Slow Roads, Poo Smells & a Melty Tree

Jungle Journal

Slow Roads, Poo Smells & a Melty Tree

Our recovery from our grotty gut virus was thankfully swift.  The excuse for a rest was appreciated and almost worth it.  Spring has arrived. It’s a stunning time of year here. The primavera trees are in full magnificent bright yellow bloom and the colours of bougainvillea blossoms bust through the jungle. The remaining flowers the cows have chosen not to eat are popping up everywhere. The whales have moved on as the sea has warmed up. The sky is deep blue every day.

We take time to review our jungly surroundings and make plans to improve things. It’s become obvious that the road that gets us to our land is stuffed and is taking its toll on our vehicles. The sub has required new steering bits again and various suspension bolts have broken on the Razor.  In one single day I managed to get three flat tyres. We have finally invested in new tyres as the ones we had were repaired so often they were pretty much held together with glue and hope. The bed of rocks that were left after the last flood were covered in lose earth but are now reappearing as the dirt dries to dust again. To protect our new tyres we decide to take action.

When the machine arrives to take on levelling the road we are confident that a few hours of pushing more muck around should do it. As is usual, we are wrong.  It takes an hour to clear the rocks from just a few meters of road.  The lumps of stone that are bashing our suspension are but the tips of vast boulders buried deep. When they are excavated they leave great big pits that need filling with new earth. There are dozens of them. The road is now lined with huge impressive boulders. The road is now passable without getting bashed.  It’s a vast improvement. It will be interesting to see what to floods will do to it next time.

San Pancho has been considered a cool and trendy place to be for a very long time. It attracts artists, chefs and musicians from all over the world. The town has (until COVID) staged annual music, food and dance festivals. Such gatherings over the past year have been missed. There has, however, been an upsurge in murals. Local artists have been encouraged to show off their talents.  Heaps of new art has appeared on the walls near the beach and around the town square. It’s impressive.

My attempts at dusting off my surf boards and getting back in the waves have been thwarted.  The last of this season’s waves have been tempting me for weeks and I finally give myself permission to descend into surf beach bum mode once again. My boards are waxed and loaded and I’m ready. It is not to be.

Just before I leave for the beach I make the terrible decision to empty our loo. Our composting toilets are basically large buckets that require emptying weekly into our humanure compost heap where we bury contents under leaves and let nature make us good stuff to plant in.  I very carefully carry a very full bucket down 17 steps from our treehouse and manage to chuck its contents into the compost.  In the process of aiming the heavy bucket in such a way as to avoid splash back, my spine twists in a way it shouldn’t and I’m crippled. I can’t even carry my board so chances of catching waves are slim to none. It takes weeks and a few visits to my favorite back cracker to fix my poo bucket injury.  More time to slow down and wait for waves. Surf bum life on hold.

Semana Santa is the week of celebrating all the saints that ends on Easter Sunday. It’s the week that has traditionally marked a vast exodus of overexcited people from the cities to the beaches.  Convoys of coaches arrive outside town spewing thousands of visitors carrying tents and coolers. Huge families spend a week crammed on the beach drinking endless tins of Corona lite, playing music at full volume and eating biscuits and tacos. It’s best avoided.  Those of us who live here tend to hide . Our place becomes the perfect sanctuary to avoid the masses.

Last year, due to lockdown, Semana Santa was effectively cancelled. Road blocks and beach bans were aggressively enforced by marines and federal police. Everyone is preparing for a post lockdown backlash this year. All the stores are over stocked with high walls of corona lite, biscuits and tacos in anticipation. We stock up with essentials and hide ourselves away.

Finally after running out of excuses and a huge amount of buggering about we manage to attach the polished parota shelf to the kitchen with our custom designed brackets. It’s taken nearly a year to get it sorted but worth the wait.

The anti-climax after Semana Santa 2021 is tangible. No one showed up. If anything, the week before Easter is one of the quieter weeks of the year so far. It’s a blessed relief to many but others have been left with more beer & biscuits than they know what do with.

It’s Good Friday and our Semana Santa hibernation week has been delightful . We agree that The Democratic Cocktail club will host an Eastery event at our bar. It’s an opportunity to emerge from our hiding places and meet up again. It’s another splendid evening and gives us further reason to vanish away again for a few days of recovery and peace.

Easter sees our chocolate orchid in flower. It’s a powerful orange colour that appears once every two years and gives off the distinct smell of Maltesers.

Our gate posts are completed and our actual gate is under construction. It cannot come fast enough as the jungle cows continue night raids into our gardens. We have been hosting Guadalupe, an Argentinian girl,  for the past few months who has been tending and planting and nurturing our food and plant growth. In the last raid, we sadly lost most of her hard work.  All our squash is gone along with, most of our lemon grass and a few banana trees. To add further insult most of our stunningly beautiful flower heads have been munched off. it’s brutal. 

With the highly skilled rock work completed around our gate and hobbit door, attention has shifted to the intimidatingly tough job of getting our driveway completed. Since we agreed a price we have had half a dozen boys collecting and installing tons of river rocks for up to 20 hours a day. It’s an incredible feat of strength and sweat. The concrete is set. It’s done. We now have safe access to our treehouse all year around. It’s taken so many months of extraordinary work but it’s turned out a stunningly transformative creation.  The boys are exhausted. They have worked with us full time now for over a year and have left us to take a few well-earned months rest. We now await our gate.

