First few days…..
What follows is a rather lengthy diary of the bones of our first few days on the move. I’ll be happy to fill in the blanks next time we meet……..
Leaving anywhere with 11 bags and a surfboard is always going to be fun. Leaving Manchester at 7 am to fly to Houston post hurricane and then onward to Mexico is special.
Great start to the airport balancing people and stuff in a beautiful RV packed to the gills. Three heaped trolleys to the Singapore counter and then the real fun begins. Despite hours of pre-event planning calls and assurances it is impossible to check our bags through to Mexico and at least as worrying there is doubts that my surfboard (my precious) will not fit in the hold. Sitting on a huge pile of bags at 8 am effectively homeless this is not the best news.
After enough time passes to make our run through security an event, we pay more than twice the price of my first car in excess baggage charges and away we go. My precious is on board …. It could be a lot worse. It becomes so when the Singapore Airlines supervisor follows us to the plane which is now waiting for us spouting platitudes and assuring us that this will all be a funny story (or blog as it happens) one day soon. We both avoid the temptation to punch her.
Plane to Houston.
Arrive in baggage claim Houston and create a luggage train of three packed trolleys held precariously together with a surf board on top. Steering was randomised and did not improve with swearing. As we headed to inflict ourselves on the United desk there was much staring and eventually some help offered and gladly accepted. Two sweaty lumps and 11 bags and my precious arrive in front of a slightly bewildered Carla.
Now as much as Carla was unbelievably inept at helping us and amazingly proficient at making our lives hell, she was lovely about it. We were required to wait 14 hours before we could check in. We were required to pay more than 5 times the price of my first car in further excess baggage. We were to buy a further 4 suitcases and repack everything to meet United weight restrictions. Sitting on a huge pile of bags at 3pm effectively homeless this is not the best news.
While escalating this as best we could to someone/anyone who had any authority to help us we witnessed other people’s less obvious troubles. The hurricane is hitting Florida and airports closing and very many tired and emotional folk were stuck in Houston indefinitely. Houston is recovering from hurricane Harvey and we discover the staff at the counter had been trapped in their houses for up to 10 days due to floods. There are so many drowned cars that there is not a single rental car available. There are so many flooded homes and buildings that there is not a single hotel room to be found anywhere. We count our blessings and feel humbled on our pile of dry luggage.
Carla changes our lives. She has found a human who at the very thought of dealing with us crumbles and waives all fees and throws away the rules and she checks all our bags and us on the plane for 9.40 next morning. Massive relief and gratitude. We leave the airport with only 4 bags (twice hand luggage allowance) and find Jaynes uncle Richard who has been waiting for hours for us outside the airport. He has listened to an entire Bob Dylan collection and two Beatles albums so is chilled out.
Houston is recovering. We take well over 2 hours to drive the 45 minutes to his house. Seeing houses and cars flooded out gives us added patience. We are well fed (thanks to the skills of aunt Jess) and slightly slept at 6.30 am when we then take nearly 3 hours to drive the 45 mins to the airport. Rush hour Houston with only one good freeway is less conducive to patience. We somehow get through security and on the plane with all our bags and bottle of scotch in less than 30 mins. Somehow. We watch from the windows as we see my precious being loaded. All is well.
Plane to Puerto Vallarta.
Another well practiced luggage train is taken apart by customs. We patiently show our lives in 11 instalments and a surf board. Our friends at US homeland security have kindly unpacked and repacked our bags in advance of our arrival. The unpacking seemed to have gone well but the repacking … not so much. Our vacuum packed tetrus-ed suitcases when opened prove impossible to shut. Their solution was to move spare life essentials into another of our bags. This bag is rammed with tools and hammocks and protests by exploding in transit. Making America great again will take time I fear. Bless them.
Massive cab to a much-recommended rental place. The only one in Puerto Vallarta that does not rape you for bogus insurance. No matter how cheap your website booking thinks it should be or how good your own insurance thinks it is , the companies charge you a huge lump on top for “local insurance charges “or they refuse to rent you the car. Not Mexicos proudest moment when you just arrive in the country, be warned.
Loaded pick up to see our notaria (lawyer).
Arrive in car park under shopping mall to realise my wallet was missing. Jayne sympathy increased notably when she found her passport missing. Not a good start.
We walk to the notaria office in jetlagged befuddlement. That feeling of losing important things sitting hard in our bellies. A thick set bald guy walks directly towards me. Oh, shit what does he want. I judge this dude as a time share salesman. “I have something you need” he says. I don’t need a bloody timeshare …… He then passes us an envelope with a passport and wallet in. We are jetlagged and befuddled and stunned. Much thanks and shame. We stupidly left both on the rental desk. Geko rentals have sent their man to find us. We decide to love them.
Lawyer meeting. Ready to close on the land 18th September, We homeless till then. We have a plan. Fish tacos and get to see Big Chief and Abi at their rental apartment before our growing stupidity has further consequences.
Outstanding soft landing of whisky and loveliness and 11 bags and surfboard.
It rains hard.
Sayulita is an over popular place. Beautiful but packed all year. No parking even in low season so the smart thing to do is rent a golf cart. Chief is smart so we leave the hill and head to town. Rain has turned all the roads into fast flowing shallow rivers. Some fun is had creating waves on the way to purchase Mezcal and other essentials. We head to a favourite pizza place. We have a Mexican Venice moment eating Italian food overlooking a particularly gnarly road river outside.
