The Baja Six-Month Challenge Update

Photo on 6 14 15 at 4 42 PM

It’s an understatement, really. Particularly contemplating that I have almost 5 months of challenges left to go under my lease. I’m not going to get into lots of detail now because it’s really too complex, intertwined, involves personal motivations and goals towards molding a different person in myself; one I like a little better. That last point is important because I didn’t come here to win friends, influence people, or party hardy (well, not altogether too hardy!). I’m doing this for me.

Chief among the challenges is the raw brutality of it. It’s not really a tropical paradise or desert island oasis. A 5-Star resort an hour west over in Cabo is a tropical desert paradise—compete with umbrella drinks served poolside. Here, it’s just fucking hot. Always fucking hot—and cacti provide no shade. Save for manmade structures there’s just no shelter at all. Don’t know what I’d do without that outside shower.

…And the bugs. Jesus! Some people seem to try to screen stuff off. Too many, they’ll get in and then they’re trapped. I take the approach of open everything up, wide open. Bugs fly (and crawl) in, they fly (and crawl) out. Had a 4″ long centipede about 1/4″ in girth in the kitchen sink this morning. A week ago, had this visitor.

Told you screens are ineffective

A rattler yung’un. I have a video of what I did, but not sure I want to show it because I absolutely took no pleasure in it; made me sad. If I see them out and about, I mind my own business, or, even help them to safety so they don’t get squished by a vehicle on the road. But on the property or in the house, not interested in them asserting territorial rights and paying a second visit when I may not be as vigilant about what I’m doing.

On the other side, there’s the birds (including ground dwelling roadrunners and quail), lizards, and chipmunks.

Full grown adult

An over ripe papaya that didn’t go to waste. By late in the day, there wasn’t a trace (others helped, of course). I also put out the rinds after I squeeze 3-4 fresh oranges every morning. The birds, especially the red and yellow ones, like those. Here’s what it’s like waking up to the birds where I sleep upstairs in open air with a fan running and hopefully, a sea breeze on lucky nights.

The other cool thing is the wild donkeys. All over the place. I seriously don’t know how they survive at their size and energy requirements. They’re perpetually thirsty and I’ve been known to take a bucket of water out when there’s only one or two of them at the gate. I won’t feed them, however. They’re doing fine in that regard. Anyway, walked right into one the other night while walking home from a neighbor’s house 200 yards down the road, in pitch black. Funny. They’re very docile, as I’ve experienced so far. Decided to activate the iPhone flashlight at that point.

…Back to that centipede this morning. In this case, it came in via the drain, since all the grey water (sinks & showers) drains into plant beds surrounding the house. Cleverly, the upstairs jacuzzi tub drains into an auxiliary 5,000 liter tank with a spigot on it for watering plants. These are the challenges I like best. I like watching my water levels in two cross-connected 5,000 liter tanks, my propane level, and most critical of all, electricity.

This is a very basic system. Four solar panels on the roof that run through a charger/controller to six substantial truck-like, wet-cell batteries. Yep, it’s the old days where you have to have distilled water on hand and check levels regularly. The modern closed car batteries would be toast after a couple of complete discharges. The batteries feed through an inverter that supplies regular 120v to the house. But, it’s not robust enough to run high-demand things like heating elements (those exist…some people have electric refrigerators, big-screen TVs, washing machines and such).

In terms of performance, I did have one test during the recent storm. We had two days of overcast, so not much solar generation. So, I conserved, but ran music, couple of lights, water pump as needed, and the portable fan all night both nights. Charge got down to 12.0v and small amps by the morning after, but the clouds broke and within an hour I was up to 12.5v, then 13.5 a while after that, which is about a full charge. We’ll see what happens in a bigger storm. In that case, I might just button things up and get a room in a tropical desert paradise somewhere…

The other major challenge, though temporary—with an end tomorrow, hopefully—is that after that 1,500 mile trip from Bay Area, with 1,000 miles of it driving the peninsula, the Baja Beemer broke three miles from arrival. Was still drivable, but lightly. It’s a hockey-puck-like composition of hard rubber that holds and further dampens the shock absorber part of the right front strut that failed. The spring attachment was fine, so just rather than dampening, the top of the strut clangs around awfully and it’s all washboard and pothole roads around here.

Part ($140) should be here tomorrow and by noon I should be cool again. Big thanks to my friend and neighbor Paul, who’s been super generous lending me transportation!!!

