Jayne has finally reached the age of forty. It seems to have taken her a long time to get here. There is need to celebrate. This may be more difficult than we expect. Many of our friends have escaped the sticky air and are elsewhere in the world. Many of our more regular haunts are closed down till the rains stop. It’s a bit risky to arrange anything at an outdoor venue as it’s still raining just about every day. The sun drops over the ocean and the sky sucks in the clouds and the rain and thunder play off each other all night.
Thankfully this is not a problem unique to us. For some reason, I don’t fully understand my life is awash with Virgoans. Astrology is not necessarily my thing but I know without doubt that those born between August 23rd and September 22nd follow me around. A number of them have got together and a joint celebration of getting older is arranged initially on the deck of a beach bar our friends are building but is yet to be completed. We invite folk to join us the weekend before her birthday and bring gin. Our local Mezcaleria is one of the only remaining bars open and agrees to host the after party and hire our favorite local DJ. Should be fun, weather permitting.
It has taken some weeks but the hurricane damage has been sorted enough to get the sub up the road to the treehouse. We have to take it ridiculously slowly and carefully. This is a huge success as walking from town with fuel and water is a ridiculous chore. The big tree that blocked our way has been cut up and dispatched into the jungle. There is enough earth clinging to the rocks to make the roads passable. Just. The many fallen branches are macheted into fire wood. We struggle through the deep layers of crunchingly painful dried spike vines that cover the jungle floor. The hurricane literally blew them out of the trees.
Jayne has booked her flight North and if all goes to plan will spend the entire hot sweaty month of October catching up with family in cold fresh Canada. She has faith that somehow, she can be double vaccinated in time. If not she will have to rebook her flights to a later date.
The luck dragons appear to be on our side and we get news that second vaccines are to be available in another gymnasium in the city. When we get there, we are advised that it is impossible to get a second dose unless we are over 40, had the first vaccination at that location at least a month previously. Jayne is under 40, has never been to this particular gymnasium and was initially vaccinated only a few weeks before. Somehow, maybe due to my stunning good looks and blinding charm we are invited in and are fast tracked to the front of the queue. It’s most likely due to Jaynes command of Spanish, a few tall tales and the undeniable, if sometimes embarrassing, privilege that being a white gringo still holds. She and her family are delighted. I get to look forward to a month in the jungle solo. It’s been a while.
The lightening has become quite dramatic. Flashes light up the jungle like daylight. The big Copomo trees around us have avoided getting direct hits but attract the bolts to land very close to our treehouse. Often the thunder is instant, deafening and travels straight through the timbers. It focuses the mind when suspended four meters above the ground. It is lightening like this that scared off all our bees a couple of years ago. I decide to check next time I’m passing.
Its that time when the golden orb spiders present themselves. If you don’t keep your eyes open you can be clothes lined across the face or neck by a strong wire like thread. Hanging to the end of this thread is a spider that is way too large and irritable that is thrust into your face. It’s not recommended.
I’m on my way carefully to the Bodega with a handful of tools carrying my machete when I see a shaft of sunlight hit our hives and make my way down through the overgrowth to check things out. The jungle has taken over so I have to cut my way in and spend some-time tidying the area, clearing vines and hacking down rapidly growing palms. At my last visit, there were thousands of bees clinging to the outside of the hives avoiding the suffocating heat inside. It’s a bit of a worry that right now, despite all my commotion, I can see no bees at all. The first hive I check by tapping my machete on the side. No response. I remove the security rocks from the lid and lift the upper section. The hive is entirely empty. Bugger.
I am disappointed we have lost a hive. It distracts me from my overconfidence playing with bee houses without any protection at all. Still no signs of life so a little too eagerly I remove the top section of the next hive. What happens next appeared to be in slow motion. From complete silence, I hear the roar of countless pissed off bees being disturbed non-consensually. The hive protecting warrior bees immediately and very efficiently set about discouraging me . I get some very painful stings but take the time to replace the lid before running away as fast as I could. To better piss them off I’m wearing a black T shirt and black socks. I’m quickly hundreds of yards away pointlessly flailing my machete and swearing loudly. They are not letting me off. My chest head, back and ankles are properly attacked. I’m fully at the other side of the land before I rid myself of the last of the tenacious little gits. I’m an idiot who has confirmed beyond doubt that we still have at least one active hive. Good for them.
