Touch of rain

Jungle Journal

Touch of rain

 In the past months, we have dealt with a high number of infrastructure issues, the jungle jeep, the burglary and its aftermath. Whatever has needed attention since Jayne left in the past months has , of course, been down to me .  I’ve spent what I considered was a surreal time in Toronto until I spent the best part of a month at Burning Man. Most of the time in-between I have been dealing with preparations for what comes next and firefighting what nature has decided to throw at me. It has become apparent that I have been considerably busier than I have realised. I have made a pact with myself to slow down a bit. Smell the jungle. Watch the butterflies. See more sunsets.

I let myself down pretty quickly. The solar system is running terribly and keeps cutting out during the night. It’s 4 am and I’m awake. I’m hot and sweaty and breathing in the thick warm air. It’s impossibly humid and pitch black. The lights are out but worse, much worse the fans are off! The sweat flows slowly and constantly down my body. I am miserable in a warm puddle of myself for long enough to realise I’m not sleeping again and grab torches and clothes and head out to put on the generator.

 It’s a good rule that we don’t walk through the jungle at night. We are too low down the food chain when the sun goes down.  My understanding of this is overruled by my need to sleep and breathe.  Walking very slowly and carefully through the overgrown pathway to the solar battery house focuses the mind beautifully.  I can hear every noise and my eyes are straining to catch any movement. There is no moon. It’s very dark. I manage to walk into a few spider webs. The webs here are vast and sticky . They cling to your head glueing their contents into your hair and face. I spit the bits out and carry on. The ground is soft from the rain. Thin strong vines are everywhere and wrap around my ankles in an attempt to pull me over. It is with great relief that I arrive at the battery house door without being eaten.

I pull out the dead weight of the generator and fill it with fuel by the light of the torch between my teeth. Everything is plugged in and ready to go. I grab the starter cable and give it a strong yank. My arm flies backwards and I end up on my arse in the jungle with the handle in my hand and my torch some feet away in the dark. It’s somewhat disorientating. The starter unit is busted.  I recover myself and work my way down the steep slippy hillside to the Bodega to get tools to fix it. When I finally work my way up and over the hill again I am soaked to the skin with warm sweat, covered in vegetation and a good quantity of fair size bugs attracted by the torch light.  I remove the starter cover and duck sideways as a long strip of metal fails to hit me in the face by not much. My motivation to struggle on in the dark is leaving me. I gather all the parts I can find that are now scattered far and wide. I struggle to lift the fuel filled generator back into the solar house and head for home to better assess the situation.

Missed me by inches this horrible thing.

Dawn is an hour or so away but the air is no less thick and warm.  I try and rewind the sharp metal strip spring into its plastic housing with absolutely no success. It’s effectively impossible. I give in and take a series of showers to survive the heat until daylight.

The morning is spent finding a generator starter-unit fixer. There is tell of such a bloke outside La Penita and I drive up to find him. I find a ramshackle shop stacked with mowers and generators and chainsaws. A very tiny, dirty young guy called Alan greets me nervously. He explains in great detail that the handful of part I have brought him are stuffed and he needs to see my generator. This is communicated mainly but the medium of mime as his Spanish accent is unique and delivered at incredible pace which I use as an excuse for not understanding a word. In the weeks since this first meeting , he and his identically tiny, dirty young brother have fixed two generators, a chainsaw, a mower, a water pump and two weed whackers for me. All for a handful of beans. Alan is my new superhero.  

Caitlin our Australian caretaker has moved on. Probably the inability of the Australians to beat Wales at Rugby again that finally did it. It’s not the easiest to follow the Rugby World Cup in Japan from Mexico. Kickoff is usually 3 or 4 am so you have to be keen. After the match, it only took her a week to find the strength to leave Mausetrappe and head South.

These two deserve each other

She has somehow managed to ingratiated herself very effectively into the local community and a band of mates turn up in the jungle to give her a sendoff.  It starts to rain hard and we all congregate in the palopa next to the bar and around the orange block. The trees are lit up and there is a DJ playing till the solar system finally gives up.  Inside the tightly packed palopa a large piñata shaped as a beer bottle emerges and Caitlin lays into it. To her and (almost) everyone else’s surprise the whole thing explodes and covers the damp, tequila filled crowd in flour.

