Snake Tricks & a Flying Robot

Jungle Journal

Snake Tricks & a Flying Robot

The trees are magnificent. Empowered by rain they wrap around each other for support while extending branches of thick foliage across the sky. Perfectly lovely if you are not a solar panel trying to avoid shade. A group of electric guest fans, a couple of fridges and some cloudy days have taken their toll on our batteries. The fact we have a very limited sunshine window and growing tree shadow is less than helpful. Our heavy generator is brought into the battery house and plugged in to top them up. The trees around the panels are getting careful attention as we decide which of the branches 150 foot off the ground are going to get it. There is lopping in our future. We put the word out for someone brave and daft enough to take this on.

We have been gifted a number of obscure objects over the months. Amongst the haul are two very distinctive shaped machetes from the Revolutionary Army in Columbia. They are considered less tools than considerably effective weapons. Originally they were part of the FARC armory before there was a weapons amnesty. Subsequently and corruptly the collected weaponry piles were sold on to buyers in USA. We were gifted them as an American friend headed north. We have found an alternative use for them. When sharpened the heavy multi-faceted blades are very effective in destroying the endless growth that is overtaking us. Our standard machetes will take off the leaves and shoots but leave the roots. We are effectively pruning the buggers and making them stronger! Our FARC versions take the whole of them out in one go and scatter them elsewhere. Brutal but effective. Good luck coming back from that! Everyday I carry one with me wherever I go and, poco a poco, the paths are clearing up and the jungle is, for a very short period of time, tamed. False sense of achievement I suspect.

During one of my slow journeys through one of the jungle paths I am slowly clearing the worst of the greenery that is right ahead of me. I scatter a few tiny palm start-ups into the bush, which in the corner of my vision moves in a very familiar way. A few feet away from me is a dark green snake of significant size. Its black and white head is a foot above the ground and very still while looking straight at me. In contrast there is a whip lizard flicking its body wildly around as it vanishes at great speed down the snake and is rapidly fully swallowed with the exception of the very end of it’s tail that stick out the side of the very contented snake’s mouth. We stare at each other motionless apart from the odd twitch of the lizard’s tail. I reach for my phone to take a picture but I don’t have it with me and for a fraction of a moment I divert my eyes. The snake vanishes. It was right there and now gone. The bush moves slightly directly in my vision and the snake reappears like a vision. Exactly in the same place and in the same position. It hadn’t moved but had vanished and reappeared right in front of me. A snake with an invisibility cloak?? How do they do that!!??

I have watched snakes do this a number of times here. I found a modest size python curled up in the pool house and because I had thick gloves on and was hot and sweaty and in no mood to be buggered about by a snake I picked him up and threw him out into the bush. I then watched as the thing uncurled itself to its full length and make a slow movement by which it dissolved into the ground and vanished. I looked for it for a good while before giving up to extraordinary camouflage.

I am at the pool and I hear Jayne making noises from the tree house that sound a little distressed. Nothing too panicked but certainly some form of unhappiness. As I get closer to the source I hear the word “snaaaaiyke”. I get to the balcony armed with traditional long machete and see a good size green, blue and black snake poking its head out of the plants with a surprised looking frog in its mouth. Half the frog has turned a disturbing yellow colour so the snake is most likely poisonous. I put the end of the machete blade under the frog and lift the snake’s head upwards. I follow its body through the plants and can see that most of the snake is hanging over the side. By lifting its head its weight shifts backwards and both snake & frog fall off. I instantly look over the side and see absolutely nothing. I return to underneath the house exactly where it fell. No sign at all although at all times my machete is very much at the ready.

Bananas have ripened and we are ready to create all things bananary. Jayne is less than delighted.

It’s officially over 25 years since there has been so little water falling from the skies in mid August. In 3 weeks time we will have been in Mexico for a whole year. At that time last year San Pancho had a foot of water flowing down the streets and the arroyos (rivers) were full enough to stop us getting out here to our land for a month! Today there has been no rain at all for nearly a week. No gut wrenching thunderstorm for many weeks and all the rivers are dry. There is ground water. Thankfully our well is full enough and our new pump delivering up to a tinaco full a day (which for us is outstanding). For everyone without a well this is not good news at all. Unless we all start the dry season with full wells and good water flow in the rivers there will be huge issues down the line. We are dancing for rain right now.


While we make good with our water and fill up all our tinacos there are some repairs to do and some pumps to install and general maintenance stuff on the to do list. There are many thousands of large biting ants in endless marching lines that criss cross the jungle floor. They regularly chose to march exactly where I am working and bite my feet to make some territorial point. It proves how humid it is that even the shortest climb into the jungle is so completely exhausting. I return from very light work completely bitten and scratched and mucky with sweat. I have found an added fun experience to avoid. The ground has hidden within it large and very strong thorns. I managed to get one to go entirely through my sandal and half and inch into my foot mid jungle climb. If a ginger man screams abuse in the jungle and no one is there to hear does he make a sound?

Sister Allenby has followed Sister Flowers into the chicken jungle black hole. We are down to three jungle chickens. Jayne insists they have both fallen in love with local roosters and eloped. My theory involves slightly more violence and a snake and/or an eagle. The remaining brood are properly freaked out so have likely witnessed something traumatic. We need to encourage the survivors to nest in their house and not the trees. It’s safer and I’m not climbing trees to collect eggs that may or may not appear in the future. We relocate the house in a clear open spot and after much buggering about mange to get them locked in. A few days of house arrest should reeducate them, google has told us.

