Six weeks in the jungle by myself has been both challenging and deeply relaxing. The unspeakable heat and humidity some days left me with no option but to hydrate and stay still. There may be a lengthening list of tasks building up but also an inescapable need to move slowly, be patient and appreciate stillness. If I move too fast or get overambitious my body objects with fatigue and my mind opts out altogether. Humidity and heat makes me stupid. Really stupid. Best to choose strategic prevarication. Enjoy the peace. Look out for whales and watch the jungle grow.
Without my nominated driver, it is less tempting to spend my days at beach bars watching the waves. Huge amount of rain has very efficiently flushed out the rivers and lagoons into the sea. This is not good for water quality. It is wise to avoid ear and eye infections by delaying sea swimming for the few weeks it will take for all the effluent to disperse. Further encouragement to plan little and do less.
One project we have managed to get going is making us irritatingly and unashamedly smug. An unwanted result of managing our hydration is that we produce a ton of plastic waste. We go through a lot of fizzy water which we keep cold and always accessible. Buying just a few extra rehydration drinks from the Oxxo in unnecessarily thick containers and I’m taking a heavy bin bag full of plastic bottles every week to recycle. We have been contemplating getting a fizzy water maker but the small CO2 gas bottles they consume are expensive to refill and not a thing here. A friend introduced us to a hack where a large commercial gas tank (commonly used in bars) is attached to the machine. After a lot of buggering about we finally get everything to work. We now have endless free fizzy water and are saving ourselves bag loads of recycling. Smug.
There is an island reasonably close to us that attracts large number of tourist boats for the entire season. It has steep cliffs, flocks of sea birds, and a mix of vultures and black eagles floating high above on the thermals. The real attraction is that there are countless varieties of fish living in the rocks that surrounds the whole island. A mate has a birthday which is excuse enough to hire a boat and head out for a rare morning of doing things.
We are dropped off in a well-maintained cove where there is shade, tables and a large expanse of coral roped off to create a safe snorkeling area. It’s early morning and completely off season so we are thankfully by ourselves.
We grab equipment and start to explore. My own sexy full-face diving mask proves highly unreliable. It’s not designed for a proper face like mine and leaks constantly. I borrow a spare, well used, set of mask and snorkel and join the others. I don’t have flippers but the current seems to push me wherever I need to go and the warm clear water is seductive. There are very many very stunning fish. We remain in the rocks under the cliffs and are soon a long way from the roped off cove. We gauge that we are probably nearly half way around maybe. It is decided to keep going and circumnavigate the island.
This is not a terrible decision but without flippers and now having to deal with less helpful currents it takes me a lot longer than expected. When we all finally meet up at the boat again it’s been around two hours of swimming. It’s a great spot. I swam with an extraordinary number of freaky decorative fish. When resting on a shallow rock to clear my mask I was joined by a huge hunk of old turtle with a knarly beat up crusty shell. She was a big girl and sat next to me for a moment before vanishing with a single stroke from her flippers. That was a good moment.
There are a few fermented local brews that are becoming trendy. Pulque is the ancient Mexican product of fermented agave sap. It’s a thin and milky looking and tastes a lot like a 6% alcohol fermented agave sap. It’s an acquired taste but lots of folk here drink many consecutive pints. There is a bar in town dedicated to the stuff.
Tepache is a fizzy drink with a smaller amount of alcohol. It’s made by fermenting pineapple. A new series of factory units have appeared on the edge of San Pancho where it’s produced and distributed. They used to be an ugly couple of sheds. The owners have renovated and painted them. One side of the biggest shed has a spectacular funky mural that one single bloke did in three days. It has made the whole area look heaps more attractive.
Halloween is celebrated well at our Mezcaleria. Costumes and Mezcal are a great combination. Day of the Dead is a more traditional affair this year. Cemeteries are full of families again. Graves are decorated beautifully with traditional bright orange marigold flowers, stunning sand paintings and countless candles. In the town square in Lo De Marcos there is live music, elaborate alters with hundreds of photos and a spooky parade of girls made up as Catrina.
October has passed us by. A more normal life style is returning, air is breathable and it’s possible to put on a pair of pants without having to rest for a while in a sweaty mess afterwards. Fireflies have gone, replaced by countless butterflies. The thick luscious jungle is alive with flowers, lizards, hornets, spiders, ticks and snakes. It’s beautifully humbling. And Jayne is home.
