Welcome to Raicilla Dreams, please make yourself comfy....you will find many photos, anecdotes and tales of Yelapa told by amigos that lived there before electricity and before it was totally discovered by the tourist world. I welcome your own memories and photos.

Start at the very bottom with archives and work your way up if you want to follow the order I posted. Otherwise, just feel free to skip around and read what suits your fancy...faye

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Name of the Town is Vallarta!

In 1962 I arrived in Vallarta for the first time. An interesting note about the name of the town is that the locals never used the name “Puerto Vallarta”. No one did. In fact in those days, and in all of my time in Vallarta and Yelapa throughout the 1970’s no one ever called it “PV” (or Puerto…) and I find this appellation dismissive to say the least. I was told sometime in the ‘70’s by somebody in authority (I am thinking Juan Pena, who used to be in charge of Immigration) that the “Puerto” was added to the name in the ‘70’s by the tourist department. To everyone I knew in Vallarta, it was always “Vallarta” period. Let it be known that Vallarta is the name of the place.
Vallarta in those days was very different than what you see today. There was the Hotel Rosita which is thankfully still there; and the Hotel and Bar Oceano which was the main watering hole before Carlo’s O’Brian’s came to be. There wasn’t much else in terms of places to stay or hang out etc. in those days. Not to mention that it was about a 15 to 20 hour drive from Tepic to even get to Vallarta; the road was bad to say the least and depending upon the season, sometimes not drivable at all. There was only a dirt strip near where the present airport is and that leads us to another part of this story. We’ll get there. But, something happened that precipitated the need for a real airport to be built.
In 1963, John Huston decided to make a little movie called “Night of The Iguana” and brought many, many, people to Vallarta including Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and Ava Gardner to name a few. These people had money and liked to have a drink (some of them, more than often) after work and so… an enterprising young man named Carlos Andersen came from Mexico City and opened a little place called Carlo’s O’Brian’s for the movie industry people to hang out and have a drink and some food. Carlos became a very well-known entrepreneur throughout Mexico, Brazil, and the USA and created an empire that still exists today despite his death in a private place crash many years ago. I was proud to call him a friend, as I was proud to call many of his protégé’s my friends as well. Leon being the foremost person that comes to mind.
It is this event of the making of this movie that created the Vallarta that so many of us came to know and love. Everything changed, but the rest of the world didn’t know it yet. For several years, Vallarta was the “hip” place to be, but only the truly hip knew it existed. The crowds that came later had not heard about Vallarta and so, it was just so great to be there and to be among people that were not tourists, but actually, expats. People that knew and loved Vallarta and lived there because if was so open and free and you could sit in a bar with Peter O’Toole and Dennis Hopper, and yes, even Richard Burton and they would talk to you and you could talk to them about anything because you weren’t asking them for their autograph and you were actually pretty cool too, just for being there.
While all of this was going on, more and more entertainment people started hanging out there because it was someplace to be themselves and still mingle with other people; there was a growing contingent of pot smugglers starting to base themselves in Vallarta and Yelapa. Mexico had good cheap marijuana and the desire for it was growing in the USA; it was only a matter of time before Vallarta became a center of the activity for transporting pot grown in Jalisco and Michoacán to the US. The dirt strip became a hub of several people bringing pot back to the USA in older planes that could avoid the radar and still carry enough marijuana to be profitable. Which wasn’t hard as prices were about $6 to $10 per kilo in those days. A couple of the first expat residents of Yelapa were pot smugglers and others were entertainment industry people like Benny and Mickey Schapiro who had been an agent of Bob Dylan and one of the creators of the Monterey Pop Festival.
The guy that lived at “The Rancho” as it was called in the early days… the first nice place up the river on the same side as Casa Arriba. The place with the big rocks in front of the house and has a small waterfall on the property became a meeting place for pot smugglers and locals like Santiago helped them with things from time to time. My first export load from Mexico was about 80 lbs in a 1946 Aeronca Champion, but this was done from Vallarta, not Yelapa. I later moved into Yelapa but decided to not be involved in anything that wasn’t legal in the area, at least not where I was living. Over the years, I came to know every area in Mexico that had pot farms and was involved in several hundred loads of pot; but it all started in Vallarta.
Of course, not everyone that lived in Yelapa was in the entertainment business of one type or another. Many were artists like Simon and Gloria, and Rita Tillett and several others; just people that wanted to get away from the mainstream and find themselves in “Another Lousy Sunset in Paradise” for those of you that know where that came from? Yelapa became this hushed secret that not even most people that started coming to Vallarta knew about. There was almost a promise between people that lived there in those days; “Don’t tell anyone” became a watch word. Has anyone seen the movie “The Beach”? The same scenario applies and I am not so sure that the phrase wasn’t stolen from Yelapa.
In the old days in Vallarta, there were only two cops and not only didn’t they have a police car; they didn’t even have any bullets for their guns. That changed of course, but it took a while. In the interim, Vallarta was very similar to the old west in a lot of ways; people weren’t having gunfights in the middle of the street, but you could just about do anything you wanted to do, anytime you wanted to do it. Parties would go on for 3 days, Jack Nicholson and I threw water balloons at tourists from a VW Safari (Thing), you could walk down the street with a drink in your hand that you walked out of the bar with and no one cared. We even became friends and partied with the JPF in the discos and bars and went to parties at each other’s house (try doing that in Mexico these days). You dragged yourself to the El Dorado in the mornings because the waiters knew what you needed and brought you your favorite drink without you having to ask for it because they knew you and you knew them, well. Vallarta was home and Yelapa was your hideaway when you needed a break from partying.
There was no electricity in Yelapa and it should have stayed that way; everyone in Yelapa knew that everything would change when power would eventually come to Yelapa. In those days, the frogs at night sounded like spaceships taking off and landing; they were so loud it was unreal. You could actually yell to a neighbor down the valley and they would hear you and talk back to you. Bottles of Raicilla were about $1.50 at Eliadoro’s in the pueblo; he brought it down the mountain from Chacala in old 5 gallon gas cans and you had to bring your own bottle to be hand filled by Eliadoro himself. Of course, some of us had generators for occasional use, but nobody used them much; a bomba light was enough to read by at night and there wasn’t anything else to do anyway except drink, smoke, think, and get lots of rest.
PS, Elizabeth was despised by most people in town; she was a real bitch and acted like everyone was her servant. Everyone in town loved Richard; he was a real gentleman and treated everyone like an old friend. John Huston moved into Neuvo Vallarta and also took over a secret beach of his down just north of Yelapa; he became a very highly regarded resident.
I MISS THOSE DAYS....Tony Collins

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Old Ways

The little blue and white boat in the bottom left corner is a diesel boat. It was the only boat that went to PV then and would bring back all kinds of stuff but Fernando said it took upwards of 4 hrs one way!  Crazy!  Also you'll notice that Casa Milagros isn't there and neither is much of the jungle towards the point. Apparently they used to clear that land for farming....Kendra Garcia

*see photo on left of Bay in 1964

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Looking for Artifacts

This is letter from Skip to Ann Contos

"More photos of the little village of Yelapa in 1964. No cement buildings, no pangas yet.

