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Trip Report: Tulum, Mexico: Heaven at Hamaca Loca

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I’m on leg 2 of a 3-legged trip that started with my Tulum (Mexico) vacation. (Parts 2 and 3 are Miami and DC for work, and won’t be getting a trip report…)

We’ll start with Day 0 – trying to get there. I typically take a brief January solo sabbatical on some Caribbean island to remind myself that there is indeed warmth after a Colorado winter. But I settled on Mexico this year as a challenge to myself – I’d become a little complacent and settled in the Caribbean and needed to do something brave. Since I’d never been to Mexico, don’t speak Spanish, and love brilliant white sandy (relatively) undeveloped beaches, Tulum seemed like just the spot for me. And it shouldn’t take as long to get to, which was a big bonus – shouldn’t being the operative word here, as you’ll see.

Allow me to wax eloquently upon my transportation trials and tribulations….

I generally take red-eye flights as I can sleep on the plane and arrive earlier in the day, making the most of my time wherever I am heading. And I had a perfect non-stop red-eye to Cancun booked back in July – but just before Christmas, the airline cancelled it and rescheduled me to get in 12 hours later. Not acceptable, so I found a red-eye through Atlanta that would only get me in 4 hours later. I can live with that. But after arriving at the airport at 10:30pm for a 12:30am flight, we discover that the flight hasn’t even left Atlanta to come to Denver, and so is delayed about 3 hours. Around 12:30, the flight still hasn’t left Atlanta, and they cancel it. The airline offers me a flight that gets me in around 7:00 pm. Not acceptable. So I find a flight that leaves at 5:30 going through Phoenix and getting into Cancun at 3:30. I live about an hour from the airport, so it’s pointless to try to get home, so I spend a few hours trying to sleep on the airport floor. I have noticed that the older I get, the colder and harder airport floors seem to get when I try to sleep on them. But our flight does indeed leave at 5:30 – a puddle jumper in which the heating system is broken – man, was that cold. Arriving at Phoenix, I have about an hour and a half wait. Oh, but wait – the plane is delayed by another hour and a half. No wait, the plane is broken. No wait, there IS no plane! They tell us we’ll be delayed at least 3 hours, but they’re trying to find another plane. Which they do – only it’s in a different terminal about a mile from the gate where we’re all waiting. I had no idea Phoenix was such a big airport. So we all herd over to the new gate, get on board, all rarin’ to go – no wait, some piece of paperwork is needed – can’t leave without it! 45 minutes later, this little piece of paper arrives and we depart. The flight itself is not uneventful as one of the passengers has apparently imbibed way too much prior to leaving and physicians who happen to be fellow passengers need to be summoned. We finally arrive in Cancun around 5:00. But the auxiliary power fails just as we’re about 5 yards from the jetway. And so we sit for another 15 minutes until repairs can be made. And wait! We must wait for our (now only slightly) intoxicated passenger to be attended to by paramedics before any of us can deplane. Another 15 minutes and she walks off the plane under her own steam with the paramedics, flipping us all the bird as she goes. How pleasant. But we’re finally free at about 5:30!

The immigration officer was very sweet and customs gave me the green light, so it was time to find my niece who at the last minute had decided to meet me for a few days – she’s a 23 year old rocket scientist (really) living in California. I hadn’t been able to reach her to inform her of any of the delays since the initial one, but she knew where we were staying, and I felt sure she’d figure it out. After all, she is a rocket scientist. We connected at the Meeting Up Place at terminal 3, and there was my Caribbean Rental Car (which I guess is now American Rental Car) guy with my sign. He whisks us off to the office to pick up our car. I had no idea the office was in downtown Cancun. It took 45 minutes to get there – it’s apparently rush hour. Upon arrival, we discover the car’s not quite ready. We wait. The car is ready. Oh, wait! There’s no jack! Someone goes to WalMart to buy a jack. We wait. Finally we depart around 7:30, with my niece driving – a better idea than for someone who hasn’t slept in over 36 hours and hasn’t eaten since 7:00 am to do so. The car is the “newest model” bug that VW made – although it was from about 1980 – and jungle green. We're both very pleased - we think the car is adorable, incredibly loud, with glove compartment that falls open by itself, and an odometer stuck permanently at 69002 – perfect for our adventure.

