My ability to capture our lives in this blog has been somewhat scuttled due to a number of reasonable excuses of late so there is a bit of catching up to do. First and foremost, not having a laptop has been a fairly demotivating factor. My newly purchased tablet has been bloody useful and reconnected me with the wider world but is a compete pain in the bum to type on. The frustration of insanely programmed predictive text and a randomly functional narky touch screen rather than a key board has been frankly too annoying to face.
The days after we were burgled were very strange. There was gratitude for what we had left and acceptance of what we had lost. The process of gathering police reports and evidence for the insurance company is never a joyous process but the Mexican way beggars’ belief. Convoluted requests for notional paperwork mixed with conflicting advice of how to get them combined with almost fictional bureaucratic madness combine to send the sanest of us completely bonkers.
At one point, we are asked to return to the police station 10 miles away to request that all the paperwork they gave us is reprinted and stamped with an official stamp. The admin girl there is stern and officious but Jayne has melted her stony heart and they get along fine. The paper work is redone and stamped and we are presented with a bill that must be paid and certified. It’s a total of 30 pesos. Less than 2$US. We happily try to pay the girl but police stations are not allowed to take cash. In order to achieve what we need we are instructed to drive to the official payment office and return with the receipt to be authorized. The payment office is 50 miles away. That’s a 100-mile round trip to pay 2US$. We look at each other in disbelief. Even Madame Admins expressionless face cracks a little as we ask her to explain this to us a few more times very slowly as we frankly don’t believe it. As it happens her love for Jayne manifests in a dodgy side deal that makes the process easier but we did indeed have to travel 50 miles to pay for the photocopying.
I will be kind and save you the many further tales of extraordinary pedantic police administration we witnessed and endured. I am happy to report that some weeks later we have been paid for one insurance claim. When someone eventually admits to understanding the system that they are employed to manage and lets us know how they want us to invoice in the correct way we should presumably get paid for the other. Without Jaynes excellent Spanish, our endless patience, perseverance and our thick sweaty pasty skin this would have been impossible. Insurance companies here make themselves safe from any poor unfortunates that may actually need any money from them by constructing seemingly endless levels of increasingly nonsensical administration. Maybe it’s a universal business model. Bastards.
It’s a few days after we get back and we are busy re-sorting our lives and taking stock. We are anticipating the rains arriving soon and it’s already hotter than is absolutely necessary. Not expecting any guests any time soon. We are interested what life will throw at us next. Then we find out. Jayne gets an email from Toronto.
In one of her former lives Jayne has been a significant player in the world of transit. Getting people from one place to the other. The fact that in London anyone can get on a tube, train or bus by waving a credit card at a bleepy box is down to Jayne and her team. The heady days of long sweaty queues juggling change at counters or machines to work out what ticket you may need are no more. Toronto want to move from sweaty queues to bleepy boxes so need Jayne to make it happen. They need her enough to offer a short-ish term contract at very sexy money. So there is a decision to make.
We don’t need the money even though it would change our lives short term. Jayne does not have to leave her beloved jungle home. The cash is the temptress. It would allow us not to be beholden to chasing Airbnb 5-star rating from guests. It would allow us to build more infrastructure, spend more time on our own projects and attract heaps of art. We as a couple have not spent much time apart so that in itself would be a fairly dramatic new dynamic. The contract does offer the potential in the near future to find ourselves in a position where we both live in Mexico and Jayne remote works a few days a month and we would be entirely self-sustainable. That is the real golden goose. It takes a lot of soul searching but it has been decided upon. Jayne has accepted the contract and is required to start in Toronto in about a week.
In what seems no time at all the treehouse is in bits again as everything we own is dragged out and half of it imported into our remaining luggage. Friends offer to lend Jayne all the essentials she is missing for her new temporary city existence. There is quite a lot missing. Silly little things such as clothes and shoes. We have one night out in Puerto Vallarta and then very early Jayne flies out to a posh hotel for a few days while she looks for an apartment to rent and I am left alone in the jungle with the cats. This is a huge change and it has happened so quickly. These last weeks have all been something of a blur.
