The land neighboring ours is a huge lump of untamed nature around 20 hectares that remains empty most of the time. The family who own it have ambitions to sell to some yet to be identified gringo for a huge wad of pesos. They are somewhat deluded. The zoning is restrictive so it’s really not that saleable. The cattle that were grazing there have been moved on as they were a bit too much effort to look after. The many dozens of chickens that inhabited the area are down to but a few. There is little water and access is not good. During the rains it’s pretty much cut off.
We have a visit from a softly spoken ancient old bloke who is trying to build a Catholic church deep in the jungle. It’s a strange ambition and we have no idea why. Maybe he has decided at his very advanced years that it’s wise to make peace with whoever and maybe in some way improve his odds of salvation. He has an idea where he will pay for big earth machines to cut a road through our land and onwards through the dense jungle for the few kilometers up to his land where the Church is under construction.
He is a cheeky bugger. We very politely decline his kind offer. We risk the wrath of a vengeful lord and absolutely refuse to build his Church an access road. There is an existing route that follows the river up to his spot. Despite it getting washed out a number of times a year it will have to do to serve the needs of the almighty.
He is also, we discover, a resourceful bugger. He approaches our neighbours family and sells them on the idea that they can also get much better access to their land by building his road to redemption. This will theoretically make it more desirable to gringos. They agree and a line is drawn on a map. It shows the proposed construction missing our land but following the arroyo outside our house and then cutting through the jungle upwards and onwards. They agree to build a gate that can be locked which will effectively make it a private access road only. Gods work starts almost immediately.
Within two days of long hours from the massive ground trembling machinery the arroyo is cleared. A wide long stretch of strong smelling freshly uncovered earth appears where there once was trees and thick bush. We grab the Razor and decide to ride the new camino up to the Church. We get about 500M into the jungle and are stopped as the road turns into a hugely steep dusty hill. It’s impassable. Thankfully nothing is visible from the house and we are fairly convinced that when the big rains come it will be entirely destroyed, but we wish them well. Inshallah.
We meet one of the first neuvo camino users who is waiting for the gate to be unlocked. He is the local water diviner bloke and is very keen to demonstrate his skills. He uses a forked stick to find underground water sources. We all have a go. The reaction of the stick is strong and convincing. He assures us we have a water source close to the house about 10 meters down. Good to know.
So it’s been some weeks since we were teased with promise of rain. Our well has been dry for a month. The dust is thick and gets into everything. The jungle is desperately thirsty and despite the humidity becoming increasingly flammable. We were reliably told by retired and recovering firefighter mates from California that the chances of being troubled by wild fires is very low. The humidity is always so high that fires don’t make it for long. Someone failed to tell the jungle.
Our neighbours son is standing in the arroyo looking seriously concerned. He tells us that there is a significant fire heading our way. We can’t see or hear anything so are not as concerned as perhaps was appropriate. It’s about half an hour later when we smell the smoke. If we listen hard there are certainly pops and cracks coming from the hill right behind us. There is a worrying breeze that is dropping white ash all around us. We all jump in the razor and head up the new road to have a look.
The ash is falling like light snow but it’s the only clue. Only as we get about 300 meters from our house do we see the wind assisted flames . They are at least 20 feet high. All around us are large areas where the jungle is now just piles of ash. We note that our new God given road is acting as a sort of fire break and slowing progress considerably. We don’t hang around. It’s clearly not the place to hang out. We are joined by the cavalry. A gaggle of marines turn up in impressive but maybe not entirely useful open top military hummer trucks with 50 mm machine guns at the ready. More reassuringly there are a few fire service pick-up trucks leading a backhoe for shifting dirt around.
Two hours later everyone returns satisfied we are not in danger. The biggest factor being the breeze has stopped fanning the flames. The smell of smoke is strong and ash is covering everything as a gentle but menacing reminder of what could have been. That was an uncomfortable few hours.
The sun and our jungle canopy are forever at odds. We want all the photons we can to be captured by our solar panels. The sun, however, has other ideas . It changes path as the Summer moves on and our effective photon collection times are significantly reduced. It means we run out of power and need to employ Brian ( our generator). One solution is to add another array of six panels at a place where we can take advantage of the morning sunlight. This is a complicated, technically challenging and logistically difficult project. So it is decide to do it.
We identify a good sunny morning spot and acquire the panels .New cable is found, conduited and run to the block where our batteries and inverter live. Over some weeks the metal is manufactured to assemble the frame. It’s not a simple process. Mounting holes must be drilled to fine tolerances through thick steel angle lengths. There are many new components that are sourced and delivered from numerous places that require expert installation. Jayne somehow manages to fight her way through the technical specifications and successfully plumbs the new panels ( that are not installed yet ) to the existing system. It’s impressive.
