Rustico ! is the new Janky

Jungle Journal

Rustico ! is the new Janky

Been out in the jungle now for 6 weeks. Seems like a huge amount more time has passed…. in a good way. No regrets and much achieved. Tourists are arriving into San Pancho and beach life there is in full swing. I need to preface this by declaring I am perfectly healthy and at no time has there been serious risk to my being . No need to worry Mum.

There is a lot to do and so we have to prioritise. No real routine has evolved but our current focus is getting the apartment above the Bodega and the area around it ready to rent out. We need an income. Our toilet block is now a delightful orange hue. Plumbing repairs to follow shortly. All the high value brass pipe has been nicked so we have a plan to replace it with low value plastic.


I have recently been spending a great deal of energy mending and replacing many screen windows. I’ve even built my first two from scratch. After a while swearing at the wood, pulling bugs out of the varnish , straightening bent nails, and hammering my multi-coloured thumb,  time takes on a different dimension and allows you to think about the bigger things, manage your expectations, appreciate the brief moments of success and not be too attached to the result. It’s very much like supporting Newcastle United. Slightly less emotional perhaps.


The apartment is now bright blanco inside and out. As well as the first of the new beautiful screen windows there has been the addition of a solid staircase to get up there created by splitting a tree in half. It’s just the right side of janky. Rustico! is the design theme. We love it.

There has also been a further creation of a large impressive floating Mezzanine area with an even jankier (Rustico!) stair/ladder. We have decided not to make it feel too safe to get up to it and to leave off any safety railings or handrails. We are not aiming to make this space very child friendly or idiot proof. We are arranging for a jungle contract, which will exonerate us from lawsuits. It’s a jungle. Things happen. Be aware and take reasonable care and all will be well,.


Solar planning is also full on. We have realized that trees and sun make shade. The brick-shithouse area is ginger friendly. Only a few hours of baking sunshine a day. Protons bounce off treetops rather than hit the ground where we intend to make our sun energy magic happen.   Change of plan. We have now cleared a huge swathe of jungle on the South face of the hill. What used to be a huge Palapa and deck area still stands on shaky bug eaten legs with no roof and a stolen deck clearly elsewhere.   Our plan is to have our proton catchers in this sun trap and rebuild the deck. It’s a beautiful spot tucked away and boarded by the stream running from the falls. Should be water running for the next month we think.


Water is disappearing. The well has dropped a meter or two and the creek has all but dried up. We see some pools in the morning and nothing by the afternoon. So only 4 streams to cross to get to us now.

As the water levels drop there is a steady pilgrimage from San Pancho to the streams to collect rocks. River rocks are used everywhere for building and decorating and gardens. Pick up truck loads are removed. So before our best rocks end up cemented into someone’s bathroom we gather and take the Toyota down to the wide stream to test its suspension.

We park mid stream and load up the truck. These boys are small but immensely strong. Even granddad is picking up boulders half his size. The 15 year old is pushing stuff around twice his weight. There is a macho thing happening and I am getting sucked into it. We wait until the rear springs look stressed enough and return to our newly dug out parking area and start to make a rockery of stored stone.

We go back for another load. We want bigger boulders apparently. Granddad is throwing the largest lumps and so I chose a biggish one, which is testing my strength. I get to the tailgate and make the effort to load the thing onto the growing pile and suddenly see sky. The river is very slippy and I have lost my footing. I heave the boulderaway from me as best I can in mid air and land not entirely elegantly in the river. I sit there examining myself and avoiding fuss. Granddad points out a large rock close to my head that I avoided hitting. It’s far enough away and amongst a large number of similar things I avoided so no drama. My ribs are a touch bruised and my thumb (which successfully caught the boulder on the way down) has a very pretty blue nail. It turns darker as I watch.   It might not make it.   We collect a further couple of loads and then call our rock store complete.


We greet our iron maker who arrives to survey the house for our new doors. Designs are approved and he leaves to get creative. They will look brilliant and make our house secure and sexy.