We only got lost once trying to get out of downtown Cancun in the dark, which was pretty good. Thank heavens for the giant seashell sculpture in the traffic circle – it was our best reference point. Stopping to get gas on our way out of town (did you know the price of gas gets lower and lower the farther out of town you go?), the attendant was very nice and made sure I saw that the pump was zeroed out and that I received the proper change. Highway 307 is certainly direct. After dark, the police were out in force, with little flaming ball-shaped things on the roadside. We couldn’t quite figure out why the speed limits changed so much for no apparent reason, but we did our level best to comply, although other cars were passing us like crazy. It seemed to take forever to get to Tulum, but arrive we finally did. We had no trouble finding the beach road and no trouble finding Hamaca Loca – although it was so far down the road that I was beginning to have my doubts. It was about 10:30 by the time we finally arrive. Daniela was still up, waiting for us.

The first view of the beach as we walked to our casa (Tortuga) will be forever etched in my memory. It was a ¾ moon, and the entire beach was glowing white and otherworldly. Our shadows were bright against the sand, which was caressingly soft against our tired feet. Absolutely stunning. We dumped our backpacks in Tortuga and went back to the car to get my suitcase. But wait, how do you open the trunk (which is the hood)? There’s no keyhole there. Ah, there’s a keyhole on the side of the car – that must be it! No, that’s not it – must be inside the car. We open the door and the peacefulness of the Mexican night is shattered by the screaming of our car alarm, which no one told us we had – and we had no idea how we made it start or how to turn it off. We try starting the car - nope - still shrieking, with the surrounding dogs now chiming in. It must have been that odd keyhole on the side of the car! Yes, that was it. Of course, by now Daniela and one of her friends are at our side. The gentleman tries to open the trunk – no luck. I am just about to resign myself to living in one bikini and one sarong for 5 days (at least I have my books), when he reaches inside the glove compartment and pulls a lever off to the side and the trunk pops open. Silly me – why didn’t I think to look inside the glove compartment to open the trunk? We are careful to lock the car, as the Caribbean Rental Car people told us to always do so. Apparently that’s the ONLY thing they told us about the car.

Lugging the luggage to our room, we collapse exhausted and sleep.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Tortuga is the largest (I think) of the 4 Hamaca Loca cabanas. Thatched roofed, and concrete floored, it has a table and chairs and a single bed, and a few steps up from that a king sized bed, both with mosquito netting. The single bed looked like a bassinet with the canopy of netting – very appropriate for my niece, as I’ve known her since she was 6 months old. The bathroom has a blue shower stall, sink and toilet, with seashells integrated into the cement of the walls. The whole place was airy and open and with the sliding glass doors onto the deck open, you can hear the endless sound of the waves. It was exactly what I had wanted.

Day 1 – It’s all so good!

We started our day fairly late, I think. My niece slept in, so I lolled in the hammock on the porch and read. It was off-and-on cloudy, which kept the temperature perfect. I love island time (which I guess would be Mexican time, in this case) and completely abandon all time-telling pieces when I’m on sabbatical, and I insisted that my niece do the same, which was a huge challenge for her – by the end of the second day, she found it truly liberating. It certainly gives you a different perspective on the passage of hours.

We walked down the beach looking for breakfast and found a tasty haven at Las Ranitas – fruit, Huevos Motulenos, and coffee with a tidbit-seeking lizard for company. After a leisurely meal and dropping a crumb or two to appease the lizard gods, we meandered back home, and plopped into two inviting beach chairs, reading and soaking up the sun, enjoying the spectacular view. Niece has traveled all over Europe, but had never been to Mexico or the Caribbean and was amazed by the spectrum of blues in the water.