    In the pic of the lady in the red swim suit sunning on Main Beach, I think I can see WINDWARD's mast standing (black, vertical straight pole) against the low wall by Hotel Lagunita, in the upper right of the photo. Supposedly it was used as a flag pole.  That is about where I thought the mast might have been, and where you might find the distinctive wall pattern today, where the mast once stood after the shipwreck.  If so, I'd love a photo of the same wall (sans mast) at your convenience when you get down there.  I'll buy you a passion fruit margarita and fish salad at your favorite beach restaurant if you can find the wall where WINDWARD's mast stood. 

    If anyone in Yelapa has, or can find any relics or photos from the shipwreck of WINDWARD and deliver them to El Jardin, I offer an appropriate reward.
    Of course Faye and Kendra are welcome to anything I write, and the photos too, all taken in 1964 by Dick Enersen, crew on AMORITA, a 46 foot sailboat anchored off El Jardin for two days".....skip (of course it was not El Jardin then!...)

Wreck of the Windward

The wreck of the Windward in Yelapa, 1958.
Skip's friend, Dick, took these photos in 1964.  We're wondering what happened to the mast that ended up in front of Hotel Lagunita?  Was the hotel there in those days?

57 years ago, the night of Feb.28, 1958, a sailing tragedy of great proportions occurred in Yelapa. The beautiful, all varnished, M class sloop WINDWARD was anchored just off the beach. After setting an elapsed time record in the 1958 Acapulco Race, WINDWARD's owner, Don Chilcott, and delivery crew, including famed seaman Bob Dickson, were sailing her back to Southern California and had stopped at Yelapa to visit the waterfalls.

WINDWARD was 82 feet on deck, 55 feet of waterline, 14 feet in beam, and 24 tons of outside ballast. WINDWARD's hollow spruce mast rose 102 feet. She had been built in 1929, #14 hull of the M Class Universal Rule. Her races against sisterships PATOLITA and PURSUIT were stuff of legend.  WINDWARD was probably the prettiest and one of the fastest boats ever to sail on the West Coast.

That afternoon in '58 WINDWARD's crew went ashore in Yelapa for fresh fish dinner. WINDWARD's stern was only 150' off the beach. But she was well anchored with a 125 pound Fisherman anchor and 100 feet of 1/2" chain. While dining ashore, the crew did not notice an increasing ground swell. At 2200 hours it was Dickson who first spotted WINDWARD broadside to the beach, her anchor chain broken at a link 20 feet from the bow.

The crew stripped off their clothes and hurriedly swam to the boat. The engine was started, and the 22 inch, two blade, feathering prop churned a frothy wake. The spreader lights were switched on, and just as the crew thought they had escaped catastrophe, the engine died and wouldn't restart. That afternoon the fuel filters had been changed, and the engine has not been test run.

Helpless, WINDWARD slowly took the beach, bow first. She bumped first aft, the deepest part of her keel, and then slowly laid over to 45 degrees on her port side as surf broke over the hull.  WINDWARD had broken her anchor chain at Yelapa and gone ashore in the pitch dark. Things seemed to happen in slow motion. A bonfire was built in the sand to light the scene. Attempts were made to row an anchor out to kedge free. But attempts were futile given the surf and difficulty in communicating.

The next morning WINDWARD was mostly emptied to lighten ship. More attempts were made to pull her free. Locals were recruited to hang from halyards to help leverage the varnished hull to a bow out position. At one point they had what seemed half the population of Yelapa hanging from the halyards that overhung the beach. As WINDWARD would rise and fall in the surf, the locals would be lifted off their feet "like goosed marionettes."

It was a difficult situation compounded by nearly impossible communications with the insurance company back in the U.S.A. The nearest town, Puerto Vallarta, was really just a village with a couple of streets, a gas station and hotel, but no telephone. The nearest telephone was in Tepic, 70 miles away. There was a local freighter, the SINALOA, that could have possibly pulled WINDWARD free. But SINALOA's captain was drunk, and could provide no firm cost or plan. Lastly, WINDWARD's salvagers were running out of anchors and rope. In 1958, most anchor line was manila, and the 1.5" diameter rope was breaking like string under the strain.

On the fourth day, March 4, 1958, a final attempt was made to free WINDWARD. Four long bow lines were led seaward to anchors and to the stern of the big. black schooner SEADRIFT. At high tide they began to pull, winching like maniacs with SEA DRIFT's powerful engine running wide open. WINDWARD rose to the swell and her bow began to move.. Then with resounding crack, SEADRIFT's 5/8" anchor chain parted. Too much strain came onto the other lines, and they too broke. It was the end. Over the next few days and weeks, WINDWARD came apart. Her mast was cut down, an ultimately reerected as a flagpole on the Yelapa beach. Only her lead keel remained buried in the sand, the end of a beautiful ship.

On a recent visit to Yelapa in 2014 we went in search of finding any remnants of WINDWARD. Hopefully, we criss-crossed the beach, and asked at the beach bars and hotels. Nobody we found, all born after 1958, had heard of WINDWARD and what happened that night. Nor could we find any boat parts that might have come from WINDWARD. She has been recycled into history, 82 feet of splendor.

