A Hurricane, Scorpion Fun & Dead People.
Our stress about the lack of rain and delight about the lack of weather related destruction this year comes to an end. Hurricane Orlean thankfully missed us but was soon followed by Roslyn. She started as a tropical storm but gathered guts as she moved slowly up the coast and hit land a little North of us as a category 4 hurricane.
It starts raining about midnight but at 4 am we are woken by earth shaking thunder. The rain becomes thick, heavy and loud. The canopy lights up as the lightening hits close and often. There are distinctive noises echoing through the jungle. It sounds like fireworks but we recognised the now familiar noise. This is the unique sound of tree trunks slowly announcing they are splitting apart before they fall. Our treehouse is safe although there is now a river flowing underneath. The road down to the gate is effectively a waterfall.
Our friend Emma is staying with us as she looks for a less jungly and more permanent home in town. My son Jake has also bailed on the UK and moved back here in search of a healthier and less financially stressy existence. We have had intermittent issues with internet so have invested in walkie talkies to make communications easier between the four of us.
It’s 4.30 am when we hear from Emma. The plastic sheet that we attached to her roof in anticipation of a few minor leaks has blown off. After being dripped upon and hearing the trees fall very close by she is now huddled in the brick shit house toilet/shower block. Her cabaña is surrounded by huge trees. The concrete roof gives her the best chance of staying dry and not getting squashed. The rain is coming down in dramatic amounts.
I throw on a rain poncho and grab a rather fetching pink flowery umbrella and brave the downpour. Somehow I negotiate the highly slippery stone waterfall and arrive to the rescue. She is dry and unsquashed but forced to share this small space with her precious computer bag and at least one snake who is also avoiding getting drowned. Before we both brave the journey back to the treehouse I try and get to see how Jake is faring but the front road is now a raging impassable river and the path to his place is completely blocked with a thick ten foot wall of branches and thorns. He is on his own for now. We are all completely cut off.
There is little sleep achieved and so after the rain subdues and I imbibe the appropriate amount of tea I sharpen a machete and head out to assess the situation. It is surprisingly easy to take the upper path to the solar panels that we assumed would be wrecked. This is good news as I am able to check in with Jake who is suitably stunned by events but safe. The river is still too high to cross but from the gate we can see that it has diverted down our access road which now is earth free and looks like a lunar rock fall. That is going to be an issue for sure.
I double back to approach the blocked path from the opposite direction. Within 20 yards is the first downed tree. A huge Copomo previously over a hundred feet high. It’s a lot of wood. It is perched upon an even taller palm tree that it has snapped in half on the way down. I can get underneath it easily. Then another. An even larger Copomo with two huge twin trunks. One I can also get under and the other I can climb over. I am then confronted by the wall of debris. It’s a dozen feet deep and thickly entangled. It takes about an hour to cut my way through.
It is with some relief that after waiting for the first river to drop we are able to make it to town. Our belovedly robust yellow submarine Toyota FJ somehow rock hops over the crevasses, roots and large stones and makes it to the biggest river. Jake and I spend an hour getting wet and avoiding getting washed away. We move all the newly deposited heavy river rocks out the way and take down lumps of overhanging tree to make a suitable path across.
Despite being theoretically able to, we avoid bashing up the FJ negotiating the road and stay put for many days until we can get a machine in to fix things. It has not rained once since the hurricane so we assume the rainy season is over and we can begin the process of repair and preparation for a long dry season.
Irritatingly our internet is out again and this time they have the hurricane excuse so it’s a full week offline. Three out of the four of us require internet to make a living so all impose ourselves daily on our delightful neighbour (she has way more sky than us so has starlink to steal). Her generous and patient nature is fully tested.
Our apiarist mate in town calls us to see if we have a spare bee hive. He has a colony that needs a home. We explain that the lightening appears to have driven off all our bees so he can help himself. We should have three empty highly desirable jungle hives to chose from. We are not correct. We meet him on his way back from installing the new bee home. Unexpectedly he found two fully occupied hives and only one empty. The incumbents were not delighted to see him and were apparently “bloody aggressive” Despite being a highly experienced bee bloke and being in full protective suit he did not want to hang around. We have been warned.
We are very lucky to have a highly organized and effective system in our small town for recycling and rubbish collection. It is the very best I have ever seen anywhere. There are regular collection spots on the roads around town where there are cages to collect plastic, cardboard, glass and aluminum recycling and big blue bins to accept the rest. We only have to bag up our stuff and drop them off. Collections are regular and it is a relatively clean and stink free process.
