You like us, you really like us! After we did some whining in our last blog entry, many of you left comments and sent private e-mails. Thanks, guys. We feel better now, good enough to finally finish up the story of our journey back to Playa del Carmen. It’s been dragged on long enough.
The next stop on our planned itinerary had been Laguna Catemaco, a lovely lake area in the state of Veracruz, mostly undiscovered by non-Mexicans. But after all we had endured on this trip – traffic jams, unexpected detours, getting lost in one of the world’s largest cities, unscrupulous policia – we just wanted to get home to Playa del Carmen as soon as possible. Can you blame us?
So, we set out for an eight-hour drive to the city of Villahermosa in the state of Tabasco, comforted by our familiarity with this stretch of highway and with our destination city. This would be our third time in Villahermosa, not because of any love for the city, but for it’s status as the only city on a very long stretch of road. Our first pass through this city set us off on a wretchedly desperate hunt for cat-friendly lodging and eventually ended in a wretchedly desperate room. However, in our second pass, we discovered the motor inns mentioned in Back in Mexico.
In our limited Mexican motor inn experience, Villahermosa’s “Motel Costa del Sol” is the best of its’ kind. The drive through registration and private garage attached to your room is designed to give the utmost privacy for your clandestine interludes or, in our case, for sneaking in pets. And for the low price of $30, we enjoyed a king-sized bed, cable TV with the … uh … premium channels included, tasty room service dinner at an added fee, and one … uh … protective device gratis. We vegged, watching a Tom Hanks movie and Desperate Housewives. By morning, we felt refreshed and ready to move on to the city of Campeche.
Campeche is a seaport town with many colorful buildings, giving it a bit of a Caribbean feel. But the first thing we noticed as we drove through Campeche was the stares — from men whose dress pegged them as laborers. We have traveled through many Mexican cities, eaten in local restaurants, hung out in local bars, encountered Mexican laborers, business people, students and others, but never have we been stared at like that. Despite being obvious gringos, we rarely even garner a second glance. Were they menacing stares? Curious stares? We never did solve the mystery. And subsequent Google searches for such phrases as “Campeche stares” proved fruitless.
Despite being the low season in Campeche, we found that the gringos with the cat were unwelcome at hotel after hotel. We would try one last hotel, and if they wouldn’t take us, we were moving on to Merida. As luck would have it, the friendly folks at the recently renovated Hotel Lopez decided to take a chance on us. We parked the car in the hotel’s lot a block away, and made several trips transporting our kitty and all her kitty stuff, John’s bike, and all the other stuff that was piled on top of our car back to our room. The hotel room that was on the third floor all the way in the back of the hotel! No elevator! Exhausted, we headed out for a relaxing dinner and then explored Campeche a bit.
We found the pleasant zocalo, but all the action appeared to be on the malecon (boardwalk). Stretching for two miles, Campeche’s malecon is clean and full of walkers, runners and bicyclists. Although Campeche fronts the ocean, there are no watersports, and signs warn water enthusiasts of the polluted water. But we were content to just stroll along people-watching and admiring the sometimes quirky sculptures.
Although we enjoyed Campeche, we were anxious to get this trip over with and get back home to Playa del Carmen. So, after one night, we found ourselves transporting all our crap from the hotel room back to the car again. Loaded up, we were so ready to exit the parking garage and be home in six hours. But things don’t always go according to plan. Crunch! In our hurry to get home, we forgot to make sure that John’s bike would clear the garage exit. Crap! What else could go wrong on this trip?! John said: “Bad things happen in threes.” 1. Mexico City debacle, 2. Puebla policia, 3. Campeche bike crunch
Instantly, about five or six men (the aforementioned laborers) converged on our car, clamoring over each other trying to help us. Honestly, we would have preferred to handle it ourselves, but they were anxious to earn a propina (tip). One of the guys un-wedged the bike from the roof, earned his tip, and they all ran off. But it wasn’t over for us. We were left with a damaged bike, a dismantled and partially damaged roof rack (with the roof rack instructions somewhere in Chicago), and a damaged garage roof.
When John asked the garage owner if he could reimburse him for the damage, the guy looked at him like he was nuts and adamantly refused. One problem taken care of. Upon further examination, only John’s bike seat sustained damage. His bike would survive. Yay! Problem two solved. Now, on to problem three — the roof rack. Viewing the mess we had created, we at first entertained the notion of just cramming everything into the back seat with our poor kitty who was now meowing earnestly in the 100 degree heat. Instead, John put his spatial relations skills to use, and patiently and methodically rebuilt our roof rack despite missing a few parts.
We re-loaded our stuff (bike temporarily left off) onto the mended roof rack, and cautiously left the garage. Six hours later, our roof rack and our sanity remained intact as we rolled into Playa del Carmen. It’s good to be home!