I recently came upon this 1964 picture (35 mm slide) of the top part of WINDWARD's mast stepped against a cement wall in Yelapa.  Does anyone recognize the location of the mast against the wall?  The  second photo of the three boats at anchor was also taken in 1964, near Casa Santa Cruz. From left to right the boats are the K-50 RASCAL, the Cal-32 AMORITA, and the big 73 foot KIALOA II.  They were all returning from the '64 Acapulco Race and stopped  in Yelapa Bay to visit the waterfall.  Notice there is no path along the rocks out towards El Jardin and Karina's.  And the third photo is of WINDWARD on the beach, before she broke up becoming Yelapa's most famous shipwreck...............skip allan, Capitola, CA

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Start of Something Big

Hello Faye,

My name is jerry and "Pizza Phil" is my brother - he was written about in a blog post by Penny in 2011.  The reason I'm writing to you is I'm in Yelapa right now ( February 13-15) and found your blog.  Why?  I spent the afternoon with "Guitar Ron" and just learned  the "pizza" part of "Pizza Phil", hence  a refined Google search to find your blog. I've searched many times but without "pizza"  - so I found you today. It's been 27 years since I've seen Phil - I was only 21 when he disappeared as Penny in the blog outlined. He was by far my closest brother out of our family of 11.  I would be deeply grateful if you could suggest some people I could talk to here who knew him... Ron suggested Maggy and Patty. Others have suggested Victor. Anyone else you might suggest?

Also, the post was written by "Penny", who I've not met, but whose name I recall hearing when one of my other brothers came down to look for him back then - is there any chance you are in contact with Penny? It would be great to communicate with her, to connect and learn more about him in his last months. It's been so long ... And I've been thinking for so long that Phil took "a long swim" that to see her blog post that ... well... I don't know...

 I know this is likely a very odd email.  I just realized today that I've waited entirely too long to come here, and all the regrets that entails. Any info you could provide would be very appreciated!

Gracias, Faye!


Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Importance of Nicknames

Valentine Day, Yelapa 2015
I woke up at my usual 5 am..ish and thought I'd check my mail as I'm apt to fall asleep with my iPad inside the mosquito net. As it sometimes happens, I get an email from a stranger who has chanced upon my Raicilla Dreams blog. They are usually looking for someone from their past and wonder If I can help them. This is an unforeseen element my blog presents me and I love when I can connect old friends or offer possibilities. Such an adventure took place this Valentine morning.

The letter I found in my box that early morning asked if I had info or knew anyone that could help on the disappearance of Pizza Phil in the late 1980's. It was his younger brother, Jerry Bauer. He had chanced upon a short story by Penny and her romance with his favorite big brother who was never found after a trip into PV. All Interpol could find during investigation was Phil was last seen in PV with a man, a hotel charge he signed and no more clues. The last connection Penny had was coming to Yelapa with her boyfriend Ed (they were not yet married) planning to meet Phil. When he didn't show up as planned she went to his house and found a bottle of wine, her letter and her name circled on the calendar date of when she would arrive. No other signs of where Phil might be. She went to his neighbor Ruby to inquire as to where Phil might be and received the frightening and sad story.

You can refresh your memory by googling Pizza Phil. However, I am telling you the story of luck and fate on V Day 2015.

As I read the letter and knew Penny was the contact he asked about...I realized
I had to get them together that day. Jerry was only in Yelapa for the weekend and Penny had to be in PV next day. Plus, a luck factor that Penny was in Yelapa weeks earlier than in the recent past winters.

I emailed Jerry at once telling him she was here and simultaneously texting Penny to call me. Immediately my phone rang. It was Penny and I asked if I could give out her number and directions to her casa for Jerry. She burst into tears and when I asked if she was ok, she replied she had dreams that previous night of Phil! He had his arm over her shoulder on the beach listening to music; something they did often.

Mind you, Jerry has looked for info on his brother for years without success. He learned the nickname Pizza Phil the day before on the main beach from Guitar Ron and used it for the first time to search Google which took him to my blog and Penny's story.

Within a few hours, the magic of Yelapa happened. At the precise moment I called Penny to tell her he was coming, Jerry walked in the door. They had a heart connect that morning of Valentine Day. Hugging and sharing stories, they found they helped each other process Phil's disappearance and difficult time they shared unbeknown to each other.

Penny and Jerry both say they are going to stay in touch now and another brother lives near Penny and Ed in Maine and also wants to connect.

The Internet can be an amazing way to find old friends, but the magic synchronism in Yelapa made this meeting of hearts happen.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Since I have no new stories, I'm just going to publish some more photos I got via FB taken by Celeste most likely, except for the ones she is in! Most of these are Buddy, his kids, Celeste, beautiful Marina, Conrad and Sara's daughter.

There are some old beach and PV pics, too. Enjoy going back in time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I'm sorry there have been no posts in 2014. I am waiting for promised stories, but, I guess, everyone is too busy with life. This is good, no?
As for myself, I finally put together a website for my art and include it here.

Those of you asking me to connect you with people from the past, I did the best I could. If you ask again, I'll try again.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Adventures of a Technical Mexican

I invite you to check out Jesse Rose Roberts blog. Jesse grew up in Yelapa and has returned to live and run the B & B Los Suenos along the trail in Yelapa. I knew her folks Jerry and MaryBeth and marvelled that their kids could live freely in such a magical place.


Cliff Barney Spins a Tale

Drop in on Carolina McCall Art and more of Cliff Barney's tale of meeting Peggy.


Sunday, December 8, 2013


MICHAEL A. ROBINS 1936-2013 In his own words The Dove Elusive, uncanny bird Withdrawn to a high twig of pine, Still as a noonday shadow, Cooing in the pace of lament, Sighs counted for the fallen, For those who said their last word And will not waken To sunrise tomorrow. Survived by his loving wife, Maureen Curran Robins, his son Nico Robins and wife Melissa, and the mother of his son, Donna Rae Peth. In his memory, please perform an act of kindness.

Published in Santa Fe New Mexican from Nov. 6 to Nov. 8, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Spelling Can Be So Important!