Our treehouse is a modest 6M x 6M but now there is so much less stuff and only the three of us it seems somewhat larger. The jungle seems to have expanded too. All this space all to myself. It’s been a while since I’ve had this much time for just me. It takes a short while to readjust and settle in. It’s a good few days before I find myself leaving the jungle or talking to anyone. I spend the time digging drainage trenches , building furniture, rearranging my new living space for one and preparing all the many thing for the coming downpours. It’s exhausting and distracting.
Moving myself and stuff around the Jungle is a different prospect now the Razor is elsewhere. Django (our 1982 van) is our only form of transport and is limited to where it can go and at what pace. It currently has 480 000 km on its clock. Life slows down noticeably as a result. When the rains come properly it will need to live in the town as it will get trapped out here. Our jungle buggy is getting a new suspension, seats and wheels so no sign of that for a while yet. Thankfully our stunningly generous friends, currently in the USA for a few months, lend us their jeep. Now jeeps have something of a crap reputation here. There is a romantic image many gringos from the USA have of travelling around the tropics in an open top jeep. To the obvious delight of local mechanics many do just that. Jeeps are their no.1 source of income. Despite its reputation we gratefully accept a solid 4×4 that will get me across my land. Over the week or so I used it I sorta kinda got to like her a tiny little bit. She has stiff suspension and is a bone rattler for sure but it didn’t miss a beat going up and down our hill.
I get a call from town. Our well head turtle sculpture is ready to go. Exciting stuff. The paint required to protect it from rusting away has arrived and applied in funky style. It’s now clearly a male turtle. We load him up on a truck and bring him out. In place, he looks extraordinary. He is named Wel-Ed. The day is getting ridiculously hot but there is work to be done. I prepare the area and mix concrete. A mate turns up out of the blue to deliver life saving ice cream and give me a much-needed hand. We are both soaking wet with sweat and dizzy in the heat but it is done. Wel-Ed is solidly in place and he looks magnificent. Our first commissioned art piece.
The process of getting accommodation in Toronto is proving a touch more challenge than expected. After spending many hours on line reviewing small but luxurious apartments it becomes apparent that many of the adverts are scams. We quickly learn these scams are well known and frequent in Toronto, Vancouver Seattle and many other places. Dodgy buggers armed with much cheek and gab trawl Airbnb sites for pictures of apartments and then re-post them as rentals on Craig’s list and fake websites. They ask for upfront deposits. When renters arrive at their new home they find it already occupied by the actual owner or legitimate renter. We came across a load of them. All pushing hard for deposits up front and reluctant to show you the property. Took a week before Jayne navigated her way around the unscrupulous and moved into a rather posh, if compact and overpriced, apartment not too far away from the office so she can walk to work. Let the temporary nesting begin. Bring on the gin and Tim Bits. Tim Hortons who are the ever-present coffee provider of choice in Canada also offer highly addictive boxes of small round doughnut type balls (Tim Bits) with varying levels of sugar coatings. Canadian crack.
The highway construction has been relatively quiet recently. Environmental groups have been conducting studies to see what the actual effects on the wildlife are manifesting. A group who track Jaguar have been working close by and we meet up. They are tracking about a dozen Jaguar who are all very close. One of them is over 100kg in weight so we are advised to be cautious. They have set up cameras and hung pig guts in the tress to attract them. These photos were taken just a few hundred yards from our house. Jaguar are not interested in humans as food and concentrate their attention on cattle. Their greatest danger are cattle ranchers who shoot them. To prevent this the Mexican government pays farmers a good price for any cattle the Jaguar take. The problem is that the paperwork and administration is also very Mexican and most ranchers can’t or won’t go through the compensation process so continue to shoot them. The conservation teams have jumped in and now take on the administration on the ranchers’ behalf to encourage them to keep the guns away from the Jaguar. This bit of direct smart conservation action is making a measurable difference.
