Time is passing us by both slowly and quickly. The distortion of time while we navigate this new normal remains confusing. We have no idea of what day of the week it is yet we find weekends pop up more often than expected. Months, however, are deceptively drawn out. April seemed like it has 60 days in it this time around. But here we are. It’s June. The roads are dusty, the heat is rising notably and the humidity is building.
There is talk of a fresh bee swarm that needs relocating. They have taken residency in a disused RV parked close to town. We wait until dusk, gather our hive, suits and gloves and head out. The bees are behind a small plastic access door in the side of the RV which is partially hidden by a hedge. Our friend Diego and I suit up, light the smoker, grab torches and squeeze ourselves through the branches to take a look. Jayne has found her way through the RV main door on the other side and is lying on the floor inside shining light underneath the fridge towards us so we can get a better idea where the queen is hiding. We are positioned well and creating a lot of smoke which I direct through the small opening. Diego puts his arm through the smoke to see if he can feel his way toward the queen.
At this point visibility is not good. Its dark and smoky and the torch we are using is now covered in bees so not at all useful. We hear a loud angry noise and feel the distinct tapping of hundreds of unseen bees attacking our suits. I get a sting on my leg and then another. Diego is in full retreat as his suit has been compromised and he has fully pissed off bees trapped inside. We stumble backwards in the dark. I’m covering us both in smoke to get the growing stack of bees off. Rather than calming them down the smoke appears to be making them more aggressive. Wrong type of smoke maybe?!. I manage to swat my body and helmet free of bees quickly and then try and get the them out of Diego’s suit. Unbeknown to us his pants had a rip in the back side where the bees have got in. I find myself quite literally blowing smoke up his arse as he farts out the invading critters.
We decide that the only way to get at the queen is to remove the RV fridge. We could do with a propane fridge so this might be an opportunity. We retreat to fight another day and ask permission from the owner to take the RV apart.
In the state of Nayarit, we have had imposed upon us for a number of weeks now a total ban on alcohol. Beer, gin, wine and vodka have been considered unessential to life. Needs must and in the spirit of the great prohibition it is fair to say we haven’t suffered. Mainly because in practice we haven’t been without booze at all. Bootlegging is the new sexy. Cases of beer can be purchased if you know the right password. It is possible, with a little luck and guile, to avoid road blocks and drive to another state to stock up. There is even the opportunity to collect take away “free” beer given away by local establishments in exchange for a small donation to a “chicken charity”. After some weeks of this farce the governor very suddenly announced a stop to the ban. He admitted that it had been a complete failure and had given criminal gangs a great opportunity to make a small fortune. Sanity is restored.
Despite the ability to buy now essential alcohol we are completely unable to buy any unessential goods. These includes pots, pans, socks, pants, toys, sporting goods, clothes, shoes, hair dyes, electronics, household items. Pretty much anything except food and drink. So, it’s possible to get to the checkout at Costco with ten crates of beer but without pants. Bizarre.
It’s some days since we were chased away from the RV. I have two painful holes in my legs to remind me. They are by far the worst bee stings I have had. Those bees were hard buggers. Unfortunately, the RV owner did not like the idea of removing his fridge or saving bees . Hopefully the queen managed to escape before he poisons them.
I have been whinging a bit too much lately. Bee stings and spider bites have been disabling and irritating. My shoulder, neck and left arm have been sore and stiff for weeks after my last attack. On close examination of my shoulder it looks like either one spider bit me six times or he had company and they all had a go. The bites were slow to heal so Jayne investigated and pulled a fang out of one of them! Since then things are improving but my left arm is notably weaker than my right. I’ve started a little extra exercise and have hung a punch bag under the yoga deck to build up my arm strength again. Less whinging ahead.
Our gardens continue to flourish with the sun and water. Our tomatoes, pineapples and parsley are doing well. We have been advised that our squash and zucchini are out of season but the flowers keep coming. We are waiting to see what happens. No one here is an experienced gardener. We are employing a chuck it in the ground and see what happens strategy. Lots to learn.
