So our fading patience with our totally useless mechanic in Chapala has finally come to an end. It’s taken over 18 months of almost comical excuses, unbelievable lies and vacant promises to get us to this point. We need to arrange an intervention and somehow get our vehicle away from these inept morons. We have a plan.
To get things started we will need to call the equally useless mechanic’s wife to let her know that we will be at her shop to remove our now almost mythical jungle jeep in the next two days. In order to have everything in our name, there is, of course, the inevitable Mexican process. We have the name of a fixer who has agreed to queue up at the vehicle document office in Guadalajara at 5 am the morning after we arrive. He will present all the required documents (currently with the morons in Chapala), pay all unpaid taxes that the morons have agreed to cover and offer proof of identity by presenting our very precious Temporary Resident card. This card has taken us well over a year of painful trips to immigration offices to get hold of and we are wholly nervous that it will be leaving our sight in the hands of an unknown bloke who appears drunk whenever we try and message him.
There are few other options. This is what is required if we want our sexy wheels back. There are a number of things that must happen. We MUST somehow make sure the morons do what they have agreed to do for the first time ever. They MUST deliver all the paperwork to fixer-man by end of the day tomorrow or we are stuffed. We MUST drive to meet drunk fixer-man in Guadalajara and hand over our ID card. We also MUST find ourselves a trailer or dolly to add to our van so we can tow the thing back. Despite endless assurances that the jungle jeep is mechanically sound we have absolutely zero confidence that it will be drivable with any semblance of safety. We have reviewed the situation carefully and there are a worrying amount of “musts”. Despite the very many ways this plan can go very wrong we have decided to take it on. We make the call. We leave at first light.
The drive to Guadalajara is around 2 hours through winding switchback single lane roads and then a further 2 hours on the posh new toll highway and an hour to get into the city. We set off early with the promise of a dolly trailer that we can collect from our beloved mechanic in La Penita. The plan, if somehow successful, is to deliver our newly rescued machine and trailer to his shop in three day’s time. We contact our fixer-man to let him know we are on our way. He responds by indecipherable text messages and a few voice messages that lead us to believe he is very drunk at 11am.
Our bee man currently lives in Chapala and has asked us to collect and deliver a Yaka tree for him. We find his tree man on the winding highway who happily loads the tree into our van … along with a further 19 trees and three huge, heavy and very ripe Jack Fruit. Over the next few hours the van develops a strange sickly Jack fruity smell.
We contact the morons who eventually answer their phone. We say the word MUST a lot. They agree, better agree, promise and double promise to deliver the documents to the drunk fixer-man that very day.
We become aware that we are spending much more than budgeted on the various sections of toll road. It works out that as we have another set of wheels attached to the truck the toll booth computers are automatically charging us half as much again. As usual everything is happening in its own time and space so we are behind schedule and need to meet fixer-man in an hour. We decide it’s sorta worth it to pay the tolls to save the couple of hours of driving the alternative route would add to our day. We work out that the tolls on this section of highway alone will cost us significantly more than the average day wage here. It explains why we have the road pretty much to ourselves. There is no way most folk can afford to spend over a day’s wages to save two hours driving. It gives us hope that when they finish the highway next to us it will be equally ignored.
A rendezvous is arranged and we park up at an agreed spot in Guadalajara and contact fixer-man. He is on his way. Within ten minutes a relatively normal, cheerful and surprisingly sober bloke arrives. We are mightily relived. After some reassuring chat he takes our ID card and promises to be in touch the next day so we can meet him to collect the goods. We let him know the morons will deliver the documents he needs later that day. He gives us a look. He has dealt with the morons before. We can tell he is not confident.
Our hotel is rather posh, surprisingly inexpensive and located directly in the middle of a city that is not set up for parking a van and trailer. There follows quite a lot of buggering around with finding a parking lot and disconnecting the trailer and then losing our way back the hotel and failing in every way to find a place to eat. The city is packed with people and traffic and is a world away from our daily lives. We are tired and grumpy and after a few beers head back to the hotel to put this day to bed and prepare for our intervention in the morning. We shower the deeply ingrained muck from our bodies and irretrievably change the colour of a few hotel towels. Cleaner and exhausted we collapse on the large soft bed. We get a text message. By some miraculous shift in the Universe the morons have delivered the paperwork. We are on!
It’s too early but we get ourselves moving, retrieve the van and trailer and head to a much recommended spot close by. Tonola has all the things we buy locally and in PV for a fraction of the price. It’s particularly famous for cheap ceramics and tiles. We spend the hours awaiting the call from fixer-man by loading up on metal hardware, an oversize ceramic BBQ, a few ceramic mirrors and water dispensers. There are a heap of shops selling plaster statues for very few pesos. We have an idea of spray painting random animals, skulls and angels and hiding them in the jungle. May have got slightly carried away. Our van is now full of trees, stinky fruit, a huge BBQ, boxes of random ceramics, a number of plaster giraffes, a large jaguar, six Buddha’s, five skulls and an oversize cherub.