Jungle rubbish builds up slowly. Most of our food waste ends up directly in the jungle or compost. Most of the rest is recyclable so the garbage can spend weeks in place before it is removed. This attracts a number of interested visitors. Emptying bins is always a fully disgusting process. Maggots and massive grubs make it a living moving mass of part digested horror goop. The smell is memorable.
I prepare myself with gloves and gin to make the monthly run into town. I am confused by my inability to remove the black bin liner from the large black plastic bin. Somehow the rains from the hurricane have found a way in and created a very heavy bin liner full of a grotesque fermented elixir. I am more terrified than curious so leave the bag tied and sealed. By tipping the bin over on its side while applying a lot of force I manage to dangle the corner of the full bag over the balcony outside the front door. I use a knife to cut the corner off and allow the juice to pour out. The smell is neck snappingly foul beyond description.
Jayne’s online work meeting is interrupted by involuntary gagging. Our mosquito mesh windows do not prevent the noxious fumes filling the treehouse. Half a dozen incense sticks lit in a blind panic add a thick perfumed sweetness to the mix which doesn’t help much.
I struggle to maneuverer the offending bag into another and seal it tight. I drag the whole thing down the stairs but it’s clear that everything within is sodden with garbagy maggoty soup. I throw it into the Ranger bed and push a machete through the bottom to allow it to drain properly and dry out. I move myself far enough away so I can breathe without throwing up. It’s confusingly a lot further away than I thought. I realise that in this process some of this unspeakable smelling juice has ended up on me ! I unfortunately can’t get away from me. I stink. I hold my breath to prevent throwing up as I march quickly and directly to the shower.
Our jungle fleet is now down to a single operational vehicle. After its extreme 4×4 adventures the FJ requires work on its suspension but is working and getting us all where we need to be. Long may that continue.
The Ranger runs (sorta kinda ) but the little sugar lump is still unable to cope with driving through water and as we have five rivers flowing between us and our town right now so it’s not useful. Thankfully we have lovely mules coming down from the USA now in Mexico) who have with them a bag of highly useful parts that should help us.
The Razor has been stuck in place and effectively disassembled for months now. Our newly enthusiastic mechanics who promised to get her going again ran out of enthusiasm. Finally after weeks of heavy nagging they turned up to put the thing together again and it’s running. It sounds like a bag of rusty spanners but it’s running. With luck our latest mechanics will have both Ranger and Razor back on form again in the next few weeks. That will be a massive relief.
Complacency is not the best. Having been here for five years and avoiding getting stung by any of the numerous scorpions I share a home with has made me a little complacent. I have bemoaned on many occasions the irritation of tick bites, the various paralysis by spider venom and annoying stings from bees and hornets. I will never forget the pain of a manta ray tail or my head wrapped with the tentacles of a jelly fish. I can, however, now attest that none of these compares to a proper going over by a scorpion.
It’s 11.30 at night. I’m close to our bed and very suddenly there is a pain on the side of my foot. The intensity of the pain takes me entirely by surprise. I sit on the bed and swear eloquently. I have been attacked and my first reaction is to retaliate. This has to be a scorpion. I increase the swearing and launch myself towards where I suspect the little twat is hiding. I am correct. As soon as my injured foot hits the ground she stings me again. The first must have been a warning to keep away. This one must be the “I told you so” shot. Somehow the pain intensity is greatly magnified and takes my breath away. I return to the bed feeling stupid and defeated. She is nowhere to be found and I have lost the will or the energy to find her. I am totally distracted by the pain.
It is impossible to tell where exactly I have been stung. My lower leg and foot feel like they are in a fire. There is irritatingly nothing to see. It’s tough for me to talk but increasingly foul swearing remains easy. I can feel the toxins moving up the back of my leg. That is not a good feeling. It does not improve. After ten minutes the pain is worse. The strange burning sensation has moved over my bits and up my back. My jaw feels tight. My lips are numb. My hands are buzzing. My vision has new sparkly bits added. It is decided that it might be a fair idea to go to the hospital to acquire some anti-venom.