The array frame is completed, painted and with some effort erected in the correct space and concreted into the ground. We theoretically now only have to mount the panels and plug them in to have all the power we need. That will be tricky as the frame is now 8 feet in the air.
It’s PRIDE week in Puerto Vallarta and a very sensible, shy group of calm and introverted folk are assembled to visit. We all had a quiet highly relaxing day out.
Lack of rain and our dry well is a worry. Our water stores around the land are almost out. The cistern in our house is also very low and we have to accept that we won’t be catching any rain anytime soon. We call in a pipa truck which delivers 10 000 liters with which we fill our cistern, top up our emergency tinaco and flush out the well. This doesn’t help get water to most places but at least our house will be sorted. The delivery boys tell us that they are very busy. The rains are now officially over a month late. Nothing forecast in the near future.
Our tiny tomato farm is doing Ok. The tomatoes that have appeared are huge and beautiful and very tasty but not plentiful. We have had just a few from each plant. Our friend takes us around his nearby organic farm and boats he had produced 1500 kilos of top quality tomatoes this season. We have a lot to learn.
My daughter Suzy arrives from UK with an extra bag full of marmite, chicken stuffing, cheese and licorice all sorts. It’s very good to see her too. She has brought her mates who settle in the treehouse. It’s off season now so Jake also moves back from his retreat center in town. Sasha has also recovered enough to be back on his motorbike so is also back in the jungle. We are always happy having the place proper lived in. We do, however, have all the people and but very little water. We need it to rain. Soon.
Jakes best mate Luca decides to prove to us all that his best dog jungle life has not gifted him with any road sense at all. While dutifully walking at heel in town he decides to run directly into a passing car. Idiot. We are grateful he is alive. He does, however, look very confused and quite rightly ashamed.
Our local falafel seller who is also a vet is close by and confirms he has dislocated his leg. The people doctor’s office in Los De Marcos has an X ray machine and we take him along. It’s a pretty well executed dislocation but thankfully no other issues. Our town vet then knocks him out and pops all his bits back in place. Luca is now confined to no exercise and rest for a minimum of fortnight. It will be about four or five weeks until he can run around again. Looks like Jake and Luca will have a quiet month ahead.
The doctor who helped us with the Xrays is a good bloke and we decide he will be our new doctor. Our previous doctor moved away to Guadalajara to work for an insurance company. Don’t blame him as doctors ( like dentists) are not paid huge money in Mexico. We have both recently had a full medical screen and my assessment was that not only was I handsome and wise but unlikely to die anytime soon. (There might be a touch of interpretation and paraphrasing involved … but something like that.)
So it was unexpected when I got a call that my new doc wanted to see me. He told me that there was good news and bad news. I forget what the good new was but the bad news turned out to be that tests suggested that I may have an issue . Apparently for a man of my age it is wise to check things out. This was the opposite result to my recent tests so a little confusing. He contacted his mate in Puerto Vallarta and I’m booked in for an MRI.
This happens quickly. After fasting and awkwardly enduring two do-it-yourself enemas I arrive at the test clinic the next day. I am entirely unprepared for what might happen next. The clinician is a nice bloke and speaks to me in Spanish. My Duolingo skills don’t entirely cover medical procedures but from what I understood he wants to strap me to a table , attach gadgets to my body and shove me in a tiny tube. There is something else he is trying to tell me. I soon discover what that is. My knees are placed on my chest . He then asks me to breathe deeply and inserts what feels like a flagpole into my rectum. It’s not what I had expected at all. For 40 minutes I am squeezed into the truly tiny tube where I am told to stay entirely still while listening to the crazy clunks and whirls and zaps as the machine dissects my innards with its magic beams . I do my best to ignore the flagpole that is skewering me like a kabab.
The following day I am told that the images showed little to worry about and we agree a plan to entirely rule out any unfortunate possibilities. I continue to be handsome, wise and unlikely to die any day soon. ( Note possible further paraphrasing and interpretation ).
Jayne has arranged to head North to Canada to see her family. She will return in a few weeks when we will be journeying once more to the deserts of Nevada. We will both be working and playing at Burning Man for the best part of a month. Before she departs we arrange to go with a gang of excited friends to the posh movie theatre in Puerto Vallarta to see the Barbie film. It turns out that having a flagpole inserted was not the most uncomfortable thing to happen to me this week. Despite my very best efforts I could not last more than 15 minutes before I had to retreat from the cinema. I found this extraordinary pink acid trip unbearable. Remarkably everyone else loved it. What do I know ?