Cliff Barney was asking if I knew someone named Peggy Mandel...I told him her last name was Muendel and it sounds like the very same Peggy to me. Great story from Cliff!

i did know peggy, in a special way.

when carolina got to yelapa, i was still working in silicon valley. i arrived about a year later and we set up shop at casa ventana; and she told me about a friend of hers whom i might like — peggy mandel. we visited her one afternoon and had a great time. peggy and i took to each other immediately; i liked her enormously, and we talked nonstop for several hours, during which time her dogs, of whom there were several, frolicked about. they were very friendly and i spent much time playing with them, scratching their ears, etc. when i got home that night i was overtaken by a bout of itching like none i had ever experienced. i wanted to jump out of my skin, it was so bad. the only thing that affected it was to stand in a shower so hot i could hardly stand it - but anything, even being boiled alive, was better than the itch!

we looked it up in the merck manual, and decided that i had sarcoptes scabiei, or scabies. of course carolina got it immediately from me, and we fought it for the next several weeks. nothing seemed to work against it until we finally found a solution: we covered ourselves in noxema cream and did not bathe for two weeks. during that time we changed our sheets every day. we took the sheets from the bed and put them in buckets of bleach; we took the sheets that had been bleaching and hung them on the line, and we took the ones on the line and put them on the bed. we called this routine the “three-sheet shuffle.” i wrote a demented poem about it and we made it a big joke in our lives. but despite the real affection i felt for peggy, i never dared to go to her house again, and in fact never saw her again since she rarely went out. i always regretted this, but i never risked another bout. (vets will tell you that humans don’t get scabies from dogs, but we knew better.)

now, it happens that when i was an undergrad at dartmouth, my roommate, who was editor of the college newspaper, got a letter from a fellow named jerry tallmer, who had been several classes ahead of us and was a legendary editor of the paper, having restarted it after the war. he was then working at the nation, and he invited ted to visit him in new york. i tagged along and met jerry and his then wife, peggy, a young, slim, very attractive woman who swore like a sailor. they were both very kind to us, a couple of undergraduate bozos - introduced us to their friends in the village and even let me stay at their apartment when i was in town, which was as frequently as i could make it. i went to their parties and met jackson pollock at one of them. he made a pass at peggy and she told him to fuck off.

later i lost touch with them and though i heard that jerry had helped found the village voice, which i read later when i lived in new york, i never saw either of them again. (peggy wrote a shopping column for the voice for a while. jerry is still alive, full of years and honors - he had a great journalistic career in new york.) i did hear that he and peggy had separated, and i always wondered what became of her. i had been attracted to her even then, but basically i was afraid of her - she seemed so capable and familiar with the new york scene, and i was a yokel from new hampshire.

so last night, in a fit of nostalgia, i googled “peggy tallmer,” and was led to a column by jerry in which he revealed that her full name was “peggy meundel tallmer.” i then googled “peggy meundel” and was led to raicilla dreams.

now i always supposed that the peggy i had met here spelled her name “peggy mandel,” because that was the way everyone pronounced it. but from the few items i read about “peggy meundel,” i suspect that she must have been peggy tallmer once.

abrazos.......cliff barney

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Art as Medicine

Read my interview wih Cliff Barney on his blog below and be sure to view Caroline McCall's artwork that hosts the blog. http://carolinamccall.com/blog

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Stories From the Baile

In the 70's in Yelapa there was virtually zero "night life", in fact, I think most people were asleep by about 9 or 10pm at the latest on a regular basis.  Occasionally there was a "dance" at the local "meeting hall" on Sunday evenings.  I think it was mostly for the kids and it definitely was primarily the Yelapa locals, but it being an "unusual" event, most of the ex-pats would show up and were welcomed.  There was an old style "box" record player like you had when you were a kid, and there was a generator running somewhere out back because there was electricity, lights and music, etc.
The local kids would ask a girl to dance and it was all very Jr. High School in tone, but the kids seemed to be having fun.  The kids would be dancing and then something always happened that took me a while to figure out what was going on.... the grandmother (usually) of the girl that was dancing would walk up to the boy and tap him on the shoulder and the boy would stop dancing and the girl would look mildly uncomfortable... the boy would dig in his pockets and hand the grandmother something and she would go away and the kids would start dancing again.  This happened on every dance and with every local couple and I was not sure of what was going on, but I would watch this take place with fascination until I couldn't stand it any longer.
I got up from where I was sitting and asked one of the local men I knew ( I don't remember whom), what was going on.  He explained to me that the grandmother was getting a peso or three from the boy for the privilege of dancing with the girl.  They called it a tostone or as I later learned, that is the slang word for tip in Spanish.  How about that... Taxi Dancers in Yelapa!  These dances took place according to what schedule I never did figure out, but everyone in the village always seemed to know when one was going occur. The majority of the town would be there with lots of Raicilla and beer to be had for all!
Leaving this event and walking home on Shit Trail at night was always an exciting time as well.  You never knew what you were going to run into along the trail from the giant pig we called Big Ugly to local men lying in the dirt very, very drunk.  It was on this night that one of the strangest things I have ever seen came into my view.  There was a place on the trail after you left town where there was a big rock that was on the side of the trail and leaning up against this rock was a very drunk Yelapan with a small burro backed up against him... both of them were making a lot of noise and it took me a minute to focus and realize what I thought was going on was really going on!  Incredible!  It totally gave me a new appreciation for the relationship between the locals and their burros. Obviously it impressed me as I still remember it very vividly 35 or so years later!...Tony Collins

Monday, June 3, 2013

And the Winner Is....

...a short Raicilla story for you:
My business partner Graham G. from Toronto and I had been hanging out at Casa de Alacron for quite a while and we had gotten into a rut.  We would go to Juan Cruz's store almost daily and buy a jar of Aladin Crema de Cacahuate and one of the homemade Pan Mangere (SP?) loafs and get a couple of bottles of Eliadoro's Raicilla... in those days you had to bring your own bottles to get them filled from his gas cans that he had carried down the mountain from Chacala; you didn't want to lose your bottles!  This would be our dinner, we had gotten too lazy to cook, too lazy to fish, and otherwise too lazy to leave our hammocks for very long. We wouldn't even both go to the store and it was usually me because my Spanish was better.