The journey into town is a trip. I’m not quite in my right mind. I’m not fully hallucinating but my whole body is tingling strongly in waves. The incredible unaltering pain is preventing me enjoying myself. I arrive at the hospital and a relaxed staff nurse smiles at me and diagnoses scorpion toxicity immediately. I am guided into the A&E area where a young boy and his mother are sitting on the only gurney. He smiles at me and looks concerned when he is told I have been hit by a scorpion. He has also been stung! He is calm and holds his mother’s hand as he smiles at me and walks away. I slump down. The pain is stunning. No let up at all.
Our relaxed staff nurse looks at me. He has limited professional sympathy. I have a line put into my hand and anti-venom is applied. Pathetic noises are coming out of me as the pain gets unbearable. In my mind they are soft and gentle moans but I am corrected. Apparently they are irritating and the very ill people that surround me are unimpressed. I am unhelpfully reminded that I am clearly not as brave as the little boy. I am also cheerfully told that although it can last up to 24 hours there will be no pain relief as they need to assess my condition. Everyone (else) laughs out loud. I manage a weak smile and some better repressed moans.
As soon as it is decided that the anti-venom has slowed my demise I am released back to the world. I am off my face but that is expected apparently. The full pain experience lasts for four hours straight. When it reduces to moderate agony I can relax a little. A few medicinal whiskies and I collapse. By morning the pain has gone entirely. As well as all feeling in my foot. I cannot feel any of my toes . Nothing at all. It’s very odd. It is common for this numbness to last at least a month, I am told, so I better get used to it.
The following day I arrive at my dentist for root canal work. Compared to the previous night it is a breeze. Almost enjoyable. What is strange is to have the left side of my head numb from anesthetic and my right foot numb from toxin. I now have a strangely disturbing creepy smile and a limp.
A period of goldilocks weather (not too hot, not too cold) is upon us. No more rain. Barely filled rivers drying up already. This is remarkably early but none the less welcome for the short term. The tropics is an area of the world where climate has been broadly predictable. This is clearly changing.
We take advantage of the surprisingly breathable air and lack of rain and head out to a rather remarkable stretch of river that runs through untamed jungle. By following the ancient pathway and bouncing across the river boulders we arrive at a stunning waterfall with pools to soak in. The unique attraction of this spot is the abundance of 4000 year old graffiti carved into the rocks faces. These petroglyphs are world famous. The region was originally home to the Tequectequi native culture dating from approximately 2000 BC to 2300 BCE. The site remains sacred for the Huicholes who still leave offerings and perform ceremonies here. It’s a very special place.
The new house is looking better and better. Our beautiful section of rammed earth floor is drying out slowly and awaiting the addition of linseed oil to toughen it up. The clay wall is awaiting a layer of cactus juice to smooth it out and offer a little protection. It is looking excellent already. Our wattle and daub upper sections still await our round windows to be added. The latest delivery promise for windows is ”sometime next week for sure”. So we have no idea but are hopeful it will happen this month. We are very much looking forward to seeing the kitchen, upper balcony and our impressive bespoke parota doors all complete with windows.
Our kitchen is done. Our stunning quartz worktops expertly installed. Our superbly crafted cabinets completed. Our sink and sexy tap in place. The new oven cut in. It all looks so very very good.. The water is flowing too. Only one leak from a damaged fitting which was easy to fix.
Our expertly designed access stairs are done. Our fabulous bookcase is installed. We’re are few windows a desk and a bedroom away from being finished.
Halloween is celebrated by a fancy dress party at our friends’ house that they have expertly transformed into a haunted house for the night. There is a huge amount of effort made by so many. A friend and myself are slightly stuck for a suitable costume until we realise that the we both have a striking resemblance to our host. Pam is a tall , slim very attractive blond so we shouldn’t have to make too much of an effort.
Day of the Dead November 1st is the day to celebrate with children who have died. November 2nd is for adults. It’s a time for celebrating with the dead. To interact with them. Large Mexican families visit the highly decorated cemeteries to spend time with loved ones. Separate to the graves are alters . They are adorned with marigolds, food, salt, incense, photographs and elaborate artistic collages of beans and sand. At midnight we join a procession of hundreds which arrives at the cemetery in Sayulita to huge loud fireworks, and a Mariachi band playing traditional folk music. The locals sing along to every word. Graves have marigolds, photos and candles. Most have families sharing food and tequila.
In the evening we watch sunset on the beach along with a band of a hundred stylishly coordinated drummers from around the world who unite to synchronise and celebrate. We eat great tacos and return to the jungle where we have created our own alter. We light candles and incense and connect peacefully with the people we have lost. It’s emotional.