This post is perhaps a little overdue. We have been distracted by large amounts of life. No apologies for the amount of words. This is an accumulation of a number of weeks of happenings. We are out in the jungle now pretty much fulltime with no internet except on phones so when I get to publish this I’m not sure. It’s the calm after the storm this morning and we are in post-Shatshuka bliss listening to the evening sounds…. More on that later.
It’s raining a lot. This is not Chapala. We are in a small cheap windowless room in San Pancho with 16 bags and a surfboard and everything else we have bought and/or been gifted so far. There are now five rivers to cross to our land. Our lovely van has no chance to get out there. Its tough enough on foot. Our 4×4 is in Chapala getting tinkered with. We are stuck.
Lucky for us we are needed elsewhere for many more days to sign our names many many times and keep the beurocracy of Mexico in Mescal and Tacos. After endless hours and words and papers and signatures and cash (oh the cash).. we have our tax number therefore we have a company therefore we exist enough to prove our borrowed address therefore we can give away all our money and …… we own the land. W-e o-w-n t-h-e l-a-n-d !!! …. Drink!!!
It’s raining. No4x4. We arrive at our land (yes our land) thanks to our solar guy and his immense 4×4 monster truck that eats most of the roads and rivers . The very last part is totally washed out so we hike that bit. We start to make a plan for solar. The place is totally overgrown but so beautiful. This makes us happy.
Our room is getting a little ripe. Constant rain and clothes that don’t dry will do that. We deposit embarrassingly soaking fermenting piles of cloth to our laundry girls next door. They take it in their stride (outwardly at least). Clothes really do not dry. When you hang them up to dry either inside or out they develop musty gagging smog. When you change shirts a few times a day it soon piles up. These girls are our saviors they deal with constant deposits of unspeakable funk and charge us pennies This makes us happy.
We head to Los Varas to pick up our truck. It’s a 45 min drive over no rivers so we take the van . It’s a very Mexican town and noticeably friendly. Everyone we meet wants to help us or at least offers a smile. We look at destroyed second hand fridges and buy more tools and get some excellent pork tacos with our newest Jesus friend (he comes in many forms) and his family. The seven-year-old daughter takes great pleasure in correcting my nearly useless but improving Spanish. It helps quite a bit. I need to spend more time winding up Spanish kids for the sake of my education. We wait for our truck. After a number of beers and few tacos more she arrives!! We have our truck … we can get to the land … we are moving in !!!
We have an air conditioned room on wheels . Oh the relief of various bits changing shape and consistency and size as the icy air envelopes you. It’s blissful. It’s delicious. We decide to love it a lot. Worth the wait.
First days and its all a bit wet and exciting. We make shift a bed and camp around it with hammocks and start to unpack our stuff . The artist who lived here off and on and helped build the place comes over and we collect all his stuff in the truck and help move him out. He has just had his first child and is all loved up and cool. We learn a lot about the land and how it works. His art involves a lot of tiny bright coloured beads. They appear like dandruff or glitter in everything for days.
I am pretty much constantly covered in roof. When I go into the tree house or leave or even get close the roof deposits ancient muck down my neck. I decide to give the thing a haircut. Armed with scissors I set upon the doorways to give me some head height enough to avoid the straggling fronds that launch muck at me the minute they sense me passing. I do a pretty good job. The front door now has a passing resemblance to Paul Weller and the balcony reminds me of Bradley Wiggins. It’s all in the fringe apparently.
We are not new to roughing it and our radical self reliance has been tested over the years, however, the things we (I ) are conditioned to take for granted on a day to day basis are endless. Dry under pants is one. Moving around here is tough on the milky white , not in top condition, and no longer 25 year old body. So that’s one too… moving around and doing stuff without extreme salt/water loss and over heating. I am mostly a sweaty ginger chap.
The joy of slipping into the cool river at such times is indescribable. Floating and marvelling at the colours, patterns and variety of butterflies that join you….and their size. If some of them had strings they would be kites. Note to self to learn about butterflies. They are our constant companions now and its rude not to.
While the water is flowing (we have a another week or two) the stream is our source . Oh how I have taken the humble tap for granted. It is now a daily thing to take large carrying devices to our bathing pool and fill them up, load them in the truck and drive them home. I know with some certainty that there are 12 uphill strides from where we park the truck and then 7 large stone steps and 10 large wooden steps leading to our front door. I am so sure of these stats because I have carried my own substantial bodyweight in water up them every day.