We only had one thing on the day’s list – going to the market and provisioning a bit. After a few hours of basking, we took to the car and went off to the San Francisco market. What a great store! I love grocery stores in any place that I don’t live – they’re so interesting and tell you a lot about the culture/town. We found the essentials – water, juice, cheese, pastries, but couldn’t find ice. And I had subconsciously decided that the Lonely Planet Mexican phrasebook (which we found invaluable) would be much more useful sitting on the table in Tortuga than it would be at the market where I might actually need it. And we had no idea how to say ‘ice’ in Spanish. I attempted to ask the security gentleman, and of course he said “Hielo” – I said, ‘No, I need ice,’ and attempted to mime frozen water in the shape of cubes (which didn’t even make sense to me, much less to him and the two additional security gentlemen who’d now joined the fun). He kept saying ‘Hielo’ – I expect if he’d said the word ‘ice’ back to me, I’d have figured it out that he was saying ‘ice’ in Spanish, but since I didn’t know what ‘hielo’ meant, I had no idea what he way saying. So I stuck my niece to the task; one of the clerks takes her outside and they’re gone for almost 10 minutes. I’m wondering whatever happened to her and how I am going to explain to her parents that I lost her, when they finally return with a large bag of ‘hielo’ and I feel really quite foolish. But the Spanish word for ice is now forever in my lexicon.

We tuck the hielo in the cooler so thoughtfully provided by our hosts at Hamaca Loca, and head back down the beach road, stopping at the colorful shop near Zamas, where Niece successfully haggles for a lovely sundress with a slight tear in the skirt. Since we’re practically at Zamas, we stop for guacamole and a beer – this is the best guacamole I’ve ever had, and it still holds the title, even after trying the guacamole at every other restaurant we visited. We feel full and sleepy, and it’s a bit rainy, so we head home.

We had discovered in the morning that we had no hot water, which I could have lived with, but my niece couldn’t quite, so Claudio came to change our tank and we had nice hot showers, read for a while, and talked for hours until sleep. A lovely first day!

Day 2 – Exploring we will go!

Niece sleeps later than me – I am up to see the sunrise. It’s really hard to believe it’s January when you’re lounging in a red bikini on a white sand beach. I was to have had my pastry for breakfast, but it was not to be – teeny tiny barely visible ants had decided that they needed it more than my hips did. And so it was a healthy grapefruit. When Niece is up and we’re ready to go, we drive down to the ruins end of the beach road to get a sense of the distance, as we were considering walking to the ruins on Day 3.

Then it was off to Muyil! I omitted from yesterday’s installment that we had driven through the Pueblo on Day 1, exploring the back streets and being dazzled by the bright colors of the merchandise for sale in the various shops, and passing through again this morning, we scoped out where we might have lunch on the way back.

It was the perfect day for this excursion, slightly cloudy and so not too hot. We overshot Muyil by many kilometers, but the road was lovely bordered as it was by a sea of yellow wildflowers. What we finally realized our error, we turned around and got it right, parking the Jungle Bug in front of the entrance. We followed a happy, large multi-generational Mayan family into the site, paid our fees, and headed for the Site 1 structure. The little Mayan great-grandmother startled Niece by petting her arm and calling her “chi chi’, which we assumed was a diminutive of ‘chica’ (Niece is only about 5’1”.)

