We have been jungle dwellers now for five years. It is long enough for it to be not so easy to remember life when we were living in a more conventional house and had somewhat more normal jobs and lives. We decide to mark the occasion by leaving Mexico and experiencing other things for a while. Jayne has essential purple stuck in her hair and we are ready.
Our plan is to visit Jayne’s entire family who have all arranged to be in Vancouver from where we are to embark on a week long voyage aboard an unfeasibly vast cruise ship around Alaska. After this we will travel to San Francisco to stay with our good friends and assist each other to go to Nevada. We are again to be part of the vast crew who construct, participate in and pack up the Burning Man event in the harsh remoteness of the Nevada high plains desert.
So after a week of food, family, intensely beautiful Alaskan green nature & all the weather that goes with it we find ourselves in the salt and dust and intense heat of the Black Rock desert for nearly three weeks. As uniquely surreal an experience as Burning Man clearly is we had our hands full this time. The temperatures during the day were ridiculous and the dust storms were severe and frequent. Nothing much knocks the energy out of you quicker than overheating with lungs and eyes full dust. Except maybe Covid. Which we both contracted again. It was definitely harsh but also remarkable. (photos borrowed from various sources including the amazing John Curley & Erica)
So after a long six weeks away we are back home. Our good friend stayed in our treehouse to make sure the cats didn’t eat all the jungle beasts while he worked on our new house. He happens to be a Master Carpenter and is producing high quality bespoke cabinets, drawers, doors, steps and Jayne’s sexy parota desk.
In our absence the wattle and daub upper walls are complete and await large round windows that we have commissioned. Cabinet frames are completed so we can bring in the marmolero who is the craftsman who can cut and install our slice of Italian mountain into sexy quartzy countertops. The front doors are built and need to dry out while awaiting windows. We have the final layers to complete on our earth walls and floor. We also need to complete all the other window installations and our specialist Tadelakt finish in the shower……and then we only need to build our bed and move in. We are getting there.
In the meantime the jungle is offering us just enough challenges to keep things interesting. This time of year you can actually see the vines growing and without attention the bush grows six feet high and takes over everything surprisingly quickly. It took a few hours of macheting to make it possible to move around the land freely again. In the process I managed to disturb a few unreasonably grumpy hornets that took exception to being hacked. They decided to dissuade me by stinging my head a number of times. It’s an effective strategy. I immediately return, chastised, to the treehouse via the newly cleared pathways with a dull machete and a throbbing head.
We are preparing very slowly for our day when we notice a commotion in the treehouse. It feels like the cats are racing around crashing into things and making the sarongs that hang around the place move around. Confusingly the cats are motionless and quietly ignoring the world. This, we discover, is apparently the effect from a 7.6 magnitude earthquake 400 km away, 15 km under the sea. The predicted tsunami didn’t happen but the surfers loved it.
We are passing our front gate heading to town when we noticed a strange shape in the road. On further inspection it was the back end of what looked like a good size snake. It was thick and long and black and lifeless. No sign of damage but no sign of movement. This was exactly the same type of snake that scared the life out of me when it emerged from our pool full of frogs a few years ago. I was curious as to its size so I braced myself and took hold of the tail and pulled. The snake (ex-snake) that emerged was indeed a large specimen. Despite it being smaller than the one from the pool it was a good deal longer than I am tall and also shockingly heavy. Very glad I didn’t get to meet him when he was alive and hungry. I left the body next to the road on a large rock. This was not the best idea. A couple of days later the stench of rotting snake was overpowering !
The weather this year is highly unusual. There are rains nearly every night but the water in the rivers is only just flowing. Our well is currently full but if the aquifers are not fully restored this will not be good for our community. By this time last year I had replaced our road that was completely destroyed four times. This year there just hasn’t been anywhere near the amount of storms, tropical depressions or hurricanes. The past 24 hours, however, we have been hunkering down due to hurricane Orlene heading straight for San Pancho. Thankfully, for us, the grade 3 storm headed North and missed us. Our tropical jungle releases warm air out to sea that had the effect of diverting storms. Much as we can use the water we would rather not lose trees, roofs and roads at the same time.
Since our return we have, however, had some impressive thunder storms. Last week we had seven inches of rain in one night. The lightening hit very close to the treehouse and the resulting thunder claps shook our world. The result was that the lightning took out our well pump and also appears to have frightened off the bees again. We just installed our new replacement pump but, so far, no sign of the bees returning.
I am outside our local mini-store in town trying to get my keys to open the car door. This is not easy as I am carrying a collapsing box of groceries while balancing a drooping open tray of fresh eggs. Suddenly the sky falls in with the noise of a bomb. Twice. I instinctively duck down. The eggs do not. Somehow in an unrepeatable and instinctive display of juggling skills I catch them all before they egg-wash me. I had completely forgotten that it was the start of Saint Pancho days.
This is the infamous week where the patron saint of animals is celebrated by scaring the living shit out of every dog, cat, bird (and egg carrying human) in town by regularly setting off the loudest possible fire works for “religious reasons”. Further traditional celebrations in the town square (when it stopped raining) include dodgy roulette, shooting stalls manned by dogs, deadly fireworks, deafeningly awful live banda music, dancing horses and dozens of aspiring gymnast kids accompanied by their parents consuming jugs of harsh margaritas and a few hundred cans of Corona light.
The whole of the area has a different feel and look this year. The lack of water destruction is very welcome. In its place are acres of plants we haven’t seen before. There is a quick growing fine grass that produces bright yellow flowers that has carpeted large areas. Contrasting the yellow are swaths of stunning red fire blossoms. It’s a stunning look.
It is also, however, distracting. There are a number of golden web spiders that have suspended themselves from golden threads between trees and larger plants. These structural strands are strong like wire and if you are making your way through the jungle mesmerised by the pretty colours you will inevitably be clotheslined by them. Feeling (an admittedly very beautiful) golden strand hit your eyeball is unpleasant.
We are settling back in to our jungle routines. Jayne is back to working from her four poster office until her new desk is completed. I am preparing long list of jobs we need to do and accomplishing just enough of them to keep from being swamped.
We are rewarded by the extraordinary firefly show every night. It’s that time of year. A loose swarm of fireflies will flash their lanterns in their abdomens randomly. But when the swarm reaches a certain density, the fireflies begin to blink in unison. It is almost perfect synchronisation, with rhythmic, coordinated waves of light. We are so very lucky to be right in the heart of it. No plans to leave here again any time soon.