Thursday, February 24, 2005

Where I Went On Holiday - Playa Del Carmen, Part 2

[Originally posted on]

Still Day 1

When we arrived in Cancun, the sun was starting to set. The only thing I notice as we come across the Yucatan is how thick the jungle looks and how insubstantial the bits that have been hacked out of it appear. It looks like if they closed Cancun Airport for a week, they'd never find it again. I'm starting to understand how the Maya cities could disappear for so long.

At the airport, we stand blurred by fatigue and confusion for a while until we realize that the ten thousand people standing in front of us are actually in a line. Our line. We have no idea where it goes, but it is clear that we need to get in it. If we had dashed straight for it off the plane without a second's hesitation, and gotten to the end of it just five minutes faster, we would have saved ourselves about an hour, as we would have got in ahead of the, oh jeez, now it's THIRTY thousand Italians. But we didn't.

So we slowly shuffle across the floor, eventually figuring out that we were headed towards those stairs over there. "Ah", I said, it's just down those stairs over there". Nancy was still mysteriously silent; there are times when my incredibly clever yet thoughtful running commentary wears a little thin, I'm told. At least she wasn't punching my arm. Yet.

When we reach the stairs, we realize that we still have fourteen hairpin turns left -- I counted -- before, well, I couldn't see what happened after that. Turns out that's where the giant roomful free-for-all was, where everyone tried to shove their way into one of the Immigration lines. So we shuffled some more. Shuffle, shuffle. Hey, I'm still a little high from the pills. The bandana was a serious bio-hazard by this time, though; if Nancy had had a big plastic bag with her she would have placed that over my head.

But then, the crowds parted like magic and we were standing there pretending we could understand what the nice man was telling us, which turns out to be "you're done here, please go over there now", which we did, got our bags, pushed the button, which was set to "everybody gets green", thankfully, as there were still forty thousand people there, and a mere two hours after we disembarked our plane, we were free to go.

I won't complain about Cancun because I've returned from international flights to far more unpleasant situations, like JFK in New York, where you are herded for miles down low-ceilinged, narrow slaughter chutes and end up in a room where you can see the people waiting for you on the other side of the glass but don't get to touch them for four more hours; or Sea-Tac, where you have to reclaim your bags THREE TIMES and go back through security twice -- coming IN. Urgh. In contrast, when we went to Copenhagen last year, we had a 100-yard walk through soothingly lit wood -paneled terminal, past immigration, into baggage claim where our bags were already waiting (after 15 minutes!), and were seated on a train into the city center 20 minutes after touchdown. This isn't that, but it's OK.

Immediately after clearing Customs, we are surrounded by literally dozens of uniformed people telling us to go to Xcaret. Right this minute. They all have "maps" of the area that show the Cancun airport, the highway, Xcaret and Xel-Ha, and nothing else. They appear to work for the government. I haven't been bum-rushed like this since I last landed in Newark, where all the nice gentlemen want to "help" you find a cab -- a useful service seeing as how all the cabs are fifteen feet away, lined up. We manage to extricate ourselves from the eager beavers and make our way past the five hundred sign-wavers outside to the one fellow holding up "Steve Dean" which is my first and middle names only, but it's the right name and hotel, so I figure we're good. It turns out his name is not Lamore; that's the van company. He's Miguel, and as soon as he shakes his hand he disappears again, to get the actual vehicle (which oddly enough is not parked here on the walkway).

The van arrives, much animated conversation ensues, and we head off to Hotel La Tortuga in Playa Del Carmen. It's fully dark by now, of course, so all we see of the mega-resorts along the coast is their giant illuminated signs -- when we can tear our eyes away from the dodge-em ballet taking place on the highway, that is. Um, we don't drive like this in Seattle. We're passive-agressive; these folks are just flat out regular agressive, and -- JESUS CHRIST THAT HUGE TRUCK IS COMING RIGHT --- ah. I think I'll close my eyes now.

Being dark, and being really tired, and still a little pill-crazed, I don't recollect much of our arrival except lights and colors and sounds. We manage to check in, and Henry, or HEN-ry! as he calls himself, takes us up to our room. Mexico is finally starting to happen here; the Hotel La Tortuga is absolutely beautiful, all dramatically-lit white adobe walls with beautiful plants cascading over everything, and tiles.

I'm pretty sure we ate dinner, but I never got to my cigar; I was out like a light before I got it lit.

Next: Playa

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