Monday, December 15, 2008

Yucatan Wednesday's on a Monday...

Philadelphia Airport...

ok, it's been awhile, I know. Let's get back on track, shall we? Our journey brings us thus far to Philadelphia Airport. Our motel has offered us a free shuttle back there after our brief stay and our driver is absolutely hilarious. Just a note- be sure to talk to your tour guides/drivers. They're the one's who actually know something.
Anyway- we arrive in plenty of time and even score a quick, if horrible, breakfast in the airport before boarding (yes, unusual occurance when flying standby) our flight. We're a bit surprised as the plane is almost totally EMPTY. Perhaps others have heard about the cat 4 hurricane going through the Yucatan and it has deterred them from traveling. But no, no. Not us. We chalk it up to good blog material and get on the plane anyway. What could possibly be more interesting than vacationing during a hurricane, we ask ourselves? But I'm getting ahead of myself. We were seated in the back with 2 other people and make our way to the runway. And stop. And wait. Bell dings.
" Ladies and gentlemen, we are experienceing severe thunderstorms and will wait a few minutes until this system moves through. Please be patient and we'll be up in the air in just a bit."
We wait. Thirty minutes goes by. Bell dings.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this system is very severe," (it's true, it was pretty bad), "And the tower has cancelled all take off's from the airport at this time. We're going to sit here for just a few minutes and see if they open it back up. Your flight attendants will be bringing around some water and snacks for your wait." Hm...this storm is pretty severe, kind of scary, shaking the plane and it's just a thunderstorm. We begin to think we're no match for a hurricane after all, but it's too late.
More waiting. Again with the bell.
" Alright folks, they've reopened and we're 8th in the lineup. We should be taking off in the next 30 minutes or so hopefully. Thank you for your patience."
This whole scene would have been much worse if we'd been crammed in the plane with 200 other people. As it was, we wandered the aisles and chatted with the guy across from us. He lived in upstate New York and he'd just bought property in Beliz. Apparently, he and a buddy were on their way to Cancun and were going to make their way down the coast to Beliz to view the property and see the sights. He'd been to Cancun many, many times and we shamelessly pumped him for information about what to do there and where to get the best deals. He was amazing! It was on his advice that we would later take the ferry to Isla Mujeres, but we'll get to that later. I will tell you it involves a goddess, a golf cart, a few turtles and a Mexican who soaked me for twenty five dollars...but anyway-
For now, we're just excited to be flying in the right direction. I busied myself by calculating the speed we were traveling (all figures are approximate) with the length of the US east coast from our point of departure to the south tip of Florida. Using the map in the back of the seat in front of me, I was able to make a game out of which state we were over. The fun of this lasted about five minutes before I was pulling out my trusty Danielle Steele novel and hunkering down in the cheap airplane blanket to do something that was actually enjoyable.
Ryan chatted it up with our Beliz bound neighbor while filling out the customs forms. There is no limit to what you can learn if you are just willing to ask every question that comes into your head, as Ryan discovered. We had lists of good restaurants, entertainment, tours and where to get things cheap and how to make a deal. The guy was a wealth of information, I tell ya, and Ryan spent the 4 hour flight interrogating him.
Just a few short hours after takoff, this came into view:

Nice huh?
We deboard the plane with our customs forms in hand and head for security. Ryan's ego gets a boost when all the passnegers (except for us and the guys in the back of the plane with us) get rerouted to a room where they have to fill out new customs forms because they made mistakes on the other ones. But no, not us. We are professionals.
We are out of the airport and comfortably seated in an air conditioned van within (no kidding) ten minutes. I still don't know how this happened. So, we're in the van, the driver is polite and personable and know's precisely where to take us. He rearranges our return schedule in light of the unplanned stay in Philly and within moments, we're off. Ryan and I are silent and frowning. There are storm clouds on the horizon the likes of which I've never seen, not even in Philadelphia, and that same feeling is mirrored in our faces. What's going on here? Where are the annoying, clammoring tour guides? The confusion? Where's the choas!? We don't know what to do and are fully expecting that we're in the wrong van, on the wrong continent, etc.
We look at each other. "What's going on?" I ask.
" I don't know, but I don't like it." He replies with a suspicious lift of the brow.
"This can't be good."
But the van is on it's way and soon we are, in spite of all odds, taken to our adorable little hotel in Puerto Juarez.
Here's something I did notice on the 30 minute drive up the coast to PJ- those thunderheads I mentioned?? They're actually...what's the word??...roiling? Is that right? My spellcheck hasn't highlighted it so it must be a real word. They are alive and moving. It was weird. There are also HUGE puddles in all the roads. Hmmm.
Upon arrival at our hotel, we are escorted into a beautiful lobby where we are greeted by a valet and escorted to the front desk where there is a small error...of course there's a small error. There's always an error. But I'm prepared.
"No, we do not have a "mountian view room". I say to the hostess, knowing full well that 'mountian view' is code for 'Alley View' if you're lucky. "I emailed with Laura earlier this month and she guaranteed me an ocean view room with a balcony at no charge." I pull out my email from Laura and hand it over to whatever-her-name-was. "See? It says so right here."
She speaks rapid spanish with her manager and I paste on a charming smile. I learned a few things from Daves tactics, you see. "We're on our second honeymoon." I clasp Ryan's hand lovingly. "We just knew you guys would be willing to help us make it a special time!" (I may have come off fake at this point, but it's hard to say because the manager guy grinned and said something back to her in spanish. Here's what we were upgraded to:

