My radiant immortality is in question. It has been decided that because we are of a certain age (just me actually) it would be wise to indulge ourselves (me) in full medical screens. I’m more tempted by a delusional Peter Pan existence where such things are reserved for the very, very old (clearly not me). The best health clinic in Puerto Vallarta we can find is located and booked. We must present ourselves at 9 am, in the city, with a selection of recently harvested body fluids and samples. We are required to fast for 8 hours before my arrival. Not even a cup of tea is allowed. Not ideal.
The day arrives. After a few unusual morning contortions to collect samples (and no tea) we head to the big city with bags of unmentionable things in hand. The day does not go according to plan. There has been very heavy rain overnight. It is later confirmed that over 11 inches of rain fell in just over 5 hours. The mountains have disgorged massive amounts into our valley. The trickles of water carving patterns in the ground outside our gate have transformed into a 30-foot-wide, fierce, rock filled raging torrent. We look at each other and decide very quickly that it’s not worth risking ending up in the ocean.
We turn back just as the internet packs in. For the first time this year we are trapped and entirely out of touch. We return to the treehouse to wait it out and find that I had forgotten to take my technically challenging stool sample with me. I almost dislocated myself successfully getting what I needed into the undersized ziplock bag that now sits on our kitchen table. Jayne is unimpressed.
Our rainy season is transformative. Hot beautiful days are concluded with showers of fireflies and deep, bone shaking thunder. As the sun dips, clouds of many varieties and colours of butterflies precede blinding sheet lightening. The sounds of the jungle have moved on from the screaming cicadas and squawking chachalacas to the more melodic changing symphonies of endless bugs, frogs and beasties. The rivers are running and our roads are again slowly turning to rock pits as the water invades everything. It is now entirely possible to sit quietly and watch the jungle plants grow. Life surrounds us.
The rescheduled medical is upon us and we find ourselves in the big city with poo bags in hand. We undergo a series of prods and xrays and scans while parts of us are taken away for further research. We are told to return for the results in a week.
Our friend is trying to take advantage of an over stay visa amnesty where it is possible to get temporary residence without income checks and an annual visit to immigration offices. Immigration offices are famously horrendous pits of pedantic administrative hell. So it’s worth a shot. We spend a torturous hour or so waiting outside an immigration office, in the sun, with a ticket to eventually go into the office to be told by incompetent administrators to come back with further endless copies of pointless documents. We are eventually asked to return the following week. Jayne and I are required to be witnesses to our friend’s good standing. Not sure how that will play out. She’s a bit dodgy.
Jayne has an absolutely understandable desire to see her family in Canada. She hasn’t seen her parents in years now and hasn’t even met her nephew in Vancouver and he’s nearly 18 months old. Due to Canada’s tight border policy, if you are not vaccinated, you spend a silly amount of money being the guest of the Canadian government approved hotel/jailhouse for 10 days before you are allowed to mingle. The UK has also announced that unvaccinated folk must quarantine on arrival. This makes visiting our families effectively impractical unless we are vaccinated. For this reason, despite our low risk lifestyles, we decide to take up the opportunity to get jabbed.
27 000 AstraZeneca vaccines have been released to be distributed over a 48 hour window in Puerto Vallarta. We find ourselves in the city, on the final day of the program and head to the naval base very close by where a long line follows the contours of the vast building and way beyond. The thought of queuing for hours in the heat is too much for us. We head for a second location at a nearby gymnasium. 20 minutes away we are told. After 45 minutes of traffic we arrive to find a mass of people swamping the entire area forming loose queues and looser mobs. We can’t even see the building. The place closes at 3 pm and there is not a chance we would be anywhere near the front of the line by then. We head back to the naval base as fast as we can. We arrive to see a lot fewer people, manage to park and get in line. The queue is moving fast and we are soon at the gate. This is explained when we meet two armed guards who advise us to go back to the gymnasium as they have run out of doses. Our hopes are dashed.
There is no forecast re-release of vaccines in the city expected for some time. The vaccines distributed outside the city are most often Chinese or Russian version that are not accepted by the Canadian government. This makes Jayne very sad. We find a restaurant and take down a few huge plates of restorative sushi before heading for home after a tough day.
Jake has decided that now is the time to reintroduce himself to “real-life”. He has a flight booked back to the UK where he has arranged to quarantine at a mate’s house and pay for a series of Covid test on his arrival. All seems well until we realise that Spain will not allow anyone in who does not have two approved vaccines. He is way too young to get vaccinated here in Mexico and privately funded vaccines are not available. Second vaccines are months away so he is stuffed. We arrange to reroute his return flight via Amsterdam. Apparently, even though Brexit Britains are not welcome in the Netherlands they will allow him and his bags to pass through quickly if he brings a recent negative antigen test result with him. We will miss the bugger but it’s time for him get moving and earning again. There’s only a finite amount of paradise a bloke can handle.
A good mate arrives from California to stay with us for a few days. She is travelling with her husband and 4-year-old son. They have rented a very posh condo-apartment in the city but want to rough it with us for a few days. They are here to take advantage of the dental tourism industry that has popped up in Puerto Vallarta. Dental care options are excellent in PV. Incredibly they were quoted $22k US dollars to get one single tooth fixed in San Francisco. They have come down on holiday, rented a cool place and paid for all sorts of dental work for a tiny fraction of that cost. To make things even stranger they have rented out their place in San Francisco while they are away and are actually turning a profit on the trip!