We climbed up to the altar platform, and Niece continued on to the top of the temple. Orange trees were scattered all over the site, and small piles of oranges were stacked about like offerings. We took tons of pictures. (I should say that I’m an avid/semi-pro photographer - I’ve sold a few prints, been published in a couple of calendars, etc. - I’ll post a link to the pics when I get back home and get them developed – yes, I still shoot film, along with digital.) Niece had a double major in aerospace engineering and anthropology, and is debating if she should go to graduate school and study archaeology, so this trip was for her to see if she was as fascinated by Mayan sites and she was by European sites. As such, she was very good about reading all the signs and has a phenomenal knowledge of the history of the Mayan culture, which really enhanced my experience. She also had a memory of learning some of the Mayan alphabet, and she taught me how to read the Mayan numbers on various signs. So I wound up learning a lot as well as enjoying the site. We followed the boardwalk through the jungle (except for the spots where the boardwalk was gone and there were just well-placed boards and muy muck), being amazed that we were walking through a jungle in the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s a grand life! Passing some amazing plant specimens (a massive ficus tree!) we came out at the lagoon in the Si’an Ka’an Biosphere, a very serene spot. Always ones to take different paths whenever possible, we headed back up the access road and cut down a path through the jungle that we figured would take us back to where we started. It did, and we had the pleasure of coming across a stone well complete with wooden bucket in the middle of the jungle.

We headed next to the second part of the site, which is accessed through a partially cleared section of forest, leading to a temple. This site had an amazing amount of energy to it and we were had it all to ourselves, exploring to our hearts’ content. Lastly, we explored the ruins closest to the site entrance, also fascinating.

Heading back to the Pueblo, the Jungle Bug began to behave in a disturbing fashion, revving at unnatural RPMs (although we had no such gauge.) We parked and walked up the center of town to El Mariachis, and had a margarita (me) a margarita fresa sin alcohol (Niece) and guacamole. The margaritas were remarkably refreshing but the guac was nothing special – it was better when we guiltily added some salt.

Home at last, we cooled off on the beach, reading and watching the arrangements for a small wedding that was to take place on the beach next door at sunset. Musicians were tuning up, a small circle of chairs bedecked with ribbons would surround the happy couple, an arch adorned with flowers welcomed them into the circle, and what we assumed to be a Mayan shaman officiate with a large drum, a feather and several other accoutrements prepared himself for the event. We watched much of the ceremony as the sun set.

The band (and then a DJ, we think) played far into the night, with much tipsy karaoke. It was a wonderful mix of traditional and 80s music, and with the wind blowing the strains of celebration into Tortuga, we felt as if we were having our own private concert. We talked and talked and then we slept.

Day 3 – A long lovely walk and more ruins.

I woke to a silver sunrise and read in the hammock until Niece got up. It feels as if I’ve been here for weeks, not just days. I can see how people come here and fall in love with Tulum and never leave. The people are warm and real, and the culture is unapologetically itself. I am amazed at how we live in the States in gated communities where you have to paint your house one of a prescribed set of colors, and not leave your car in the driveway for more than a day, guided by covenants of appearance and conduct which create sterile, homogenous neighborhoods. (I don’t live in such a place, but do live near one.) I have a love for places where laundry hangs publicly on whatever line is convenient, cars sit for years in side yards waiting for parts, and impromptu art decorates walls, doorframes and sidewalks – real places, with pride, poverty and personality. Tulum seems to be such a place.

We decided to go to breakfast and hit the ruins. We had discussed walking there and back from Hamaca Loca, but after our test drive yesterday, we decided to park at a breakfast stop and take off from there. I recall hearing that Maya Tulum had nice breakfasts, so we pulled in there. The Jungle Bug hadn’t seemed to heal itself miraculously overnight – if anything, it had gotten worse and was now accelerating all on its own – you didn’t even have to touch the accelerator and you were doing almost 50. Really. We speculated that perhaps the Jungle Bug was just feeling free to express itself around us, but this was getting dicey.

Back to Maya Tulum. The grounds were lovely, but the restaurant had an Americanized feel, the buffet was rather sparse, the place was packed, and we wanted to have our feet in the sand, so we agreed to head to Zamas. Niece was trying to figure out the meaning of the Mayan characters on the risers of the steps up to the restaurant at Maya Tulum, and got into a conversation with a lovely woman whose daughter owns (?) the place, and who said that they weren’t entirely sure what it all meant and that the gentleman who had built them was long gone. She had some vague idea of the meaning, but for the life of me, I can’t recall what it was. And she was pleased that we’d noticed, as she said many people don’t even see the ‘text’ built into the steps.

