Spider Eyes and a Chicken Nunnery

Jungle Journal

Spider Eyes and a Chicken Nunnery

So I’ve been banging on about the rains coming for weeks and they finally arrive early and in style. Last night was the second night of rain. We have spent a very sedate day sweating and both recovering from my man flu. We mostly watched Netflix and waited for sleep to take us. No rush. The nightly chorus of tin whistle bugs is done and at midnight we drift off. At 1 am I am awake. The jungle is in instant shadow as the whole sky lights up in flashes. It’s chucking it down. Real tropical rain. The roof is holding up well and the ground is soaking it all in (for now) so there is little to worry about. Then the frogs kick off.

Considering how dry and water free it has been up to this point it is illogical in the extreme that all of a sudden a few hours of rain can create all the frogs. Where have they all suddenly come from?? I can’t count how many but the noise is deafening. Can’t hear the rain for them. I spend the next 4 hours in my man flu misery reading and listening. Amongst many others I identify a “base cello’ frog, a “scooter with a bad battery trying to start” frog and a particularly irritating “everything is hilarious and I’ve just huffed some helium” frog. The rains reduce by 5 am and my book is finished. The frogs care not and are still having a good old sing. I pass out.

The frog orgy has left without cleaning up. The evidence is everywhere. Frog and toad spawn had filled the previously dried up jungle pond. The sight of the swimming pool is shocking. There are about two dozen large frogs in there. I manage to rescue the few survivors and then start the body count. I fish them out of the pool and arrange them on a rock for curiosity purposes. It’s carnage.

I arrange the dead frogs on a rock beside the pool and return to the tree house. We are somewhat surprised by a high pitched scream. The local pool company has turned up for a visit and the girl who is examining the pool has just discovered my frog rock display. She is loudly unimpressed. Her colleague is highly entertained.

Curiously this whole frog rave lasted only two nights. They are still out there being irritatingly loud but this is an after party crowd. They now sound like clowns with bike horns and give it their all for about 20 minutes then shut up for an hour… then start again. It’s better than it was….

We now have lots of water. The well is filling up again (just in time), we have three out of five full tinacos, the pool level has improved, all the plants and herbs are thoroughly watered and the solar panels are washed. These are all good things.

Last week we wondered why our solar batteries were low. A brief examination of the panels showed that in just over a week the entire solar array had acquired a thick coating of twigs, leaves and muck from the shedding trees. How we had any power at all was a mystery. As our ladder was being used elsewhere an enthusiastic, brave and acrobatic friend who was visiting climbed up with broom and removed all the crap. Battery power renewed in no time. It was on our list of maintenance jobs to do this regularly but now there is no need. The rains have polished them to a sunbeam friendly gleam.

It’s time for planting stuff out. We have bougainvilleas to place on the fence line. Also a spontaneous planting of sunflower seeds has produced a dozen or so competing shoots that need a home. We have collected orchids in dormant state and tied them to trees. Theoretically these will suck up the moisture in the air and flower in a month or two.

I have had a nagging request for some time. Someone wants chickens. The opportunity presents itself when we get a call informing us that a local vet-student has chickens to rehouse. Our friends are bringing her and her family over to meet us on Friday… with chickens. I spend a day building a chicken nunnery tractor. A nunnery because it will NOT be housing any bloody roosters. Sorry girls. The purpose of the tractor element is to allow the chickens to eat all the scrub and insects underneath their home and then we move it along. In this way the jungle floor is fertilized and cleaned progressively and the chickens are safe, dry, fed and producing eggs. Chicken safety out here is something we need to understand better. Pretty much everything eats chickens. Eagles, snakes, jaguar, ocelots, us. They are famously delicious. Have to see how that turns out. The process of building all day in a ginger puddle has left me exhausted. I have been fooled by a few cooling showers and protective afternoon clouds and managed to get dehydrated.


I recover with pints of homemade Jamaica (pronounced “hamica”), AKA cold hibiscus tea, which is a red plant base that we boil up to make a concentrated syrup. Added to a heap of water and ice with lime juice it is as refreshing a thing as we have found. There is an endless jug of the stuff in the fridge.

My recovery is somewhat disturbed by the sound of the cat fighting with one big fat cicada type bug. It’s the ones that make all the racket at night fall. Now they are loud enough half a mile away but having one being chewed by a cat a few feet away is deafening. I drag myself up and grab a cloth. My first attempt at rescue only manages to scare it into a limping flight with its one remaining good wing as it attaches itself to the window screen. It’s bigger than I thought. A good handful. I make my move but it’s too quick and noisily collides with my face and disappears in silence. It’s nowhere to be seen. Mausetrappe and I look at each other in confusion. I feel a scratching sensation and am then startled out my wits by a massive noise in my ear! The little sod was hiding on the back of my neck!! I grab him and throw him hard onto the floor. The cat pounces and diverts the thing under the sink. He is silent again. Not for long. The cat gets him in her mouth. The sound is unbelievable. I grab him. My whole hand is vibrating wildly as it screams. On the balcony I shake the cloth in my hand and I see him shoot directly upwards into the trees. Gone. It’s raining and very dark. Around me there are slowly moving majestic lights. The fireflies are back!!

Mango season is upon us. I was put off mangos by spending a lot of time in Montreal. There was a phase of putting mangos on everything. It was trendy to have eggs and bacon with a lump of mango. Bugger that!  I am , however, seduced by the laden local mango trees.  Each mature tree produces up to 250 kg a season. We had to consider that when looking at land with a dozen mango trees. Thats literally tons of mangoes to deal with. The little ones taste better than the big ones. 