We then welcome our solar guy & his wife to survey the new chosen location before it is cleared. We make the trek with a couple of friends who also arrive at the same time and bring us beer & Mezcal . This is by far the most people we have had our here in one day. It’s a nice change of pace. All is well until we head back and the hornets reappear. This time they ignore me as I pass them swinging  a machete and hit our solar friends hard and fast. Not good. We get to the hosepipe and apply waterfall as quick as we can. Thankfully they are on their way to surf so their day can only improve. We drink beer and Mezcal with our remaining sting free friends and feel guilty.

The hornets have perished under a cloud of OKO. Our brave crew who cleared the land for the solar took spray cans of this specific noxious stuff which they know to be the best thing to discourage the buggers and distributed it onto every nest they could find. Not a job I would have wanted. I only got hit a few times but it was always sudden and unexpected and very painful. You don’t see them coming.

So we have exterminated the hornets. I also killed two large black torpedo shaped flying noise machines that were making sleep impossible. They sounded like helicopters, old broken noisy ones. I felt guilty afterwards, awaiting my Karma. Now I am no Jainist or vegan and my personal level of hypocrisy when it comes to respecting life and beasts is under constant review. I do try and respect life in all its forms and don’t make a habit of swatting flies or poisoning mice/rats. I save frogs and hopping things from the cat daily. I do, however, smack mosquitos to death regularly. My love affair with termites, scorpions and cutter ants is tenuous to say the least. I admit to ending a number of them. We are avoiding the very many recommended poisons designed to kill everything creepy or crawly. We are a source of food to many things and sorta kinda put up with it. Ticks are, however, killed on site. So far the rooster has survived the cull.

Snakes have appeared. Found a tiny baby one curled up under a block I moved which was cute but I kept my eyes out for its mum. Had a few other larger versions ignore me and cross my path quickly. We heard a loud distressed noise from under the house. it was dark but we traced the noise to a mouse that was looking directly at us and was clearly unhappy. I had my suspicions that this mouse was in trouble which was confirmed when we noticed that it is partly inside a snake. I hope that wasn’t Mortimer.

We are becoming very blasé about sharing our space with nature. I work beside the largest spiders and flick all sorts of bug and beasts from my face and hair regularly. I did, however, have my resolve tested when we arrived home a few days ago.

Still gulping air from the walk up the hill I noticed a trail of black ants on our stairs. Not cutter ants and not red ants so nothing to be worried about. I get to our recycle bin next to our door, which seems to be the ants’ destination and find a swarm of them over some unfortunate ex-beast that is all but consumed. Then my feet (which are in my last remaining unbroken sandals) get bitten. Many times. It hurts a lot. We get into the house quickly. I protect my aching feet with rubber welly -boots and head to the balcony to get a broom to counter attack. As I get to the screen door it appears to move. There are ants all over it. I open the door and shut it behind me very quickly. The decking is completely covered in ants. The screen windows are completely surrounded by ants. I check where they are coming from and the walls are covered in lines of ants. I attack. My broom eventually propels half of them over the side but more replace them. They are coming from everywhere at once. It’s biblical.  I am now armed with a kill-everything poison spray bottle that we have avoided using except spraying the door-frames to repel scorpions. The ants thankfully don’t like it at all. With thrusts of broom and mists of gunk they start to retreat. A long few minutes later the deck is ant free. I return to the front door and return the remaining invaders to the jungle. I empty the last of the spray on the stairs. Tripe has vanished. Don’t blame him!

We have arranged a day off to meet up with a couple that are friends of our Chapala mechanic ( who we think is hiding from us or has died.) They are working in a dog rescue place not far away and are from New Zealand (we can forgive them that.) Good to see things here through fresh eyes. Also good to have a map of local surf breaks they have tried out. I must get my board wet soon. After the grand tour we end up in Sayalita indulging in one our favorite local delicacies. It’s a burrito without the tortilla, which is replaced with a sheet of fried cheese packed with whatever you like. Fresh octopus in a fried cheese casing is my idea of heavenly heart attack food. The kiwis are off to buy a van in Chapala and then travel Mexico. Sure we will meet up again.