Our other project is also taking shape. Our summer house/scorpion temple renovation has had some serious attention. Quotes are coming in for roof sections, walls, bathroom, kitchen, mezzanine and all the bits to hold everything together. We are creating a budget from the designs as they develop and dreaming of a day when we can flip an air conditioner switch.  

Amongst the springtime jobs is to keep a solid eye on our vanilla vines. It’s the time of year when we have only a few hours every morning to discover brand new and very short lived vanilla flowers and get pollen inside them quickly before they drop off. Those that pollenate will eventually develop into a vanilla bean. Vanilla is only naturally pollinated by the Malipona bee. Although native to Mexico this is a very rare creature and the chances of one happening by a flower that only ever opens for a few hours is slim. Almost all vanilla orchids are, therefore, hand pollenated.  

My birthday comes and goes leaving me older and heavier.  Jayne takes two weeks off work for the first time in over a year and we take time out to better appreciate our lives.

We eat oysters, drink good wine, watch sunsets and swim in the warm sea. We listen to the birds and watch the lizards dashing through the bush. It’s deeply satisfying to allow ourselves the space to do nothing guilt free.

On the day of my birth we host a party for friends in the jungle. We are fortunate to know so many creative and slightly mad mates.  There is an impressive amount of dancing, singing DJ-ing and general nuttiness. Two of the slightly madder variety of friends proceed to both shock & entertain us in equal measure with a fully costumed and choreographed dance performance of” Like a Prayer” the Madonna classic.  It is perhaps my most unusual birthday gift.

It has been planned for while that we take a few days away from the jungle and install ourselves with a bunch of very good friends in an exclusive beach resort which is 20 minutes away from us. It’s an idyllic spot on a secluded beach. It’s been owned by a good mate who employs great skill and care spoiling us all for a blissful few days. We return to the jungle fully restored. And certainly fatter.

About a km from our land is a water treatment plant. It’s been there for about 5 years and was built but not commissioned. Rumours are that the money put aside to connect it to the town was embezzled and so the building has stood as a testament to Mexican corruption. Over the years a number of small houses have popped up around it and it was assumed that it would eventually fall into disrepair and be forgotten about. That was until the owners of the local polo fields made a deal with the town’s sewage works to pump out partially treated water to the plant and then re-pump better quality water to the polo fields for irrigation.

The first signs that something was happening was when the power company installed electric poles and lines from the highway up to the plant. In order to do that the road out to the plant was widened and graded. After a few intense weeks of installing power, the lights around the plant came on. The night-time peace was shattered by the deep vibrations of the filtration pumps. The plant started to piss out run-off into the dry riverbed which soaked into the surrounding fields. When the fields were soaked the river started running again, filled with the outpourings from the plant.

After a week of operation, the night-time noise was the least of people’s worries. The smell of raw sewage from the plant pollutes the air for half a km in all directions.  We are incredibly thankful we are far enough away not to have to deal with it. It’s revolting.

The offending water “treatment” plant

The run-off water also has its own worrying odour. It smells a like cheap household cleaning fluid. It’s a cloudy colour which algae seems to love. The wet rocks become overgrown with bright green algae and the water appears to be leaving a chalk like residue on the riverbed.

The residents of the area are, unsurprisingly, mad as hell. They have teamed up and employed an environmental lawyer who brings in a crew to examine the plant and take samples of the run-off and ground water in the area. Within a week the lights are off, the pumps are not running and the smell stops.  The rivers are now dry again. The algae is gone but the river bed still has a covering of residue.

We have no idea if this is the end of the polo field’s project. We absolutely hope so. It’s encouraging that Mexico has moved on so far in so little time. Only a few years ago there was no way a community could get in the way of even a highly polluting privately funded project like this.

There are some positives to come out of this. It has certainly brought the community together. Also, large sections of the area now have power lines for the first time. This may result in a lot more terrible loud music being played but that’s slightly better than the choking smell of poo. Slightly.

Strange things happen often. Some easier to explain than others. Another of our trees one day decides to fall. This is far from unusual but this tree managed to do it in slow motion. It’s the tree where “Camel”, our giraffe, is mounted which made the whole thing a touch weirder. It’s a fair sized tree, fairly old and covered with bougainvillaea vines and flowers. Loud cracking noises attract our attention as we see the very top branches headed ground wards gently and very, very slowly. Like an old man taking a slow bow. The trunk bent in half then suddenly releases a plume of water into the sky. It’s dry season?! Where does that amount of water come from?? The tree stayed broken and balanced and wet for a few weeks as it very slowly appeared to melt onto the ground. The whole thing sorta kinda dissolved. Camel has been relocated.

Work has restarted on the highway out in the jungle. Bridges are being completed and earth moved in great quantity preparing for tarmac. Part of the construction involves a convoy of enormous heavy earth moving trucks. These beasts get access to the build sites via our jungle road. Thankfully they turn off and are diverted to the highway not far from the water treatment plant. 

The impact on us is that the construction company has further widened the road from the highway and have pipa water trucks making runs many times a day to keep the dust down as the dump trucks come past.  The result is that we now have a much better dirt road that takes us right up to our own janky boulder lined jungle road. Access to our place just became significantly easier.  But, thankfully, still not too easy.

  • Jeannie Dettori

    Well written as usual Beave. ‘thoroughly enjoyed reading this episode. Glad to hear all is well down Mexico way. Property looking better all the time. Loved all the photographs of your projects.


    Great update on life in the jungle, Beave.
    Keep well.

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