Party in the pouring rain
Ozzy down
Its just flour …..

September has been unseasonably dry.  The good news for me is that the roads & rivers have been passable so getting in and out has been as easy as it ever was.  A year previously we were crossing raging rivers on ropes. I have been quite concerned our well would not fill and we would have to make contingency plans to gather enough water to get us through the dry season.  I need not have worried. October started with hurricane Lorena followed by a tropical depression Narma.  Much as Lorena came close enough and dropped a steady 20 hours of moderate rain upon us Narma properly moved in.  

A tropical depression sounds like a tough day after too much tequila rather than a scary hurricane so we didn’t really have the usual precautions in place. It’s about 4 pm. I’m pottering around when it starts. It’s a sunny beautiful afternoon filled with bird song and butterfly’s then the sky darkens almost instantly.  Within minutes blinding lightening is striking very close all around and the intense crashes of thunder are shaking the treehouse. The amount of water than is dumped is impressive as hell. For the next many hours, I can see only a few meters out of the windows through what looks like a vast waterfall. I can just make out a proper brown torrid river flowing down our hill. The noise is deafening. Despite my best speakers on full bore I can hear little else but the rain hitting the roof. This is as much rain as I have ever seen in one go.  I didn’t think that was possible having been through monsoons in India and Thailand.  Mexico for the win.

It’s not till much later the next morning that the intensity of the rains stops enough that I can leave the treehouse to assess the damage.  There is a full-on new brown river running past the house. I am wearing rubber wellies to my knees but that’s not good enough. I’m slopping around ungracefully with wellies full of water in no time. I’m nearly taken off my wobbly feet a number of times.  I struggle to reach the casitas that have thankfully survived well. Somehow I stay upright in the fast-moving water. As I move past the casitas I find my water trenches overflowing with silt and half the road down towards the gate washed out.  Deep striations filled with new foaming river.  The tiny stream that was dry a week previously and usually meanders slowly in front of our gate is now unrecognisable.  Its meters wide , fast , deep and raging. There is no way across. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.

I work my way to the gate side and note a large number of broken branches scattered around the place. The lights that were suspended above the round parota tables are on the ground and are in a sorry state. I look up. The landscape has changed. The orange block roof is covered in huge branches. The outdoor shower is completely obscured although clearly in many pieces.  Something dramatic has happened and it’s hard to work out what exactly. There is no way up the hillside which is covered in downed trees. The ground has a coating of leaves that reach above the knee when I try and walk through.  The big clue is that there is a significant lump of brand new sky visible at the top of the hill. A 20-foot shard of wood has appeared pointing to the sky. I manage to climb around the mass of downfall and reach the hill top above the solar panels.

Tree root pointing the wrong way

The first thing to greet me is our internet cable that was previously buried beneath the path . It is now entirely pulled out of the ground.  The huge new wooden shard is in fact a root from a massive tree that has toppled down the hill landing just a few feet from the orange block. Our cable is now attached to the highest point of the root. Way out of reach. This beast of a tree is lying on the hillside. When it stood it was around 100 feet high. Its size and mass has destroyed half a dozen other trees on the way down. Some of these are big enough to have had their trunks smashed in half but still stand. Others are on the ground with branches contorted at all angles.   There are two that are worryingly sizeable that are suspended many feet above the ground. It’s not a safe place to be.

New view from the hill top

Thankfully its only me trapped out here. If this had happened 24 hours earlier then this would have landed on Caitlin’s party.  Doesn’t bear thinking about. Tragedy averted.  No flour dipped bodies to recover. 

Orange block battered and shower smashed

I share photos of my little incident and the raging river outside my gate with friends in town. In return, they send me images of San Pancho entirety underwater. People literally floating down the main street!  I am lucky enough to have adequate stocks of essentials and settle in for a few days of solitude.

Touch of Rain in San Pancho

It has taken a couple of weeks to chainsaw my way back to relative normality. The flattened shower is uncovered and awaits repair.  The damaged water lines are fixed and internet has been restored. The hillside has been cleared enough to get access to the solar panels and batteries.  The solar rig has been refigured after finding a few dodgy batteries buggering up our system and is now working well again…….time to relax ?… maybe?

