The year is 1992, Richard Rowley (the artist know as Apache who also lives in La Manzanilla) and I (Daniel Hallas) are living in Malibu California. We don't like the cold winters and make a deal to work together to find a warmer place to live. Over the next two years we do a trip to Costa Rica together, and I do trips to Jamaica and Greece looking for a warmer place to move.|
None of the places we looked were right. In 1993 Richard was just finishing up a divorce. He sold his house, basically gave away everything he owned, bought a small camper, packed it up and with his girlfriend Christine, his dog Sundance and started to drive south to continue the search.
He drove down the Baja peninsula and took the Ferry over to Mazatlan. While talking to some fellow passengers he was describing the kind of place he was searching for and they said "La Manzanilla is the place for you". He continued to drive south exploring different places along the way.
When he got to the area of La Manzanilla (as he tells the story) there were these guys he met on the Ferry standing in the road and literally waved him into La Manzanilla saying "here it is"! He stayed for a while and fell in love with it. He began the process to buy some land above town (where Mary Jo and Tom live now), he called me and told me "This is it; I have found paradise and am buying land"!
Soon after that call the process of buying the land hit a snag with the owner and it ended up with Richard not getting that property. He hung out for a little while longer but in discouragement with the property deal falling through he decided to continue his search further south.
As Richard tells the story he was on his way out of town when the Ejido decide to allow the selling of land on this side of the mountain where we live now. He scouted up the mountain, there was nothing but Jungle and Cattle pasture but he was able to pick out a place to live. Once again I got the call that he had purchased land but in a different part of town where no one else was living, he told me that I should come down as soon as possible to check it out.
Richard set up camp in Boca de Iguana and contracted a tractor to grade a road up the hill to the spot he wanted to build. But he didn't stay to oversee the grading as he had a VW in Guadalajara he wanted to buy. When he got back they tractor driver had graded a road straight up the side of the mountain with no switch backs or anything! There was no way anyone could drive up that hill, so the road had to be re-graded this time with the help of an experienced engineer guiding the process.
I showed up in La Manzanilla for the first time in early 93 for a visit, Richard was just starting to build his palapa. I loved La Manzanilla but I didn't buy land right away I just spent the time touring the area.
Near the end of 1993 I took a week and came down and "purchased" my first lot right behind Richards now roughly finished palapa. On December 31st I took 6 months off work and drove down in a pick up truck to begin building a house.
I leveled off a flat spot just using a shovel and put up a tent as a temporary place to stay while I decided what I wanted to do next. It ended up with my having a lot harder of a time getting car access to my land than initially thought, in fact I couldn't get to it at all.
I didn't know what to do next, one day I went on a walk to the canyon closer to town from Richard, I was sitting on this boulder in the Jungle which had a great view overlooking the Bay of Tenacatita and the north part of town. It suddenly occurred to me that the thing to do was get access to the lot I had by coming up this canyon with a road then going across the face of the mountain to my land. The problem was that the path I wanted to take was littered with big rocks. At the bottom of that canyon, where Richards road is there were boulders so big that no bull dozer was able to move them! So the place I wanted the road to go seemed almost impossible to get through.
I got some workers and some big steel bars and began to probe the area just to see how many of the tops of the rocks led to huge boulders and how many were moveable. It turned out it was not as bad as it looked. I decided it was worth a try; I hired a bull dozer and went for it. It went better than expected, the bull dozer did not hit any rocks that were to big to move. Not only did the dozer make the road but it made a flat spot at the top of the road for me to live on as I had now decided that this was the place I wanted to live instead of over by Richard.
I went to the Ejido and over the next month or so ended up buying three more lots (making four total) starting at the top of the road I had just made over to the first lot I had purchased behind Richard. I now had a hell of a mess and spent the remainder of my time (three months) making a driveway which contained over 10,500 little pieces of concrete jigsaw puzzle. I now had access and a place to park a trailer or build a house when I returned.
Over the next five years I would come down once or twice a year and work on my land. That work entitled my re-clearing the driveway and nothing more. It was incredible how the dirt on the side of the driveway would come down and almost cover the driveway in some places and completely cover it in others. There would be so much Jungle covering the driveway that you couldn't even tell it was there!
Every year I would tell myself that this was the year I would get out of the states and move to Mexico on a permanent basis. Problem was living in the States was like living on fly paper, I couldn't get out! It seemed that every year something would come up to move my plans on year further into the future.
In early 1999 some events occurred that made me finally give up on the idea of moving when I was organized and ready to move. I sold my business of 27 years for what I could get for it, sold or gave away everything that I did not want to take down and bought a used travel trailer. I loaded the travel trailer full of stuff and at 3 am on Christmas morning of 1999 I crossed the boarder into Mexico basically dropping out of society as I knew it at 49 years of age to live full time in La Manzanilla Mexico.
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