Written by Lily
About 12 years ago, a friend of mine and I went on a cruise with a group from work. A coworker got a deal that was too good for us to pass up. We were going down to the Mayan ruins in Tulumn and the island of Cozumel in Mexico before heading out to the Caribbean islands.
I love to go places and try to get a taste of different cultures. The culture shock is hard for me. I want to give everything away. I have never been back to Mexico, although, I wouldn’t mind. I did fall in love with Jamaica on this trip and went back twice more. I didn’t care for the cruise itself. Too many days on the ship without being in port. I came to feel stuck on the ship and would have rather spent that time on the islands.
The ship dropped passengers off on the mainland of Mexico. Ferries go back and forth to Cozumel where we had to meet the ship later that evening. We had no intention of taking the cruise ship tours. We wanted to be adventurous and being in a large group didn’t appeal to either of us. I had gotten information on how to get around on the other islands. I left the details of Mexico up to my friend. Sal had just been to a different part of the country the previous month. We were dropped off on the mainland around 5:00 a.m. and the heat was already intense. Everyone else got on the cushy air conditioned tour bus to enjoy snacks and cold drinks. We watched everyone drive away. There we were- at an empty hotel. There was a big bath house outside of the main building. It was so early that there was no attendant to ask any questions. We freshened up before heading out to look for someone who could direct to us a taxi.
We felt a twinge of panic when no one was to be found. The entrance of the hotel was locked, there were no cars, no people. Behind us was the beach, in front of the hotel was a driveway which led out to a dirt road surrounded by nothing but fields of corn. We had no idea where to go, but took a right on the dirt road and hoped it headed into town. Yes, two smart American women walking around Mexico with no idea where or how far away the town might be. We couldn’t see over the corn which surrounded us. Not being able to see and being all alone out on the road made me feel lost at sea. We walked for about a half hour and then suddenly, Sal gasped and grabbed her side. She had forgotten her fanny pack at the hotel bath house. We were already hot, but now we were panicked. It had her passport and all of her money in it. We ran back to the hotel, so sure that it would be gone and she would be in a mess. We had been told no one was allowed to reboard the ship without proper I.D. We didn’t use any energy to talk on the run back, but it was crossing my mind as to if I would be staying with her or leaving her alone in Mexico. I surely, didn’t want to leave her alone, but I had no idea what would be required of us to make sure she would be okay. You cannot imagine our glee and relief, when the fanny pack was right where she had left it, on the sink. Everything was still in it. It was still so early, no one had been there but us. The hotel still wasn’t open. Knowing we caught a lucky break, we started retracing our path on the road.
I was so glad when we did see a town. It was just a couple of stores. I didn’t see any regular cabs, but, I happily noted three white city taxis. We were both suffering the from heat and the affects of our panicked run. We went straight into the first store to get something to drink.My friend Sal, was good at bartering. She was so good, that on the other islands, we ended up feeling ashamed and gave out huge tips. I stood there drinking my Pepsi while Sal went and talked to the city taxi drivers. She decided that the city taxis were too much. I watched as she ran to a bus that was stopped and asked “Tulumn?” and then “cuanto?” Then she motioned for me to get on. With faith in my friend, I boarded and paid the one U.S. dollar the driver had requested.
I turned to find a seat and realized we were the only Americans and there were only a couple of other women. It was a bus that took the workers out to the hotels along the coast. As the bus made its stops we became the only women. You couldn’t see the hotels from the road. We had no idea of how far they might be, and didn’t want to walk down any more roads by ourselves. Me, Sal, the driver, and two men who had been talking to the driver for the entire ride became the only passengers. We began to feel more and more apprehensive. All we could do was sit and ride. Finally, the bus stopped, again we saw nothing but corn fields. No other vehicle had passed us since we stepped on the bus. The driver opened the door and the other men pointed down the road. We got off and started walking. The lost at sea feeling returned. We turned a corner and there was a taxi. We didn’t haggle but agreed to whatever outrageous fare the driver first stated and happily got in the cab. He then drove us about two city blocks and around a corner. There we saw the tourist shops of Tulmn! We both noticed there were plenty of taxis to take us back. Our driver was a happy guy. I think he asked for $20.00 for the short ride. We would have paid whatever he wanted to get us out of there.
There was a slight problem getting into the ruins as they only accepted Pesos. All we had were U.S. dollars. This was another surprise, but we did some money exchange by buying a couple of small souvenirs we didn’t mind carrying around with us. Walking around and examining the ruins was a special experience. The ruins were beautiful with steep cliff walls. I had never seen cliffs like that over the ocean. It was also cool to see a couple of iguanas sitting as still as the rocks beside them.
We were stupid…… and lucky. We should have known where and how far the town was before we even got off the ship. It was very different than what we had pictured- being dropped off in a resort town. We would have never guessed that it spread out so, or that there would be no taxis waiting for the shipload of passengers. The rest of the trip was enjoyable and I liked getting a sampling of the islands. I didn’t care for Cayman, but as I mentioned, I fell in love with Jamaica. So beautiful with the falls and gardens. I have been to Oahu – it was beautiful. But, I love the culture and feel of Jamaica. I can’t wait to go back there again.
Do you have a scary vacation story or did you go on a vacation from hell? Have you made any tourist mistakes not knowing what you were doing? Lose your money or your passport? Did you lock your keys in the car while you were the only people at a remote lake, run away from tornadoes, see a tree get hit by lightning, or have a falling tree come close to your campsite while you lay there half asleep? (That’s another story). Please share your vacation experiences whether they are perfect, practically perfect or just plain imperfect.