Pic on top is the downstairs, pic on bottom is the loft. Here's the view:

What you can't really see from this picture is that the wind is HOWLING and the sky isn't so much blue like sky blue- but blue like a bruise. Those are clouds on the horizon. Again, hmmm.
Our valet warns us not to leave our big sliding door open. When asked why, he assures us it's because of the heat- when we open it after he leaves we discover the REAL reason as approximately five thousand mosquitos swarmed into our room en masse. It's been raining there for the last 2 days, and I mean RAINING/flooding/hurricaning and the bugs are lovin' the humidity which is about 200%...well, ok- maybe not that high. At any rate, the minute we stepped out the door we were covered. They were everywhere.
We tried just leaving the door open a crack so that we could still hear the ocean and smell the tropical breezes and so forth, but even that wasn't a good idea as within about 10 minutes the floors were absolutely wet and puddling with condensation. They became dangerously slippery and we ended up putting towels down all over the apartment.
After two days of not-so-great food and endless flights, we collapsed. I had eaten part of a bad aiport breakfast that morning, but couldn't do much but drink milkshakes since the broken bracket in Philly. I was by this time, shaking and pretty grumpy. We'd arrived at 2 in the afternoon or so and still had a long ways to go until dinner. Lunch had already been served and there was no snack bar. Unless we wanted to get a cab and have him drive us into Cancun city, we were SOL on food until 5pm. We now discover why it's a good idea to get a hotel in the middle of the hotel strip.
My best buddy on the face of the planet, Chelsea, packed me an ultra rich, dark chocolate and espresso bar and I tell you- it saved my life. And Ryan's as I had enough sugar in me to keep from killing him until dinner could be served. Melissa's survival in the Wild tip #47- never be without a chocolate bar. It's a good idea.

We spent the afternoon lounging on the beach and swatting mosquitos. Neither of us wanted to pay ten dollars for a can of bug spray as we were on a mission to be as cheap as possible on this trip. It was an adventure in being broke in a foreign country. We made a pact not to spend one extra penny. No eating outside the hotel, no taxi's, no nothing. We break that rule later, don't worry. At this point, however, we're sticking to our guns and roughing it, so to speak.

Looks like a tough life, doesn't it? Yeah- I don't know how we survived the week. Oh, ps- the sand in Cancun feels like flour. It's powder instead of grit because it's made of crushed coral and not rocks. Just thought you'd like to know.

We did end the day with dinner FINALLY (though all I could eat was mashed potatoes) and then crashed by eight o'clock, exhausted with our books and my stash of chocolate. Later I would have a small panic attack when the maid moves my chocolate bar and I am briefly unable to find it. Also of note- when having orthodontic issues, chocolate melts and requires no chewing. Just another reason to always, always have chocolate in your purse.

And so ends our first day in the Yucatan. Hurricane Ike is still on the move North of Cancun but the weather report forecasts that one of the rain bands will move over Cancun the next day. Ever been in the rain band of a hurricane? I now understand the devastation in Cuba caused by this storm. But that's a whole day away...Tonight we fall asleep to the sound of, no- not the waves crashing and the beautiful calypso breezes...oh no- we fitfully fall asleep to the monstrous howling of 50 mph winds. Ahhh, the tropics.

Please join us next time for Yucatan Wednesday's- A day with Ike. :)


Chelsea said...

Glad the chocolate came in handy! :) Who knew it would play such a key role in the enjoyment of your vacation. You're welcome Ryan, Ha Ha!

meliken said...

never underestimate the power of chocolate.

klyn said...

Yes! You are back! It's always nice to have something to read at 1:45 AM - hmm, not sure why I am still up, but I loved hearing this latest installment about your trip!
Sooo, you were still unable to eat solid food... how long did this go on? Sounds miserable - although, I think milkshakes are just about the best.

meliken said...

well, the braces were put on in July and I'm recently up to tortilla chips- which was the big challenge. the issue on the trip lasted the entire week unfortunately! It was like an episode of survivor. How long can we survive broke, unable to eat, in the tropics in a hurricane...
I'm going to Vegas next time.