Mary, a spider bite and a Yellow Submarine
It’s a transition time again. The humidity is on its way out along with the heaviest of rains, both leaving an entirely different landscape. Our place is now entirely jungley. Most of our attempts at growing things have been washed away or eaten by ants. The sun picks out strands of golden web from the huge spiders hunting in the trees. There are a noticeable amount of medium sized bright red snakes that I am now convinced are not hallucinations caused by dehydration and humidity. Bats are breeding and the Bodega has a population of a couple of dozen of them thankfully munching our mosquitos. It’s fluffy green balls season. They fall from the Copomo trees in great numbers and I get to sweep them off my balcony every morning.
It is fair to say that some tasks I get caught up with here are less of a challenge than others. I get a call for help from town. There has been an incident and I have been summoned. The Cerveceria is gearing up to reopen in but a few more days. The pint starved masses are getting a touch overexcited and restless. A pick- up truck is dispatched to Guadalajara to collect 13 barrels of various brew. It was hampered slightly by the rains that are stubbornly hanging on but it has arrived and has been unloaded. All the barrels look exactly the same and contents are identified by large attached cardboard collars. Theoretically. It’s the attached bit that is the problem. Twixt brewery and pub every single one of them has blown off on the journey. There is a large stack of unidentified beer. There is only one solution.
It’s a great thing to be sitting back in the pub with a pint glass in my hand again. It is a truly wonderful thing to have 13 barrels, each tapped in turn, to sample at least once. It’s important to be accurate so it takes some time. There are three of us and we all have to agree on what it is we are drinking before we label it up and chalk it on the board so it’s not a quick process. Too nice a job to rush. We eventually and enthusiastically congratulate ourselves on a task well done. We have applied our best heroic altruistic efforts and wobble off in a very jolly mood.
There is a slightly less jolly morning ahead but it was worth it. There is a message from Lo De Marcos that Django (my van) has been broken into. The roads are too washed out to get it to our land yet so she has been parked in the corner of our friend’s front garden behind locked gates. I arrive to inspect the scene and find one of the side windows smashed and the doors open. Nothing has been stolen so it looks like a touch of random vandalism. The bugger is that getting a replacement window for a 1989 G20 Chevy in Mexico will be effectively a mission impossible. So I can’t drive it until I find a solution. It’s in hand. Probably a 6 month lead time.
The Cerveceria opens and offers beers helpfully matched to the barrels from which they live. Pretty much everyone comes and the place is royally packed till midnight. The staff are just heroic and the sunset that night was one to remember. We have our pub back!
It is clear to me after being here alone for good chunks of time that the thing that takes most of my effort is transport. Getting me around the land and getting stuff from one place to another. Breaking projects down it becomes obvious that moving things from one place to another is the biggest part of just about everything. So it is agreed that we need to invest in a vehicle that will both useful & reliable.
I have been borrowing a classic (old) Jeep Wrangler 4×4 from a generous friend who has effectively saved me from being stuck. As much as I have come to respect the jeep for its ability to slowly and clumsily keep moving even through the wildest of conditions we will need something that is more road friendly, less likely to break down, more petrol efficient but still be able to climb mountains and get through swollen rivers. It’s a big ask.
It is at this point that I discover a hideously ugly bright yellow Toyota FJ Cruiser advertised locally at a price that isn’t too cringey. Much research later it is discovered that despite the distinct similarity in appearance to a frog/turtle this is the truck for us. So that’s decided upon.
It’s Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) when I arrive in a wildly decorated Sayulita to collect it. The sky above the town square is obscured by hundreds of strings holding thousands of hand made God Eyes (small wooden crosses decorated with brightly coloured yarn.) It’s a hypnotic effect. The streets are packed with people dancing around shrines of flowers, candles and sand pictures. This celebration and honouring of the dead is a fabulous and cathartic tradition. I drink a tequila and remember my extraordinary Dad who died a year ago.