The land is looking good. Drainage ditches are in place and I have stripped all the beds and prepared the place as best I can to cope with the water that is forecast very soon. I have installed tarps over the kitchen and a water repellant coating on the outside walls of the most vulnerable casitas. My dear mate from Lo De Marcos has asked to live on the land for the Summer and help out. More than anything this will allow me time away if needed. I start a plan to visit Toronto for a short while.
I am approached by a local girl who lives in the guts of the town on the main exit road where all the construction traffic passes 24 hours a day. She is looking for a more peaceful place to stay for a few months. She wants to garden and generally keep the place clean and functional during the time when we don’t have guests and do have thunderstorms every night. So that’s two self-sufficient people on our land for the Summer. Result !
An Australian friend of Jakes contacts me. She is in Columbia and heading North and interested if there is a place to stay over the next month or so. There is a ready-made small community developing with the aim of making thing better here. I have agreed for all of them to be here until November. That is the rainy season covered. Be great to have some help and keep the place alive. I am starting to realise this new situation removes my best excuse for not going to Burning Man this year.
Jaynes contract goes up to the end of December. She can leave with 10 days’ notice but potentially she won’t be back till Xmas. She is not the jaded old burner I have become so is very keen to go to Burning Man in Nevada again this year. www.burningman.com We have great friends who have recommended us to an infrastructure build so we have been offered staff passes and the ability to arrive way before the masses. It gives Jayne a much-needed break from city competence in the freedom of the desert. La Colina is now occupied so I have run out of excuses not to join in. My resistance is weak and I crack under the considerable pressure. I’m in and flights to Reno booked. Here we go again.
The rains arrive. A huge storm of tropical proportions delivers a vast amount of water in the shortest time through the night. Lightening is close and the thunder rips the sky above the treehouse. It’s been a while since I was in one of these. Spectacular. The morning shows that the water ditches were 80% successful and show what adjustments need making. I check the well. The water is back for now. It’s been a worry as we have had no well water for weeks. The source stream up in the hills that feeds all the dwellings between me and the town stopped flowing for the first time in 40 years the week before. Relief.
The frogs and toads have turned up again. Raucous amphibian orgies keep me awake for another couple of wet nights. The pool has had no water for weeks and is in a sorry state. It’s now home to countless swimming beasties. There are long strings of toad spawn , water beetles and many thousands of tadpoles. There are also masses of horrible looking things that constantly swim vertically from the bottom of the pool to the surface and back again. They are a few inches long, black, a cross between a fat slug and a hairy caterpillar with fins and a large head. They look like something from a bad movie and there are hundreds of them. When there is enough water I’ll restore the pool to the humidity sanctuary that it will become for the Summer. In the meantime it will have to remain a well occupied jungle pond.
So things have rapidly shifted from jungle solitude to a full schedule of travel over the coming weeks. I let it slip that I am flying to Toronto and the word gets through to an animal sanctuary in Sayulita http://sayulitanimals.org . These lovely folk rescue animals in bad situations and get them adopted around the world. There are two puppies that have new owners in Toronto and they are desperately looking for a mule to transport them to their new owners. They bombard me with messages and calls. I am puppy mugged. It looks like that’s going to be me.
So I gather what could be considered relatively normal clothes and an empty suitcase and am collected by the animal sanctuary with two four month old puppies and head to the airport. They are by any standards cute. Even the process of checking in is hampered by adoring crowds. I am to carry these little buggers all the way through Dallas and then onto Toronto. By the time I get onto the first plane and they are squeezed under the seat in front me there is already a small dedicated crowd of puppy followers. If you would like to experience the attention usually saved for the most famous and beautiful people carry a box of puppies through an airport. I’m mobbed. It’s past midnight when I arrive in Toronto and get through the hoops and special inspections to get dogs into Canada. The new owners are waiting with great anticipation but they have to wait for Jayne who is first in the queue to greet me. Two happy new puppy families later we head in a taxi towards the city.