It’s some days before the aching stings fade and I can concentrate on the important task of creating a pop up gin bar on the beach. It didn’t take long and for the first time in a week the rains held off. We had food delivered and someone made a cake that had a life expectancy of about 15 minutes in the heat. It was somehow devoured before it melted. We had about fifty people turn up which was just about everyone we know at this time of year. At sunset we cleaned up and moved the party successfully to the Mescaleria bar where there was much dancing till very late. We ended up in a friend’s pool and still the rains held off. Jayne was very happy with the start of her birthday week.
After a very slow late breakfast we limped home the following afternoon with more gin that we started with . The day was spent in low pace recovery watching the rains come down hard. We timed our party perfectly as the rains didn’t really stop after that.
Its Thursday 16th September which is Mexican Independence Day. This is the day of Jaynes birth so we decide to mark the occasion with a trip to the big city, a hotel with a bath and a table at a great restaurant. It’s been a while since we got away. It’s raining but the roads and rivers are still passable. Just.
The journey to the city is slow. The rains are getting stronger. We arrive at our hotel to find the entire street is under more than a foot of fast flowing water. We park opposite the hotel and wade across. Its chucking it down. Our planned walk along the seafront is canceled. An hour later we are in a taxi which makes it to our posh restaurant despite the rain coming down even harder. Drainpipes are pouring wide streams of water like waterfalls from every roof onto the roads. We watch the lightening and the constant rain rapidly deepening the flooded street from our window table.
It’s a memorable meal. We are spoilt and grateful as we again realise that walking anywhere is just not possible. We taxi back to the hotel to sit out the storm, over stuffed and suitably refreshed. Jayne has forty short video messages from friends and family all over the world which my mates schooled me in compiling for her. She watches them on the laptop from her bath as lightning flashes fill the room through the window. Nice and dramatic
The morning is deceptively calm. Blue skies and an unnecessary but delicious breakfast. We arrange a late check out. Jayne disappears into the city to get a massage and pampering. I abuse the bath as long as I am able before checking out and setting off to meet her. The blue of the sky has been replaced by dark bruised clouds pouring down the surrounding mountains towards us. I find an old man’s bar directly opposite the salon where she has been reclining while for some hours now as a team of patient girls in white coats have dedicatedly buffed and polished her. She meets me in the bar with all her new gleaming bits. It starts to rain. Proper rain.
Having seen a whole heap of rain for many weeks now it takes something special to impress us. This is indeed special. In no time at all the roads double up as fully functioning rivers. The chances of us getting home are looking very slim. We have a few drinks with the old men who tell us tales of old Puerto Vallarta forty years ago when Jayne was born. It becomes obvious we are not going anywhere, anytime soon, so we recheck into the hotel and head out for another over indulgent feed. The very impressive rains keep coming. I have been in monsoon rains in India, Africa and South-East Asia. These rains match those in their intensity but have the added trick of not stopping. It is official that the road North is closed and that the river in San Pancho has burst its banks. The water level has gone from about 6 inches to over 6 meters (20 feet) in an hour. The water is up to the bridges. Large areas have been washed away. Local old boys tell us it’s more rain than has been seen here for 30 years.
San Pancho river in full flood
The following morning is again calm. We attempt to eat breakfast but fail. We have both eaten more food in the past few days than we have for a month. The only road North is now clear of landslides and mud again, so after a compulsory last bath we stock up on cake, cigars and pies and make the journey home.
We arrive in San Pancho early Saturday afternoon. The river levels have dropped considerably from the night before but we notice straight away the speed and volume of the water. We take a different route off the highway as our usual exit immediately appears damaged. We reach the river and can see that things have changed. The whole river is much wider as the banks have been flattened. The bushes and hedgerows and small trees that lined the river are gone. The usual road from the highway is entirely destroyed. Replaced with deep pits and pointy rocks. The first river is fast flowing and on both sides are steep drops making it impossible to cross even if you could get to it.
