It’s all getting very different. The tropics have two seasons. Wet and dry. Right now it’s absolutely dry with the exception of the air, which holds a consistent 30-degree heat and manages well over 80% humidity most of the time. By the afternoon it is pretty much impossible to move. I am effectively a ginger puddle from 2pm. Every day.
The light fades down at around 8.30pm as the sun hits the ocean. In the past couple of weeks full volume creatures accompany this event. These tiny bugs are the sound of the wet season rains coming to turn our dust into mud. The rain is due about 20 days after they start we are told. It kicks off as a kind of throat singing and morphs into the noise that a couple of dozen three year olds would make with a crate of tin whistles. It’s loud and tuneless. There is no other option but to stop and wonder how something so small can create such a bloody racket. The noise travels for miles and ends as abruptly as it begins when the dark sets in.
There has been a few recent Coatis sightings. They have been using their properly fingered hands to open sealed containers and scoff or re-distribute anything remotely edible they find in the outdoor kitchen. We have been tidying up after them for weeks now. These monkey/bear/raccoon type creatures are fearless and we now know why. The local dog packs chase them up to the very top of the tallest trees but they had a surprise when they cornered one last week. One particularly terrorized Coatis decided that enough was enough and deployed its claws. One dog ended up with a significant hole in its neck and poor old Tripod has had his face horrifically rearranged. How these scratty dogs heal so fast from what are no doubt serious injuries continues to impress. We won’t be cornering a nice cute Coatis anytime soon.
Jayne’s mother has not survived the journey from the UK well. Despite feeding her daily with the requisite flour and keeping her in the fridge there was not enough feedback to justify the effort. So we said goodbye and started another one. Sourdough bread is a process. New mother has faired better. The yeast in the air here has produced what has turned out to be a far more useful substance which has produced, with some effort, a pretty impressive and delicious loaf.
Lulled into a false sense of security we tried to reproduce the event. Despite hours sitting beside the outside oven and fantasizing about warm sourdough slices dripping in butter and marmite it was not to be. Our first attempt turned out to be a Frisbee shaped brick of solid dough. Even the dog wouldn’t touch it. Not to be put off we persevered. After further hours swatting bugs and staring through the oven door our second attempt appeared. It sort of defied description but a sourdough loaf it was not. It was more of an oversized hockey puck heavy weapon. It took a great deal of effort to throw it into the jungle. I’m sure it will be there for a very long time. Our bread making adventures are suspended. It’s not her mother’s fault apparently.
Ironically it was Mexican Mother’s Day (Thursday) and US/Canadian Mothers Day (Sunday) that very week. Our mother here remains well fed and refrigerated and ready for when the need for a marmite butty exceeds our reluctance to invest further hours staring at an oven. There is good bread in our future.
Big news. Our first pineapple crop is ready. Ok so it’s only one but it’s a start. Smells amazing.
My Spanish is coming along but way way too slowly. I understand most of what is said between Gringos and locals as this is a slower paced and more basic version of conversation. When two Mexicans add tequila and start an enthusiastic chat I’m lost in no time. This is a result of quite spectacular prevarication on my part. If there is any job that needs doing it takes priority over me spending time learning Spanish. Now this is very good for the ever ready composting loos, washing up and general house tidiness but vastly extends the time I can confidently and effectively converse with our growing number of Mexican friends. It’s so important. But here I am writing this blog about my need to learn Spanish rather than actually learning Spanish. Me bad.
Our good friends have bought a lovely house in the next town and we are helping them with getting the garden sorted out and overseeing some building work. I have always had great respect for my friends who are architects and structural engineers and always considered this an alternative path should I ever have the funds and motivation to re-train myself one day. What I have realized over the past weeks is that stress levels when building things for yourself is a different world that building things for someone else. What if something goes wrong? Are the boys doing everything right? What am I missing? It’s not my house! The responsibility! Thankfully all seems to be going very well and in a few days there will be a magnificent palapa on the roof to compliment all the new hand rails and neatly groomed garden. I will ask permission to publish some photos when it’s all done. Mightily relieved. We also get to nick their Wi-Fi whenever we go over so that has helped fuel our new habit of binge watching series on Netflix.
The Ceveceria (pub) has shut for the season. This is hard to take but our great friends who dedicate themselves to keep us all in pints deserve a break. It’s interesting to note the difference between a beer serving establishment and a pub. It’s all about community. The place we all get to know each other and meet up. The font of all knowledge and gossip. There is so much creatively, socially and economically that comes about from creating a space like this and drinking beer within it. That said we have to find an alternative social venue for the next few months. There are enough of us crazies around here that intend to sweat out the rainy season. We decide to have a pool party while we work it out.