So after eating our peanut butter and bread we would proceed to drink our bottles of Raicilla, as these were liter bottles, this would take around 3 to 4 hours to finish the bottle and you needed the peanut butter and the bread to help absorb the liquor. As the bottle was finished, it became a ritual that we would rub the bottles vigorously until they were hot and then torch the top of the bottle off with a lighter. If the Raicilla was good that week (it was often better or worse from week to week and I am pretty sure that Eliadoro would "cut" it for both profit and safety's sake.)...you would get a flame like a blow torch jumping out of the top of the bottle and a WHOOMP noise that was just great. 
The point of this exercise was of course, to determine whom would get the biggest flame and WHOOMP. In order to even qualify for the competition, your flame had to jump at least 6 inches out of the bottle or you were disqualified.  A winning flame would be 10 inches or better...There would be much debate as to whom was able to get the most spectacular flame and WHOOMP and thus, we had to bring in 3rd party judges to declare the winner. As there were generally from 4 to 8 people staying with us at the house, there were no shortages of judges, until the judges would try to become contestants. That did not happen often... you had to be able to finish your bottle in one evening, a feat, that not just anybody could do.

I was generally but not always the winner of this endurance contest and I guess that makes me THE BIGGEST LOSER! to use the parlance of the day. Thankfully my liver still functions and we only did this for a couple of months straight before we decided that we were overindulging in the Raicilla just a bit......Tony Collins

Thursday, May 30, 2013

...more Puppy tales from Tony Collins

"Like I said, in Yelapa I pretty much stayed in the house and had lots of visitors come and go form the States and Europe.  When I was in Vallarta, I was much more social, going out to the clubs every night etc.... then I would go out to Bucerias sometimes and stay in my friends house and just hang out with local Mexicans as there were no gringoes out there in those days.  The house was directly across the highway from the restaurant La Perla Negra and on top of the hill looking over the highway and out to see.  Did you know that Mr. Jacuzzi of the spas lived in Bucerias and was in a wheelchair which is what led him to invent his pools?

Here is a funny Vallarta story:  My dog Puppy was also very well known in Vallarta as I was and so... I used to have to "sneak" out of my cottage I rented in Vallarta on the highway just past Capriccio, when I wanted to go out; otherwise he would just come with me.  He would wake up when I was gone and would just come looking for me as he knew my routine which always started the evening at O'Brian's., if I wasn't there he would head down the street to Casa Blanca etc until he found me.  One night he couldn't find me as I was already up the hill at Capriccio where I was close with Pepe and Chava (the owners).

So he is walking across town looking for me and a cabbie that knew me and Puppy spotted him and yelled at him to get in the car because he knew "where I was".  The cabbie told me this later.  So, here comes this cab pulling into the Capriccio parking lot, pulls up close to the front door, and gets out and opens the door for Puppy to get out.  Well, as you know, at the clubs there was always a line of tourists waiting to get in and they have the Doorman etc,.with the rope and the whole deal.  All these people are standing in line waiting to get in... and here comes this little dog in a cab by himself and walks up to the front door and the doorman knows the dog and opens the door for him to go inside and telling him that "Tony is inside, come on in!"

During this whole show, I was actually sitting in the gazebo that was on the other side of the parking lot at the top of the stairs that went down to Baby Jaws and the area below at sea level.  I saw this whole thing happen and was cracking up because the tourists were starting to freak out and asking "Hey, you let a dog in, why can't we get in?"... It was hysterical.  The tourists couldn't believe a dog was getting in before them!

It was the same at O'Brian's, Leon would see Puppy and would give him a plate of chicken to eat just inside the door in front of all the people in line... Leon would say..."Tony's not here Senor Puppy, are you hungry?"  Tourists would just freak out!"

...more from Tony Collins

"Living in Yelapa helped me find my center in a time when I needed it.  In the days that I was living there, there was not a lot of socializing going on in Yelapa other than at peoples houses, the Yacht Club was closed and once the tourists left at 3pm every day, there wasn't much to do except go home.  I had a crowd of people coming and going to Casa Arriba and we pretty much stayed to ourselves up there.  I can remember not going in town or leaving the house for days at a time often.  I had a lady named Evangelina that took care of me and the house and often I never left the house.  The view from Casa de Alacron (which is what we all called it) was so fantastic and we had a garden in the back and so many fruit trees on the property that there just wasn't much reason to go anywhere.  And it was the rest and escape from the hectic world that I was craving and so, just hanging out in the hammock was right up my alley at the time.
Short story involving my dog again:  My wife had met Fey Waybill (Quaalude from the Tubes) in Vallarta and she asked me to stay in Yelapa for awhile at the house and I stayed in Vallarta.  Remember we were separated but friends at this time.  Fey started hanging out with my dog and my ex-wife and stayed at Casa Alacron for about 3 weeks.  They would also go into Vallarta and Fey would take my dog to Bings for ice cream in the afternoons.  They were good buddies. I never met Fey at the time.  So one evening about a year later I was in the SFO airport and I saw Fey and his guys at one of the gates.  I walked up to him, and said.... "Hey, you know a dog named Puppy?"  He grabbed me and hugged me and said.. "You must be Tony!".  We hung out and partied in Sausalito for the next couple of days.
Yelapa was like that... I was walking on the beach one day and saw a guy waving his hands through the air in a memorable way... it was Richard Calder from the Haight and a close friend.  He had been living in Vallarta for about a year at the time, I had been living in Yelapa for several months... and we had never crossed paths until that day.  Ran into Patty from Vallarta the same way.  She was another old friend from the Haight." 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gloria Elies RIP

*thanks to Kathleen Harris for her story about Gloria Elies who passed in the last year.


Five Year Anniversary!

I just realized I started this blog on May 31, 2008! It will be 5 years old on Friday and I thank you for participating as a reader and contributor.

Please keep sending your stories and photos. You can't believe how many folks
contact me when they accidently come across Raicilla Dreams and want to
know more. I started this blog for my own selfish desires to record my stories and photos before I forgot them. Now, it's a source for all of us to remember our wonderful lives in Yelapa. 

