Eighteen months and eight trips ago, Karen and I purchased a yet-to-be-built Palapa on a turtle preserve 30 miles south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. There were a lot of warning signs that this wouldn’t be your normal real estate project, which we oh-so-typically ignored. Like, it wasn’t really a purchase, since it was a long-term lease. And OK, it wasn’t the normal long-term 99 year Mexican lease either, since it was only 40 years long and it was a sublease, not a lease. And why get our own lawyer since the sublease was in Spanish and I can’t read Spanish? I knew immediately that I liked the Gringo developer, John, when he pulled out a bottle of Raicilla (the local version of Tequila shown being made on the left) when starting to talk about the “deal points”. Little did I know that the “purchase” would be the most conventional part of this experience.
The next hint that maybe this wasn’t going to be your average, slightly vexing vacation home construction project was the small little fact that the only way to get there was via an hour long water taxi ride. At the time, I didn’t understand this the only way that we could get there and it was the only way that anything was going to get there. Which turns your sense of project planning and timing upside down since things like the hundreds, if not thousands, of bags of cement used for construction needed to come via water too. Other things useful for construction, like power tools, were not in abundance either since the place is off the electrical grid and runs primarily by solar, generator and mule power. Heavy emphasis on the latter.
So I thought it would be fun to write a mini journal chronicling our experiences building our palapa, which we named “Little Big Sur” (LBS) because our view reminded us of Big Sur. Some of you unfortunate enough to have received the various earlier versions, have periodically responded with various ways of saying, “better you than me”. This has only made me more determined to recapture what reputation I have and prove you wrong: that KR and I aren’t really crazy; that we have, indeed, made a savvy real estate deal rivaling The Donald’s. This is the latest installment from our trip this past week and I wanted to bring everyone up to speed as we are getting painfully close to completion, currently scheduled for Thanksgiving (yes, that’s 2007). Lines will be forming for the Grand Opening ceremony, I’m sure.
This trip was both exhilarating and a total grind. Exhilarating because we’re seeing LBS come together and it’s absolutely, mind-boggling beautiful. The pictures below do not do it justice. It’s all the more gratifying as we see our vision become a reality, which is way cool for a first time “builder.” Working with John has been a joy as we marvel at his vision, creativity, and ability to organize his little troop of workers. But it’s also been a grind as the weather has been horrible (hot, humid and alive with every kind of bug you don’t want to see), exhausting (lugging stuff all around, climbing up and down ridges, making construction decisions, doing errands, and riding back and forth on the taxi), and tedious. Here’s the typical sequence of a construction supervision visit:
- Spend weeks prior to the trip buying stuff that you can’t get in Mexico and then at least a week before the trip packing stuff
- Spend a day carting that stuff to PV via car, plane and taxi
- Spend a couple of days walking up and down the ridge, visiting LBS, making decisions
- Revise plans
- Pay more money
- Revise plans
- Get back to PV
- Go shopping for … beds, stoves, faucets, etc.
- At every chance, get a hard-earned cocktail
- Gladly fall into bed and watch Spanish TV
Maybe because of the above, we have learned a lot about how to do this, although I’m not sure exactly what “this” is. Part of “this” is how to travel frequently to Mexico, how to build a house, how to build a house in a foreign country, how one decision affects others which of course affects money, how to explore a place that is “foreign”, how to meticulously plan logistics to a really hard to get to place, etc. Here’s my quandary: I know that some of you want all the gory details and “key learning” and others of you just want some laughs and a few pictures. Here’s the entire menu, so order what you want.
Wandering around town, there are construction projects in every size and shape in most parts of the city. This is good news if you’re a developer, shop owner, “services” employee, a construction worker or someone looking to buy a condo. I’m not sure its good news for everyone else. We already have a Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, Office Depot and a dozen Mexican department stores. Starbucks is slowly mounting an attack on the dozens of local coffee shops and they now have their second store open. Soon to come on the scene is Home Depot (yah baby!) and Costco. Can Neiman Marcus be far behind?
Well, that’s “all” for now. Keep sending good vibes our way as we look to “finish” LBS for Thanksgiving.
New Special Bonus Multi Media Section!
For those of you who just can’t get enough, here’s a couple of home movies from this trip:
1. First home movie of LBS: the best way of seeing it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uu9d6SCYODc
2. Water taxi ride from Chonchos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjC-LQWoF4k
3. Feeling of Speed: water taxi coming out of Yelapa http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZISxlEUi0A
4. Typical Puerto Vallarta bus ride http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m93i2zMKlAk