…I put together a 1-min vid of some footage my brother shot on the intense, nerve wracking drive down. It’s not like a lot of people don’t do this and do it repeatedly, but we decided to go all out—18 hours of drive time (advertised drive time is 21 hours)—where most split it into 3-4 days. With the narrow roads combined with that level of making time, the trucks, a complete disregard for literally every traffic regulation by nearly everyone, and a million speed bumps going through small towns and villages, Dave and & were like pilot & co-pilot. There was absolutely no napping while in the right seat. Full vigilance. It’s was mentally exhausting, but the sort of experience you’d never trade.

In terms of that Wide Load, yea, we picked a spot and got around it—3″ to spare—then another one up the road.

Well, alright, let me close now with the old tired bromide: may you live in interesting times. I feel a whole new perspective on that.

…Oh, and one more thing. Just remember: when driving the Baja, no wearing your glasses upside-down.

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Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Jaquar Paw on June 14, 2015 at 17:43

    Rattle snakes don’t have territories so there was no need for you to kill it. What a dick! I you had half a brain you would know this.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 15, 2015 at 07:09

      Tell you what, Jaquar Paw.

      You’re welcome to come down here any time you like to save the rattlesnakes in my yard and house, move them to safety. You’re welcome to them with my compliments.

      BTW, I’m anxious to hear of your rattlesnake saving adventures—or other kinds of venomous snakes—near where you live. Since you’re so ‘outraged’ at me killing a venomous snake in my own house, surely you must do quite an outreach near you in order to help save those poor creatures.

      I’m quite sure that your care and desire to help them is great enough that you actually help them, and not only so great as to berate people ensuring their own safety.

    • Steve on June 15, 2015 at 10:48

      It’s no better living in the rainforest of Costa Rica, either. So many bugs, insects, animals. You just can’t keep most of them out of your house. You have to learn to co-exist with them.

  2. VW on June 14, 2015 at 19:30


  3. bioking on June 15, 2015 at 03:05

    Life sux. I find some reason in your ramblings that keeps me sane though. Thanks.

  4. Jane Karlsson on June 15, 2015 at 03:43

    I remember thinking you had gone to heaven, because the house is so pretty and your neighbour likes Pink Floyd. I am realising this is not heaven. Bugs you can’t escape from, poisonous snakes, endless heat and worst of all, no shade except indoors. I could not do what you are doing. You are a very brave man. I didn’t realise.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 15, 2015 at 07:04

      What I didn’t fully appreciate, Jane, is that there are reasons the vast majority of residents here come for about six months and then spend summers in a place where it’s nice and moderate in US / Canada typically. From roughly November through April it’s idyllic here. Mild temps, arid, few bugs, no storms, etc. June through September are payback time!

      But, still, there are some few folks who either tolerate the summer fine, or like it the best.

      So, yea, I was a bit bright eyed owing from my brief experience here in April. Didn’t know I’d face these challenges, and so immediate. Just the same, I accept the challenge and it’s just onward with a shrug and an embrace.

    • Onlooker on June 15, 2015 at 07:46

      Yep, it ain’t Hawaii! (and its ilk; truly paradise, but too f’ing expensive, of course)

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on June 15, 2015 at 13:00

      in time you may adapt to the heat tho.
      just like coldness…

      i’m too civilized to do what you do.

      are you just on your own in terms of health insurance? no ObamaCare.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 16, 2015 at 06:35

      Still have the same insurance back in the states. I may buy a cheap medevac rider.

  5. evan on June 15, 2015 at 07:26

    Remarkable admission coming from someone who frequently chastises others for not doing their own research….

  6. sassysquatch on June 15, 2015 at 10:29

    You are telling it like it is – and I appreciate it. What’s not to like about this post?

    • Richard Nikoley on June 15, 2015 at 10:34

      It’s just butt holes, Sassy. Always look for something, anything to be critical about.

  7. Stuart on June 15, 2015 at 10:57

    Watch out for ‘cabin fever’ When heat stress and age gets to you don’t let stubbornness stop you from taking a quick break at the resort or mini trip to see better equipped homes or visiting others. You already know that. A few swims a day might help too which I bet you do!

    • Richard Nikoley on June 15, 2015 at 11:28


      Most days I go to the beach at least once, some days morning and late afternoon.

      Saturday I went about noon with my mini-umbrella, chair, boogie board, fins and a book. Other than just 10 minutes playing on the board, in-between the swims, I just sat there and took in the view. Didn’t touch the book (“King of the Moon”).

  8. Amy on June 15, 2015 at 13:11

    I’m a born-n-raised Floridian.