After six weeks of Tim Hortons she has returned to the land without snow or Timbits. No rains, fences mended and no bodies to bury. She’s a lucky girl. She has restored our stocks of sheets and towels but, far more importantly, chocolate, paxo and tea. I was approaching panic when I realised I was down to my last months’ supply of Yorkshire Gold. Peace of mind is restored.
In the past few weeks we have again brought in the big machines to move river earth onto the rock beds that used to be our access roads. It’s another temporary fix but with further good fortune we will not see the big rains here for 9 months. Many days of machete work have revealed areas not seen for many months. Over grown beds have been rescued and the rich potent earth is more than ready for us to start planting. The energy here has changed from survival to anticipation.
Our architect and project manager has returned to San Pancho after a surf trip in Baja. We meet for brunch and agree that it is the time to start renovating our new jungle place. The Scorpion Temple. The plan is to have windows. Windows that hold in cool air. We have found some eye wateringly expensive solar batteries to replace the ones we have. It became obvious to us soon after our last investment that the heat of the tropics is not the ideal home for batteries. Even the latest technology, sexily named, Nano-Carbon batteries that we were promised were worth the huge amount of cash. Four have completely failed and the remaining four are just about staying alive. We are researching hard but it appears that four of these new new technology beasts will allow us to run everything we need, including, an air conditioner for our new build. That will be life changing. Small issue still exists of getting them down here from up North. They are a huge wad cheaper in the States but worryingly each of the little buggers’ weigh around 35kg. We need four of them. Not the easiest thing to ship.
So, after a splendid breakfast, we decide to press the button on the new build. The contractors begin this week clearing the land and preparing to start building in the New Year. There is much to do and lots to buy. Mexico has a few days set aside in November where just about everything is heavily discounted. El Buen Fin (short for “El Buen Fin de Semana,” meaning “The Good Weekend”) is an annual nationwide shopping event. It occurs the weekend before Mexican Revolution Day. It’s like an extended Black Friday. There is a real opportunity to save some serious money so it is decided that we will brave the sales and go to the big city and buy stuff.
My infinite patience is tested. My love of hanging around overcrowded sweaty department stores being ignored by the indifferent staff is being tested. There are piles of stuff discounted by 40% but curiously much of it seems to have been marked up about 40% in anticipation. Despite losing the will to live many times, we have oven, fridge, sewing machine, sink and taps and theoretically saved just enough to make this glorious day worthwhile. The best news is they will store the stuff for us till at least February.
We are ready to go. It is agreed to pay for all the building materials in advance to fix the prices which are changing daily. There is so much construction around here that all materials are at a premium and even subject to theft if not stored well. Prices are expected to jump up by as much as 20% in the New Year. We have surveyed a new access road and will install a new secure Bodega in the bush behind the main structure. We can use it for the build and afterwards. If we are lucky we will find a rumoured natural water source nearby that we can tap into. A generator set up will supply volts and amps until our new batteries arrive and we can run cables to carry all our new extra sun power. Now it’s just a question of waiting for the back hoe to arrive. It might be sometime.
The big RVs are arriving again. It’s been a couple of years since we saw them last but now the borders have reopened they are pouring down from Canada and all over the USA. Both Thanksgiving Days have happened which is the trigger for the snowbirds to be released. The RV parks will be full now till Easter.
The airport is mad. This time last year it was empty. There are now around a hundred flights landing every day. It takes hours to navigate immigration and then custom lines and avoid the time share sales people chasing you around with threats of “free” tequila. It takes so much longer to get anywhere. The city moves slowly, stuffed with people and vehicles.
The road from Guadalajara is nose-to-tail traffic every weekend. The Mexican need for beach is too overwhelming when you live in a big city that’s recovering from army enforced lockdowns. Droves of long weekenders are searching for any beach chairs, hotel rooms and restaurants reservations that the incoming fly-in tourists haven’t already filled. This is great for local business for sure but it’s November. The season hasn’t officially started yet and we are packed. Nothing makes us more grateful for our jungle retreat with shitty access roads. It’s a different world out here. Thankfully.