So our new jungle resident is a strange looking beast of a truck. It’s a massively welcome addition to our lives. An air-conditioned room on wheels with a great sound system and the most comfortable seats we own. It will happily glide over pretty much anything we point it at carrying me and heaps of stuff. It’s not a subtle looking thing. Very yellow. We have named it “The Sub”.
Life is about to change again. Not only is the pub open again but Jayne is due back. My daughter is arriving a few days later. Going from no girls in the jungle to two in a very short time. Terrifyingly exciting. I create a list of things that absolutely need doing before they arrive. It’s a very long list. The rains have slowed down and are on their way out but are still threatening to soak anything that I may decide to dry out. Remaining solitude days are spent de-molding as much as possible. The level of mold infestation is at an all- time high in the days following the big rains and as the humidity falls to levels where humans can exist. Mold loves to hide and leave a lingering odor on clothes, bedding, window screens and most other things including me. I have become very used to smelling like an old damp rag. For folk with better personal hygiene who are lucky enough to stand close to me it is more of a surprise. Two fresh noses attached to fragrant girls arrive soon so it’s a disgusting mammoth task ahead.
The day arrives. The fridge is stocked. The house is as clean and tidy as it is going to be for at least the next 6 months. The casitas and apartment have been de-funked and repaired post humidity. Art has been installed. Mosquito net washed. The jungle has had days of machete attention and is now trimmed back to almost habitable levels. The pool is only a little bit green. The poor traumatized laundry ladies have had a daily delivery of unspeakably grotty things to wash for nearly two weeks. Gin and tonic water stocks are replenished. I have reduced the list of potential disappointments or areas of judgement to a mere few hundred. Ready as I will ever be.
The trip to the airport is usually around an hour although our record is 40 minutes. The trip to pick up Jayne breaks all records but not in a good way. It has been deemed important to make the lines on the road that everyone ignores damp with new paint for a number of hours effectively closing the road to Puerto Vallarta. After 4 months away I collect Jayne from the airport a good hour and a half late. Her mood is softened by a large number of beers at the airport Corona bar before I arrive and a head sized burrito soon afterwards. It’s late and its dark when Jayne finally arrives home again. The Sub is a big hit. I am forgiven.
Morning arrives and we set about preparing for my daughter’s arrival the next day. Suzy arrives early morning so there is a whole other level of “girl standard” cleaning to do. Fussy buggers. What’s a little mouse shit, a few dead cockroaches and a few scorpions between friends? In a very short time my list of things to do has mysteriously grown exponentially. Normality is restored.
I find the most embarrassing Dad shirt possible and head to the airport with time to spare and collect Suzy. We haven’t seen each other since my Dad’s funeral and that’s too long. Now Suzy is here my life is fuller and more complete in so many ways. Let me count the ways: Marmite, Yorkshire Tea, kilos of cheese and a great bottle of Scotch. I hide these treasures immediately. We decide that after the compulsory introductions to a Sunday beef Birria breakfast with spiced Cafe de Olla coffee and a Margarita on the beach we should make a trip North and collect the jungle jeep.
Finally the jungle jeep will be home. Again, finally turns out to be more like eventually. We arrive at the mechanic shop and I follow in the sub as the girls drive the bone shaker all the way to Lo De Marcos relatively without incident. I notice that they both appear to fly into the air at every tope (speed bump). We pull up at the beach bar in a cloud of green spray and steam. The fan is not working and there is a stream of boiling fluid jetting out of the radiator overflow soaking the battery. We park her up and take the load off at the bar for a few hours while we all take time to cool down. It fails to start again so we park her up next to the shore and agree to return the next day for attempt number two to get the thing home. The Sub reliably and comfortably takes us home.
The next afternoon we happily reintroduce ourselves to the beach and the bar and to our relief the machine starts up first time after drying out in the sun all day. After a congratulatory Margarita, I drive the loud rattly thing following Jayne in the sub. We arrive at the hellish 200 Highway to San Pancho only 8 miles away. The wind is in my hair and the sun blinds me and the engine roars. Until it doesn’t. The roaring stops and is replaced with a spluttery croak and my speed drops to a crawl. I limp off the road at a small spot near a bridge.