Now much has been written about the Primavera tree and quite rightly so. This is the ugly duckling of trees. For 50 weeks of the year it is an absolutely indistinctive bunch of brown branches. Then for two short weeks of the year it blurts into life. The shot of yellow blossom reflects the sun and belts out glowing golden colour like beacons. They are stunning and clear proof that Spring has indeed sprung.
The colours of spring here are spectacular. It’s when the flowers are at their most vibrant and abundant. Life appearing everywhere. Bright vivid green Iguanas dash around the bush. It’s also the time here when the leaves fall. The ground is thick with them right now. As are our solar panels. I have to carry the ladder over the hill a number of times a week to keep up these days.
Our new kitchen is all but finished. I still have to make and install two doors and a few shelves. Then fit the serving counters and make some secure shutters and finish the electrics and lighting…. but apart from all that, nearly finished. We have double sinks inside and out. We bought a rather sexy six burner oven/stove which slots in perfectly. There are polished concrete counters and many shelves built in. It’s going to be outstandingly useful when I get around to those little finishing jobs.
As part of the process we have run electricity from our bar into the kitchen. In doing so the electrical box fell off the bar support. On further inspection, the bar support, which is one of three large logs of copomo wood, has seen better days. It looked a little weather worn. I took a crowbar and decided to test the rest of the structural bits. Somewhat surprisingly when given a push the supports all but exploded. Huge lumps of shattered wood. Clearly copomo is not the best choice for supporting much in the tropics. The bamboo fascia also disintegrated on touch. The whole thing went from bar to no bar in about 8 minutes. Just the two parota bar tops remain.
Julio has been building the kitchen and generally helping us out all year. He lives close by with his wife and small daughter. He grew up here and has great local knowledge. He disappears into the jungle for a day and returns proudly with a supply of special “30 year” wood. Its dark and very heavy. It takes our largest chainsaw to go through it. This will become the new bar. The parota bar tops are installed on top of three large pieces secured with long lag bolts. Screws won’t do it. This stuff is like metal. The sharp strands of sawdust feel like swarf. Eventually the over heating chainsaw produces slices of the stuff which are lined up as fascia and concreted into the ground. It’s a rustic but good-looking result. It will almost certainly be around longer than I will.
The road block into town has finally been taken down. There is a constant police presence but no one is being stopped unless they look particularly dodgy. San Pancho beach is still, however, effectively closed. Police and military have been chasing people off, hauling a few repeat offenders away and fining others. Now there are no tourists it seems madness to prevent locals social distancing at what is effectively the safest place we have.
Lo De Marcos has the attraction of having the same sun setting just a few miles south and a far more sensible enforcement regime. We sit at the beach or swim in the sea as the sun hits the water and gives us a show. We take dinner from Tomatina’s bar which is serving take away food and add a Margarita or two for good measure. Every time we make the effort to see the day out on the beach we are reminded of our good fortune. It’s food for the soul.
Sunset has also become something of a competitive environment for the photographers amongst us. Now pretty much everyone with a phone thinks they are a photographer these days. Most people will get lucky and capture something pretty now and again but those few that really know somehow get lucky all the time! To demonstrate this there follows a series of sunset shots from the past few weeks. Hoping I have the photo credits correct. It’s hard to keep up.
Despite many areas of Mexico that are only just coming to terms with the reality of the Covid threat, other areas are now looking at loosening restrictions. Reports of up to a thousand unreported deaths a day in Mexico City is not good news for the country or its international reputation. While in the San Pancho hospital this week we talked to nurses who told us that despite the official numbers they have had many Covid cases. There is a quarantined ward in the hospital full of patients right now. Ambulance drivers tell us they don’t want to step foot in the place.
Just when we think things could not get much stranger our world takes an highly unexpected turn that entirely resets our priorities.
It’s a new normal day. Jayne is working from her bed office. The boys are fixing a lump of polished parota to a concrete plinth to make an alter on the yoga deck. I have just finished a sweaty ouchy work out on the punch bag and am surprised to see Sasha home. He is working three days a week at the bar delivering food “to go”. His chain is loose on his motorbike and it has come off a few times. We decide if the jungle jeep starts first time he will take that and at the same time drop it in at the mechanics to get the headlight wires replaced. The jungle jeep does, remarkably, start first time.
