It’s a few days after we land back from UK that we understand the extent of the changes that have happened since we were away. In just a week there have been vast swaths of jungle completely destroyed by bulldozers and chain saw teams. Bird sanctuary and Jaguar habitat gone forever. The Auto-pista highway from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta has been spoken of for decades and we were aware it was heading our way before we bought our land. The reality now it’s here is sickening. The small village of Tiqueeleechi very close to us has had a 60M corridor of jungle ripped out of it. We can hear the distant machinery and chainsaws every day from our tree house.
We take a breath and a sharp machete and head out in the Razor to examine what’s happening close by. We climb a hill about half a km from our gate. From the top we can see huge areas of trees grounded and the yellow dirt where the highway will sit clearly visable. It hurts to look at it.
We take the Razor down rivers of mud where roads were only weeks ago and find total destruction. Trees laid everywhere and a huge mud super highway stretching for may kilometers North. This is the direction they are coming from. To the South hectares of jungle are already wounded and even more marked out for the heavy machinery to flatten.
We approach a resting chainsaw crew who reassure us that they very much doubt the highway will be seen from our land but it’s only a guess and it doesn’t make the tragedy of this senseless destruction any easier to take. The highway is a pay/toll road. In Mexico they are only used by the wealthy or the bus companies selling premium tickets as they are too expensive. Your average Mexican is not going to spend more than a day’s wages to make his trip from Guadalajara 2 hours quicker. They will take the old 200 death highway. This new highway is going to be empty, expensive and an environmental disaster like all the other toll roads we have used. Too many people have been paid off so there is no stopping the thing now. Too late for the new government to step in.
The existing 200 highway continues to prove fatal. Your average Mexican drives like a maniac. A bus carrying passengers to Guadalajara is run off the road by some idiot and rolls down into the jungle. This takes place very close to us and is traumatizing for everyone who witnessed it. The bus was destroyed and there were many fatalities and horrendous injuries. Despite this there is still a frightening number of wreckless morons on the road every day. We are lucky we don’t have to commute anywhere and when we do drive it’s invariably during daytime. Our driving style is defensive to say the least. I drive like a scared granny with one eye and Jayne is a biker so automatically assumes everyone else on the road is a drunk blind twat and that helps.
On a more positive note there is art in our jungle again. We encourage everyone to leave no trace but leave us art. We were blessed to have one of our favorite artists staying with us who has epic skills with oil paints and has just spent the last year travelling the world perfecting hand-poke tattoos.
She has surveyed spots for murals and has started an elaborate sign for us on a lump of parota wood. She had to leave to attend a posh exhibition of her work in London but will be back with us early next year when we intend to kidnap her for some weeks.
Actually turns out she is back with us a bit sooner. We get a message from the airport soon after dropping her off. She has taken Pauly’s British passport and left hers behind. She does not have shaved hair or mustache or any other resemblance in the slightest to Pauly. She is effectively stuffed. Has to return to us for a few days extra and rebook flight to get to London just in time. She is not at all phased by the added sun and jungle days.
We are all invited to US Thanksgiving. There is a crowd of six of us on the land and we arrive mob handed to a beautiful seafront property with a private beach. Although many hours late we are the first to arrive and settle in for a huge feed. More folk arrive as we carve up turkey and start tequila matching everything. Turns out tequila goes with everything. The sunset is stunning and the moon is full. We all become thankful as newts.
A slight hiccough comes as we try and leave. Our pick up truck is squeezed in a tight space and during much maneuvering manages to catch the large front security gates and make them an unhelpful new shape. No drama as our very understanding hosts employ a guy who arrives and quotes for the repair and takes a rather hefty deposit for the work. Turns out the bloke was a chancer who has no intension of mending anything and disappeared. The receipt for the cash was a fake. Cheeky bugger. A local chap mends the gates in no time for pretty much no money. Deposit gone and lesson learned.
Love is expressed by different cultures in different ways. In Mexico love is expressed by volume. If there is a speaker playing it is on full volume. Bigger the speaker the more love. It’s insane. If there is a wedding or quinceñera party in San Pancho we can hear it out here in the jungle as if it was just outside. Amazingly bad music played very very loud.
We are invited to an early Xmas party out at an organic farm through which we have met many good people. It’s an impressive set up run through volunteers and a dedicated full time crew. They produce organic vegetables, cheese and dairy and sell it from a shop in Lo De Marcos. All goes very well until further conversation is made impossible. A large group of highly loving musicians turn up and blasts our faces off with fairly terrible versions of all the traditional Mexican hits…. The boys then bring on their beloved horses to dance. How they have such affinity with these animals I do not know. They are in beautiful condition and dance pretty much in time to the crap music. It’s a sight to behold.
