We had a nice Uber driver keep us busy with conversation on the way to the airport where we would walk around for at least an hour — better to arrive early and buy yogurt, hummus with pretzels, and a salad from CA Pizza Kitchen for the flight than arrive late and not get an awesome plane neighbor from Ohio. The seat across from us was temporarily out of service and the guys put in headphones as I pulled out a book, Hospital, to fill the two hours between San Diego and Houston.
Midway through the Houston to Cancún flight I look over to witness a “crime” and try to describe it via hand signals. The man is holding his infant son with his older son in the middle seat who had grabbed the sleeping wife’s phone and dropped it on the floor. Caleb told me to use my words as I assumed everyone was in a headphones–boring book–sleep haze such as I was. I had missed the window seat assignment again because Caleb “needs” the aisle and the guy didn’t even have the blind up.
The airport is empty as we claim our checked bag full of dive gear. We get out to the rental car and vacation booths area and Caleb obliges a guy by listening to his spiel before we step outside to wait for the shuttle that will take us to the rental company, just 6 km away, in the rain. There is a deaf couple writing notes between them and one of the employees, and I watch, intrigued with the exchange of languages between signing, written English, and spoken Spanish.
We’re able to get an automatic transmission like we requested when making the reservation and sign on the line for the mandatory daily insurance, which is three times the total of the weekly rental fee (good thing prices are cheap). We hop in the white 2012 Nissan March and I’m adjusting the mirrors and radio station to drive away before we’ve even done an inspection, just a chip of paint on the front bumper, and we’re off into the darkness that the storm has brought at 6pm.
I’m driving 40km/h (just 25mph) in a 70km/h (43.5mph, average speed in the area) zone and so much is going on mentally. I love traveling internationally! There’s lane markings on the road, but we follow the car ahead of us (which unknowingly keeps us out of potholes and flood zones that would sink the car) as they weave a beautiful pattern of safety and light usage, both blinkers and hazards as needed. The easiest, and most American, stop for us on the way to our hotel… Wal-Mart.
I think it ironic that Americans complain about the Mexicans that shop at Wal-Mart and its our first stop to grab diving lunch for tomorrow and bottled water to eliminate the possibility of getting sick. Caleb thought I would have to translate for him, but most everything is bilingual, and they sell food in unwrapped bulk (which I totally nerd out on). Mexicans go to Wal-Mart expecting the same quality and get our watered-down and supersized version. I see the appeal of checking out the familiar in a foreign location.
We pull up to the Real Inn, a 3-star hotel with rooms at $80/night that we got for $13. We’ll be spending the rest of the trip at an Airbnb (our first after the one in London cancelled and the Kuwait guy offered me every date but the ones I asked for). The hotels check-in system is down, so we leave the car and sit down at the outdoor restaurant on the water to watch the lightning and order a delicious salad (kale and green apples, etc.) and yummy tacos based on the words – queso, huevo, frijoles, and guacamole.
I go back inside and Humberto is ready to assign me room 627 with a view of the ocean on the other side of the road. We are in the Zona Hotelera on the stretch of land between the Gulf of Mexico and the Nichupte Lagoon. I pull the car from the front of the hotel, where it’s been for at least half an hour and make two u-turns and reverse a bit to park in one of the ten available spots (that I can find). Not much parking in this area as the locals (who walk or take the bus) rely on the tourists getting taxis to their all-inclusive resorts.
Caleb brings the bags to the room while I finish dinner so we can both enjoy the rainlocker shower before bed. It’s looking at the room service menu where I will learn of the other ingredients in dinner — cactus paddle in the tacos; and spinach, green beans, local chicken, cranberry, walnut, Manchego cheese from Spaniard sheep, and a hard-boiled egg with French vinaigrette and agave on the salad; the only other options being tuna or caesar.
I will stay up a bit longer to read more about the Yucatán Peninsula’s white-sand beaches, Mayan ruins, cenotes (collapsed limestone that creates a sinkhole), and a magical place for 1 to 14 year-olds called KidZania where the kids entry fee is more than the adults because they’re the ones role-playing in a city replica complete with over one hundred career options.
Have you ever postponed a trip due to a storm only to arrive into one?