It may not surprise you to know it’s bloody hot here. There is, in fact, record breaking temperatures throughout Europe right now so we expect little or no sympathy. It is true that the UK is really not set up for hot weather – bless them. The whole country has been on red alert ‘threat to life” status. I remember how grossly uncomfortable it is in the UK’s air conditioning free cities, homes and offices even at 35 degrees. This week the UK has had over 40-degree heat for the first time ever! Despite me continually struggling along in a pool of hot sweat I will, therefore, attempt to take a short break from moaning about the temperature for a change.
One of the gifts of being close to the ocean is the chance get wet and float around on a whim. Most times of the year this is a refreshing change but during these hot times the water temperature is that of a warm bath. It was one such whim that did for me. I’m at the bar on the beach that we have named “the office”. It is often that we arrange an urgent meeting with friends at the office. The beer was cold but not cold enough so I decide to strip off and dive into the waves.
San Pancho waves are strong and mostly break quickly close to the beach. The trick is to get past the breaking waves to the calm water out back. This is often not as easy as it sounds. I negotiate the fast moving walls of water as best I can. Some I dive under, some I float over. It was at the top of a rising wave above water when from nowhere I get hit on the side of my head. My ear felt like it had been suddenly struck by something hard and hurty. My immediate thought was that I had been stung by a hornet. I remember how much that hurts but in retrospect that was not the smartest assumption (being in the ocean, a long way from any hornet nests). I instinctively dive deep under the waves to get away from any flying hazard and swim hard to get some distance between me and whatever that was. The side of my body suddenly hurts, a lot. My ear is stabbingly painful and the discomfort is now all around my head and neck. It is only then that I see them. All around me in the water are bright blue bubbles. Blue button Jelly fish!
I make my way out of the surf swearing warnings at the oblivious swimmers frolicking around me. There are lines on my body where the tentacles have wrapped themselves. My ear and neck feel on fire. At least one of the little buggers has clung to my head and the cnidocytes along their tentacles have released harpoon-like structures full of venom, called nematocysts all over me. These things are not fun. Back at the office, everyone has a helpful opinion about how to assist me. There are offers of soaking my ear in hot coffee. A couple of people enthusiastically suggest they pee on my head. I take the decision not to accept their kind offers and try my best to scrape off the tiny harpoons as best I can. It is a number of days before I can forget about my wounds and some weeks before the skin around my hairline settles down.
Although the rains have started and we are getting rainfall most nights, there hasn’t been a storm of any note so far. This is good news. Our access roads are passable and although the jungle is growing over us as fast as it can we are just ahead of the game. It takes at very least a full day of swinging machete a week just to hold the green stuff back. We, thankfully, have just the bloke to help us out with that. If he doesn’t turn up we are stuffed. Around the treehouse are a load of palm like plants that are shooting up. Some that have just appeared in the past few days are already many feet high. It’s a project!
The fireflies have arrived and that is always a blessing. There is a dozen or so clumsily crashing brightly around the mosquito net every night. They are staying close to the ground at the moment which makes walking around at night somewhat magical. The trees glisten and flash. The undergrowth sparkles like glitter.
The nights are scattered with rain and lightning and the occasional loud smash of thunder. The jungle orchestra is on full song and we get to drift off to the calming music of nature. If it wasn’t for the frogs!
This year the frogs have changed their game. Every year up to now we have had to endure listening to a rain fuelled frog orgy in our pool. It is usually a two-day, two-night affair. By then the frogs have kept us awake for 48 hours but have concluded their wild sex party duties or have died trying. This year they seem to be more aware of social distancing. Smaller groups (bubbles) are declining the mass orgy option and getting it on whenever the mood takes them. The result for us is weeks of nocturnal non concentual acoustic abuse. We don’t need to hear that. They are clearly having way too much fun.
Our bee neighbours have been confusing the hell out of us recently. Around six months ago I went to check on the bees and didn’t find any. We have three hives. All were active until they weren’t. One week we were down to two active hives and then only one. It is a disappointment that the last of the bees have decided to move on so we take advice from our wiser apiary mates who suggest we move the hives and try another spot.