A fairly productive day ends with a rare homemade dinner and a movie. It’s 11 pm and we are both slow and dozy when our phones ring. It’s Sasha but no voice. A distinctive beep noise and some guttural noises. We both assume his pocket has dialled us. I send a message to check all is well. Some minutes later we get a one word message: hospital.
We are dressed and on our way to town in moments. We are more curious than nervous until we get to the Pemex gas station and see the jungle jeep smashed up on a flatbed parked outside. We stop and run over but the recovery vehicle cab is empty. The jungle jeep’s heavy duty front bull bars are smashed, there is mud in the engine, the windscreen is mostly missing and the steering wheel looks like a rosette. Now we are scared.
As we arrive at the hospital in town we are met by a policeman and the recovery vehicle driver. The story they tell us is that they found Sasha by the side of the road unconscious at around 10 pm. They tell us they think he will be OK. This is a massive relief. We mask up and let ourselves into the ward to find him. There is little or no security at 11.30pm on a Wednesday night. Covid restrictions are not obvious.
Sasha is on a bed looking battered. The heart monitor in the bed next to him bleeps loudly. He has one of the most impressive black eyes I’ve ever seen. The swelling covers his right eye entirely. His “good” eye is almost closed and crested by a long line of stitches. A nurse is completing a further long line of stitches on his leg where there is a substantial wound. His general appearance is bloody and swollen.
He is somewhat lucid and in his usual good humour despite everything. He tells us that he didn’t make it to the mechanic so drove home after work in daylight around 8.30pm On a bend in the road he oversteered and the jeep flipped in the air. His last memory was curling up small and not considering this a good thing. He woke up in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Thankfully he had his phone and managed to get messages out.
We muck in and clean some of the blood off him. We find another hole in his ear and get that stitched too. He is hurting but breathing OK and is very keen not to spend much time in the hospital. We wheel him to get X-rays. By some miracle they don’t find any cracks to his skull. They do however find a displaced fracture in his foot.
We point out further holes in him that need attention. They have not removed his blood-soaked shirt or his shorts so have missed a few. After a short assessment, it is decided that because they haven’t found a skull fracture he is good to go. He is certainly not good but we do as we are told and prepare to wheel him into our truck. They write us a prescription for pain medication and antibiotics which we can’t fill till 9 am. It’s 2 am. He needs to go 7 hours without meds?
Our good friend Narciso has arrived. He is local and knows the working of the hospital and checks that we have not been overcharged. The whole bill is around $200US. If this was North of the border it would likely have been at least $20 000US so we happily pay. Narciso and Jayne both make sure that the doctors really do want to release him. He has a displaced fracture in his foot but apparently, they don’t have the materials to treat it so give us the name of a doctor 30 miles away to call in the morning. Sasha staying the night for observation is not an option apparently so we load him from the wheel chair in to our truck.
The travel home is slow. The Sub is smooth but every bump is greeted with a gurgle and a groan. We park the truck as close to the jungle cabin as possible. Sasha is in a heap of pain. His chest, arms, broken foot, head and most places in-between. I’m trying to hold him up but it’s not working. We shout to our friend Pato who is quarantining with us for a few weeks. He wakes up and comes over to help. We are trying to prevent his broken foot from taking any weight but it’s just not working. We are half way there and he runs out of energy. We manage to get a chair under him before he collapses. Bizarrely Pato has vanished. I find him doubled up on the ground. He is dizzy and nauseous . He crawls away and starts throwing up.
It’s 2.30 am in a pitch black jungle. One friend is broken to bits in a chair and another throwing up. At this point we notice the ants. The jungle floor is alive with them. Large black biting ants sense our weakness and decide to attack. I race to the bodega and return with the anti-ant poison and spray it around the chair. They are already climbing all over Sasha. Pato retreats home to recover and avoid being eaten. If I thought I wouldn’t have made things a lot worse I would have carried Sasha the rest of the way but it just wasn’t possible. Another big painful effort and we made it to his cabin. No.22. Sasha lies flat on his back and does not look well. I wipe blood from his nose and ears and return quickly with all the pain killers we can find. His eyes are now both swollen shut. His face looks like someone has taken a cricket bat to a baboon arse. It’s not good.