Down Memory Lane by Tony Collins

I received this nostalgic email from Tony Collins who lived in Yelapa in the 70's. I don't know Tony, but his entry certainly took me back. I think you'll enjoy this.....faye

"I had been to Yelapa for a day trip in 1972 but went back in October of 1974 and stayed there until about Feb of 1977.  I spent most of my time in Yelapa at Casa Arriba but I rented a cottage in Vallarta also and had the use of a friends house in Bucerias so I had 3 different living experiences during that time period.  There was 1 period that I did not leave Yelapa even to go into Vallarta for 7 months.  There were other periods when I would stay in Vallarta for 3 or 4 days at a time. I had been coming back and forth to Vallarta since 1970 and a few friends from California had ended up in Yelapa and Vallarta for a while; I became one of them as well even before I realized they were there.
In Yelapa I first stayed at the little white house that was immediately at the top of the trail from the beach where you turned right to go to town.  Enrique who had a small store on the beach let us stay there for a few days, then we moved in to Byron and Bets' rental guest house for a couple of weeks.  During that time, I had met the Alaskan guy that was staying in Casa Arriba and he introduced me to Don Arturo Cruz and I made arrangements to move into the "House Above" as the Alaskan guy was leaving to go back to Alaska.  We also stayed in Pipeline Jim's house for 1 night and did not like the house except for the roof.  Of course, living next door to Benny Shapiro has a million stories in itself, but not all of them so nice. So, I will try to stay away from the bad ones.  Benny was OK, he was just Benny.
Casa Arriba had been going downhill in repairs etc. prior to my moving in and so we did some minor things to fix it up,  I bought and had delivered a new refrigerator and had some tiles repaired and replaced on the balcony, some brickwork, but nothing major.  My understanding is that after we moved out it went downhill again for several years but Lance(?) has it now and it appears that he has made substantial changes and repairs to the house which is a good thing. The main bath house has been changed substantially from what I can see in new photos.
I paid for 6 months rent to Don Arturo at one point by "bouncing" to the states for 2 days and bringing him a nice professional style chainsaw.  In fact during the two plus years I rented the house from him, we usually did similar "trades" for the rent.  I brought him a Honda generator at one point and some other things which slip my memory.  Those were the days!
I stayed in the house during all the seasons and in fact, summer is one of my favorites as I like the rain and less people.  One of my fondest memories of Yelapa are the sounds the frogs made at night, it would get so loud sometimes it was unreal... I used to call the sounds like "spaceships taking off and landing".  Now that there is electricity in most of the area and more people, I would imagine that it is not quite so "natural" in the sounds at night.  Of course, the Raicilla helped.  I swear it has psychedelic properties, or maybe that was just the rust from Eliadoro's gas cans that used to bring it down the hill from Chacala.
Regretfully, I have no photos of the time period.  I wish I did, but I just wasn't a camera guy in those days.  Yelapa was so quiet in those days, that during the summer of 1975 we had nightly readings out loud of pages from the book Shogun with us all sitting around the tables on the balcony of Casa Arriba by bomba light.  Very exciting and missed times.  Dodging the banana bats and plotting which bananas off of the stalk you were going to eat for breakfast tomorrow were other highlights of nightly activities.
Names I am bad with, but characters seem to stick with me.  One of my first friends in Yelapa was Santiago, we went fishing together many times and I think everyone probably knew Santiago at one time or another.  Rita Tillet of course, although we were never close.  Benny Shapiro and his family.  Enrique, Byron and Bets, Simon (the artist and beachcomber, always wore white) The two gay guys that lived up the river just a bit and right next to it, can't remember their names, but very nice folks.  Juan Cruz, Don Arturo Cruz and others from their family.  People in Vallarta I was close to were Leon Rosales, a bald headed guy named Al...  Silver, Joy (Alegria), Carlos Anderson (when he was in town), Chico Perez, Pepe Gutierrez from Tepic, Guillermo Wolfe and his sons, Memo, etc. Miguelon of the JPF and many others.  Pancho from Obrien's, the guys from Capriccio and City Dump, etc. Octavio the Police Chief (my wife trained his horses) and many others.
There was a dog in Yelapa named Rufus.  Rufus was a pitt bull and the story was that Rufus had become abandoned when his people got arrested in one of the Federali sweeps that used to happen about every 2 years.  They used to come to Yelapa and check everyone's papers that they could find.  Rufus got left behind and became the baddest dog in the valley and everyone had stories about him.  All the other dogs were afraid of Rufus and frankly, not a lot of Mexican dogs had personalities like the American dogs.  When my dog came to town. things changed... Rufus became King of The Beach, and Puppy (yes, that was his name... he was a Basenji) became King of The Mountain.  There were 3 inevitable confrontations over the next 2 years, in their first battle, Puppy was hurt and it took him a while to get better.  The 2nd battle was a few months later, Rufus was hurt and kind of disappeared for a while, but he got better and returned to strutting his stuff on the beach.  No one ever seemed to know where Rufus spent his nights, he would come and go at various peoples houses but never seemed to get "attached" to any other humans.  In time, the 3rd and final battle occurred and Puppy (sadly) killed Rufus in the fracas (I think he was getting older).  Puppy became the stuff of legend for a while and this was in addition to the fame that had become Puppy's due to his swimming ability and the Captain of the Paladin telling people about his swimming.  If I would catch a ride into Vallarta for the night on the Paladin, Puppy would chase the boat 2 or 3 miles out to sea before he would turn around and go back to shore.  The Captain would be asking me if I wanted him to stop and pick up the dog, This of course would drive me crazy, but there wasn't much I could do about it as you can't really keep a dog in a house with no walls.
I was called "Ballena" by the people of Yelapa because I did something regularly the people were not used to seeing.  In the mornings I would come down the mountain from Casa Arriba and go down to the beach.  I would them proceed to swim straight out to sea for 2 or 3 miles and would be gone for quite a while before people would notice me coming back to shore.  I grew up as a surfer in both Hawaii and California and in my younger days had spend a few months surfing up and down the coast of Mexico which is how I discovered Vallarta and Yelapa in the first place.  My swimming strokes where very long and strong and I would blow water and breath up and out of my mouth on every other stroke and it would spray up in the air quite a ways.  Hence, people started saying "la ballena viene" when I would be coming back to the beach.  It stuck.  There are many people around Latin America who call me "La Ballena" to this day."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Another example...

Another example of lack of communication took place with Helscheins. After several tries from her family to reach Susi with telegrams, etc. an agent from DHL showed up in his sweaty brown uniform ringing the house bells. He was sent to deliver a telegram and had taken one of the tourist boats at the time from PV (before taxi pongas) which unloaded at the main beach. He walked all the way to the Point, sweating profusely in the heat to the house and proudly delivered his telegram. Completing his job, he returned to the beach and the boat to PV.