We somehow avoid the dips and crevices in front of us and using our most aggressive 4×4 driving get to the second river crossing. A tree and downed power lines block the road so access is only on foot from here. We leave the car and attempt to cross. Pretty much as soon as we take a few strides the water is above our knees and strongly trying to push us under. We abandon that idea and try to circumvent this and the next crossing by hiking through a local neighbourhood which a local lady showed us the last time we tried this. We head in that direction and find more downed power lines and a cement electrical pole fully across the road. We climb over the pole and are met with a cliff like drop off to the river. The road is gone. Not washed out or damaged or replaced with holes and rocks. It’s gone. A road that has been there for decades and only a month previously had dump trucks up and down it all day is no more. The river burst its banks and took it away.
We head for town and persuade friends to take us into their air conditioned world. It’s days before we can contemplate getting home. Even by foot. We are resigned to the fact that all our repair work will be undone. The worry is what else we will find. If one of the big Copomos has fallen next to the treehouse it could be devastating. We are effectively refugees until the rivers calm down enough to give getting home another go.
Jayne is still in town borrowing an office and Wi-Fi . As she works I take on the mission to get home. By navigating downed power lines and finding new safer ways to cross the rivers I eventually get to the road leading to our place. It’s buggered. There are sections of road which are no more. Most of the rest is crater filled with massive rocks at all angles. It’s hard enough to hike over. No chance of driving anything. I get to our gate and things look surprisingly well. The rocks are piled high so access is impossible. Looking up the river to the road up to the treehouse is a worry. The corner of our land has been washed out taking down five of our biggest palm trees. They are all well over a hundred-foot-high and their root stacks are vast. There is a huge tangle of fence posts, palm trees, root stacks and barbed wire making it impossible to pass.
I make my way across the land. The crunching of the dry spike vines underfoot is loud, large broken limbs hang precariously from the trees or stick out of the jungle floor awkwardly where they fell. I’m passing the place where I am avoiding the bees and hear an unusual flow of water. Somehow a small stream is now crossing my path heading down the hill. I am a long way from the water pipes so it’s no leak. The river is behind me and a good few meters lower than where I am. The well which I checked on the way over is many meters below me and the water table a few meters down. Where is this water coming from? A separate water source has appeared that is coming out of the ground above our treehouse which we know to be 80 M above sea-level. It’s a strong flow of water cutting a new channel. It’s all rather odd.
It’s a relief to see our treehouse has not moved or been damaged. Every building we have still has a roof and we have no trees down on the land. We are lucky. The road, however, remains impassable for the next ten days. All the machines we need are fully employed rescuing folk with bigger problems than ours. Eventually we get a machine to work a solid 8 hours to give us access. The fallen trees are shifted around and the river access restored. Large amounts of dirt are poured on top of the rock beds to fashion a road of sorts. It is now possible to deliver water, food and fuel to the land without exhausting ourselves. It’s been a pretty tough time but others had it much worse. The river took a lot of land and property that will never be seen again.
This is the fourth October I have spent here. October is brutally beautiful. The jungle is every colour of green, the vines overtake everything as you watch, fire flies light up the night . The rains have all but stopped for a while but are now replaced with thick warm cloaks of humidity. The air we breathe delivers thick soupy warmth in our lungs which is no comfort. It takes but a few steps to induce profuse dripping sweats. Clothes stick to skin annoyingly so are discarded. Good job I’m so isolated. Lying motionless on dampening towels in front of a fan is the only rest bite. It’s exhausting.
So October is here. Jayne is not. She’s breathing in fresh dry Vancouver air and cooking pies for Canadian Thanksgiving. Our Thanksgiving was cancelled as our Canadian hosts are without power and water because someone decided to dig them up. Pinche Mexico Te Amo. It’s now possible to get to town but the motivation to do anything at all in this heat is sadly lacking. It’s going to be a slow month but with great luck we won’t get smashed by weather again. There is a heap of post rain maintenance to do. The entire jungle needs some taming. Our water pump needs replacing. Vehicles need repair. Large sections of our fences need rebuilding. Little by little it will all get done. In its own time and space. Eventually. No pressure.