back at our campground. That sea breeze apparently just carries everything that’s cool!