You know how I like a bit of excitement, so I flew out of here directly to Cancun to meet Margaret, and have no cell phone. She was flying direct from Vancouver and wondering how on Earth we were to meet at the airport. After doing some research I said just go to the Coconuts Bar. If you do that, I’ll be sitting there.
Margaret’s plane was due about 90 minutes after mine and she worried I’d be bored waiting that long to which I replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll likely have a new best friend by the time you arrive.”
I arrived exhausted in Cancun and found my way through security to the Coconuts Bar and sat on one of their stools, and said sorry but I can only drink water as I have to rent a car, and I have to sit here for one and a half hours. The waiters were good with that, as it certainly wasn’t crowded.
First a nice Mexican man sat down and had a beer. Turns out he was waiting for his wife, and has a sister who lives in Vancouver. As he was very pleasant I said the usual, “oh, um, I don’t have a cell phone and I wonder if I can text my friend who should be landing any minute?”
He said sure, and sent a text to Margaret saying I’m sitting here in the Coconuts Bar. The nice man left, and an older woman came and sat at the other end of the bar. I turned to her and we began to chat, and that took a good 45 minutes as she told me all about the princess her stepson was married to. She kept saying “I never talk like this to strangers.”
Her husband arrived, as did their son and his princess of a wife, and my friend waved and off they went. A minute later a nice American woman my age named Marie sat down right beside me, and we had a lovely conversation as she’s a left-leaning Democrat. She’s married to a Mexican who was undocumented for 11 years until they were married so she said it was always very tense.
She was sad to see Margaret arrive, though Margaret and I were thrilled as now our adventure could properly begin. We left the terminal and were taken to Easyway Car Rental where a little Fiat Mobi standard shift was waiting for me.
At first I couldn’t even turn off the music and went oh my, this should be a challenge on the Mexican highway we’re taking to Akumal. However Margaret managed to do that, and I got the car into gear and we lurched off into the night, as by now it was around 8:00 PM and dark.
An important part of this story is how neither Margaret nor I know where north, south, east or west are, even at home. We’d been given directions to the nearest grocery store and drove past it, and soon the new word ‘retorno,’ entered our Spanish vocabulary.
Hence any time one is on the 307, to go in the opposite direction there are no lights, but regularly spaced U turn areas. However one has to stop fully and then quickly shift from first, to second to third, to fourth, to fifth bracing bracing bracing for the rear-ender as both lanes go like stink.
Through some miracle, we found our way to the resort called Bahia Principe though we weren’t staying there, but in a condo deep inside the complex, rented via Air B and B.
We drove around for quite a while, returned to the gate, and said um, can you help us find this building? A kind Mexican guard named Fernando hopped onto a motorcycle and lead us straight to the place and showed us where to park.
Exhausted, we fell into a deep sleep. Margaret’s room was adjacent to the balcony where jungle birds awakened her and she said she felt so happy here. It was wonderful to wake up to blue sky and full sunshine.
That day we drove deep into the jungle just for the hell of it. We thought we were looking for the beach, which we felt certain must be on our right. However after driving on a pot holed road for half an hour, we thought huh! I wonder where that damned ocean is.
However while completely lost we came upon a hand painted sign that said Cenote Xunaan – Ha. So we parked right there and walked along a path until we came upon a Mexican in a hut with a fire going outside in the little yard. He said 70 pesos, or around $5 so we said sure, and walked the path to the cenote.
We were all alone except for a nice couple from Nebraska. Most of the billboards showing cenote tours are appalling as it appears there are several busloads of people at some of them. Not here, where an iguana came by to watch us as dipped our feet into the clear, turquoise water.
At the entrance a trio of backpackers had given us a tip that Xca- Cel beach was lovely, and vaguely explained where to find it. Hell-bound, we got back onto the 307 and went hey you know what, that damned ocean is on this side. So now we were on the ocean side, and suddenly saw the hand-painted sign for Xca-Cel beach.
This is a beautiful, secluded beach, mostly inhabited by locals, with miles of white sand and gorgeous warm water. We snorkelled, but didn’t see any fish. There was another cenote there, which we visited. It was another quiet one with no tourists, only locals.
By now we were very hungry and got back onto the 307 hoping for food. Suddenly we saw a sign BAR, and I swerved off the highway and we headed down a long road, all the way to an absolutely darling bar and restaurant right on the sandy beach called the Bikini Beach Bar.
This became one of our favourite hangouts as Carlos made us the most wonderful huge pina coladas and margaritas ever seen. On our last night we needed a margarita to go, and so on the morning we left we dropped by with their glass and a fond farewell.
Day two saw us heading to Tulum to tour the ruins. Little did we know we’d be lining up in full sun for half an hour to get through the admission gates, but it was well worth it. I don’t think I’ve ever been that hot in my life, and I’m from Osoyoos, so that’s hot.
We cracked up some locals at a restaurant as we’d ordered burritos. They came wrapped in some green leaves which we thought hmm, these are tough but whatever, and tried to eat them. A nice Mexican mimed no, and we said no? and then realized oh I see the banana leaves come off, and the burrito is inside. We were thrilled to be of such entertainment for the locals.
We then decided to drive off into the jungle to the Coba ruins after our lunch. Our days always included tequila because we’d discovered it’s the only antidote for the sun, so we’d had drinks with our lunch and felt fortified for the trip.
The Coba ruins are quite spread out so at one point we hired a young kid named Jose Luis to pedal us on a tricycle. He was a dear Mayan kid who explained he’d worked cleaning rooms at the Bahia Principe resort for 70 pesos a day. We said that is one terrible place, and later I said to Margaret we should’ve made it clear to him we weren’t staying inside the resort itself as he must’ve hated us.
When we left the ruins one highway sign said Tulum and the other Cancun and as Akumal is north of Tulum we agreed we didn’t want to go south, just to have to head north, so would take the route for Cancun. Surely there would be exits along the way.
This was one of the more interesting drives of our whole trip as we were on a small paved road, thick jungle on each side, the gas tank near E, Margaret’s cell phone out of power, and vultures circling along the way.
The road took us through the tiniest of settlements, just a few thatched roof huts, with some chickens milling about, but no signs for how long this road would go on. After quite a bit of prayer, we came to civilization and realized we’d made a wide bow and were coming into Playa del Carmen where we got gas.
Three hours after leaving Coba we arrived home in the dark where Margaret said stop at the resort hotel as I need a margarita to go. She went in and demanded two, they handed them over with some confusion, and we drove to the condo, thanking God.
The next day we snorkelled in a lagoon called Yal Ku, and went for a nice lunch in a giant thatched roofed restaurant in Akumal Bay. We’d parked in a public lot, and as we’d snorkelled we didn’t bring a lot of money. We ate and drank and when the bill came I said to Margaret oh dear God I don’t think we have enough money.
We panicked, counted carefully, and saw we could pay the bill. When we left we realized we had no money to get the car out of the lot. We’d browsed in a small store before lunch, and sheepishly had to go in and beg them for a return so we could get our car back, which they kindly did.
On our last day in Akumal we thought we should go and check out the beach at the Bahia Principe resort. We had to pay $15 US to partake in their buffet which wasn’t all that great. However it’s a lovely resort so it was interesting to walk the grounds and sit by the ocean.
The downside was the ugly fat old half naked people who were staying at the resort. One grossly overweight couple sat down, ate two big plates of food, and left before we’d even finished our pre-lunch margaritas. Those were included so we tried to drink as much as we possibly could.
Then sadly it was time to pack and figure out how to drop the car and catch the ferry to Cozumel. Stayed tuned for Part 2.