Steam starts to rise but the engine kicks in again and I take the chance to get another mile or two before stopping again. It is suicide to stop on the road as there is no “hard shoulder’ and idiots fly down the highway presumably with foot to floor and eyes shut. I‘ve called in support from Jayne who has now double backed to rescue me. After stopping for a ten minute rest the engine appears to have cooled down enough to give it one more go and I just manage to get the thing up and over the final hill before coasting all the way to the lateral turn off at San Pancho.
Jayne then attaches the overpriced extra heavy duty AutoZone tow rope we bought for such situations. We get 200 yards before it snaps for the first time. 100 yards the second time and finally it just makes it the 30 yards over the highway before the last thread disintegrates. We roll up to the shut gates of our local mechanic where there is an audience of large squad of hairy boys drinking on the step. By some miracle the gates are unlocked and we (Jayne) persuades the boys to help push the thing into the shop yard for the night. I am spaced out and a little unnerved by the thought of how many close shaves I’ve just had. The Sub then takes us reliably and comfortably home.
The next morning we set the engine up with our mechanic for a short trip to Sayulita. We make it with almost no issues and find a friendly electrician and give him a full list of bits that we have worked out need replacing. A final lump of cash later and we eventually get to drive the thing home. It’s taken over 2 years but we have the jungle jeep actually in the jungle. The process nearly broke our backs. The suspension is so rigid it is effectively undriveable on our jungle roads. It’s for sale if anyone is interested.
It is again good to see the jungle and our lives within it through fresh eyes. Suzy is settling in to the pace of life, heat and wildlife perfectly. She is already scarred by some attack plant, been eaten by bugs and has been adopted by Gargoyle. Great start.
Mausetrappe has returned to the treehouse. She appears unusually affectionate. Her time living with an Australian has been (unsurprisingly) a bit too much for her and she is spending her life motionless staring into space with her body pressed to the lid of the freezer. It’s the coolest place so it’s a wise move. Her gifts to me have been varied in their revoltingness. Praying Mantis appearing regularly with their comical faces and elegant statures are but a quick cat crunch from oblivion. More disturbing are tiny mouse size possums. Ugly brutes by any mother’s eye. Perfectly horrible when you pull them from between your toes.
Jayne has begun a new phase of existence. She is working a three-day week coordinating an enormous amount of unspeakable nonsense in Toronto remotely from her four-poster office bed. In return Toronto sends us a bucket of Canadian tax payers cash. It is both highly surreal and spectacularly useful to our lives. It takes away the pressure to rent out our place to less charming and more entitled folk than we would like. Despite my famed equanimous and patient nature that is a great gift.
I now have a greater and deeper appreciation of the joyous mobility your knees give you. Having played rugby for many years and dabbled in full contact martial arts the concept is not unfamiliar but I am currently being reminded on a daily basis. A few weeks ago I was bitten by something in the side of my knee that resulted in a number of days of ouchy-sore-painy immobility moving around very slowly and grumpily with a stick. I have had an injection from a doctor who thinks it’s likely to be a spider and have been taking all sorts of concoctions since. Whatever it was did not clean its teeth as its infected my knee tendons. Incey wincy spider he may have been but I’m still limpy. Feels like I’ve taken a few full-on tackles from Adam Jones (the Welsh prop.)
Gargoyle is in for an adventure today. It’s time to make less of a man of him. He’s old enough now and the free clinic for fixing dogs and cats in San Pancho has started. We starve him, Suzy shoves him in a bag and then we drive him town. The clinic is an hour into their day and there are 21 other animals all with less parts lying around unconscious. Each of them has a volunteer rubbing and massaging and petting them until the anaesthetic wears off. There is water to keep eyes and tongues wet. Most of the cats have their eyes open to a wide blank stare and their tongues hanging out. It’s like looking at tables of roadkill.