We get the call. Fixer-man has our stuff ! Good news. He now needs morons to transfer him the taxes he paid and his fee and we are good to go. The fun starts. We call moron to let her know we will be with her within the hour and she needs to send the money she agreed to pay. And so it begins. Tales of woe. Tales of hardship and toil. Tales of misery and starving children. In short she has spent all our money and is skint. She may be able to do something in the morning when she is expecting a payment. This was not an unexpected turn of events but non the less a touch frustrating. We decide to go and collect the jungle jeep. The time has come. No one is going to stop us. I haven’t shaved in a while and am somehow back to my usual mucky self so I’m not looking very civilized . We think this might help.
Onwards to Chapala which we remember as a quiet and picturesque place. We head straight to the shop and spot our very distinctive black and red machine parked on the road. Moron wife greets us and immediately starts talking. She keeps on talking and doesn’t take a breath. We listen to her endless apologies, excuses, poor me stories and promises of money in the morning. In the 20 months she has had our Jungle Jeep they haven’t done a thing to it. It’s exactly as we left it all that time ago… just with more dust and rust.
We get out of there as quickly as we can and head to see some friendly faces and some cold beers. I drive the beast following the van. This is a short but bum clenching journey. A few hundred yards down the road I’m scared. There is a huge amount of power for such a light weight chassis and the brakes aren’t up to controlling it. The back tyres lock up and I’m skidding and sliding along behind the van. It is with much relief that we arrive at our great friends who kindly agree to house the thing overnight. Good job we brought the dolly trailer.
We depart in the van to find our bee man and get rid of the stinky load. Our van is gratefully unloaded. He is living next door to his ex-wife who offers us a very cheap apartment room for the night. We are ready for sleep. It does not, however, take long to realize that we are not alone. Now we have all had a few mosquitos in our room before but nothing like this. There are hundreds of the little bastards. I hide pointlessly under the thin sheet and continue to get eaten as Jayne becomes frenzied with the buzzing in her ear holes. She leaps around the room smacking at them with her hands and swearing. She kills dozens of them but it makes little difference. It’s a miserable night compounded by the fact there is no water in the taps or shower or loo. We make our exhausted escape early to meet friends for breakfast.
Mexican driving licenses require you to declare your blood type. Neither of us have a clue what our blood types are. Enquiries to family doesn’t help either. We need a test. Chapala has a very high contingent of gringos of retirement age. One of the best places to retire in the world apparently. They have Goldilocks weather most of the year. Not too hot. Not too cold. One of the features of a town full of retirees is that there are health testing labs everywhere. We take advantage and donate some blood for testing. I am A+. Sounds like the best one to me.
After the blood distraction, we walk along the Malecon next to the lake. We stop for a bite in a fish restaurant overlooking the lake that serves the most amount of seafood for the least amount of pesos. While taking on the mound of fish we resign ourselves to the fact that there is no way moron will come up with any cash and that we need to pay the taxes. It’s not unexpected and we have decided to consider it a life tax. At least we get the jungle jeep home. We spend an age sending cash to fixer-man via the till system in a pharmacy and then head to confront the moron one last time. I’m full of fish and secretly quite enjoying the fact that I don’t have any need for the morons from this moment onwards so can dispense some honesty and not have to listen to any more of their bollocks. I find her and let her know in no uncertain terms my displeasure. I have developed a strategy so she is not off the hook. I have claimed to have borrowed the money for the taxes from a friend and that she now owes him the money. This lovely bloke happens to live close by, is well known to the morons and in a position to further damage the shop’s reputation in the town. He is well up for it. We may never see a peso of what she owes but we have removed the morons from our lives and that feels like a bargain.
Our friends load us into their car and take us into Guadalajara to meet fixer-man. Thankfully the traffic angels were with us and we manage to get in and out again with all our officialness completed and ID returned within 4 hours. Time for beers and burritos and an early turn in at another friends casita.
The quiet reputation of Chapala, however, is in serious doubt. The church fireworks start early and send shockwaves throughout the night. They annoyingly mark a random saint or virgin or event that no one can tell us about. Rumours abound that the church folk are bored and just like setting off fireworks and don’t need a reason anymore. To add to the night’s festivities at 3 am a full Mariachi band kicks off! At 4 am they start up again. Why??? It pays to have hearing loss in Chapala we have discovered.