    Bugs: meh.

    Heat: meh.

    Centipede in the drain: meh.

    Hurricanes: meh.

    Rattlesnakes: meh.

    Rattlesnake in the house: buh-bye. o_O

  9. Todd on June 15, 2015 at 13:27

    It sounds like a pretty sweet adventure. A step outside of your comfort zone, only to expand it, and to take in a different perspective of living.

    I’ve been finding I enjoy the A/C a lot less this summer (really only been hot & moderately humid the past 2 weeks though). There’s a feeling of being too complacent (and growing soft) with the static nature of a controlled environment. It’s tantamount to IFing and fostering appreciation for your capacity to go without food and to what limits you can actually take it. It might sound like a bromide, but you feel more mindful and alive when you take on challenges such as these.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 16, 2015 at 06:39

      I really agree Todd.

      In whichever way you do it, getting seriously and rather irrevocably out of your comfort zone is key.

      Where I draw a distinction is making it either irrevocable, or a costly pain in the ass to go back. So, while I could call this whole thing off, it would cost a lot to do. So, you have to buckle down and adapt to the new environment.

  10. Stephanie on June 15, 2015 at 15:01

    I just returned to the US after 6 years of full time living in a small fishing village north of Puerto Vallarta. There are many wonderful graphics fits Mexico has to offer like waking from all the rules, laws and comforts of the U.S. Your self reliance grows because there is no one to call and most officials will make any situation worse. I became an excellent driver, quite handy and came to enjoy doing nothing with just myself. I learned to live a simple, small life. Applause for making your commitment. You and the great folks on this blog were and continue to be a great Pleasure I discovered while in MX. The quality of the conversation and reader commentary is inspiring.

  11. gabkad on June 15, 2015 at 15:46

    I’m so glad you are being kind to the donkeys, Richard. These creatures are kind too. Very special. When you get to know them better, you’ll find out for yourself.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 16, 2015 at 06:45

      It’s amazing. No matter where you see them, wild, but rather tame. You can approach them, pet them…well, at least the older ones with perhaps experience.

      They’re so chill.

      I’ll snap some photos sometime, do a little post.

  12. Wade on June 15, 2015 at 20:56

    Major props to your endeavor. I got a chuckle out of the “no rebasar” sign. They’re as plentiful as the “no tire basura,” which I translated incorrectly at first. Needless to say, there is little tire debris in Baja. 😉

    Pro tip for desert living, eat lots of spicy stuff. It helps with the heat.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 16, 2015 at 06:49

      Ha, Wade, I annoyed my brother the whole way down, continually lafing about upside-down glasses.

      Yea, tire is essentially the same verb as in French. Toss or throw.

  13. kxmoore on June 15, 2015 at 21:22

    you mention bugs. are the skitters bad? if so baja is no deal for me. those feckers can make life miserable for me. also what about the local polizei ?

    • Richard Nikoley on June 16, 2015 at 06:54


      The skitters are the most tolerable, for me. They’re very tiny and their biet is like subcutaneous that for me, goes away in about 15-30 minutes. Very unlike the mountain ones in the states that stab so deep you get tracts of blood running down your legs.

      They seem to be most active dawn and dusk.

  14. John on June 16, 2015 at 11:45

    This is a great purchase. Tiny high output flashlight.

    One of the best purchases as far as utility:price I’ve made in the past few years.
    Super bright for its size (slightly larger than the AAA battery it runs on).


    I have mine on me at all times. iPhone light is relatively terrible.

  15. MissMcGillicuddy on June 16, 2015 at 03:33

    We learn a lot when we live close to the Earth. It’s all good. I grew up on a farm in the very rural frozen north, so for me, your adventure is the flip side. Breathe deep and live. peace.

  16. Marc on June 16, 2015 at 07:07

    Thanks for sharing Richard. The contrast comes through beautifully.

    This reconfirms a little bit for ME why I like FL so much.
    There are parts of Florida that are still cheap AND close to the beach. Especially on the low southern side on the gulf side, it’s the closest thing to living in the tropics with the tropics an its challenges very much reduced and a home depot not to far away.

    off topic, do you still use k2 supp?

    • MissMcGillicuddy on June 16, 2015 at 17:11

      Hi Marc,

      What towns/counties in FL would you be referring to: i.e. cheap?


    • Marc on June 17, 2015 at 04:23

      I lived in Naples for almost 12 years. On the high end of “cheap”
      You can still find deals there and live in luxury close to the beach and pay rent of 1000 a month.
      If you are looking for cheaper you want to be just north of Ft Myers and south of Venice .