I check on him through the night and am waiting outside the pharmacy at 9 am to stock up on painkillers and antibiotics. Sasha’s wife Molly has arrived from Lo De Marcos and stays with him. He hasn’t slept much at all and is complaining that he can’t breathe well. He is in a world of pain. We are unsure if this is due to seat belt bruising or something more serious. He has shoulder pain and shortness of breath which are both indicators of internal bleeding. Things are not OK. We want him to be checked out so try our best to move him but it’s not possible. He is in way too much pain. When he tries to sit up he can’t breathe. We call our local doctor to see if we can get her to come out. She’s not answering.
Pato and I race the Razor back into town and go straight to the hospital. We need a doctor and an ambulance or both. I insist that Sasha can’t be moved, he is in extreme pain, unable to breathe and showing signs of internal bleeding and needs help now. Four girls are on reception and could not be less bothered. They tell us that if he was released from hospital he will be fine and they will not trouble a doctor and they don’t have an ambulance. There is an ambulance parked outside the door in plain sight. We are told to go and find help elsewhere!! I am fucking furious but realise we are getting nowhere with these idiots.
Narciso is in town and we meet up to make a plan. He calls his contacts in the hospital. They confirm that they don’t have an ambulance ready. We call 911 and they tell us they do have an ambulance but no drivers. We get a message from Molly that Sasha is getting worse and is prepared to try and move into the Razor so I can drive him to a hospital that will take him seriously. We get back to No.22 as fast as I can drive.
Although it is clearly a great idea to get out of the jungle it just isn’t happening. Despite every effort Sasha cannot move. We have the option of a private ambulance from 30 miles away that will come for about $1000 US. He has no insurance so private health care is completely out of his budget. We are just about to make the call to spend the money when Pato finds another private ambulance with paramedics from nearby Sayulita who only want 1500 pesos! That’s $70US! Result. We jump in the Razor and again rally drive to the Pemex gas station to meet the ambulance so they can follow us in.
We are there in no time and are entirely grateful to see the flashing lights on the highway. The ambulance is new, modern, huge and has a Bay Watch logo on the side. The jungle road is a challenge but they follow us slowly. We get to the last dry river bed when the sirens go off and they stop. The driver won’t go any further. He has lost his exhaust and doesn’t want to inflict any further damage. We load a gurney and a fully equipped paramedic into the Razor and arrive outside No.22 in a cloud of dust.
While the paramedic checks out Sasha (while at the same time selling the services of his hospital in Sayulita) we call a friend who has a Toyota forerunner SUV that can take the gurney in the back. He arrives in 10 minutes flat. We carry Sasha very carefully strapped to the gurney into the Toyota and all meet up at the riverbed to transfer him and Molly to the stricken ambulance.
The Sayulita hospital requires a deposit of $4000US dollars so we head back to San Pancho hospital. The chief paramedic has rung his friend in the hospital who are now taking the situation very seriously. I follow the ambulance to the hospital where Pato, Narciso and myself wait outside. We are not allowed in. Covid rules now apply. We pay the paramedic his 1500 pesos and a further 3500 pesos for a new exhaust. We catch snippets of information through the emergency room door. They are talking about operating immediately as they suspect a liver bleed. He is not breathing well and his blood oxygenation is dropping. They are talking about intubating him. They are asking about his blood type. No one knows.
There is now a competent doctor and paramedic with Sasha. I can’t be directly helpful right now so decide to make my way back home where Jayne has been madly ringing around hospitals and trying to find a doctor while being on the phone managing meetings in Canada all morning. We are both deeply worried and exhausted. I’ve drank about a dozen diet cokes and have the caffeine shakes.
We need to find out where the vehicle has been taken to. The recovery driver would not accept a bribe to leave it in San Pancho the night before. We discover the jeep has ended up in Guayabitos which is about 20 miles North. We are both too exhausted to drive there so decide to leave it till the next day.
