14th February 2023
India Clare | A Mexican Jungle Diary #1
We’ll be following and sharing her stories whilst she lives in the Mexican jungle, living with a Maya community, and exploring jungle trails and roads in her spare time. Once this part of her adventure comes to an end, she’ll be heading off on a bikepacking trip through Mexico, possibly the Le Tour de Frankie Ultra race route, but the beauty of it is, it's yet to be decided.
Here is India's first Jungle Diary entry where she shares her tales of living with the Maya community, the wildlife, and exploring the local area on her MASON ISO.
I have been living in the Mexican jungle with a Maya Community for two weeks. What I planned to do and what I am actually doing here have turned out to be different things entirely and that is what I love about being on an adventure.
I arrived intending to fix bikes and maintain trails. However, Margarita, the boss, spotted that I had a book about Mexican birds, a Christmas present from my best friend. On seeing the enormous Toucan beak on the front cover Margarita’s face lit up, “You can conduct a bird census of the ranch whilst you are here!”
Every morning at dawn, you can find me sitting in the fruit orchard watching these mascots of biodiversity capitalise on the morning light and feast on the abundant fruit trees. I was told that they were vocal and outgoing, and therefore hard to miss. However, my untrained eyes and clumsy feet meant that I did indeed miss them, every morning for a week. It was almost as if it was a shared joke among them. Everywhere I went the birds seemed to be one the next tree ahead. Finally, a Golden-fronted Woodpecker’s brightly coloured plumage attracted my attention and I had successfully identified my first winged friend.
Several species coexist in this orchard. Even though there is a rich supply of food all the birds seem eager to fight for the more accessible meals that are inexpensive in energy. The result is a chorus of loud chatter, taking on a new meaning of the phrase, ´singing for your supper.'
Reaching into the archives of my school Biology brain cells, I doubted they were still there, the ecosystem of the ranch began to make sense. Common Vultures eat carcasses that prevent the spread of disease, Cinnamon Hummingbirds pollinate the flowers by eating their nectar and Collared Aracaris are frugivorous, so help spread the fruit tree seeds. In short, every bird has a purpose and plays an important role in the thriving life of the ranch.
When I first started observing these small creatures, I did not think much of it but the more I watch the more I witness how the resilience of this species testifies to the strength of nature. Of a life force that always finds its way despite all the current dangers.
In my time off, I explore the surrounding jungle trails on my MASON ISO. It gives me a lot of joy to do something fast-paced and reactive after sitting still trying not to disturb the birds. The jungle floor is covered in vines and leaves, so I keep my mind busy by looking out for snakes and simultaneously trying to choose my line, this heady mix of heat, brain stimulation, and muscles memory makes for a meditative-like state, where I am fully present at the moment.
I love this part of riding my bike and the comparison of spending a morning in the cool breeze with a hot coffee, watching the sky turn from burning orange to bright gold to light blue. The shadows moving and morphing into different patterns around my boots and the chorus of birds chattering to each other. Then hitting the trails for some fast-paced reactive riding. The riding here varies from harsh off-road climbs with chunky rocks to kinder paved roads. So far, I have explored the surrounding “pueblos” or small villages through the roads and trails that connect them in the jungle.
I arrive back home in time for a stretch followed by a cold shower. As the sun begins to show signs of dropping below the horizon, I walk over to the lagoon this time, as it stays warmer for longer and the birds prefer it in the afternoon.
Compared to London, where I grew up, the pace of life is slow here and I have learned to take enjoyment in the small things. A shared joke with Margarita, a sighting of a new bird or smelling panuchos cooking in the kitchen and leaving my watch post a few minutes early - the birds will be there tomorrow but the panuchos certainly will not be!
I have four weeks left here and I hope to use this time to explore more trails, successfully make a tortilla by hand (harder than it sounds) and buy a frappe from a shop in the central village that never seems to be open when I am there but is apparently the best in the Quintana Roo Zone!
After that, I am heading to Mexico City to start the bikepacking portion of this trip.
To be continued…
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