The end of another year. Thank you for all your support with donations and adopting trees, bats and bee hives. It’s a considerable help to us and we appreciate it greatly. As do the bees and the trees and the bats.
Strange days continue to happen. It’s Monday and I’m at Oxxo, which is the Mexican 24 hour chain store that appears at every petrol station, and elsewhere. Oxxo do a half decent coffee from a gurgly machine and are useful for milk and ice. The rest of the store seems to be shelf after shelf of biscuits and cookies. It is also where everyone tries to top up their phone on a dodgy touch screen till. It is often a long process followed by disappointment. This makes the queue last enough time for coffee to go cold and ice to melt.
“Juan Juan The Slow Concrete Man“ is not there for his 8am arranged Oxxo pick up. I drink my coffee and wait a while. A guy walks over to me making direct eye contact and talks in a slow drawl of Spanish. I pick up the words for floor and concrete and practically nothing else. I later find out that no one much understands what he says most of the time. We have an odd gesture based conversation and I agree to take him to look at where our concrete floor should have been 3 days ago. I give up on JJTSCM with the idea that maybe he has sent this guy in his place. We arrive and our man is already there and greets this new guy as a good friend. I am confused. They look at me expectantly. I have not a clue what’s going on. I practically drag translator Jayne out of bed to make some sense of it all.
First development is that JJTSCM texts to tell us he is feeling unwell and is hospitalized with chronic apathy. We are thankful we don’t have to fire him. The new guy is a friend of our man’s who we met briefly at a bus stop waiting for our solar frame to arrive. Someone mentioned the floor to him then. He recognised me at the Oxxo while he was on his way to another job for a local dentist. Well the dentist hadn’t paid him so he chanced his arm, sacked off the dentist’s job and jumped in with us. He agrees to return the next day with a crew and skill and enthusiasm and have the floor and tiling done by the end of the week for a fixed price.
We take a breath and recognise that JJTSCM effectively fired himself today and has been replaced with a much better option without us consciously doing a thing. All by 9.30am. We retreat for tea.
Our friend has arrived from Reno and we set out to show him Sayulita and meet up with our favorite Yoga/Pilates instructor who we met on the bamboo course. She meets us and a few tequila based refreshers. Later we go look at the surf. Our Reno friend tried surfing for the first time today and hasn’t quite got the hang of it yet. He blames the board which makes him sound like he’s been at it for years.
We watch too many people not catching waves as the sun sets. It is a glorious evening. I hear my name shouted. It’s definitely my name. I am confronted by an excited guy in hippy pants & sunglasses that I recognise as a friend that I met first in New Zealand, then Israel, then USA, then Spain, then South Africa. He is in Sayulita with his wife who has extended family who have been here since it was a village and own extraordinary seafront property on the hills around us. Sayulita is 10 times the size on San Pancho and packed with tourists so this chance meeting is very random. This day is getting weirder. We arrange to meet him and his wife later for dinner and take an adventure tour around some secret places we are introduced to.
The next morning starts early getting the new concrete crew set up and away. They are strong and fast and have already surpassed JJTSCM’s efforts in the first few hours. Good news.
Today we have a constant stream of visitors. I collect our newly found friends from their stunningly luxurious buildings above the Sayulita sea. We remove them from luxury and add more Rustico. Our favorite friend who smuggled us in shoes and my water pump from Colorado joins us. He brings 5 of his 6 kids, his wife and their St Bernard puppy, which is 9 months old, and the size of me. They bring cocktails and a good touch of disruptive enthusiasm that only a bunch of kids with machetes can do. We manage to remove the machetes from the kids, check them for obvious wounds and off they go exploring. I escape and head to town to capture our Texan friend who owns a restaurant near the beach. She has wanted to come out and see us for months and we have promised her own area of garden to nurture. In the process I collect a very welcome gift of accurate, proper and perfectly simple tequila glasses from dear friends.
We leave for dinner in town as the sun drops to discuss gardens and concrete and friends lost and found. We return to a dark tree house and try out the glasses. They work a treat!
Things calm down a touch but there is a welcome development. We have received our first rent. Our Reno friend has contributed to proceedings in appreciation of the place (and our loveliness clearly). It’s a strange and welcome thing to have a “money in” section in our books. And so it begins.