Charging your phone/kindle/laptop/work lights etc.. That’s another thing. So we bought and assembled a generator. We now have very noisy power. It’s located on a levelish platform of pallets and flat rocks under the tree house. A single cable is routed upwards from which we have sucked every drop of lovely recharging energy to allow us to be re-connected with the our stuff. The noise is such that it does take away all the tranquility.. entirely. We have taken to plugging in all the things, firing her up and buggering off to lunch or pub or other essential missions. We return and restore the quieter jungle noises with full battery symbols and lights. Genius.
A fridge … with a freezer bit to make ice….miss that ….. We live out of an average size cooler box. It’s lined with beer and bit of milk for tea. There is a zip lock bag with a few items of edibles under a bag of ice. Daily purchase of ice is an essential. Warm beer not an option. Ice cold cooler water deposited in a tin bucket everyday for us to use to mop/cool ourselves down. Classy.
Much homework and dodgy sketches later we have a plan for solar. Be nice to be home when the power is on. There is a spot put aside to create a 6M x 4M structure onto which silent panels will provide sunshine power magic to nice quiet batteries while providing a large shade area. This sunshine power magic then gets distributed to all the places one could possibly need to recharge your phone. Silent refrigeration, quietish cooling fans, amplified music and other such delightful things are in our future., Our plans will become a series of jobs as early as next week and we may well be able to retire the generator within a month. This makes us happy.
Sounds out here are ever changing. At some point I will be able to tell the time of day by the background sounds. Might take some practice. There is always a series of beasts, bugs and birds putting their t’penceworth in. The very first of these that hits the consciousness is the bloody roosters. In town there are a flock of the buggers competing to irritate you at increasing ridiculous times of day. I have decided my love for rooster is now surpassed by just about everything. The longer they torture my morning brain the clearer the image of rooster pie becomes.
As day presents itself there begins the day songs that change with the sun. Birds mainly with a soft backing chorus of bug sounds. As the dusk arrives a dog or two may chip in to assert some perceived authority and then shut up eventually. At this point there are more distinctive cries , howls , croaks, hoots, screeches, gargles and shouts from all things announcing the night. It gets fun as we mimic the calls and listen for the responses. After a while it becomes difficult to remember who is mimicking who. Palm leaves crash to the floor regularly. The trees here all look like green haired old men with fresh leaves on top and long brown beards of dead leaves hanging from their chins ready to drop at anytime.
It’s at dusk the bugs proper give it some. An increase of the bug volume dials up slowly as the night sets in . Starts off at a reasonable 3 to4 as the dark arrives and gets up to a pretty rocking 8 or 9 some nights. The whole symphony is on occasions complimented by the one sound that reaches through the trees and gets to us this far out. The low low base parp-fart-parp-fart-parp parp of some old janky truck using it’s airbrakes. Add to the mix the shaking thunder rolls & rainfall loud on leaves, trees and our palapa roof and it really gets entertaining. .
We only have one rooster out here and its not that close … but I will find it.
Green is the colour the human eye sees best. More hues and shades of green than any other colour by far. The rains are still coming pretty much every day but for shorter visits and showing off less each time. The result is a lotta lotta green. An amazing amount of green highlighted by bright primary flowers and orchids in the trees. But mainly green. Almost all plant based but there is a lizard type creature we meet daily that is such a shocking Manchester Hacienda Day-Glow under black lights shade of green that it stands out strongly amongst all the other competitors. Not sure if that’s a good thing for him but confidence is a good start. I wouldn’t mess with him.
As the light changes so do the colours so nothing much stays the same for long. We watch the changes from the tree house balcony and make a discovery. At first it looks like a trick of the eye as we watch an intense clear lump of light move across the ground towards us. Then another. Nero (the nearest tree to our balcony) flashes. As the light fades these illusions get more frequent. Then as the dark takes over the lights move upwards. A light ball floats above my head. Our land is home to fireflies ! They are mesmeric. Flashes and movements in all directions. We wake to find one above our bed. Another at the window screen. They don’t like the rain much but at any other time they are everywhere. So as the sun goes down we watch in awe the lightening and the fireflies. This makes us very happy.