Another welcome return is that of the toilet paper butterfly. This is unlikely to be the scientific name but they can best be described as a lump of toilet paper floating around in the wind. They are bright white and huge. The wings are far too big to be efficient so they kinda flop around randomly and somehow stay in the air. Inelegant but stunning to watch.

The chickens arrive. They are an ugly bunch. Dirty brown with bare arses. Tail feathers are optional we discover. The chicken nunnery is placed outside our balcony so we can keep them under review for the first few weeks. The ground is uneven so we create a rockery around the nunnery to discourage beasts from getting in. The chickens are installed and we decide to keep them locked in for a day or two so they learn this is where they live. Not necessary. Despite the door being left open all day the chickens don’t move from their luxurious perches in the shade. We learn that organic free-range chickens are mainly conceptual. Despite acres of lovely range to be free upon most chickens prefer to stay inside and view the outside from the inside. Despite being agoraphobic & antisocial our five chickens appear happy enough.   I have decided to name our nunnery inmates. Sister Kwafi, Sister Pybus, Sister Bricklebank, Sister Allenby & Sister Bland. Any comparison with anyone with similar names is entirely deliberate. Eggs are in our future.


There have been a few nights now of heavy to very heavy rains. In retrospect many things have indicated rains were coming. The lime trees started to bear fruit again and we found a heap of bananas appearing the week before the rains came. We found a tomato growing wild next to the house, the last flower on the vanilla orchid appeared and was pollinated and the roof got fixed, all the very day before the rains came.

The ground is alive with bright glowing red beetles. We spend some hours at the waterfall pools and they are everywhere. Individually they are fascinating but they have a trick. They gang together and make balls of themselves. A bright red shape the size of a golf ball. I have no idea why. It doesn’t seem an efficient love in and there is no feeding frenzy going on. See how long they last. They are harmless and very, very pretty.

There is a phenomena that I was convinced was fake news. If you shine a torch or headlight at a certain angle into the jungle thousands of tiny glowing lights reflect back at you. Every one of these lights is a spider looking back at you. Well I had these lights shown to me a few times but refused to believe the spider story. This was until the tinaco above our tree house sprang a leak and I needed to change out a fitting immediately and the sun was setting. It’s not something you would chose to do without daylight but I had no choice. On the way up the hill my headlight caught a mass of reflections, which I ignored until the tinaco was fixed. On the way down the hill in the dark I decided to explore these tiny lights close up. Unbelievably its true. I got close enough to confirm that the closest dozen lights were indeed spider eyes reflecting back at me. They were only tiny spiders but they shone like diamonds. Spooky.

And with the rain comes the crabs. It’s a famously strange and wonderful sight here in Nayarit to see hundreds of thousands of large pink crabs heading a kilometer for the sea after hibernation all year. If you are in the way it’s described as biblical. There is no avoiding them! We have avoided them as we are just far enough away from the sea. Just. The run to the ocean is over now but the bodies of those that didn’t quite make it are everywhere.

The bugs have changed again this month. We had weeks of tiny little buggers that felt like grains of sand when you caught them trying to nibble on you. More recently there is a medium sized loudly buzzing night time arrival. It’s a good job we have the nets on the bed. You hear them first and then see them head butting the fabric screen loudly. It’s impossible to sleep with these antics so I have taken to punching them off the net. They cope with this tactic rather well. Despite getting a full knuckle punch in their face they come back at you! They have heavy armor that looks like a nutshell. It can take two or three well placed punches to put off a “nut bug”. The cat is far more efficient and crunches them loudly and leaves them in a pile for me.

The Summer Solstice is upon us. The longest day. Tomorrow in the UK Christmas cards start appearing in the shops. It is also the anniversary of the burning of an effigy on Baker Beach in San Francisco over 30 years ago from which the Burning Man event evolved. One of the founders of the event died recently and there is a worldwide acknowledgement of gratitude for the connections this event created. My life would certainly be very different if those guys hadn’t decided to burn something on a beach that day. So to mark the occasion we gather with friends both new and old and knock up a “palm man”. We collect mango margaritas and head to the beach. It was all rather beautiful.

The rains have held off now for a week. What appeared to be the rainy season coming early was actually the back end of Hurricane Bud. The first of the season. The real rainy season is due soon enough. We are preparing slowly.

There is no doubt that Mexico is now a great footballing nation. It only takes a single goal but timing is everything. We watch this goal live from our friend’s restaurant packed with locals.  We also endure an hour of waiting for the Germans to equalise but incredibly it doesn’t happen !!  Torture to ecstasy. The place goes nuts.  Moscow will be out of tequila in the morning. We have the might of glorious South Korea next.  Despite the dull as ditch water England performance against Tunisia Jayne’s footballing needs are satisfied.  We are, however, asking ourselves if getting up at 6 am on Sunday to watch England v Panama is worth the effort… probably.

  • Amanda

    Are you sure about this ‘chicken nunnery’ business? As you know, we have two lovely roosters here that you are welcome to have (we would pay for the flight!! 🙂 They have kept Stu awake since around 4am (this is his grumpy guesstimate…) He has man-flu – and the cockerel chorus is not going down well with him….. I, of course, mainly sleep through it all! Two new chicks hatched over the last couple of weeks. One is a lovely hen…. whilst the other? Well – y’know how these things go…. Much love. XX

  • Jeannie Dettori

    Entertaining read. You’ve got it all “Beave” – Jayne, the rain, frogs, spiders, butterflies, chickens,nut bugs,cats, cicadas, fireflies, mangoes,bananas,orchids,vanilla beans……….and crabs!

  • Wally

    Good stuff…as always…Mate!

  • Linda

    Great read, Beave. Obviously, ” you are not alone”!

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