So, you see how isolated we were and how transformed life in the digital age has become for places like Yelapa.

Smoke Signals

I was thinking about how easy it is now to be in contact with anyone in Yelapa.  Nearly everyone has access to a phone or internet and news can really travel. Those of you that never lived here before electricity and digital times, have no idea how hard it was to send or get messages from home. Telegrams would arrive, sometimes, in PV...but, we never received them here in Yelapa. They would stack up in PV and you would simply be out of luck. Plus, you had to travel to town and find a phone. Not easy. Usually we went to one of the hotels and paid them to make a call for us. You could not do this yourself at a hotel...they had to dial and place the calls for you.

Here is what happened to me in the late 70's. A friend I had met in Half Moon Bay showed up in Yelapa. He wanted me to go to the states to look at a boat he was interested in buying for fishing. We flew up to CA to check it out and while there, I decided to contact my family back in the Midwest. I couldn't get through to anyone in my family. Finally, out of despiration and knowing they should be home, I got in touch with my x and asked him to contact a cousin and see if he knew where everyone was. It turned out that my younger sister's husband had a relapse of cancer and had been in the hospital for over a month! I had no idea. I finally tracked them down in Ohio.  He passed away without me knowing a thing. They were traumatized and said they had been sending me telegram after telegram. Of course, I knew none of this in Yelapa. I tried to fly home immediately from SFO, but United was on strike and it was the only airline that flew to Nebaska then. I had to wait another week to get home.  I brought my sister to Yelapa for a month right away. I knew she would heal better here than anywhere. We were walking on the trail one day and Silent Jim approached. My sister's mouth fell open...and she just stared at him. He looked a lot like her young husband that died.

She had been crying a lot and her eyes were generally puffy and red. We ran into Conrad and Sara's boy Nilo who was about 4-5 then on the trail. He stopped her in the path and said: "You look like a clown". My sis and I looked at each other and then back to him and burst into laughter. It was the turning point of her healing.

Since then, my family still does not trust that I will get messages and I try to call them often so they feel more secure.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Days are drifting by!

I can't add to the blog without your input and wonderful stories and photos....!

Please send! If you don't have a scanner, consider sending them to me. I will do it and send them back to you. That goes for any of you out there reading this blog. 

I'll be back in Mexico end of November...you can tell me your anecdotes live if you just can't write them down. I'll do the best I can to tell your story. 

Email me and I'll send you my address for shipping photos.

Donovan video

Promises, promises...from Yelapans for great stories of the past...where are they??? Please people send me these anecdotes before they are forgotten. 

Thanks for video link goes to Tally Shapiro.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Early Days from Lawry Sager

I have lots of slides from the late '60s there but didn't go out of my way to photograph many of the people at the time; Tom Newman, Lea from the Smother's Bros. TV show  (there weren't many people there!). .and NO houses upriver. I didn't recognize many of the folks pictured altho' I used to see Lisa Law around Truchas, NM. And one of the last pictures of the series shows the late Kenny Hilton who passed away down there around 1980 if memory serves...drank peppermint schnapps to excess! If I can scan some pics I'll send 'em along. Wish I could recall the woman's name that used to serve dinner for only 3 or 4 of us a night...she'd worked in Wash D.C. and come back to her childhood home in Yelapa. The generator was only fired up on Saturday evening...helados and cold beer. An old gentleman used to dry coffee beans on the ground, turning them with an oar, in front of the tiendita on the plaza. Was Pedro, a Cubano, still keeping the village in smoke in the '70s?

Yes, I do remember. The lady in question (who insisted we speak Spanish regardless of how pitiful, and, of course, helped us with it) served her evening meals in a small front room that opened onto the plaza almost directly across from the Cruz store. There was no menu; she just told us what she was serving and took "reservations" early in the day. As I recall there were only one or two tables. I'll drag out the slides and see what I have of "downtown".

If anyone has any input on these questions please write. Juan Cruz used to dry the coffee beans in their plaza, and Peggy Muendel was the designer...but I don't know who the cook could be....faye

Friday, March 23, 2012

Glen Blakesley 10/1/46 - 3/21/12

I could not express my feelings any better than Allen did...so, I'm posting his partial comment from Yelapa Friends on FB.

It is with great sadness that our friend Blakesley passed away last Wednesday 3/21/12. Peggy Bassett was with him holding his hand as he took his last breath. She said he had been agitated this afternoon and kept telling the nurses he had to go. And he did. On the Spring Equinox. He was at peace at his time of death. So, good bye dear friend. I am thankful for our thirty years of friendship, and I am so glad you are not suffering any longer. Rest in Peace Blakesley, and God bless your wonderful spirit, now in transition. You will be greatly missed by all of your Yelapa Family. Namaste....................AAAAh! Dios mi buen amigo. Let us all light a candle in his honor to guide his way back to spirit. .....allen helschein

Friday, March 2, 2012

My Time in Old Yelapa by Jerry Bernhaut

I spent five months in Yelapa in 1968, having come straight from two months in the Haight-Ashbury, where I put the finishing touches on my initial two years of psychedelic experience. I joined two friends who were already settled in a Palapa. I came to the Haight from Chicago, where I had dropped out of a PHD program in philosophy and where I had been teaching at a community college. This was the begining of my drop-out odyssey.

Yelapa in 1968 was a small rural Mexican village with only dirt paths and no electricity, which happened to be located in one of the most beautiful, easy to live in places on earth. An inlet in the large Bay of Banderas with a beautiful beach and minimal commercial development. As best I can recall, there were a few palapas for tourist rental at one end of the beach and two small restaurants serving basic Mexican food. There was hardly any boat traffic. Two small boats would bring day tourists from Vallarta, who would walk into the pueblo or take a tour to the waterfall uphill from the pueblo, guided by a local child. There were occasional small private pleasure boats, but the inlet was free of any ongoing boat presence. The water was clear and ideal for swimming. The formation of the inlet cut the currents so that it was like a salt water lake. I  would do yoga on the beach and go for a long swim every day with no concern about an undertow.    

