It’s been some months since our bees were scared away by a particularly impressive lightning storm. We have had our feelers out ever since to attract a queen to our newly refurbished bee homes. There is talk of a swarm causing some issues in a large mansion on top of the highest hill in San Pancho. There is further talk of destroying them so we decide to intervene. It has been agreed that we go along and attempt to save the swarm by relocating the queen to the jungle. We arrive as the sun goes down when the bees gather together for the night and are relatively calm.
The mansion is huge with very high ceilings and unfeasibly large glass windows. A British guy and his 2-year-old daughter are renting the place. They breakfast outside every morning and have bees falling out the light fittings above their heads constantly. We find a ladder, set fire to the smoker and suit up. The swarm is hidden from sight in the upper eves of the house and the only access we can find is via the tiled roof. Its precarious and somewhat hilarious. We are fully suited up with limited mobility and very poor visibility. We find ourselves in the dark, inelegantly balanced on loose roof tiles on top of the highest house in the town. What could possibly go wrong?
We hold onto each other for a modicum of safety as we lay flat on the sloped roof so as not to break the clay tiles or slip off and end up at the bottom of the hill some hundred feet below. The swarm is large and only accessible by pushing a gloved hand through a hole in the wall into the mass of bee bodies in an attempt to locate the queen. It’s during this process that the bees sense something is not quite right and start taking an unwelcome interest in us.
Handfuls of confused bees have been shoved into a black bin liner which they clearly dislike. The buzzing noise inside the suit is loud and we feel a few stings on less protected areas. It has become clear that the queen is very smart and has hidden herself deep in the cavities between the roof and the outside wall. It’s a mission impossible to be able to reach her without destroying large sections of mansion. We release the ungrateful bees from our bag and abandon our positions. We transverse the roof as quickly and cautiously as possible followed by a large number of rather pissed off bees. We smoke each other until the bees back off a bit and all arrive back on the ground thankfully safe. We need to find a better plan to encourage queeny to come out and be captured. More research required. We console ourselves with tequila and engage in a spontaneous game of ping pong in the mansion basement.
Time has overtaken us again and Pauly and Emma are heading back to the frozen UK. We are grateful for their company and their efforts. Emma’s agricultural engineering department leaves us with three newly restored garden areas. Pauly has left us a repaired and well tested jungle jeep along with kitchens doors and Yorkshire Gold tea.
After dropping them off at the airport I head home through a busy area with way too many traffic lights. Stopping at lights here is quite entertaining. There are the usual car window sellers who will try and persuade you that what you need more than anything else in the world is a large map of Mexico, bin liners or a plastic mobile phone holder. While ignoring these temptations there is often some skinny lad painted silver balancing on a rolling log with one leg while spinning a football on the other while juggling machetes with a further football on his hat and another on his chin. It’s impressive stuff. All that effort for a few pesos. The lights change and I throw coins into the silver guy’s hat while accelerating away. I notice some pretty lights behind me and it takes me a while to realise they are for my benefit. The traffic police have decided to stop me for a chat. I struggle to stop the car and surreptitiously remove all the cash from my wallet and hide it under the seat. Guests have just paid me a bunch of cash and I can’t have them see it and get any ideas.
I wind down the window and explain to the podgy face under an official looking hat that my Spanish is still in process but I will do my best to cooperate. He takes off his sunglasses and tells me that not only was I travelling way too fast but I had jumped a red light. It is clear that I did not jump a light and that it is unlikely that I was speeding. The game begins. He tells me that he needs to confiscate my driving license until I return to the local police station and pay both my fines. I ask him if he would do me a great favour and save me some time by accepting the fine from me in cash right now. He pretends to think about it. He tells me that each offence carry’s a fine of 3600 pesos. That’s a total fine of 7200 pesos please. That’s 300 quid or 400 dollars. Cheeky twat. I manage to keep a relatively straight face. He is prepared on this one occasion to accept cash from me and he will return my license. I know that the actual fines are a fraction of this and so am prepared to let him keep my license if it comes to it. I explain that I am but a poor gringo despite the Toyota and don’t have anywhere near that amount of cash with me. I show him my newly emptied wallet and the 650 pesos within. I empty it on the passenger seat and give him a “take it or leave it” look. He exchanges a knowing glance with his partner and begrudgingly throws me back my license and takes the cash.
EntreAmigos is the local community centre that is does amazing things. It’s been running for many years offering education, recycling., library and support for families and children in the area. They promote ecological consciousness within the community offering workshops and classes all year. We are all rather proud of the work they do and want to support them in any way we can. Most of the funding required to keep things happening is raised in one single evening. The great and good and naughty of San Pancho gather for this fundraising evening. We are invited to join friends seated at a table. Tickets to this event are eye wateringly expensive but we agree as it’s for a very good cause.
