It’s a huge source of satisfaction that I am accompanied along the way by my friends and my son. The scrutiny of strangers is a fascinating process but the eyes of close friends can cause some performance anxiety. Seems we are passing the approval tests. Many more ahead mind…
Our full to burst compliment of folk are all enthusiastic to contribute & work but also have fun in their minds. Plans are afoot. There is much talk of whales who are passing by our shore daily at this time of year. There is the need to catch fish. Fish to take home and cook on an open fire all macho like. There is the need to explore the Pacific more. Coral is requested. We book us all on a day trip where a boat will take us to see whales , catch fish and drop us on an Island to snorkel over the coral. Success.
There is much excited whale spotting with some of these huge beasts getting very close. We catch a small tuna type fish (Ceviched later ) and tested out our ability to walk into the ocean in flippers without falling over and hold our breath long enough to follow the fish through the coral. Much sun , sea and sand and some sea sickness (or hidden hangovers) by the end of the day. It was a fairly dry event as the night before accidentally turned naughty. No one could face much beer after that.
There is a push now to get our bar built and the outdoor tables ready. We have invited many friends from the local community who have helped us out or just curious to visit us for a “soft opening” of La Colina Project on Tuesday this week. There is a lot of work to be done before then but there is great motivation and enthusiasm from everyone to make this a memorable event. I have all the faith it will be. Not entirely sure why yet. I’m not worried.
The leaps and limps to action are impressive. There is enough of us to make it fun and photographed. Monday night we apply the last coat of varnish to the tables bare foot in the dark with headlamps. My feet get a coating of marine varnish that lasts for many days. The other results are magical. We have a bar. A real one. The display of stunningly polished parota in the form of huge tables and a the bar top give a touch of class. Even the cow heads have lights in their eyes. A very cool addition. I am tasked with cleaning out a large cooler chest borrowed from behind a local restaurant of all its indescribable muck and grot. There is much of it that a hose pipe efficiently covers me in. We fill it with ice and beer. We have a number of jugs of local tequila, mezcal and rum. The blender has power, the lights are lit. I smell of muck and grot and have mottled brown feet but I’m ready as I’m gonna be.
The coming together of so many new friends and old who have helped us out over the past months is emotional. My strange smell & dappled feet are forgiven and a pretty fantastic afternoon and night evolved. Lots of tours of the property and gifts of booze and good company. At some point my knees again surcome to the effects of Mezcal and I am removed. Probably for the best .
The morning after is brutal. My mezcal knees have recovered but I still have a musty grot odor. There is a full truck of recycling. A large heap of cans, glass, cardboard and half drunk bottles of tequila. Despite valiant attempts to make a significant dent our free bar ends up with more booze than we started with. Result. It is a relief to shower and collapse and consider a job well done.
It is a different world out here now for a number of reasons. Our never ending list of things to do “right now” has reduced somewhat. The list exists but now has endless things to do “sometime soon”. Priorities are shifting. Our first chunks of big money items like solar and construction are spent and so we are now at the point of nurturing and repairing our battered bank account in order to look at phase two. Plans are made to tackle the white house and the Scorpion temple at some point in the future and saving to get a roof on our house that can cope better with the rainy season. We are concentrating now on selling my house in Darlington. When that is done we will have the means to make the next investments. Until then it’s austerity for us while making what we have give us an income. So a diet of tacos and Tecate awaits while we undertake a charm offensive with all the local letting agents.
We also have a lot of power. The solar panels are catching photons at an extraordinary rate and our sexy nano-carbon batteries are storing them all like champions. The past weeks have seen lights appear everywhere and sockets have emerged. Our pool pump has been removed and loved and returned to service with it’s own power line. The pump that pulls the water uphill to the top tinacos has also been wired in. This saves me dragging generators in and out of trucks and up and down hills three times a day. My poor old back is saved !
With power comes much digging. We have trenched 100s of meters of conduit under the stony jungle ground. There is a phenomenon here where a small trench just a few inches deep and a few feet long can create a pile of stones bigger than me. It makes no sense at all. The result is we have created a large number of rockeries next to freshly hidden wires. These now line pathways and make for what turns out to be accidental landscaping. Looks rather good.
