I memorized some new Spanish words last week.
Cayó. As in, “El puente cayó”. The bridge fell down.
Canopé (pidgin). Zipline.
As it turned out, my departure from our isolated muddy village with a fallen down bridge was somewhat anticlimactic.
I arrived at the river at 9:30 a.m. last Thursday morning, September 9. I was all psyched for a zipline ride over turbulent waters, only to find that they had re-constructed the pedestrian bridge overnight.
Instead of sending my bags across in plastic bags suspended over the water, and sending myself over the same way (except for the plastic bag), I strolled across with my carry-on and Jesse followed with the other. Sue, who was going to the airport, too, crossed the bridge before me and took photos from the highway side while Judith took some shots from the San Pancho side.
The highway all the way into Vallarta was open and clear for the first time in many days. No rain had fallen Wednesday night, also for the first time in days. The trucks and buses that had been waiting beside the road in San Pancho were mostly gone, finally allowed on their way.
The mood in the pueblo was festive, as water and groceries and gas could finally be delivered. Supplies had been seriously depleted, but now the stores were re-stocking, store owners waiting on the San Pancho side with their pickup trucks, loading the commodities carried across on the footbridge.
Photo by Judith
Sue and I had a taxi waiting. Two more friends trying to go to Nuevo Vallarta joined us in the cab. Against all apparent odds, we enjoyed a quick smooth trip to the airport, arriving around 10:30 for flights at 4:00. The airline desks wouldn’t open for hours. But at least we were there.
On Saturday night, the fourth of September, the one and only bridge connecting San Pancho with the rest of the world was knocked out by giant trees carried by the raging river.
The previous night, after 3" of rain in twelve hours, trees had built up beneath the bridge, forcing the waters over and around it, flooding part of Tercer Mundo (our main street) and eroding the earth around the bridge supports.
Photo by Curt
Photo by Curt
None of us who drove over that bridge during the day Saturday likes to think much about the soundness of the structure all that day, only hours before it collapsed.
Then, all through the night Sunday, workers built a footbridge which was open Monday...
...but was knocked out by more trees on Monday night.
Between Sunday midnight and Monday midnight, San Pancho received eight inches of rain. It never stopped.
Monday evening, Judith and Jesse and I decided to hunker down and play dominoes at Bobby’s house, where I’ve been staying. We were happily engrossed in our game for hours. Around ten o'clock, I went to the door to watch the downpour and have a smoke on Bob’s little front porch. I did a double-take and (Judith reports) uttered a colorful expletive.
“Where’s the pool?!” I said next. Bob’s entire walled courtyard was swirling with brown water, nearly up to the top of the porch steps. His ShopVac had floated out of the garage and was bobbing around where the chairs used to be.
Thanks to Jesse’s quick thinking, we had time to lift the couches, good chairs and rugs onto wooden dining room chairs. I grabbed my computer, my passport, and a few overnight items and put them in my carry-on. The water was in the house now, coming fast. I put a yowling ShooMee the cat up on the kitchen counter with a bowl of food and fresh water, wished him luck (he didn’t want to come with us one bit), and left the house.
When Jesse opened the big iron door to the street, a surge of water gushed in. The street was running like a river. Actually, the street WAS the river, as the river had left its banks a couple of blocks away and was using the neighborhood as its new course.
The current was strong, swirling brown water up to my mid-thigh. We pulled open the doors of the Ford Explorer and Jess managed to turn it around and head up the street. Judith’s Toyota Landcruiser was parked across the street and listing, water already up to the bottom of the doors. Jess left us in the car on higher ground at the top of the block and slogged through the river to rescue Judith’s car, which started up, pulled itself out of the mudhole it was sinking into, and plowed upstream like a tugboat.
We caravanned down a deserted and unrecognizable main street, through a foot of water, to Jesse’s house. His yard and garden were flooded, too, the water about seven inches below the porch and house level.
Soaked through and covered with mud, I kept an anxious eye on the water level while Jess followed Judith back to her house to check on her critters. The rain had let up a bit, and within half an hour, the water stilled at the bottom of his top step, receding from there over the next hours.
San Pancho had received 18" of rain in seven days.
Early the following morning, I returned to Bob's house.
Poor ShooMee had experienced quite a night, I'm sure. He was bedraggled and very happy to see me. There were kitty prints on many of the high counters and furniture, but apparently he made it to the bed.
By 9 a.m., crews had arrived in all the houses at the river end of the street to begin clean-up. In two days, the house and the cat were beginning to look normal again.
Wednesday night, Judith made French toast for us out of the six eggs I had in my refrigerator and a loaf of bread we'd lucked into, with a jug of New Hampshire maple syrup her sisters had sent her a year ago. It was the best French toast I ever ate.
Still, there are thirty or so families homeless, staying in shelters at the elementary school and at entreamigos. The first supplies zipped across the river were blankets to sleep on. I'm told that DIF, the Mexican National Agency for Family Development, has been delivering food and supplies for them, and for other families presently in need. People in the pueblo are helping, too.
What about a bridge? Nobody knows for sure. We have a regional hospital in San Pancho, the only one for miles around, so many believe the government will prioritize building a way in and out of the village. Plans and rumors are circulating.
Meanwhile, we'll keep our fingers crossed and hope the remainder of rainy season treats Nayarit and Jalisco more gently.
For more photos, links, and coverage, please visit Curt's website:
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Friday: New photos of the casa! Come and see how it is (was) coming along...although I just heard from El Arqui that they are moving some things across the river up from the ex-bridge, so maybe we're back to work, mas o menos...