The whole event including all food, cooks, staffing and auction items are provided by donation, sponsorship or volunteers. I am required to help set up in the morning. The venue is an almost over the top beautiful beach front club with infinity pools and stunning heavy wood chairs and tables. It’s these hundred or so chairs and tables that it is my job to remove. It’s sweaty work but we are all in good spirits. Whales are rising off shore as they head South. We watch them as we work. The event itself is very well attended and a great success. Great food, music, and dancing. The auction raises over $10k alone. There is a satisfying community feeling of a job well done.
Despite the minor irritation of the highway construction team nearly killing our friends with their latest explosion it appears that they want to give it another go. On this occasion, they give us fair warning and install a lady with a sign at our gate to prevent anyone coming within range. This time the explosion is less of a surprise and the rocks fall a little short of us.
The engineers have assured us that they will not be on our doorstep for long. Since the New Year we have had machines smashing their way noisily through the jungle every day. Only after our complaints about them trying to kill us did they stop the night shift. It is somewhat ironic that we are disturbed by the shrill electronic scream of reversing heavy machinery. One of my first ever jobs was to introduce reverse alarms to the UK. Reverse Alarm was the first company I set up and the first product I designed and manufactured. I am responsible for the existence of tens of thousands of these bloody awful things. I’m finding it difficult to blame anyone else for our current suffering.
Two sets of guests have had to cut their stay short due to lack of sleep. It will be sometime next month that the big machines move away from us. We then get some respite from the horrible din until the next lot turn up to actually lay the highway. Maybe 6 months away we hope. When the thing is actually completed we are not expecting much intrusion at all. It will be another little used toll road which is thankfully fairly incline free so we won’t be subject to the horror which is airbrakes. When the night is still we can hear the fart of airbrakes from the hill into San Pancho. That’s near enough.
Businesses in the area have all raised their games (and prices) in the past few years to service the growing tourist market here. We are blessed with outstanding Mexican food, fresh seafood and more recently some more traditional steak & burger offerings for the well-heeled Canadians and Americans. There are a couple of missing elements. We would just about kill for a good Ruby. (Ruby Murray was a popular Irish singer in the 40s and 50s and her name is commonly used as slang for curry in certain parts of the UK. ) There has been a general lack of Asian food in the area. Jayne has even been giving cooking lessons in making Indian style curries as an attempt to fill the void. In recent weeks, our lives have been significantly improved by a couple of new restaurants we have found. One is a Thai place that can actually offer authentic versions of classic Thai dishes. The other is a Moroccan offering with extraordinary delicious babaganoush and slow cooked lamb. Both these places are in Sayulita which is usually a bit too busy for us and best avoided. This changes things. Too tempting not to make the 10-minute drive down the highway and endure 30 minutes finding a parking spot.
We have been nagged for many months to burn something on a beach again. It’s about time so we agree and set a date and forget about it for a while. Time has a way of getting away from you if you’re not paying attention and we realise that somehow it’s already February! Planning for this event has been notable by its absence. There has been talk of creating a wall …… but gringos building walls in Mexico doesn’t seem right somehow. There has been talk of constructing bridges … but gringos burning bridges may give the wrong message. We always have our trusted Coconut Lady Man symbol to fall back on. We have decided to play things by ear and allow a “design” to evolve. We start the process of collecting wood and tools while roping as many people into help as we can.
The word is out and there is good level of enthusiasm which manifests into a solid crew of helping hands. We pile up all the wood, grab some string and a few tools and open the beer cooler. We set about creating our wall/bridge/Coconut Lady Man hybrid. The following day we load up a convoy of vehicles and head for the beach. We drag huge lumps of drift wood and add it to the pyre. We balance our make shift bridge on top. We dig into the sand a series of large wooden cut out letters that spell the word JUNTOS which is Spanish for “together” . We throw up a palm wall and erect our Coconut LadyMan. Design complete. The theory is that the wall will burn down very quickly revealing our bridge and the fire will glow through the cutout letters overlooked by the Coconut LadyMan which will burn last. That’s the theory anyway.
We have had a call from the local batala samba drumming group who turn up in force and start things off. When they play the drum the people come. As the sun drops slowly in the afternoon sky people start arriving. We are at the very far North end of the beach so it’s a good walk from the town of Lo De Marcos. More people arrive. By the time the sun is hitting the water and we are ready to burn there are over 150 people of all ages. It’s a good mix of locals, gringos and a few tourists. Probably twice the number who made it last year.
We fuel up the structure perhaps a touch enthusiastically as our carefully thought out burn plan evaporates as the thing bursts immediately into flame. The walls do indeed burn quickly and reveal the letters and the bridge. Almost all the letters glow spelling out the word JUNTO which is actually a 17th century British political faction but we assume that no one will figure that out. The bridge falls followed by our magnificent LadyMan whose coconuts burned off rather rapidly. The whole crowd watch the whole burn in absolute silence. It was a great spectacle for everyone and very emotional for some. There is magic in that silence.
We danced around the fire until late into the night. Thankfully everyone was incredibly respectful of the environment and took all their things back with them. The next morning there was not a single beer can or spot of trash. The official environmental assessment after the event was that we left the place in better shape than we found it. That’s a very good thing. Gives us great hope and inspiration for next time.