Our first wave of paying guests proves to be a surprisingly lovely lot. A proper mix of ages and nationalities. It was worries to me that we would have over entitled people arrive here expecting too much and testing my fabled patience. As it turns out people really love it here and are happy to pay us and are on the whole considerably less irritating than expected. There have been some moments of extreme idiocy. It appears there is a section of the population that are more of a challenge. There are a lot more youngish people than I ever expected who are unable (actually unable) to follow basic directions or signs let alone follow a map. They either use Google-Maps to tell them where they are or they haven’t got a clue….no other option exists to them .. Scary but true…. I have , however, been able to deal with this perfectly thanks to my endless patience, understanding and empathetic disposition.
Our reviews so far have been outstanding. We are doing something right. It’s Easter weeks which are famously the busiest of the year and so we would expect to have some interest over this time. We are currently booked out til April. The test will come after that. See how long we can extend the season for visitors out here. We are contemplating retreats here for birdwatchers, fire fly spotters and/or photographers all with compulsory Yoga and Mezcal tastings (maybe).
Bird watching. Who knew ? We are a touch spoilt to be on “The Road of the Squashes”. People travel from far and wide and Canada to pay a bunch of dollars to walk down the road to our house. There are over 200 species of bird here. Right here. My oldest mate from UK (very old) came over to help with my electrics and give his girlfriend a break. He accidentally got hooked into the bird watching as they were outside his window all the time. Before he left they made a list of 36 new species of bird he has seen since he got here two weeks ago. A 13 year old girl arrived the day after from an Island off Vancouver and takes this as a challenge. She makes a list of over 70 new species she had seen in two days!! There has to be a market for a bird watching retreat for those who appreciate tropical birds. We are working on it ……
Sanitation is a thing. Buckets of unspeakable stuff are required to be added to the compost heap very often. There are a lot of productive bodies here now and the buckets are filling up quick. The buckets need emptying and the contents covered in a pile of compost as soon as they get full. It is a familiar process now and it’s become my job. I get it done usually first thing in the morning. It’s not the best way to start the day but not necessarily the worst. One of my previous jobs that I accidentally agreed to when drinking a bit to much at the wrong time was to be in charge of sanitation at an arts festival in Spain. I had the task of looking after the contents of about 1500 people in extreme heat conditions.
In order to delegate as much as possible I created and recruited a whole team of Shit Ninjas. These extraordinary humans took it upon themselves to educate everyone in the process of healthy sanitation and deal with the aftermath. Could do with a few of them here to help me out. My experience as the aptly named Shit Head has hardened me to dealing with such issues. I’ve seen things I can’t unsee. We thankfully have the services here of experienced carers and nurses who are even more conditioned to the grotty end of things so I’m now not the only one on bucket duty. So far it’s working out well and everyone’s experience of dry toilets is pretty positive. Saves a huge amount of water. The Parota sawdust smells the best.
My hair requires a shear I am reliably told. We have decided on a “no mirror on the wall” strategy and to adopt a rural-shabby-chique look and to only make suggestions on each others appearance when it’s clearly the right thing to do. This does remove any remaining vanity issues we may be harboring. Now is one of those moments. I have found that by wetting my hair and turning upside down and hacking off any misbehaving hairs that I can see in my shaving mirror it does change things a little. Not sure entirely positively… I catch my reflection in the rear view mirror of the truck. Not the worst haircut I ever had, however, I do know that my dear UK hair expert would be un-amused by such antics … she would not approve .
The arty gifts we are receiving here are just amazing and are fully appreciated. We have had deliveries of SD Cards packed with music of every sort. We have had unique art pieces made especially for us. Original paintings from guests, my wife pimped up & now as the bar figure head. There is even hand made mobile of paint pots on a saucepan lid shipped in from UK. It’s a great thing. We have a “leave no trace leave art “ philosophy and the time for art is upon us. It will be an exciting time as we see it evolve. A local mural artist work in the local Cervecaria (pub) . She has offered to paint a wall on the outside of the orange block. Should be a stunning addition.