There is a common effect of coming out here and staying with us for a while. Be warned. Folk don’t want to go home. It’s slightly more than end of holiday blues. The space and pace here are seductive. Returning to an overpriced, overworked society where ones values can’t be expressed and ones expressions are undervalued is not easy. The politics above the wall doesn’t help with motivation either. So we get a good amount of good people wanting to be our neighbours.

The search for land/property is a well trodden path here but it’s not easy to navigate. Almost everyone has a story about buying land and some of them are sadly pretty tragic. There is a real need for independent honest trustworthy guidance to get through the red tape of owning property in Mexico and not get screwed. Estate agents work on USA style commissions. They get a whopping 4% of the value of the sale from the seller and a further 4% if they act on behalf of the buyer too. That’s a big lump and so the temptation to get sales complete at any cost is strong. There are many locals (Mexicans) who do not trust the system and sell directly. Anyone can act as agent in any sale in Mexico. No training or qualifications required.

In our time here we have been offered many plots of land and have quite a portfolio that had developed without trying. We also have a growing list of potential buyers that know and trust us. We also have very effective contacts that we trust in the industry that can get us all the information any buyer needs (but doesn’t know they need) faster, cheaper and more accurately than by any other means. A team of us are in discussions about how to offer these services that we are finding are greatly needed.

This coincides with a change in the way things are generally administered by officialdom. In the past week the six officers in charge of agreeing building permits in our area have all been fired. It’s not uncommon for building permits to be agreed with the help of a donation and the paperwork issued but not registered. In these cases the building work does not have genuine permissions and the documents are useless down the line should there be any real inspections. Expensive business corruption. The new AMLO anti corruption promises appear to be happening. Proper officials are being employed to do official properness in Mexico! Now it’s not who you pay donations to but more who you know that’s important. It’s a well needed and popular change.

Drones bloody drones. Drive me nuts. Whining, buzzy, oversize flying pests invading your privacy unannounced, without permission and unwelcome. They appear on the most deserted beaches and idyllic spaces just to make the experience worse for everyone except the entitled twat who is making his video.

That said with extreme reluctance I have to accept that they have become quite amazingly evolved bits of robotic engineering and they can take images that are highly impressive. Our mate arrives from South Africa via the rest of the world on a very large motorbike with very limited luggage and a brand new drone. It’s compact, sexy mate black, sleek and has anti collision lasers and remote self steadying probes installed in every orifice. It has the invaluable added feature of being reasonably idiot proof . It takes flight and hovers in our faces a few feet from the balcony. It won’t come any further as it has sensed idiots and won’t land at our feet. I reach out and grab it to pull it in. It’s motors and rotors rev aggressively and the thing pulls away from my grip in an escape pattern. Idiot proof.

It takes a surprisingly short time to use up all the battery life and the SD card with images taken from a few feet to many hundreds of feet away. We respect the thing for its elegance in flight and for clearly being a lot smarter than any of us. With a good number of edits and a search for un-copyrighted music we can use in the background (there are algorithms on social media that catch you using copyrighted music they tell me !!) our mate creates for us a short video introduction to La Colina. We like it a lot. I still want to train hawks to take drones down on every beach but this little flying robot was a lot of fun for while.

Digging in 90% plus humidity is a short lived activity. I get motivated to create or modify a drainage trench and set about it with shovel and pick with as much energy and enthusiasm as can be mustered. It’s usually about 10 minutes into smashing the rock filled earth that the dizziness sets in. The warm soupy air that I’m gasping for seems to contain more damp than oxygen. I breathe the wetness hard into my lungs as all the fluids pour quite literally from my body soaking the ground around me. Enough. I stick my sodden shirt to the balcony to dry and limp to the shower where I exchange my sweat for fresher stuff. I put a towel on the bed and lie down aware of the itchy burning heat on my skin mixed with the entire lack of energy or enthusiasm. Mausetrappe jumps up and grabs my legs while chewing at my feet. She is also overheated and slightly crazy. The largest electric fan we have is directed at the bed and revives us both very very slowly. This process can be repeated many times a day.

We hear again of a dear young friend who has passed this week.  Died at his home in California of a seizure after a weekend surfing with friends. It’s very sad. Counting our blessings everyday.

Our favorite pub/bar that is currently open closes next week till mid September. Endless Summer is a  bar in Los De Marcos about 10 minutes up the highway. It’s a Canadian branded place with lots of TVs showing all the sports the Canadians care about (hockey) and does a passable Poutine. For non Canadians that is the posh French name for a plate of chips and gravy with cheese. Authentically cheese that squeeks audibly when you bite it but that is a rare thing outside of Montreal. It has a dartboard with terribly bent darts with loose flights so that’s traditional. This bar has the major advantage of having a very high concentration of good people so the lack of draught Guinness and premier league football is forgiven. We are on our way there now to offer our support and assist with reducing the stock levels.


  • Jeannie Dettori

    Snakes alive! Plus all the other little creatures that abound. – Lovely view of the property from the drone and I see that you have your work cut out trying to keep the undergrowth on overgrowth down. Nothing like a pair of cane knives to help out with the chore. – Sorry about the chooks that have gone AWAL… I guess that means you’ll just have to get some more….pleased that all continues to go well, and that your well works so no shortage of water….enjoy!

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