It’s way too early when we finaly give in, get up and head for home. As usual nothing is straight forward. The jungle jeep starts after the addition of more fuel and a spray of carb cleaner in the air-inlet. We then discover that the GMC Jimmy 4×4 on which this thing is built won’t work with two wheels on the ground and will wreck the transmission. We can’t find a way of disconnecting the drive shaft so we have to take the whole assembly out entirely. That takes some doing. We are finally on our way by about 10.30 am. Just in time to meet static traffic. A lorry of apples has overturned on the switch back road and the queue goes back for miles in both directions. Further joy as we discover the tolls are now double for us with two vehicles. It takes us 8 hours to get to La Penita and off load the Jungle Jeep and the trailer at our mechanic’s shop. It takes a further tortuous hour and we are on our way back to the peace of our treehouse which we have missed so much. We need to sleep. We are somehow contented by the very weary satisfaction of a tough job completed. In a few weeks time we will have our properly restored Jungle Jeep to play with. At last.
We park the van by the pool and I head up the hill with a gallon of oil to top up the Razor and then drive it down the hill to collect all our stuff. The plan hits a snag when I find the Razor entirely gone. In exactly the place where the Razor was there is nothing. I head straight for the tree house. The door is locked but as soon as I open it it becomes very clear that we have been robbed. The house is a mess of papers and destruction.
This is a new experience for me. I have, mercifully, never been burgled before. My reaction was surprisingly calm. Before I could even take stock of what was missing I considered what would have happened if I had been I the house at the time. I truly believe that would have been very messy and very serious; the consequences of which I really don’t want to consider. I could be in prison, on the run or dead. So we have lost some stuff but we are ok and it’s only stuff. The cats happily continue to knock lumps out of each other and appear pleased to see us. Most of my most valued items remain. My beloved tea mug. My frog carved for me by a 7 year old Balinese boy still flies on the ceiling. All my SWAG necklaces, masks and art from my travels still hang from the walls. For some reason they didn’t take any of my magnificent shirts ???
Jayne is also measured but clearly shocked. She rings 911 and surprise surprise no answer. Now what do we do? We call our man who turns up for support and I take a large stick and go and check out the rest of the buildings and workshop to see what has been taken. Thankfully nothing else has been disturbed. We have a fabulous mate in town who is very connected with police matters. She is a force and gets the local vigilante group out immediately to take a look and then goes to the next town to get the police as the San Pancho police are not home! It’s Friday night at 8 pm and when the Police show up they are just a bit too relaxed. Because we have opened the door and entered the place they are not interested. They won’t take fingerprints or DNA as the scene has been contaminated by me entering??? One of the police officers takes a statement. The education levels here are basic and frustratingly he has the writing skills of an 8 years old and the comprehension skills a few years below that. He asks us to list everything that is missing but we aren’t allowed in the house or to touch anything. Somehow we manage to stay calm in the face of incompetence. We agree to visit the police office in the morning and make a full statement. At least they have come out which helps with our insurance. We are told that a year ago it would take them weeks to even turn up.
At times like this there is a tendency to be paranoid and suspect people and unreasonably extrapolate any information people give you and it can drive you quite mad. As far as we know the Razor was the target. It is one of the most identifiable vehicles in the whole of the state. There isn’t another one like it and it’s loud enough to be heard a mile away and everyone but everyone knows it belongs to us. It’s likely the Razor was being watched and stolen to order. It’s likely out of the country or in some far off state by now. Our house was targeted to get the spare key out of our lock box. In the meantime they took a few suitcases and filled them with everything of value. Laptops, kindles, hard-drives, headphones, torches, power packs, jewellery, speakers, knives, stuff, stuff, stuff. No idea how well our insurance will cover us but it should take some of the sting out of it financially. The big losses for us are Jayne’s jewellery which has immeasurable sentimental value and the huge volumes of photos & data we will never recover. We won’t be leaving the place empty again. Our mistake.
People have been exceptionally kind with their offers of help. After some careful consideration, we would like to ask for something. We would like anyone who knows us (or hasn’t met us yet) to send us photos of our time together (or not together). All the big scale art projects, family, festivals, parties, surfs and feasts photos have all gone so if you have any of those then please send us a copy. In fact if there are any photos you know would make us smile please send them. You can keep any you may have of cats and babies. It’s possible to survive without those ones for now. Jayne has created this link to make it easy and so we can do some curating. We very much look forward to see what we get!
We both very much appreciate the love & support chucked our way. We really are OK but with a lot less stuff.
Apologies for the lack of relevant photos but we don’t have many left. This was written on a borrowed laptop. Normal service will be resumed at some point. In the meantime here are some random ones of our cats.