We decide that our first project will be the construction of a wooden platform in the jungle. The small tongue of land couched between two large Cohune palm trees lends itself as the perfect spot. Cohune palms are traditionally used for producing coconut oil and are strictly protected - their unlawful cutting can incur very large fines. We feel a shared sense of responsibility for these beautiful, impressive plants that generously gift us shade and frame our picturesque view over the valley of El Monteón. Like sopa de pollo for the soul - if you will. One morning we're surrounded by a swarm of black and yellow birds as we hike up to the property, sparking the idea for our project's name: El Pajarito.
We drive from one woodwork to the next in Puerto Vallarta on a mission to seek out the best-suited wood for our platform. Our key requirements: maximum resistance to termites and humidity. After filtering through a bunch of contradicting information and personal opinions, we finally settle on chiche wood (which we later discover is just an abbreviation for its real name "machiche" resolving much confusion). Prices vary between 55 and 65 pesos/foot and we're lucky enough to find a supplier who can provide the 4 metre long beams that we need.
We continue to collect any building materials we can get our hands on, a frenzy that peaks one evening as we head to Punta Raza, the nearest beach, just before sunset with a rented chainsaw. Our plan is to cut down the last remaining beams of wood that once supported a beach palapa, but are now just piled on top of each other, rotting away in the salty ocean air. Following the popular Mexican law that classifies all beaches as public property, we can technically take whatever is washed up and left lying around, right? After overcoming the feelings of insecurity induced by walking along an empty beach at night with a chainsaw and sweet talking the local guard into letting us proceed with our mission, we cut up the palapa remnants into 4 and 5 metre long beams. We then spend another hour or two dragging the heavyweight logs along the beach and maneuvering them into our ranger before we drive back to the property feeling fully satisfied and totally exhausted.
Meanwhile our fireplace is extended by a "fridge" (a hole in the ground with a lid on top) and a kitchen shelf which truly embodies the spirit of upcycling. We come to discover the very versatile nature of Cohune palm trees as we use their leaves and stems to craft a box for storing fruits and vegetables, weave a fashionable shower curtain, and piece together a temporary roof to give us shade in the daytime. By now, any remaining doubts regarding the monumental fines that apply to cutting down one of these palms have been effectively extinguished.