Breakfast at Zamas was good – Huevos Rancheros, eggs with chaya, Mexican hot chocolate (yummy). Our waiter Ishmael was smitten by Niece, who has a great giggle and a genuine naiveté about her. We headed off, climbing over the rocks behind the restaurant – I didn’t feel comfortable with the next set of rocks, though, so we took to the road for a short piece before hitting the beach again. It was a great walk, and we stayed on the beach up until Papaya Playa, when we shifted to the road again due to more rocky outcroppings. It was getting warm, so we stopped at La Vita e Bella for a beer and a sit. Cats were stalking lizards on the roof of the restaurant, and a dog slept blissfully at the bottom of the stairs (right after the ‘no dogs’ sign). The boats on the beach made for some great photo ops.

Refreshed, we headed down the beach again, until we reached Don Cafetos, where the upcoming rocks took us back to the road, and on to the entrance to the ruins. After yesterday’s wonderfully atmospheric experience at Muyil, I was really looking forward to the Tulum ruins.

We made our way to the entrance to the Ruins, saw some more feral cats and their mother, and a swoop of iridescent-blue birds that descended on the rose flowered trees on the interior path. (Incredible calls the birds in Tulum made – reminiscent of the roosters of the Caribbean islands, but much more melodic. They still get an early start though and I’m amazed that such voice can come from such average looking black birds.) Following the masses to the ruins, we entered the stone doorway and discovered a lizard lounging in the sun on the top of the doorframe. (Just goes to show you that every so often, you should turn around a look at where you've been, not just where you're going.)

The site is quite spread out - Niece told me it was actually quite a small site, and provided interesting history as to where these ruins fell in the timeline of Mayan culture. It really was pretty packed with people – with our plan to walk, an early arrival was not in the cards. The structures, setting and views of the turquoise sea were beautiful, but we agreed that we were glad to have gone to Muyil first. We really couldn’t pick up any ‘feel’ or energy from the site. Niece felt it had turned into more of a tourist trap than an archaeological site, and lamented that people were climbing things they shouldn’t and straying off the paths, basically not caring about the history with which they were privileged to interact. But to each his own. A quick rain chased off quite a few people – again, it just helped to cool things down and made an even better day for walking - we stayed because we were assured that we wouldn't melt in the drizzle. The Temple of the Frescoes was amazing – you had to look hard at the frescoes but they were beautiful and the heads sculpted into the top were surpising. That was our favorite element of the site.

There were lots of people to watch, which was fun too, and lots of people in the water on the beach below. We opted not to head down that way, and moseyed on out. I found the abandoned sheds along the road to the parking lot an interesting photo goldmine. Niece wasn’t up for walking all the way back to the car, and we were hungry, so we walked down the road and cut back to the beach through the grounds of Zazil Kin. While we didn’t see the inside of any of the cabanas there, the grounds were some of the most beautiful I’ve seen. Totally quiet, dazzling white sand, colorful bungalows scattered about like a small village. And still and silent, just poised in time. Talk about wow.

We went back to La Vita e Bella and dug our toes in the sandy floor, had some guacamole and my new favorite drink, the Caipirosca, and ordered two pizzas (a Margarhita Pizza for Niece and a Marinara Pizza for me, as I’m one of those oddities who likes anchovies but I can never get them if I’m sharing – what a treat!) The pizza was good, not great – it was actually better cold and leftover for breakfast the next morning. Catching a cab outside of La Vita (and cabs are remarkably easy to come by along the beach road), we returned to the Jungle Bug.

