We’d read about this natural hot springs on iOverlander, our favorite travel app. The reviews and pictures ranged from acceptable to favorable, though each came with a disclaimer: the road to the Rancho is rough, 4×4 is recommended, and despite being only ten kilometers from Ensenada, the journey will take an hour. The Lingles dig hot springs. Andrea and the kiddos for hours; me for about ten minutes. We’d also been looking for an excuse to test the expensive 4×4 conversion on our van. Off we went.
The road was, indeed, rough. We crossed eight streams (see video below), dozens of mud puddles, and climbed up and down several hills. I hadn’t 4x4ed that much since I owned a jacked-up Jeep in college. The van, while no Jeep, handled the road fairly gracefully — the front tires hit the top of the front fenders on a few treacherous potholes, sending jolts through the van and our spines — arriving at the literal end of the road intact yet muddy.
The Rancho’s food source — chicken, Peking ducks, rabbits, pigs, and a sheep — greeted us upon arrival. Then we waited at the gate for what seemed like minutes but were likely seconds for an employee to take our money. Five minutes later, we’d found a pool- and stream-side spot and the kids were jumping in. Like most hot springs, the pools ranged from second-degree burns to why bother. Andrea and the kids spent most of the afternoon in or near the pools. I spent a reciprocal amount of time chasing the Peking ducks around the stream. I wondered why they stayed around, surely aware, given the frequent disappearance of their elders, that they’d be next. But they did. I suppose they’re just suffering from Stockholm syndrome.
Later that night, after all our bodies had taken raisin form, we dined on macaroni and cheese and Oreos in the van and crashed — our Mexican counterparts bathed and partied well into the evening. We left after a quick dip the next morning. The experience was fun and unique, albeit slightly watered-down by the numerous other “Agua Caliente” resorts we saw on the much smoother road to our next destination in San Felipe.