Now you may have seen the post I made about our new mates the Whip Spiders. They are truly incredible beasts escaped from a Starship Troopers set. We have found out more about them recently. They are not dangerous to humans (unless you have a faint heart) but they can spray formic acid at you if threatened. They in fact are one of nature’s true warriors. The body is so strong that nothing much will penetrate it so they are purpose designed to hunt and fight and kill and eat.. … Scorpions. They are on our side. Scorpions here are dangerous to anyone who has a reaction to their venom. Normally a bite will hurt like hell for a while, cause numbness in a limb and fever but the body will recover. Found one on my suitcase today and had to deal with it. Scorpion venom is known to activate the human immune system. Locals deliberately sting themselves at the onset of flu, which they swear activates their defenses and cures them every time. I will not be trying this out.
So today started with one great big real thunder storm. Buckets of rain and lots of flashy lights and gut wobbling thunder right above our heads. The tree house is usually waterproof despite the screen windows but in this deluge there are 3 leaks that are bucketed quickly. No drama. A few hours awestruck by weather and cozy in our new bed armed with Yorkshire Gold Tea. Not a bad way to start the day.
At about 9 am we hear the chink of a machete. The boys are here to make pond. Our neighbor and his son, his mate and his Dad. The family is one of our closest neighbors. They raise cows. We now have a fresh supply of milk and cheese. We met him on the way in and he helped us rebuild the road to our place and carry some of the 16 bags and surfboard. Already in the past few days they have completely rebuilt the road, cleared the land around the house to discourage snakes, ,the connecting driveway to the road is clear and we can now see right to road and the pool. The remaining three huge 2500-gallon water tinacas that haven’t been nicked off our land have been reunited with each other, dragged 40 feet above our tree house to a newly cleared spot and await to be filled to supply us with running water!!! . We pay these guys what they ask no argument but it’s a small small amount for what they do. They are the reason we have progressed further than we ever imagined possible in less than a week out here.
Water will be a very good thing. I have a bucket to refill in the outside shower with an electrical shower in it. We have two water dispensers/filters that need refilling for drinking water. There is the jug next to the loo for flushing purposes that needs filling up regularly. Way more often than I thought. Flushing the loo with potable water is such a waste. Who came up with that idea ? There is the ceramic pot for hand washing and the bucket we fill with cooler water. It’s bloody endless! Can’t wait for gravity to do it all for me.
We have decided to create a wild jungle pond. The swimming pool that has been abandoned for many years and is actually just that. Covered in a pond plant and showcasing amazing lilies that flower in extraordinary ways. The water is murky but clearly alive with tiny fish and tadpoles. All great for eating mosquito larvae. We intend to empty the pool and transfer the life from the pool to a newly dug 8m x 8m x 0.5m pond. We will refill the pool from the stream now it is flowing and then pump water from the pool up to fill our tinacas . Rumor has it that this pool is deep and impressive when not a jungle pond. Today we find out.
The rain is light now and not causing any issues. We syphon the top bit of pool using a few hoses to the newly dug and lined pond. Pool to pond takes a while. As the water flows the plants are transported across. Looking pretty authentic pretty quickly. Then the youngest of us gets into the murk and with some mosquito netting and a plastic crate starts catching all the swimming things and re-homing them. This is a good. The new pond looks like it’s always been there and will look even better when we surround it with the heaviest largest rocks we can carry.
The syphoning stops and we go collect a pump for the next bit. Already about an extra couple of feet of pool has been revealed. It’s a really cool mosaic of small light blue tiles. The pool is a good 4m x 8m and now our fisherman is in there we realise its deep too. I mean really deep.
As the pump releases the pool water into the jungle slowly but slowly the size and magnificence of the pool is uncovered. First few feet and we find two massive plant pots submerged. (Yes I do indeed mix and match metric and imperial measurements.. ..It’s a British thing.) We haul the dead weight of pot and water and earth. A few more feet and large rocks pop up and are reallocated to surround the pond. A while later, after many hundreds of critters are rescued and rehoused, we discover ledges built into the deep end . Below is another few meters to the bottom. Another two huge pots are found and rescued. The deepest part is 4 meter from top to bottom. All the sludge is removed and amazingly there is no damage to the tiles at all. We all stand around the edge looking down cautiously. No-one want to fall 4 m onto hard tiles. This thing is a work or art. We had no idea it was going to be this impressive.
The rivers are full of debris and mud from the storm this morning so we will wait a few days to start pumping water in. We have a huge 4m deep and stunningly beautiful pool and a large jungle pond full of slightly confused critters. This makes us very happy.