Niece had been doing most of the driving and she felt like perhaps Bug’s strange behavior was somehow her fault, so I drove it the short distance to Hamaca Loca. Oh no, it was not Niece’s fault – our adorable Bug had turned into a self-propelled little accident waiting to happen, plowing down the road like an overexcited baby elephant. Enough for me – I called the car rental folks as soon as we set foot on the grounds of Hamaca Loca. They told me to call back as they were going to look for another car. After half an hour, I called back and they told me they could get another car over to me at 11:00 am the next day. Well, that’s not ideal, but we’re pretty stuffed, so we don’t need to go out for dinner. Niece is leaving on the 10:00 am bus tomorrow, but she can get a cab to the Pueblo in the morning. (I must admit that all the transportation troubles probably did wonders for my staying on my healthy eating plan while I was away – there’s an upside to everything, isn’t there?) So we had our usual routine of watching the sunset, reading and talking – and our walk had made us both pretty tired, so we feel asleep early.

Day 4 - Goodbyes, waiting, and bars with swinging couches

Niece packed the next morning and we walked down the road until a cab came by and swung back around to pick her up. I missed her immediately – what an amazing person she is! I walked back along the beach. Today is the most beautiful we’ve had here yet – warm, sunny, not too breezy, and the water that amazing blue right in front of the cabana! It had darker, richer deep-sea tones to its blues on our previous days, reflecting the grays in the sky. I wished Niece was there to see it. The federales were hanging out under the white tent put up for the wedding reception next door – that was the first time I’d seen them en masse on the beach, and seeing them under a wedding tent added a hint of irony.

I had to wait around for the car rental people to come and switch out the Jungle Bug, but I was planning on a lounging day anyway. I snarfed the cold pizza (yummy) for breakfast. And finished another book. Around 11:30, I wandered down to the hammock near the parking area. Read some more. Waited. Some more. But if you have to wait, what better place? 12:30 came and went and so I called again. The people returning the car that was to come to me had been late in returning it. So the Caribbean (American) Car Rental people would be late – maybe another hour. 1:30 comes and goes. It’s not really a big deal, except that I’m STARVING and can’t leave the premises. Around 2;30, they finally appear. Yea! The replacement car is straightforward, easy and new. The rental gentleman opens the hood (trunk) of the Bug and even I can see that something’s not quite right, but since I don’t know engines (or Spanish), we couldn’t communicate about it. He crossed himself and off he and his young companion went, zooming down the road, Jungle Bug on steroids.

I walked down to La Zebra for a late lunch/early dinner – guacamole, caipiroska, and empanadas pollo, none of which I found noteworthy, but I really liked the atmosphere there, so I hung out on one of the swings in the bar and nursed a couple of glasses of tequila and read for about two hours. (I love tamales and thought they had them here, but apparently not – again, circumstances more than discipline supporting my diet, but I was disappointed.) And they bring you your bill in a fancy box, like a present! I loved that!

Walking back home, the sun had just gone down, and I really didn’t think anything of it – not a long walk, and honestly, I often walk on beaches alone, everywhere I go (maybe not as often at night, though.) But indeed, a young man stops by me and walks with me, chatting me up in Spanish. (“Dude, I’m way old enough to be your mother – what are you thinking?!” somehow didn’t translate.) So, he wound up giving me a mild grope (I guess trying to get HIS point across) which is when I finally got NO across. And he cheerfully trotted away. Really, no harm, and only a minor foul. And I remembered all of the sage advice about not to walk alone on the beach after dark (well, dusk). Another early bed for me, with an absolute deluge in the middle of the night that woke me up a few times. I still haven’t figure out how I could get a puddle of rain UNDER the table.

Day 5 - Finale

My last day – I don’t want to leave. Hamaca Loca has been a perfect retreat. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Just the right amount of rusticity (is that a word?) but somehow it makes you feel rich in all ways possible.

Today’s is the first really beautiful sunrise of the trip and I took full advantage of my front row seat in the hammock. Dozens of swallows were diving around the palm trees (and occasionally right above my head under the porch shelter) joyfully feasting on the bugs the night’s rain must have brought out. It’s going to be hot. I finish a book. I discover that apparently you grow a coconut palm tree by burying a coconut in the sand – they sprout! What a pleasant surprise! I don’t think that would work in Colorado though.