It doesn’t take long and we are drawn into the process. There are mostly cats all racked up and totally unconscious. Solid gone. It takes some skill and patience to check they are breathing. Gargoyle is added to the table and we concentrate on him and a couple of kittens that would easily pass for dead. They all pull through. We head for lunch then collect an entirely spaced out cat with no spacial awareness or working limbs. It brings back memories of having a drunk teenager in the house. Funny.
Thanksgiving arrives. It’s Suzy’s first. We are invited to join a group of thankful Americans to eat and drink too much. The venue is the rooftop of our friends brand new and rather impressive house in town. The moon and stars give us a stunning backdrop. We eat a huge pre-cooked smoked turkey that they have accidentally bought. We are all thankful it is surprisingly good! Mezcal is produced which leads to some competitive behaviour when it comes to leaving with the leftovers. I think I managed to somehow limp off with them all.
Somedays surprise you more than others. It is, however, totally unsurprising that registering the Sub has taken weeks and we find ourselves endlessly waiting in overcrowded transit offices with huge lines for further bits of paper to allow us to actually own the thing. On this particular day it takes till 4 pm to lose the will to live, give up and head back to the Sub to comfortably and reliably take us home again.
Jayne is starving which is not a good look for her. Best avoided. We head to find food to calm the savage beast. We drive the Sub out of the PV transit office car park and notice a blue Razor similar to the one we had stolen but with bull bars and extra lights and covered in tacky horse stickers. It has the word MARY in large letters on the windscreen. We look again and notice the windscreen strut amazingly has exactly the same falling tree wound as ours did. I jump out the Sub and limp over. By running my hand over the roll-bar I soon feel the history of our Razor in the dents. It’s our vehicle no doubt about it. Here at the back of the transit office in PV. No plates. Fresh off a horse ranch.
The realization of the situation is slowly sinking in and Jayne has a new direction for her growing anger she is not eating. A small friendly looking Mexican guy wanders up to us proud of his ride and happy that we are admiring it. Poor sod. Within a moment he has me at full size in his face and more worryingly Jayne is in full attack mode. He clearly knows it’s stolen and we suspect that’s why he is here. To see his friend the chief of police to sort it out. We have by some miracle caught them in the moment red handed.
He runs into the transit office and I fast-limp after him. He is not getting away. Jayne is snapping at his heels shouting at him in Spanish. He heads straight to the Police Chief who he tells us is his friend and will vouch for him. This comes as an unwelcome surprise to the Police Chief who is entirely wrong footed by events. There in his posh private office is his friend with the both of us after his guts. The horse guy is pleading innocence and apologising repeatedly. The Police Chief is slowly registering that there is a stolen Razor outside his office and he is now implicated by association with horse guy. It’s not a good look for him. If we call in the Federal Police then he is in big trouble and his friend will be in jail. He offers to impound the vehicle for a few months while we sort out the paperwork or suggests we might want to deal with it another way.
Jayne attempts to call the insurance office who are the actual owners of the Razor now they paid us something for it. It’s 4.30 pm and they are out to lunch?!?? Idiots. The Chief is making some frantic calls and horse guy is looking very uncomfortable. If we call in the Federal Police he is going to jail. Chief will have a lot of explaining to do. It’s clear that horse guy is not the thief but that’s not going to be easy for him to prove. We suspect that a cousin or brother of his wife is involved somehow. His wife is called Mary.
I leave the office to take photos of the Razor and horse guy follows and Mary joins us. They both apologise continuously. He then shows me around the Razor pointing out the new lights, tires, rear frame, bull bars and suspension rods he has installed. For you he says. We can see there is a moment of opportunity here. We offer to take the vehicle out of Jalisco state to our house in Nayarit state and deal with the insurance company from there. The Chief of Police puts the keys in my hand immediately. I do not hang around. I jump in and head to the nearest restaurant following Jayne in the Sub. As exciting as this development is we need to get food in her quick before someone gets hurt !