It’s tourist season again. The days are bearably sunny, new restaurants are opening and producing exceptional food this year. Nights are cool enough to sleep. It’s altogether rather pleasant. With all the Thanksgivings over we now experience a great influx of Canadians and Pacific NW Americans who are here escaping the snow for the next 6 months. Xmas is coming fast and the town is busy… and so are we. Guests are arriving and paying us to stay. We sorta kinda forgot about the intricacies paying guests which is very much a lot of the point of the place. We have been too wet and warm and are out of the professional hosting habit. It’s back to laundering sheets and employing my legendary patience. We seem to be avoiding the idiots that can’t work out where the beach is and attracting a more jungly sort this year which is good news.
So we have all sorts of ambitious plans to create and refurbish but have spent most of our energies transforming our rental casitas and apartment from soggy and rain-washed to clean and sexy places to stay again. It’s working out. Thankfully guests like what we offer a lot and our bookings are looking good for the next few months. The jungle destruction machines and chainsaw teams are moving away from us for now which means our guests are no longer treated to the not too distant sounds of engines, falling trees and reversing alarms from 7am to 9pm. At it’s worst, it was still better than the roosters in town we are assured. It turns out we won’t see the highway from any part of our land which is a massive relief but we will have to arrange for some guerilla bamboo planting in the next months to create further sound barriers.
More worky work is lined up for after Xmas. We have a heap of wood ready to be varnished , placed and screwed. I have spent a week or two making the stuff taste foul to termites. Termites will take out a solid 4×5 beam in less than a year out here. By soaking the stuff in a mix of diesel fuel, engine oil and a particularly nasty behind the counter toxic red fluid it has a fighting chance of surviving 5 years. The right screws have arrived from USA with friends along with a new impact driver and other essentials we can’t get here. Just in time. My beloved much abused Makita that came with me 15 months ago from UK actually burst into flames in my hand. Didn’t know they could do that.
Our chickens need to watch themselves. A new morning visitor is a huge black eagle with a white face and long striped tail. Size of a teenager. It’s taken to sitting on top of the chicken house and scaring the feathers off them. To be fair it is a huge mean looking scary thing. We can shout it away but it’s not scared and looks twice it’s size in flight. Its very possible it could take off with a chuck in each talon.
The new chickens continue to provide eggs, as is their purpose. Sister Bricklebank & Sister Bland are, however, heading nearer to the pot. To add to the mix our friend who is studying to be a vet saved a small scraggy chicken from the mouth of a dog. She mended its legs with lolly sticks and delivered “Hey-Hey” to us to adopt. I had a strong word with Hey-Hey about not becoming a rooster and giving us eggs and to add authority I pointing my machete right at her. This daft little thug was not paying attention, she jumped on my machete and then sat on my shoulder and pecked my ear. For the past week we have had a small chicken that looks like a dog has chewed it follow us everywhere while regularly nesting on my shoulder. When we leave the house she gets in through the cat flap and eats the cats food and leaves chicken shit everywhere. Mausetrappe is nearly as unimpressed as we are. I have taken to launching her off the balcony as a discouraging strategy that seems to be working.
We have a rather successful birthday party at our bar. We have the place restored from the rains and lit up and ready to go. The waterfall/pools above our land create a magical secluded spot and to have a unique exclusive jungle bar close by is a proper bonus. We have a friend cater for us and deliver endless shrimp and some excellent form of pig to soak up the refreshments. Everyone is fully refreshed for the mandatory scorpion hunt. It’s a great night and reminds us that we have a great venue.
Xmas is now upon us and we have decided to stay in the jungle. There is no tree nor snowman nor Santa nor turkey nor pudding nor presents nor tinsel nor baubles in sight. We love the lack of Xmas stuff. Not being total humbugs we have invited anyone who wants to come over in the afternoon to do so and bring food and tipple. We will set up at the bar as the venue. It occurred to us today that we have had over 30 people absolutely confirm they are coming. If they all indeed arrive and bring food and booze then it’s going to be an event. We have created the makings for four large Beef Wellingtons which is pretty much the most complicated choice for a stress free Xmas but we are going to give it a go. We and our full compliment of guests will standby the beef with a lightish refreshment in hand and see what happens next.