Its already a bit of a head twist, post-puppies, arriving in Toronto centre at night. Our rather posh apartment has a view over the city and the CN Toronto tower. It has automatic blinds, a TV the size of me , a dishwasher , ice maker, heating and air-con . It is also home to a fully automatic toilet with an electronic control panel to allow for a number of bum washing and polishing options. Bit of a change to the usual bucket in a box option. I look out into the city from our posh apartment with a glass of cold chardonnay. It absolutely feels like I have landed in a graphic novel.
So walking to the office with Jayne in the mornings shows that perhaps I’m not entirely city conditioned. The amount of other people is a touch overwhelming . Crowds of them at pedestrian crossings all packing the pavements heading to their offices. No one talking to each other. Half of them dodging joggers, bikes and traffic while staring at a phone. Then at 9 am peace descends on the city. Office folk are in their offices and everyone else is in a Tim Hortons. Shops don’t open till 10 am . It’s altogether a bit strange.
So as Jayne applies her genius at work I am released to Toronto. I spend far too much time in the Apple store and not quite enough time buying tools at Home Depot. We stock up with tech, shoes, clothes and cheese. It’s a very multicultural city with all the benefits to gastronomy that brings. It’s good to catch up and our week is brightened by fresh Pad Thai, home cooked chicken, a quite superb Moroccan lamb , authentic Japanese dishes, Portuguese sardines, dozens of buck-a-shuck oysters and very importantly buckets and buckets of much missed Guinness. We add culture with a trip to an interactive art exhibition and a night at the theatre. It’s all very different. I haven’t been bitten by anything for over a week.
I’m very grateful that Jayne is so well appreciated by her colleagues and that we have the money to enjoy time in what is without a doubt a very expensive place to be. As I drag my over-packed bags back to the airport Im absolutely looking forward to getting home. The luxury of well paid city life is a measure of great success for many. We can certainly appreciate it for a short while but it’s clear our basic human needs are met elsewhere. I am most grateful that we both know that and have our self created sanctuary in which to stay just the right side of sane. Jayne will be back in our world soon enough. It’s not easy to play the game when you know its not the game for you. We just have to change the game.
Arriving back after just over a week away is a shock. The whole place looks entirely different. The dust has changed to dark rich earth. The paths are overgrown with vines and covered in fallen branches. The roads have been washed thin by the flooded rivers that are now showing signs of flowing and are full of rocks after the storms . The pool is now two feet deeper. The tadpoles and black hairy swimmer things twice the size. Since I left there have been real tropical storms. Huge quantities of water and lightening.
The effects are not entirely welcome. A few days before I return the power went out. The solar system is showing fault lights and it’s tropically hot. We don’t have lights , refrigeration or more importantly fans ! I spend the next two days sweating like never before while tracing and repairing potential faults. It’s so hot I can’t think. I find myself sitting on the sharp jungle floor with a breaker box in pieces in front of me. Ants are biting my feet and my head is under constant attack from mosquitos. The heat turns me into an even more obvious moron. My over heated brain feels like its forcing it’s thoughts through warm soup. I spent half my time looking for my screwdriver with my right hand that I eventually discover in my left hand. I have been up at 7 am in order to speak to three separate solar inverter experts around the world who all give me conflicting advice. The latest is to remove the entire 40kg inverter and send it to Mexico City for repair. I can’t face the idea of that unless absolutely necessary . Even my soupy brain tells me they are all talking bollocks. I pass out and wake up a few hours later with an idea. I return to the solar inverter which I have stared at for hours and flick a few switches . Power is restored. I am saved.
It has occurred to me only today that I have one week to get myself ready to fly to Reno. I must not only prepare the land for leaving for the best part of a month but I must entirely prepare myself for burning man too. So I have a week to clean the pool and fix the water pipes , collect and return the jungle jeep, replace security cameras and finish this overdue blog. Then I get to pack enough stuff to leave the humid tropical heat of our jungle and spend a month in a hot dry dusty salty desert. I’m looking forward to be dehydrated in a whole new and exciting way . Lucky me.