We are preparing for a VIP. Jayne’s Dad is arriving from Calgary for a 3-week visit. The apartment is far from habitable yet so this involves a lot of very hasty upgrades to the “Gypsy Caravan” or shed as I call it. Holes are mended, locks fitted, paint is applied, waterfall is plumbed in, beds are made. The whole of it is cleaned for the first time in many years. It looks pretty good considering. Finishing touch is the obligatory janky (Rustico!) staircase up to the door. I was told the Queen thinks the world smells of paint because everywhere she goes has just been redecorated. I wonder if he will notice.

Our schedule has been interrupted as we have taken some days off to attend a four-day “Architectural Bamboo “ course. We have a heap of bamboo and an endless supply locally, which we want to use. We have a lot of experience building various temporary structures with bamboo around the world. We want to learn more so have negotiated a significant cheeky discount and off to Sayulita we go.

We now understand that bamboo is not good in the wet, or the sun. We also know that bugs love it and that it can’t touch the ground, ever, or it will rot. We know that it is strong on the outside but weak on the inside and needs a lot of pretreatment before we can use it at all. It is not the flexible friend we thought it was. We also know that failing to build a geodesic dome for two days with lengths of bamboo and string is a terrible idea. Being hit in the head by spring-loaded bamboo is also a terrible idea. Thankfully I have a thick skull and little there to damage so I survived. We have met some very good people and are looking forward to working and playing with them again.


We arrive home late and the van gets stuck up the hill before reaching the house. Our 4×4 is back with Jesus. It’s dark and the back wheels are spinning on the rocks that used to be evenly spread as traction but the rains have now made into sporadic piles of rubble. I get out to survey the situation and encourage another run at it. The wheels spin until there is slow forward motion and then sudden momentum as they catch. The van lurches upward and the tyres fling rocks at great speed towards me. I hear them pass very fast and very close to my head. I won’t be doing that again.

Great news! We are informed of the opening of a pub in San Pancho. The first of its kind. It serves home produced beers on tap. Tap beers are something I miss as its pretty much all bottles here. We arrive with some enthusiasm and are greeted by great people behind a large Parota bar very excited about their first day of business after many months of planning. The craft beers they offer are all IPAs. Now I am not adverse to a hop or two but the trend to make beer taste like perfume, toothpaste, shoe polish and feet is not for me. I am assured that for IPA these beers are great examples but I am clearly not an IPA drinker. Beers that I grew up with from Theakstons have spoilt me maybe. Where are the Leo Sayer ( all day-er ) brews that taste like smooth delicious beer and don’t make you stupid after a neckful of them ? Guinness oh Guinness how I miss you.

It is possible that our mechanic in Chapala is still alive and an outside possibility that the Rug-Rod vehicle we bought a few months ago may be in a state of drivability within a foreseeable amount of time maybe soonish. This is potentially possibly good news. A trip to Chapala is in our future, we suspect, sometime, perhaps.




  • cMRcbkTai

    211049 285873I enjoy reading write-up. Hope i can discover much more articles like this one. Thanks for posting. 478802


    Hey guys….when I read that you were clearing areas for solar etc I wondered what you were doing with the plant waste…and thought of Hugelkultur which is a wonderful way of creating low maintenance raised beds for veg growing (etc!). Check it out……. loads of stuff online…..we did it small scale here in nepal and it works very well. love reading about your exploits and love from us all.

  • sAM

    We are hoping this comes out in a Paperback or Kindle edition soon. One possible title is how I describe the time I underwent a 16 day, 3 mechanic auto repair in San Vicente…”Zen and the art of Mexican Mechanics”. Or how about…”Just how thick in the Gringo skull in a Mexican jungle?”

  • Mand 65

    Just remind me again – who is the chief beneficiary of your life insurance policy?! I’m pretty sure I put my name down for that one…….!!! 🙂
    Love to you both.XX

  • Stef Bricklebank

    Lovely read and much needed update. Big love ❤️

  • Jeannie Dettori

    Creative indeed, the would be green thumb ups one and becomes a blue thumb. Ants seem to like your abode, freebees to eat after all for ants and snakes alike. – No doubt Alan can now give a hand, he loves building things..and here’s hoping the hornets quieten down. No need for a gym I see, plenty of weights to lift there, however take care not to slip and make too many holes in the ground….or your head. Take care…..everything seems to be taking shape….it’ll be fit for a Queen in no time…..just buy some more paint! xxx

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