Going up river from the beach I recall only some local homes and small plantations. I remember walking up river watching iguanas sunning on the rocks. There was only one path which ran uphill from the beach into the pueblo where simple dwellings were clustered along the coast and a short distance uphill  for about half a mile.  The center of the pueblo consisted of one store, a canteena and a small dock. There were a few local homes where people did some cooking or baking, made tortillas for sale. There were some basic palapas for rent to tourists scattered through the pueblo. 

Walking on a path in Yelapa you were likely to encounter one of the village’s large sows trundling towards you, who would move off the path if you said “hutch” with authority. The paths were liberally strewn with animal droppings which the pigs consumed. You were also likely to pass chickens, horses, mules and donkeys. The children seemed especially fond of the donkeys. Whenever you passed someone, it was customary to greet them-“buenos dias señor”, “buenos tardes señora”. The pace of life was essentially aligned with the natural environment, not much sense of external pressure. There was no electricity and you seldom heard engine noise. People lived with kerosene lanterns and cooked on simple propane stoves or over open fires. Most nights it was quiet except for nature sounds. If there wasn’t much moon light, it was dark. I recall feeling enveloped in the pulsing rhythms of the insect life, which were more intense back then.

By 1968 the natural beauty, simple life style and affordability of Yelapa had begun to draw a small but steady stream of people from the psychedelic subculture who would stay for varying lengths of time. I came with three hundred dollars and stayed five months. I rented a basic but beautiful palapa, with a flush toilet and running cold water for twelve dollars a month. I ate simply, a lot of fresh fish from a local fisherman with whom I developed a friendship, Santos Hoya. Santos had a dugout canoe, cut out of a substantial tree trunk. He let me and my friend Ken, who was an avid fisherman, take the canoe out in the bay. Ken and Santos would fish together, Ken with his modern gear and Santos with heavy line wrapped around bleach bottles, the hooks baited with life forms Santos pried off the rocks with a crow bar. When he got a bite, he hauled in good sized fish hand over hand, no rod, no reel, no gloves.

At that point in time Yelapa was an extraordinary intersection of  modern and  pre industrial life. One image that remains in my mind is the women of the pueblo listening to transistor radios while washing laundry by beating it on the rocks in the creek. They did my laundry. It was the cleanest, freshest smelling laundry I ever had. For people like myself going through deep transformations of consciousness, it was a special gift to be able to experience this basic way of life in such a beautiful environment. 

The fact that I could live there so cheaply was, of course, a function of an unjust inequality between the U.S. and Mexico, a dominant - subservient exploitive relationship. At the time that $300 was my total assets, but that was by choice. Back then I was more focused on my own personal evolution than on the underlying social injustice. I think to some extent I also rationalized that despite the poverty of most Yelapans, they were in many ways living  more wholesome tranquil lives than people in developed economies. Looking back I didn’t know enough about their lives to make that judgment. I was mostly absorbed in my own trip and the counterculture I was a part of.

I don’t think most Yelapans related internally to the changes in consciousness we hippies were going through, but I believe a few did, my friend Santos being one. We communicated in Spanish, mine being very limited, so that much of our communication was intuitive, non-verbal.   One day he walked into my palapa after I had dropped a tab of LSD. He took one look at me and said “you look different today”. I said “how so”. He said “there is more energy around your body”. He said this matter of factly like it was an everyday type of observation for him. I explained why there was this energetic difference and he accepted that explanation and said that drugs were OK for the Gringos but they made the Mexicans crazy. I’ve never met anyone else in my travels in the counter culture, the Buddhist meditation community, with that level of sensitivity, completely natural, not cultivated by any practice or enhanced by any substance. He had natural gifts that drew him to people like me. Yet he was also very much a man of his culture and like most Mexican men he was attracted to the Gringitas and the sense of sexual freedom in the counter culture. There was a particular young woman he expressed interest in and I asked him how he would feel if his wife, who had borne him 9 children, stepped outside their marriage. He looked at me directly with his big brown eyes and said “she would no longer be allowed in my house”. He understood completely the sense of double standard I was raising and he conveyed to me that was the way it was for his culture. We could have that kind of exchange heart to heart, without judgment. I don’t say that as in any way a justification of the double standard, just as an appreciation of the kind of communication we had and the complexity of his personality. 

At that time there was not much interaction I was aware of between the hippies passing through Yelapa and the deep indigenous spirituality of the Huichols. I don’t remember any of their artwork in Yelapa back then. Somewhat later, Gringos who settled in Yelapa, like Isabel, developed a strong connection with them. As I was leaving Mexico after my five-months in Yelapa , I encountered a Huichol man as I was coming out of the Institute des Indios in Tepic, where I had purchased some Huichol art work. We had a brief conversation about the objects I had purchased. After we parted I felt deeply moved, on the verge of tears, just from that brief interaction. I was as sensitive and open right then as I’ve ever been. There was no way I could maintain that state and function in the world I was returning to.   

I returned for brief stays in Yelapa, once in the seventies and once in the eighties. After that second visit I felt that Yelapa had changed in ways that I could no longer relate to, still being so attached to that initial experience. Recently I ran into Cate Sims, an old friend from the Sonoma Valley, who told me she lived in Yelapa part of the year. I thought maybe a further transformation had occurred that might have turned Yelapa into a place I could enjoy again, now that so much time had passed and I could let go of any expectation that it would feel like the old days. That turned out to be the case. The proprietors of Casa Isabel, where I stayed, have created a beautiful environment that preserves the connection with the land, with a few amenities to be sure. The big beach where I swam every day for five months has succumbed to commercial development. I spent no time there on this visit, but I swam off Casa Isabel beach and in Pesota, and hiked up river.  Fernando, who took a small group of us to the Mariettas for snorkeling, told us that there is pressure from some in the jurisdiction that governs development decisions, especially from those who live further inland, to really open Yelapa to Vallarta type development, but that so far the residents of Yelapa have successfully resisted.  That would be the loss of what remains of a very special place, if Yelapa went the way of Vallarta. That’s for the locals to decide. From my perspective as an environmental attorney, the most likely scenario is that by 2050, if not sooner, as a result of climate change and sea level rise, the low lying areas of Yelapa, including the big beach, parts of Casa Isabel and other houses near the water, will be under water. I doubt that the developers are planning for that. In the meantime, I plan to spend more time in the current Yelapa.