I write this to the gurgling sounds of a river rushing by my window. The cats are napping, the dog is dreaming. Rick is out on the beach collecting driftwood. It cuts quite a serene scene, except we don’t normally have a river rushing by our window, and Rick is out collecting wood for a raft. Or an ark. We’re officially stranded on Isla San Pancho
While it hasn’t rained quite 40 days and 40 nights, it certainly feels like it. Yes, this is the rainy season, but even locals have never seen it this bad. In five days, over 20 inches of the wet stuff has fallen on us — 8 of those in just one day. The only bridge in and out of town was shoved aside by the real river a few days ago (the same riverbed that was dry as dust when we first got here). The military showed up for about an hour that first day, guns at the ready in case of looting or widespread panic. They left when all they saw were people helping one another, trying to make the best of a bad situation.
The ever-resourceful Mexicans quickly erected a footbridge so that supplies could be delivered, and those who desperately needed out could at least walk across. That lasted a day. Some time in the night, while the relentless rain lashed our town, the replacement bridge sailed away in the current. Not to be deterred, workers strung a zip-line across the swollen river. At first, people were flying across like they were on an adventure holiday; now the townsfolk have hooked a boat up to it and are ferrying people across that way. We’ve even made it on to You Tube; just Google San Pancho floods, or something to that effect, and up we come. Failing that, check out local weather guru Curt Hahn’s page, www.sanpanchoweather.com, which has a link.
There’s a dirt road out that winds up through the jungle behind us, but that’s navigable by four-wheel drive at the best of times. Now it’s a waterfall. Yesterday we stood on the beach and watched anxious tourists, their luggage held above their heads, wading into the pounding surf (there’s no dock here) to hop aboard a water taxi, which is basically a panga, a small fishing boat. They’d have to be going all the way to Puerto Vallarta (an hour away by car), or Bucerias at the least, otherwise they’re going nowhere fast: Hwy 200 in both directions is an obstacle course of mud slides. People in Sayulita, the next village south of us, report their own bridge gave way, and muddy waters run through the streets and seep into homes and businesses. The region’s politicos rumble up and down the coast in helicopters, surveying the damage, deciding who gets aid first. Meanwhile, supply trucks and buses sit benched on the side of the highway, with nowhere to go.
Power winks out for up to 12 hours at a time, leaving us with no lights, no phone, no internet, no water, no A/C. We don’t dare feel sorry for ourselves when people living on the river’s edge have had their homes swept away. Others are knee-deep in mud. Dozens of families have sought refuge in Entre Amigos, the community centre. So far, knock wood, no lives have been lost, as happened in Puerto Vallarta, when a bridge collapsed and a taxi driver was washed out to sea, his body found 23 kilometres away, near Marieta Island.
At night, when lightning strobes illuminate the frothing ocean and the thunder sounds like giants bowling in the clouds, Oprah is the first one in bed, shivering under the covers. The real baby, Bebe, thinks it’s all for his benefit and tries to roust the other felines into play. But Monty just sits on the verandah railing, peering out into the storm with a look that says, “I may be a wild cat, but I don’t have the cojones to venture out into that.” And The Duke, poor, funny, deaf Duke, lies splayed out on his back on the couch, mouth open in a snore, oblivious to it all. But sometimes he’ll sense Oprah’s fear, and will cuddle up next to her (or on top of her), to quiet her jitters. Even Bebe will join in, and the two of them will wedge up against her, as if to say, “We got your back.”
As for us, we lie in bed at night, trying not to flinch at the thunder that shakes the building in an effort to convey calm to Oprah. In the darkness, we wonder about the people left homeless; we wonder about progress on a new bridge, we wonder if we’ll have electricity, we wonder what we’ll awaken to tomorrow. Most of all, we wonder who’ll stop the rain.