I drive to the Pueblo to resupply myself with cash to pay the balance on my bill. Craving more of Zamas’ guacamole before I go, I stop there (and the waiter Ishmael is still pining for Niece), but they won’t serve it until 11:30, so I try La Zebra for breakfast. The Huevos Rancheros were quite disappointing but I still love the atmosphere, sitting where the breeze off the sea cools my skin.

I picked up a few artisany gifty things, packed, and checked out of Tortuga just after noon. With time to spare until my evening flight, I decide to stuff myself at Mayan Grill, since I knew I wouldn’t be eating again until tomorrow morning. Guacamole (the second place winner) and shrimp nachos and 2 Sols were delicious. The cove there is lovely. A very relaxing spot.

My only real frustration (aside from transport) was with my own inability to speak Spanish. I love communicating with people, and I just couldn’t do it. I wound up with something like “Spitalish”, as I mixed the occasional Spanish word with Italian and English. (Niece was even more challenged – she found herself speaking FreDeutscheSpItalish.) I tried to learn some basic phrases and got enough to be polite but I wanted more, so I could express my pleasure with things and my admiration for the home of the people I was interacting with. I’ll have to fix that before the next trip.

Heading off to the airport, the car runs fine. I stop and get gas near Playa del Carmen – another very nice attendant was patient with my confusion as to the total I owed. As I approached the airport, I realized that I didn’t know where to leave the car. ‘Oh, just take it back to the airport – we’ll meet you there,” they’d said when I picked up the Jungle Bug. But where at the airport? I pull into the parking lot to ask for directions and they immediately insist that I pay – I’m happy to pay, but I can’t seem to get my point across that I need help (now that would have been a good word to know). Finally, the attendant gets someone else who tells me my car rental company has no airport drop-off location, but has a place across from the Budget Car Rental heading towards downtown. I head that way. Whatever the place he was thinking of was, it didn’t exist. Well, I thought I could find the place downtown where we picked up the car and just go there to drop it off. But one wrong turn and I knew that this was an unwise move. I could see myself in Meridia or something by the time I figured out where I was. Deep breath. Start over. Back to the airport. Park – ah, there’s that meeting point place! But how will they know where I am? Well, I spend $10 US on a phone card to reach them (it took 7 tries on 4 different phones) and they say they’ll come to get me, but oh, by the way, the spare tire was missing from the Bug when the car rental people brought it back. So was the air filter. And the distributor cap. And some other parts. I had the car locked the entire time I wasn’t in it – it clearly wasn’t violated in any way, but I’m still responsible. And oh, by the way, that full coverage? Well, it doesn’t cover partial theft of the car – only total theft of the car. I talked them into crediting me for the day I didn’t have a car, and I’d pay only for the replacement tire. But it left me feeling taken advantage of somehow, and with a sour taste, as it was my last ‘experience’ of the trip. I do know that when I return I won’t be renting from them again, and may not even rent a car at all except on a day-to-day basis if I want to explore something far away. It just wasn’t worth the hassle. But I really like the freedom a car offers me – hmmmm…..at least I don’t have to decide now.

It took almost 45 minutes in line to check-in at Mexicana, but everyone was very nice. The search-your-bags experience was new for me, but it was an easy 90 minute flight to Miami, to start Leg 2 of this odyssey. Kind of culture shock with all the traffic and buildings, but at same time, a gentler transition, since there’s a decent beach, aqua waters, warm temperatures and the lilt of Spanish spoken. Tomorrow morning, it’s off to DC for more work, then finally home next Thursday. That will be a very, very nice thing.

Thanks for seeing it with me in my mind’s eye – I promise to direct you to pictures when I get home!

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  21. 21 Trip Report Puerto Vallarta trip Nov 2014
  22. 22 Riviera Maya or Puerto Vallarta
  23. 23 THE WESTIN LAGUNAMAR OCEAN RESORT VILLAS & SPA, CANCUN
  24. 24 Rental car at Liberia Airport
  25. 25 Private Driver needed SJO to Limon
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