My son Jake has a long held dream. He has always wanted to visit the town of Tequila and this is his chance. For the first time we agree to leave the land in the hands of others for the night and venture the 4 hours to explore the world of 100% agave. We pass many fields of blue agave of various ages. It takes 8 to 12 years before they can be harvested by a Jimador, roasted, juiced and then made into Tequila. We arrive and Jake is to say the very least excited. Haven’t seen him this excited since “X-box Christmas” 2002.
We start with a basic white tequila. You can taste the agave. Strong pepper after-taste. Delicious. Then we get into an old aged golden coloured version that tastes almost like an old rum. We then take the Jose Cuervo factory tasting tour.
My dear son is in his element. The tour climax is a sit down tasting of 4 of their best. “Always start with the best as by the time you finish your taste buds will be in shock” we are told. The group has about 20 people and we are surprised to see that more than half of them leave the tasting after just a sip or two. This leaves a few dozen untouched full glasses of premium tequila. Well it seemed rude to leave them there ….. the remains of the day from this point are hazy. We are fully conversant in the production of tequila and have developed a great appreciation of this magic stuff.
In the interests of further education there was considerably more sampling . “On average we are told that 4 glasses of average tequila will put the average person to sleep in an hour.” We, however, avoided sleep for some time and managed to raise the averages somewhat before eventually calling it and try to find the hotel. We woke early and limped to the van for the long, quiet and reflective drive back.
March 17th started early watching Ireland beat England at Twickenham to Grand Slam the 6 nations Rugby on Saint Patrick’s Day. There are two proper Irish folk left here to gloat. That is some start to the day for them. The pubs in Dublin must be pure madness and no further excuses are needed here for a touch of daytime celebrating. Despite being wounded by Tequila they all make a good effort to keep their reputation alive.
This past month has passed quickly. My son and most of his mates have bounced back to Dublin. He went through New York post-Paddy’s Day which was an entirely different adventure. Pictures of him with Guinness smugly in hand prove he got home somehow. I miss the bugger already. My daughter is next. One day soon the stars will align and she will be here.
It’s my Birthday. San Pancho is the home to, amongst others, Gilles Ste-Croix who is the co-founder of Cirque du Soleil. His gift to the community here is to offer his considerable resources to train local children in circus skills. He has founded and supports Circo de los Niños http://circodelosninosdesanpancho.mx/ They have a show once a year. It’s tonight and we have tickets. I arrive carrying the considerable load of my first decent steak in 6 months and far too much of freshly made birthday cake and a steeping in Mezcal. I am in a packed venue to watch what Cirque du Soleil can do with 150 Mexican school kids. It’s truly astonishing.
I am stunned enough to require a reasonable number of pints in the Cerveceria before giving in to my age and heading back to the jungle. Those kids were inspirational.
My son’s girlfriend is going home and she needs a photograph of her surfing to show him to wind him up. Reasonable request even though she has never surfed before. We load the van and head to La Lancha beach where the surf is reliable. We take Jayne’s inflatable paddle board and all my surfboards and prepare for the photoshoot. With very little instruction she catches her second ever wave all the way to the beach. By some miracle we have it captured on a phone camera and her visit here is complete . She leaves for Dublin very happy with the photo to prove it all happened.
The day has started well. The guests are moving out. All of them. All on time and apparently delighted… Which is a good.
Another few buckets of the real stuff to compost. The well pump appears to be bust and we just ran out of propane for tea making/ hot water, we don’t have enough Queen size sheets, need to sand and varnish the new Parota tables in the outside kitchen, need to find 3 more pallets for the third composting area next to our house, we also need to work out how to mend or replace the tree house roof before the rains…. Here we go again. Today is exactly 6 months since we landed here. We are already very busy making a plan for the next 6 months.
There may not be a bunny or chocolate egg within 100 miles but Happy Easter.