During the past mad busy few days our man has been noisily attacking our Parota chunks under clouds and mounds of sawdust. What has appeared is very impressive. The wood is now alive with smooth texture & deep colours. Our Parota kitchen counter is ready for the beaten copper bucket/bowl that will be the sink. Our huge round slices of tree/outside tables are ready for setting on logs refined as legs. There is so much beautiful drying Parota we are spoilt for choice. We were in PV stocking up and found similar wood lumps (untreated) for sale at stingingly silly prices. We done good. It’s all going to look epic.
It rained hard again last night. The bouncy splashy wet type for many hours. We are assured this is very very unusual for December. We were caught out and much is wet that shouldn’t be. The vehicles throw films of mud over everything including us. I have a cold. I probably have a touch of ebola mixed in too. I’m being very brave.
Our new concrete man has turned out to be a right character. He is often found a hundred feet up a tree he has climbed just because. He catches huge fresh water shrimp from our streams and juggles scorpions .If he gets stung by one he tells us the cure is to eat it. He has philosophies about pretty much everything and we have a strangely comfortable bond developing. His English is worse that my Spanish and he is, I am told, still fairly incomprehensible anyway. He is a good looking young man, exactly the same age as me, half my weight and twice as strong. It’s a touch depressing.
We are getting regular visits to the land from new people we meet in town and further chance meetings with old friends. We have had South Africans arrive I haven’t seen in years and a friend who I last met ten years ago in New Zealand. She just happened to be staying in town. There seems to be a heap of people from Calgary here too. The waterfalls are becoming a popular destination walk and we are easy to find on the way out so there is a steady stream of folk that happen across us and want to know what we are up to. Our tours of the land are getting practice. It is interesting to see the place through fresh eyes and new perspective. It gives us confidence that we are creating a place and space that others will love like we do.
Plans are afoot. Now the Bodega apartment (Selva Vista) is on it’s way to being finished the BrickSHouse area is our next focus. We can get water there from the top of the hill and revive the shower and install one of our newly built composting loos. We have researched acquiring a number of large glamping style bell tents that can be located on platforms and house queen size beds. There is a contact that has a supplier in China and the budget is not too bad. The idea gains some traction when we realise that our man is offering to build us small casitas with palapa roofs from locally foraged materials for much less and very quickly. We calculate that this gives us the best chance to offer something unique and funky and make decent rent in the shortest time.
We have lost our desire for concrete gate posts and that has moved things along considerably. We now have a gate. It was a tree and now, thanks to chainsaw and skill, it’s a fabulous gate hung between wooden gate posts. This gives us a boundary and entrance to our land for the first time. It’s located at the first entry point to the South side and is a great addition to the mix. Love it.
Our orange toilet block has been bugging us. We have revised our plans to revive the shower and tile the floor. It’s a large space. Too large we think for single loo and a shower. We have, therefore, applied a touch of rethink and have created an outdoor shower on a nearby tree. It’s surrounded by a spiral of palm bark planks from downed trees around our solar array. The remaining blocks of palm will be terraced into the earth to create planting zones. Palm wood does not last long out here and disintegrates quickly into fertile planting goodness. So we will tile the floor and chuck in a few beds and boom! … the orange block becomes another resting area for weary volunteers who need a budget option. The outdoor shower is looking very sexy and set to revive the hot and sweaty by dispensing authentic jungle temperature waterfall.
Xmas eve is spent borrowing an oven to cook pumpkin pies (strange looking squash pies actually) and watching sunset at our favorite beach bar. There was a set from a jazz guitarist & drummer from the town. A professional trombonist happens to be at the bar and joins them. They improvise on John Coltrane tracks. Perfect.
Xmas day comes and goes with minimal fuss. My present is a hand drawn card and I stun Jayne with a parody version of Merry Xmas everyone by Slade on the Ukulele. “And here it is …. our first Xmas in the jungle with a cat. If you’re looking for the perfect life it’s exactly where it’s aaaah-aaaah-aaat !“ …. I’ll save you from the verses. We eat well with friends old and new in town after a particularly lazy morning catching up with family on Skype.