We get a message from Molly. The doctors are very concerned about Sasha but don’t have the resources to deal with him in San Pancho. They are both in an ambulance on their way to the General Hospital in Tepic. Tepic is the county capital and is over 2 hours North. Tepic has a metro population of 500 000 and is known to be a Covid hotspot. There are no hotel rooms or places to stay and all restaurants are closed. The San Pancho hospital director has now heard about the situation and is angry and embarrassed. Good. It is beyond obvious that Sasha should never have been released in the first place.
We finally sleep. We receive news the next morning. Molly reports back that Tepic General hospital is, to be kind, “basic”. All medicines need to be bought from the nearby pharmacy and handed to staff. They had to spend the night trying to sleep in a hospital corridor. They suspect Sasha has a ruptured spleen and they are considering operating. They hope to get a room and be under observation for 24 hours. They will decide about operating then. Staffing levels are low so Molly is having to do a lot of the care. The hospital is under Covid restrictions so will not let anyone else in to see him.
We take a trip to La Penita where our friendly mechanic who built the jungle jeep has agreed to help us retrieve it from the authorities. We meet up with the recovery driver from the hospital and talk to the policeman who attended. On the night, our friendly policeman decided not to make a report. We were the owners of the vehicle and weren’t pressing charges, and there was no one else involved in the accident. However, now that Sasha’s condition is considered more serious he has made a retrospective report and that has caused all sorts of red tape to be released. It is now required of us to drive to Tepic and present proof that the vehicle is ours and that we are not liable for anything and then we can get a piece of paper that will release the vehicle to us. Our mechanic lives in Tepic and knows people in the Federal offices so has agreed to do it for us.
It is a constant stress that Sasha does not have the money to cover his care costs let alone his recovery costs. We are happy to write off the vehicle and recovery costs but we have no clue what the next procedures will cost. Latest from Molly is that they have a room they are sharing with 5 others and the doctors have confirmed they will operate on him in the morning.
It is decided to raise some much-needed funds. Narciso takes on the task of collecting cash from local friends so we can get that to Molly quickly. She is required to pay for medical costs up front and in cash. We take on setting up a GoFundMe page and distributing it to the many friends Sasha has around the world. There is a lot of love and generosity for this man. We surpass our ambitious target within hours. This a massive relief and removes all the financial stress from the situation. We can now apply all our energies to Sasha’s recovery. Molly confirms she has the money to cover the hospital bills and there is a fund to allow Sasha time to recover and have access to private care if required. . We are all immensely relived and grateful.
It takes a further trip to our mechanic to give him more bits of paper before he makes his second trip to Tepic to get us permission to take back our vehicle. It will be back in his care directly from the tow company as soon as we pay them an eye watering amount for pulling the thing out of the ditch. Then he can assess the damage. Make the repairs and finally sell the bloody thing.
On the way back we find the crash site. The policeman sent us all the pictures he took on his phone. The photos were taken at night and are far from clear but they show a distinctive blue chair close to the vehicle. We find the chair for reference and are stunned. The jeep was driven off a steep drop above a concrete culvert. How Sasha survived is entirely unclear. He is one lucky man.
The operation was a success. They found over two litres of blood in his abdomen so it was about time. He was effectively spatchcocked and has a scar from sternum to pubis. Molly is given a jar with most of Sasha’s spleen inside to take to the pathology lab! There is still a small portion inside him that they hope to persuade some function from. A doctor friend who trained at the Tepic hospital visited Sasha. He confirmed that despite the disorganisation, lack of cleanliness and absence of staff the hospital does give good care and the surgeons are highly skilled. While concentrating on other more pressing priorities his broken foot still hasn’t had any attention. Molly continues to care for him as well as the others in his room who have no one to help them. The stories they will tell…
Sasha is finally feeling well enough to contact us. We are communicating again which is fantastic. He is going to need many more days in Tepic before he can walk and manage his pain levels. But he is alive. He will be back. He will ride again. Thank God.