So the pool finally becomes more than a sanctuary for one overheated ginger person. Many many friends arrive and after a very long and successful night it is clear that we need to continue to make the effort socially. It’s so worth it.
When a bunch of us get together there are recurring topics that arise. Real Estate is one of them. Our own experience in going through the performance and drama that is buying property in Mexico makes us think we know a little bit about it. In truth we know a lot less that we think we do. It’s an extraordinarily complex process and there are so many trips and hazards on the way that it takes a great deal of effort and good fortune to get through unscathed. We have been asked by a number of people to help them get through it all and the more we learn the more we need to. Finding out who owns the land (Ejido land or otherwise) and what you can officially do with it should you be able to buy it , and what permissions you need and if a great bleeding highway will be built right next to it are all pretty much a mission to find out.
There is a large Cuota Toll highway scheduled to be completed between Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta over the next few years. We were told about this a year ago and it was a real consideration for us when we looked at buying our land here. By some good luck and slight of hand we acquired the GPS coordinates showing exactly where the road is planned to be. Many of the local estate agents don’t have that information.
The highway is scheduled to cut through the bird sanctuary and many miles of protected forest and jungle. It will skim past the entrance to our land about 200m away. The construction will require a 60m wide corridor being cut through unique and irreplaceable natural environment. It is a travesty ecologically but this is Mexico. Payments have allegedly been made. Money has allegedly been washed clean. Politicians have allegedly been bought.
In practice the road will be too expensive for most people to use. It costs at least a day’s wages to use the road, which saves between 2, and 3 hours driving compared to the alternative free road that exists now (the infamous route 200). There will be tourists and the wealthy, some buses and a few trucks using it but few others. This is the same with other Cuota (toll roads) in Mexico. We have used them and there is practically no other traffic on them. You can travel for many miles and not see another vehicle in either direction. Massive waste of money and resources.
The government has paid off the compulsory land purchases already so much of the money has already been spent. Lots of locals with new pick up trucks. The road is already built up to about 40 miles away. The construction crews are due to arrive with us in a year or so. It’s pretty much a done deal but there is a chance of stopping the route through the protected jungle. It’s not a big chance but it’s a chance.
The current government in Mexico is right wing and the last two elections have ended controversially. We are told that the first time they got into power they did not get the majority vote but declared themselves the winners and that was it. The last election the vote count was called off at midnight when they were slightly in the lead and all other votes were not officially counted. If they had been they would not be in power. The next election is next month. The opposition party is standing on an anti-corruption ticket and want to make Mexico “work for the many not the few.” If they get in they will have a much more sympathetic ear and could overturn decisions made where corruption is proved. Lets see what happens.
Leave No Trace : Leave Art . My mantra for the past few years. Entire civilizations have come and gone and left no other history except their art for us to judge them by. Art has arrived!! We have been blessed with the arrival of mural artists who have transformed our orange block and inspired me take brush in hand and practice. If you are inspired in any way to leave us some art in any form then please get in touch.
Our roof has been a worry for some time. It looks pretty and functional from the inside but the outside is buggered. It has had numerous trees and plants growing out of a thick layer of compost that the palm leaves that were installed 8 years ago have now turned into. When it rains there is a mad rush to cover vulnerable areas of stuff with plastic and deploy buckets to divert and capture the brown water that seeps through the compost. It’s not a good thing. We need a new roof.
Budget constraints and our reluctance to move out of our home for a week or two have lead to a compromise. We have a large 6M x 9M sheet of industrial plastic, a roll of wire and 40 huge palms leaves. In the hands of our man, his Dad, his son and his mate this is sufficient to create a waterproof roof in under 3 hours. I attempt to help but end up covered in ancient compost to the amusement of all. I helpfully pass around a few beers and brush away the fall out. We have a functional roof!!
Mexican man flu has descended. I again have a near fatal dose and am suffering in peaceful silence and equanimity. Jayne has a very mild dose of girl flu which is best cured by activity such as cooking and caring for me. This makes her very happy. I might yet survive.
It’s 3 am and I wake up in my ginger puddle of man flu. It’s raining hard. First time in over 6 months. I get up from my sick bed and wobble onto the balcony and get instantly very wet and cold. I return to my damp warm bed. The roof is holding up. I don’t have the energy to be buggering about with buckets and am very grateful. Mausetrappe makes a loud and dramatic entrance. She is entirely unimpressed with whatever this is. We remember that she is probably less than 10 months old so won’t remember rain and certainly not the heavy, cold, get you wet instantly stuff. She decides that my puddle is better place to be and settles in for the night.