Much chainsaw work later

It’s October in the tropics. It rains pretty much every night. It gets horribly hot . The humidity is famously inhuman. There are however many distractions. Dozens of fire flies dance around the mosquito net at night. Impressive to even the most jungle weary .  The quantity and variety of butterflies are stunning.  They follow me around apparently attracted by the salt on my skin. On the other hand, I’m coming across the occasional less sexy creatures. There are snakes coming out of the wet undergrowth, a few large hairy tarantulas crossing the path in front me, remarkably huge scorpion eating whip spiders and hornets.  Hornets. My least favorite of beasts. I’ve spotted quite a few hornet nests and dealt with them but the sneaky buggers have had their revenge. 

Stunning varieties of butterflies follow me around . Found a number of this type in the treehouse.
Mexican tarantulas fall from trees
‘Canklays” Whip Spiders: Our Scorpion eating friends

Bad news. The lightening has scared away our bees. The hives are located in a clearing a few hundred meters from our house close to the casitas.  I have had lightning strike very close to me a few times and embarrassingly have dived for cover (far too late) more than once. A friend from town has asked to relocate two swarms at our place. I check out the area and all seems well. Happy bees.  We arrange to meet up and add to our bee stock.  Two days of storms later and I get a call to say both his swarms have vanished. At least twice I have seen hits very close to the hives so I go and check them out. They are abandoned. Not a single bee left.

Abandoned Bee hive

There will be other swarms in our future so I take the hives over to the parota tables and spend some time slowly preparing for new residents. I clean out the wax and repair the wires. It’s a satisfying job only made painful by being stung by a hornet in the leg. Hornet stings hurt. A lot.  They only sting if threatened and almost always protecting their young in their nest.  If you stay around the nest they keep stinging you till you get the message. The correct strategy is to run as soon as you are stung to get out of the sting zone. I leap from my chair and start the hunt for the nest. I check under the table, around the bar and scan the trees. Nothing obvious. Slowly I retake my seat and carry on with the job in hand. My leg throbs.

I get up again to reassemble the newly renovated hive. This time I’m stung twice. In the same leg. I swear loudly and swat the general area with my hand and connect with one large hornet. There is another on my foot. Another circles menacingly around my head so I limp away as fast as I can. I return cautiously and kick over the chair I’ve been sitting in. There it is. An active nest under my seat. For the past hour, I’ve been sitting on top of a hornet’s nest full of hornet grubs.  I deal with it aggressively.

Occupied hornets nest

After considering my luck that I have not been more seriously attacked (or lack of it having sat on a nest in the first place) I set about cleaning up the bar area of broken branches, leaves and weeds.  A few minutes into the job I am stung four more times.  Too quick for me to hop away.  Two on my good leg and two more on my sore limp one. I use my machete to upturn all the dozen wooden chairs around the tables.  There right in front of me, under another chair, is an even bigger nest again full of hornet grubs.  I make my way to the Bodega and collect a poison spray that I save for very special occasions such as this. My legs are dysfunctional. They carry me around like broken candle sticks. I deal with the hornet nest without mercy and call it a day. The hornet poison is making me feel very odd.

The signs are there. I need to slow down . The hornets stopped me for a day or two. I’ve had over a week out of sorts with a irritating ear infection & the added joy of food poisoning that felled me. It’s the first time I’ve had to deal with Mexibum for a long time. Our Jungle jeep is threatening to be ready soon with new roll cage and bull bars and even seat belts.  Everything important here is working again.  I can’t do much more now till the rains stop. I’m allowing nature to set my agenda which in many ways is a blessing. Let’s see what she has in store for my immediate future. Hopefully not a lot. Jayne is back in one month’s time.  That gives me a month to stop charging around so much, deal with the oppressive heat and rest up. It’s what October is for …. I am learning .. slowly.

  • Travis

    Sweet stinging bastard insect Jesus and all the calamities. Impressive – good luck mate.

  • Jeannie Dettori

    Well Beave, you could buy a full length rain coat to cover yourself…….but if people se you walking around in that….it might make your neighbours think you are one of those strange people…….you know “flash” floods a “flash” coat and all that – but I guess the hornets would be a worry!

  • Stef

    WOW Beave hope there is joy amongst the hard work. Full jungle experience for you my love. I miss your face x


    I amusing write up, Beave. I see you are enjoying the full range of Jungle living!

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