It’s odd, in a good way, to have guests again. They are here for a very short time and our weekend is packed. We spend another splendid day on the sailboat and eating way too well at the fancy restaurants near the marina. Sunday is a Birria breakfast then a long painful football match against some overachieving Italians that I don’t want to talk about. Solace is taken by swimming in the sea outside Tomatina’s bar in Lo De Marcos as the sun comes down in its spectacular way. It’s always immensely satisfying seeing our life through new eyes. Especially friends and especially a crazy four-year-old. We are lucky.
The next morning, we are up early, cram into the Sub and head to the city. We drop off our guests and Jake at their higher-class world of room service, pools and flushing loos where we arrange to meet up later. We head out to do our stuff. Our immigration interview is on time. As official temporary residents, we sign a few photocopies of our ID and this is apparently enough to allow our friend to be officialised and many steps closer to her residency. At no time are we asked any questions at all about our friend’s good standing or our relationship with her. It is not clear that we even know her! This does not seem to be an issue. We leave in good time and head to the clinic for our medical results.
We meet our assigned doctor who carefully goes through reams of results and data with us both. Jayne goes first and after 20 minutes it becomes obvious that she is both irritatingly young and unbelievably healthy. Then it’s my turn. My heart, lungs, prostate, ziplock bag and most surprisingly my liver are all in pretty good shape… “for my age”. After the usual nagging about cholesterol and blood pressure I am advised to eat more good things and maybe drink less beer but certainly increase my intake of Tequila and Raicilla. Our wise doctor has a grandmother who makes Raicilla. He absolutely advised me in his capacity as my medical advisor that tequila is life. I respect his advice. We will all meet again in a few months to see how we (me) are going. Could have been a lot worse so I consider it a win. Jayne remains silently young and smug.
My lovely friend rings me from her posh condo-apartment to tell us that her dentist had told her that there was an extra batch of vaccines arriving at the gymnasium now. “No one” knows and there are no queues. We make it there in 15 minutes flat and before we have had time to think are directed to sit on chairs with about 50 other people. A trolley follows a guy with a clip board. When clip board guy has all the details he needs then a large lady with nice eyes and a syringe drops the needle into my arm and moves on. We are required to sit still for 10 minutes to check we have a fair chance of surviving and are then released. That was it! They have it all very professionally dialled in. No wonder they can get so many thousands of vaccines done in such a short time. The group of 50 who have just arrived are told they have run out of doses. We are lucky.
We spend the rest of the day congratulating ourselves on a far more successful and productive day by meeting up with Jake and abusing our friend’s hospitality by leaping noisily from pool to pool in their oversized and under occupied super resort. We are feeling absolutely fine. Maybe all the talk of post vaccine symptoms have been exaggerated.
They have not. The day after we both wake up and are shocked by how crap we feel. The dull ache from the jab has somehow travelled to every muscle and joint. Neither of us has a spark of energy. It takes most of the morning to simply get tea into us both. It’s a pretty horrible day of moaning and self-pity. We get through a sleepless night and thankfully begin to feel more human and functional again.
A friend of ours is having a few medical issues and has been admitted to hospital in San Pancho. We undertake to go and see him. We are both aware that trying to get in and out of San Pancho hospital is a chore as they have a ward with Covid cases and they keep everything pretty much inaccessible. Jayne is starting to feel like she has a sore throat and maybe the start of a cough. The vaccines are not effective for a while yet so she wants to get tested before she inflicts herself on anyone. She heads into the hospital and asks for a checkup.
It takes a few hours but Jayne appears with a handful of prescriptions for a mild chest infection. They refused to give her a Covid test. The test site in close-by Sayulita is open and so we head there and pay our money and get her tested. It’s a quick process and within 10 minutes we meet up again and plan to head into town for lunch as we await her results. As we return to the car we notice a doctor in full PPE dramatically running out of the hospital down the street towards us waving his hands in the air. He shouts at us, through his mask ,that Jayne has tested positive and needs to go home immediately and await symptoms. We make a quick stop at the pharmacy and do just that.
Jake somehow manages to stay healthy and is allowed to leave Mexico. It is with great relief his Covid test, like my own, comes back negative. This avoids him being stuck in quarantine in the jungle for another few weeks. We make it to the airport early and in no time, he is on his way. I’m very sad to see him go but I am grateful we got to spend so much time together. We are very lucky to have had that. I now need to prepare for my daughter who is due here in just over 6 months, three weeks and four days. Not that I’m counting or anything.
I also, somehow, remain virus free. It could be that the crushing heat was not entirely to blame for my few weeks of lethargy and uselessness last year. We are both entirely thankful for that. Jayne is proper sick and needs care. If we were both this bad we would have been stuffed. She has no energy and absolutely no appetite. I can’t persuade her to eat anything. She has a high temperature. Her throat is very sore and she can’t talk. Despite this, nurse Beave postpones taking any joy from the situation. She has a persistent cough whenever she is awake. When she is awake, no one sleeps. Thankfully when she does sleep, which is often, she is peaceful and her breathing remains good. It’s a worrying time that lasts over 12 days before she starts to improve. Covid is shit. It’s easy to see how, if you add age, existing health conditions and breathing problems, it can kill you. Jayne is continuing her recovery. Slowly to avoid any post-viral fatigue issues. We are lucky. Our very good mate in South Africa has just lost his amazingly beautiful wife to Covid. They were inseparable. It’s so very sad.
In a few months’ time, maybe, we will find a second vaccine and, maybe, fulfil all the travel criteria necessary to visit family again. That will be a good option to have.