It continued to rain hard.
We sleep hard till we don’t. Jet lag is a thing.
Breakfast and faffing completed we stop at hardware place to load up on machetes and take our first trip out to the land. First time since June when it was dry. Hurricane and tropical storms have made the wettest summer for many years. The pick up is not 4×4 and doesn’t have the best clearance we soon find out. After fording, a few new rivers imperfectly (Chief is quite rightly unimpressed at my 4×4 driving “skills”) we bottle it. Not a chance are we driving to our land. We gather stuff to wade across. Local farmers come to check us out on their horses. They are just making sure these daft looking Gringos are not going to kill themselves. They offer to help us out when we get sorted out with a decent truck. 4×4 now top of our shopping list.
We get across on foot easily if soggy. The water is cool on the body. I’m already a large ginger sweaty thing. Better get used to that. Approaching our land is different this time. The road is a flowing mountain stream and the land is covered in green. The first entrance has 50 feet of yellow flowers about knee height. Machete job no.1.
We survey the land. Measure the well (22m deep with 20m of water today). The girls find bananas, passion fruit and lemons. The boys find huge whip spiders and water pools full of tadpoles. This place is going to be loud with frog song soon.
We discuss endless possibilities while drinking beer tequila and Mezcal while floating in the stream cooling off and nursing the red burns that appear on bare skin from the juices of machetied plants. Nature always fights back. I’m covered in them. Sensitive flower that I am.
Back in San Pancho for lunch and float in the sea. Unbelievably perfect after sweating gallons. I float and consider this will be a daily routine soon enough.
Things take a turn for the ugly when Chief is required to remove a tick from his gentleman area. Not pleasant. Lesson to note about checking one’s bits for ticks.
We (Abi & I) drink hard and sleep hard in sympathy.
Awake to 11 bags and a surfboard and news of large earthquake south of us. Thankfully for us over 1000 miles south but have a number of people to reassure.
Load up and leave Sayulita to check in to cheap room in San Pancho. Two Gringos, 11 bags and my precious in one room……
Lunch and airport to release Chief and Abi until next time.
Find Ivan. He has a taco stall in town and specialises in Pastor which is essentially pork and pineapple but somehow tastes uniquely like neither. So, good and cheap. Decided to love the place.
Sleep to the sounds of CNN warning of disaster in Florida.
Head out to see our real estate friend in his new office up the road in Lo De Marcos. He promises us a generator and tools and hooks us up with fix it and solar contacts. We head to beach for lunch. Quiet beautiful beach. Then not so quiet … much commotion as large (much bigger than me) crocodile swims past a few meters from shore. This has a discouraging effect on paddle boarders and swimmers. Our new friend swims up and down the shore till we leave. San Pancho has a lagoon in which a good size bask (newly found collective noun) of the buggers live. A local thief lost an arm trying to swim from Police recently. The rain swells have washed a few of them out to sea. The American Crocodile is not likely to attack when in sea water we are told. This is not reassuring enough to want to find out.
We return to our room and decide to disgorge the bags and find out what we have brought and get organised. Seemed like a good idea at the time. It is amazing to find the things that you “can’t do without”. In our case its mainly art, hammocks, buckets of ginger strength sun screen and tools. After some hours, we repack and agree to store our bags with these poor unsuspecting hostel owners while we go to Guadalajara and Chapala to collect our van and try and find a 4×4.
How we managed it I’m not entirely sure but we now have 16 full bags, 2 over stuffed plastic bags and a surf board!
We leave the room to watch the sunset and meet our immigration lawyer. He knows our land well and is very well connected in many ways. He will introduce us to a girl who lived on the land for many years who will know so much! I’m excited about that. She is currently very pregnant and due her first child any moment so she will have other priorities. Shame …but another lesson in patience for me. Like this guy & feel we are going to have some fun together. Been here a day and already feeling connected. Few too many beers and another visit to Ivan’s and we head back. Got to return truck and get bus for 5 hours tomorrow.
Wake to hear of Florida’s dealings with Irma. We managed to squeeze all our ever-expanding stuff into a laundry room and head out. Drop truck and check into bus. Love these buses. started this diary/blog and watched a movie on Bertha (my tablet) and arrived relaxed…. to wrong bus station …. late. Our friends who were to collect us 45 minutes ago are not here. We decide to taxi to other bus station to find them not there either. They do not have a mobile phone. Dilemma. Before any overriding stress sets in they arrive over an hour late due to traffic at the wrong bus station to find us immediately. All worked out.
We land at our friend’s casita late and collapse.
So, we in Lake Chapala and reunited with our van. Amazingly it’s been cleaned and serviced in our absence. It is also packed with old and new stuff and another surf board and inflatable paddle board. We are stuff rich homeless people. We do now have a fab casita to live in this week at our friend’s place. We have good Wifi and time this week to land and sort out a bit.
We don’t need to be back till 18th and Saturday 16th is Mexican Independence Day and more importantly … Jaynes birthday. Our shopping list for even more stuff is getting long. Solar, well pump, generator, tools, small ATV, 4×4 truck, bed, fridge, new locks …….
We are both dealing with jet lag but overall relaxed and happy.
Could have done without the scorpion in the tea pan this morning but there you go.
lt’s not a bad start.
So very inspiring, my brother!. I want to come visit you soon. How about Sunday.? …. Mate!