November 7, 2013:
Yesterday our trip began, far too early, with Bunny and Crow picking us up for the airport before dawn. Our first flight was after theirs, and yet we got here ahead of them. Husband and I spent a boring couple of hours on the floor of the Cancun aeropuerto, not going outside for (legitimate) fear of not being allowed back in. When they did arrive–their flight late, of course–the man from Fox car rental bundled us all out of the airport before we could change money, look for maps, anything. I’d thought to take care of money-changing while I waited, but it seemed silly since I’d just have to wait for Bunny and Crow to do the same thing. I wish that I had at least checked the exchange rate. Then I would have known that the ATM in the 7-11 ripped us off by at least half, giving me only 500 MXN for my $100 USD [update: the ATM only charged me around $40 in the end, so all kinds of WTF]. Instead we erroneously used this as the exchange rate, and spent about a day
thinking things in Mexico were incredibly expensive, instead of just very
expensive. Who would have thought that Mexico was such an expensive place to travel? Not I.
We weren’t the only ones bored in the airport.
We had worried about the drive to our hotel near Chichen Itza–three hours or so, in the dark, in freaking Mexico–but we needn’t have. The cuota road was lovely and about $25 US all told (tolled)–though at the time we thought it was much more. Also at the gas station Husband immediately got
cheated by the attendant, who got an extra $20 bill out of him using the scam from the freaking guidebook (turning away and pretending he had been given different bills, then demanding more). We were off to a pretty terrible start.
When we got to the hotel–which was easy!–all the lights were out. I cannot fully explain the level of darkness that surrounded us, there in the jungle of the Yucatan at midnight. It was darker than dark, and Alejandro, the man who was waiting up for us–he really seemed like the only one around–spoke no English. We thought we were communicating with Husband and Crow’s beginner espanol, but we really weren’t. Since it was so pitch dark we had no idea what the place looked like: Alejandro led us down paths using his Maglite, and without it, once he left, Hacienda Chichen was like a magic maze.
Hacienda Chichen in daylight.
This morning we let ourselves sleep in–we pretty much hadn’t slept at all our last night in Seattle, and traveled from before dawn till midnight–then ate at the hotel restaurant. We were the only people there, and the restaurant is on the back “patio” of the colonial mansion that is the main building. But patio is misleading because there are no doors on either side. It is one of those buildings you only see in equatorial climes, where the
possibility of it getting cold was never considered. In fact, it looks like a
southern plantation more than a little, and the Haciendas were plantations
during Colonial times. After independence they were turned over to the landholders (no big improvement there, methinks), and this one has remained to a large degree the same as it was. Lunch was amazing but expensive. Less than we thought at the time, because we still hadn’t learned the correct exchange rate, but pretty bad nonetheless.
Then we walked to Chichen Itza, because that’s how awesomely close our hotel is. The ruins there are pretty awesome, especially considering the dense jungle they’re in. Incredible that anyone ever built there. Incredible that it was ever found again. Aliens. It rained buckets on us while we were there, and we got drenched through. Crow laughed at me while Husband crouched in the open for fear of lightning. Lesson: umbrella is now in purse [spoiler: where it will never be needed again, and will only take up space and be heavy]. There were vendors everywhere in the park and we resisted buying from them and now sort of regret it. They had noisemakers that sounded pretty convincingly like a jaguar, and carved jaguar heads and other things. Colorful blankets.
Impressive pyramid, possibly controlling the weather.
We had dinner at the hotel too, and topped it off by pretty much making ourselves sick on the sweet liquor we’d bought earlier in the day, for lack of any clue where to buy decent alcohol. In short: our problems on our first day in Mexico were all due to arriving late, being hurried on our way, and not being prepared. Avoidable? Yes. And that’s what irks me most. On the plus side, I love hammocks. And in a few days I will have one.