  17. Richard Nikoley on June 16, 2015 at 07:11


    Yea, Florida is a decent surrogate.

    In terms of K2, not sure it’s needed anymore. Whatever it is I’ve done to my gut, I seem to have the same teeth smoothness that k2 consistently gives me by eating beans.

  18. Marc on June 16, 2015 at 07:35

    Also, Elixa should be here today or tomorrow.
    Ordered for wifey and me, will share our experience.

  19. John on June 16, 2015 at 08:40

    Growing up in Arizona, I had a few encounters with rattlesnakes outside, but never in the house. My family did discover a scorpion in my sister’s bedroom once. It didn’t really freak me out, but I think they can be just as dangerous, venom wise.

    • Skyler Tanner on June 16, 2015 at 09:00

      Funny you mention this: in all the years I lived in Arizona, I never once saw a scorpion in the house. Seems like every friend of mine has at one point or another, however.

  20. andy on June 16, 2015 at 18:05

    I live on a bush block south of Darwin, Australia. No shortage of snakes, plus wild pigs, dingos and the occasional wild buffalo. If I see a poisonous snake around the house or yard I kill it. Tough titties to anyone who doesn’t like that. Would like to swim in the beach, but I’m a bit scared of crocodiles and box jellyfish. Some people actually do though.

  21. Natasha on June 17, 2015 at 09:17

    Love the honestly. Every adjustment…is an adjustment. And, honesty is more important than saving face.

    And, on a related topic.. I have just ordered Elixa… N.


    • MissMcGillicuddy on June 17, 2015 at 09:25

      I guess this one’s like giving up the secret handshake, so maybe they’ll kick me out of the girls’ club – but men who are honest, lay down their psyche weapons and stop defending their egos? very sexy.

  22. Rob on June 17, 2015 at 11:02

    What if you get bit? Is it possible to keep some anti-venom on hand?

    • Richard Nikoley on June 17, 2015 at 11:37

      Well it’s tough to separate facts with all the folklore. Add to that, there’s only one story of someone being bit in this community, and he stepped on the thing. Intense local pain for a few hours, then he was fine.

      Turns out that not all snake bites or rattlesnake bites result in any significant envenomation. Only 15-20%

      Out of about 10,000 poisonous snake bitings per year in US, only about 10 deaths. Compare that to 50 or so who die from bee stings, and 100 from being struck by lightening.

      In other words, you’re ten times more likely to by killed by lightening that a snake in the US.

    • Jed on June 17, 2015 at 13:15

      “Intense local pain for a few hours, then he was fine.”

      Probably better than fine. Hormesis!

  23. EF on June 18, 2015 at 10:43

    What kind of food are you eating in the Baja? Food porn, please!

  24. Richard Nikoley on June 18, 2015 at 12:34

    You’ve missed the point. Very little is pretty. Simple grub. It’s a 30 minute drive over washboard dirt roads to the nearest store of any kind.

  25. mart on June 19, 2015 at 12:39

    Re – things railing into the house: I would put together a – bulk – mix of salt, cayenne, and black pepper, and pour it pretty thick around the exterior walls and doors. It may well help stop at least some of the snakes and crawling bugs.

  26. mart on June 19, 2015 at 12:40

    *crawling into the house ⇧

  27. Josh on June 28, 2015 at 05:51

    Hows all that resistant starch working for you? Still shedding the pounds?

  28. spanish caravan on July 19, 2015 at 22:25

    Catching up on your BC adventures, Richard. That terrain and driving on that narrow road I can definitely remember. This was back in the mid-1990s. Drove down from LA but did not cross the Tropic of Cancer, as it was getting just too hot and dry. And this was in December. Camped out at a place the locals call Playa Escondida on the Sea of Cortez, which is good for windsurfing. No donkeys there but some wild pigs, which people hunt. There are dolphins in the water and we were told hammerheads also. A dolphin came close to me while swimming.

    But then some guy showed up and claimed that the plot we camped out was owned by his family and demanded that we pay $100. This was when Mexico anywhere was very safe and hassle free. He was probably lying but paid him off to make him leave. Thankfully this happened near the end of the trip. These days, I would not go out of my way to find secluded beaches in BC.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 20, 2015 at 05:54

      Hey Spanish.

      Nice to see you popping in here again.

      Indeed, some of those places along the Sea of Cortez were quite something, like out of some surreal movie thing. Water like glass in many places.

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