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Yucatan Road Trip

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Ali and Sean at UxmalI left Mahahual Sunday at noon. I asked people around town and they said that there was a bus leaving at 10:30, which would give me enough time to make it to the airport and meet Ali when he was scheduled to arrive at 3:30. It happened that the 10:30 bus was going to Chetumal; I would have to wait till 12:30 to catch the bus to Cancun, making me late for Ali. On the bus, the driver told me I should transfer in Playa del Carmen because it was either cheaper or faster, I couldn’t understand. I heeded his advice and transfered in Playa del Carmen. I ended up having to wait for an hour and 15 minutes in Playa del Carmen. I called Ali, who had been waiting at the airport, and he decided to go the the hostel and wait for me there.

I finally arrived at the airport by 7 and went to the National rent-a-car. I mistakenly signed up for an extra driver and total coverage of insurance, thinking it wasn’t costly per day, especially divided by two people. When I made the reservations, the price was listed as $10 a day. The car for two weeks, with total coverage, after I upsold myself, came to about $850. I wasn’t really thinking of the total price, just the daily price, which still didn’t seem that much. I checked the car for blemishes with the attendent, where he proceeded to demonstrate that there was a spare tire. I don’t even know if I saw it though. I drove through the hotel zone looking for the International Club, which is the hostel where Ali booked our beds. I stopped in front of a gigantic hotel on the beach by the name of International Club and had my doubts that this was the place that Ali had booked. I called him up and, after some questions and answers, I discovered that he was in Downtown Cancun, on a small street, which I identified on the map. Actually getting there proved to be more difficult. I drove in circles for about an hour and stopped to ask directions twice. I’m still not used to the road sinage in Mexcio. Eventually I found it, parked, went inside and greeted my friend.

The first night we bummed around the hostel. I was anxious to hit the town but Ali was tired. We agreed to hit the strip the following night. Monday we took the ferry to Isla Mujeres. Isla Mujeres, they say, is a lot like Key West. It’s a laid back island with lots of bars, restaurants, shops and a relaxed attitude. I already liked it more than Cancun. We drifted on the beach till the sun was about to set when we decided to head home. On our way back to the ferry we were tempted by the surf and turf special of a particular restaurant and figured it would be better to eat there than back in Cancun. On the drive back from the ferry terminal in Cancun, we congratulated ourselves on being able to find our hostel with only one wrong turn.

Later in the evening, we got set to go out, taking showers and drinking beers. We took a bus to the hotel zone where we thought we’d check out the various clubs that people had reccommended to us. We settled on Daddy-Os and Daddy-Rock for $45 all-you-can drink, although we never went to Daddy-Os. The clubs were what we expected: loud music, winter-breakers and not enough women for men. Ali and I were eventually separated on the dance floor and I didn’t see him again until 5am when I returned to the hostel. I spent the whole night trying, unsuccessfully, to dance with girls. I blame the mustache for my failure.

Tuesday was the day of the tire scam. Ali criticized me for getting the full coverage on the car so we decided to take it back, opting for the cheapest plan possible. Rather than try and change our plan, we thought it would be best to just return the car and rent from another place. We found another car for $10 a day plus the minimum insurance of $10 for liability. So $20 a day in all.

Back from the airport, we lounged in our room. Ali wrote in his journal and I wrote the negative forum post on TripAdvisor. There were two new boarders in our six-bed room: 2 French girls from the Basque region, Sylvie and Clarisse. Sylvie was a self-proclaimed seasoned backpacker and spoke French, Spanish and English. Clarisse only knew French and not much of the other stuff. We went out and got some food with them and another guy in our hostel. Ali and I were content with the first restaurant we passed by but the others were looking for something more “authentic.” Ryan, the other guy, wanted fajitas with bell peppers. I told him I thought that fajitas were like burritos, Mexican-American food not common in Mexico expect for the American joints. After looking at 6 different menus, we found an acceptable restaurant with fajitas.

The next day Ali and I planned on driving to the ruins at Chitzen-Itza and since the French girls were going there too, we offered them a ride. Not less than ten minutes after leaving the hostel I was pulled over by a motorcycle cop for speeding. I think I was going 90 km/hr in a 70 zone. With some Spanish help from Sylvie, we got off the hook with a $40 bribe.

Chitzen-Itza was the same as I remembered it from 10 years ago, only it had way more vendors hawking curios. They kept saying “one dollar, one dollar” for something that was obviously not a dollar. When I inquired further, they said it was a dollar to look. The main difference I noticed from my last visit was that climbing the pyramid was no longer permitted. It made me glad I got to do it ten years ago. Since my last visit it has been declared a UN World Heritage site. I prefered the Uxmal ruins, which we visited later, for many reasons. At Uxmal, we were able to climb the pyramids and there were far less tourists and vendors.

After Chitzen-Itza, we drove to Merida, the capital of the Yucatan state. It’s an old-style Mexican town without much tourist influence. The tourists that Merida did have sought more from the Yucatan than the resort hotels and the obligitory bus ride to Chitzen-Itza. Ali and I wanted to stay at hostel El Jardin, which was only 4 blocks from the Zocalo, or town square. That was too far for the French girls and we walked with them to 5 different hotels waiting for Sylvie to make up her mind. When we finally got to El Jardin, they decided the extra $2 to stay there was too expensive and went back to one of the other hotels we looked at. We went back to the car with them to give them their backpacks and made arrangements to meet them outside their hotel for dinner in an hour. We were 10 minutes late and also realized that we didn’t know which hotel they finally decided on, so we never saw them again.

We loitered in Merida the next day, doing nothing. The sky was overcast and rainy so we didn’t feel like going anywhere. In the afternoon, we went looking for little propane bottles to take back to the boat in Mahahual. We did the Home Depot, Sam’s Club and Wal Mart trifecta. The closest thing we found were large and empty propane bottles used for BBQs. Navegating the foreign streets at night in the rain exhausted both of us and we turned in early that night.

Wednesday morning we left for Mahahual via the ruins of Uxmal. We didn’t make it all the way before the sun set and decided to get a hotel for the night in a town whose name we’re still not quite sure of. We could have made it during the night but everyone I’ve talked to says don’t drive in Mexico at night. We still had to drive a little bit in the dark, though. We mad it to Mahahual by 3pm the next day, with an empty tank of gas.

Comments

  1. Mom Says:

    Your CouchSurfing membership information card came in the mail today. Your Verification Code # is: ZDEA-FAD4-3AZD-4CZ9.

    Also you received today an income tax document from Lydian Private Bank.

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