The new bee location has been discovered by at least one Coatis. I saw one on these sticky pawed buggers this morning looking rather pleased with itself. These large raccoon type creatures get into anything and apparently like our honey. They have moved heavy rocks on the beehive roof and taken bites out of the honeycombs. We are repairing and securing them as best we can. The bees are unsettled and one of the smaller hives looks like its been abandoned. We are working on making the place more queen bee friendly and less a honey trap for Coatis.
We have had a very strange and shocking accident. We were in the Polaris returning back to the house from plumbing the apartment. It’s my son’s birthday and he is on face time with me following the journey from our phone. There is a sudden and startling loud crashing noise and something hits my head hard and bounces painfully off my leg. We come to a sudden stop and there are very huge chucks of wood everywhere. We check each other. We are somehow not injured. Jayne runs to a spot less likely to be fatal as I look up and around to assess what has happened. A huge branch has fallen directly onto the Polaris roof directly above my head, which was saved from being crushed by the strength and build quality of the roll cage. The bar above my head has a significant dent in it. The rest of the vehicle is bruised but in pretty good shape considering. The offending log of wood is lying in front of us covered in over a dozen quite stunning Bromeliads. It was probably the weight of them that sent it ground wards. When I’m sure nothing else is coming down at me I haul it from the road. It is very heavy and takes all my strength to move. There are smaller large logs all around us that have broken off the main branch. We look up and see where the branch started from and it’s very very high up. The chances of this happening are probably a fair bit less than being struck by lightening. Our luck being directly under this thing as it landed is questionable. Our considerable luck surviving with no injuries at all is not. We are grateful, humbled and both pretty shaken up.
My son and his friend have watched this happen. They are wondering if it was a set up just for them. We are all delighted that his birthday did not include seeing his Dad squashed flat live from the UK.
We take the rest of the day off. The sunset looks particularly pretty and the margaritas are just that extra bit delicious.
Our plumbing is done and waiting to be connected up to a tinaco and our new hot water shower looks well posh! The concrete battery house is nearly done and there is so much in the pipeline for the next few weeks. We have three new palapa roofed cabins in production and a crew from Sayulita (our first real work party) arriving after New Year to give us a full week’s work on the white house. The apartment is getting there and on track and we will be offering the “gypsy cabin” up for AirBnB as soon as the paint drys . Progress… poco a poco.
San Pancho is full of folk now. It’s in post Xmas full swing. Sayalita is unbearably busy we hear. People enquiring about renting the Polaris stopped us in the street. We are mending the bits that the tree broke and have added a “rent our Polaris” page to the website and are sorting out the web of knotted red ribbons which is Mexican commercial car insurance. It’s looking a lot more likely we will actually get a real live punter soon!
Amongst our discoveries when clearing up all the places here are filthy old note pads, drafts of books and a roll of various architectural plans for septic tanks and buildings. It is fascinating to read lists of costs and materials from 8-10 years ago that are so similar to the ones we are creating today. Amongst the bat guano stained pages are letters to guests/friends who have outstayed their welcome and hospital bills for treating Scorpion bites. This bonds us to the folk who were here before us. It reminds us that others had dreams for this place and some were realized. Locals have told us that when Richard (an ex NFL player) was building the tree house and the pool he made the whole place incredibly beautiful. All to attract his wife down to visit from California. He died here but left a strong legacy, which we greatly respect. His carpentry work that remains is outstanding.
We discovered that five years ago a girl called Mary setup a treatment retreat for recovering drug addicts here. It was based on the premise that taking a locally strong hallucinogenic called Ibogain cured addiction. There is much written in credible scientific journals about the effects of Ibogain C20H26N2O (originally African in origin) to help heroin addiction. We continue to learn how that all worked out. It was a controversial venture that did not win unanimous local support or sympathy we hear.
We both are looking back at how our own lives have played out these past few days, weeks and months with some incredulity. This year we have been around the world at least once and have had some extraordinary adventures. We returned to UK in July in time for the Glastonbury Festival (my 27th time and Jayne’s first). We then decided to pack up our lives into 11 bags and a surfboard and move into a tree house in a far away jungle. This was not the plan when we woke in San Francisco, USA on New Years Day a year ago planning to build another temple at Burning Man. That feels like two lifetimes away. I have been in Mexico now for coming up to 4 months. This is the longest I have been in one place since I can remember. It’s a very good thing.
Happy New Year.