The day comes and I have arranged to make a new sexy bee home area close to our solar panels which is more sunny and open. Should be a lot of pollen and water around so this seems a good move. I approach the first hive and immediately get stung! On closer inspection, the bees have decided to return and seem to be fully occupied and content making honey and stinging me. I abandon the relocation task for the time being. The following week the second hive somehow springs back to life. It is highly confusing but they seem happy enough. Our friend calls us and asks if we have a spot for a homeless queen and her cohorts that he has rescued from someone’s house. We now have three fully active and productive bee houses. Honey in our future again!
Our house in progress is looking remarkably like a house. The stunning boveda roof has been matched up with a palapa roof. This week our wood whisperers will be building the tapanko loft where we will sleep. There are stunning stairs, there is an outdoor/indoor bathroom, there are bright tiles and polished concrete floors. Our tasks now are to find tiles for the shower floor…. now. Lights for inside and out…. now. Decide on finishes and details … now. No pressure!
We are a week or so away from the builders completing all the buildy stuff. The electricians and plumbers are well on their way to finishing all the sparky and plumby stuff. We have ordered windows and doors. Our master carpenter friend is set to move into our place for August and apply his skills to the piles of Amapa and Parota wood we have had delivered. We have cabinets and stairs, a bed, wooden doors and other secret things planned. It is going to be an interesting few months turning this remarkable space we are creating into a fully functional home! It’s a splendid job. We are grateful for all the massive effort by so many to get to where we are.
There is the issue of water. The mornings these days are often cloudy and that severely restricts our ability to pump water up from the well and to our tinacos. Feeding the tinaco on the build site has been a mission and so keeping it topped up for the new house is going to be a challenge. The new water system we have is reliant on our large cistern which we built underneath the front porch. We have a rain catchment topping it up. All the water to the house will be treated by traditional filters and an Ultra Violet (UV) light disinfection unit that removes most forms of microbiological contamination from water. Our plan is to keep the cistern topped up by 10 000 litre pipa truck when the rains stop. This gives us the chance to use our high power water pump to back-fill our tinaco from the cistern if water is scarce. This is a huge bonus.
There is the issue of power. The Scorpion temple is a good distance from the treehouse and, we discover, over 250M away from our solar powered fuse box. There is no real way around it we need to run a conduit and a single 250M length of high quality, high grade cable from the box to the site. We manage to find the right cable and acquire a massive heavy reel of the stuff. Our chosen conduit is bright orange and corrugated. It comes in 50M rolls so we have six of those. All we have to do now is to mount the reel and lay and connect up all the conduit, find a way to run it all under the stone driveway and 250M through the jungle to the fuse box and thread 300M of twin cable through the whole thing. This is a day we will not forget in a hurry. My Covid recovery is frustratingly slow and I have been running on 30% power for some weeks. Add a bunch of extreme heat and humidity and it really adds to the fun. It is great news that Jayne is motivated and we have help from our mate from town. Somehow, we manage to get this all done in just six hours. It takes me three days to recover.
There is the issue of the fuse box. Our existing fuse box is far from weather proof and is now four years old. It looks a lot older than that. The wires to it have been pulled and tugged by jungle growth for years so it’s a janky box with over tight connections attached to a tree and protected from the elements by a plastic container that I cut up in a way to function as a rain cover. Our biggest issue is that the tree it was connected to fell over. The box was cast into the jungle but somehow still works. This is not a sustainable solution to our power needs. A new posh waterproof box is found and we mount it a few feet above the ground on plastic bug proof poles that we set into the jungle floor. We are desperate for power. It’s unbearably hot and humid and we don’t have any way of running a fan!! Jayne takes on the very frustratingly fiddly job of wiring the bugger up. Theoretically it should only take an hour or so but it is fully dark and I am lighting up the jungle with a torch before it is finally up and running. We retreat fully exhausted to the treehouse to shower and drink gallons of water and stare blankly and silently for a very long time. The feeling of satisfaction for a job well done will kick in later.