We arrived at Cozumel, Mexico at 8:00 a.m., June 26th.
This was the stop we were looking forward to the most.
It had been 19 years since Kevin and I took our honeymoon in Cozumel, Mexico and everything looked different, yet at the same time, it all seemed familiar.
Nineteen years ago, we had arrived on the island via a little prop plane (that was only held together with duct tape and I’m so not kidding about that!) I was scared out of my mind. Not only because that was the first time I had flown, anywhere, but because that was my first time out of the country and I freaked out just a smidgen …
Okay, I freaked out a lot.
In fact, I was so freaked out, that I stayed in our hotel room while Kevin went snorkeling.
Yes, I was a downright wimp.
To say I’ve come a long way since those early days of traveling would be putting it mildly. Traveling has opened up my mind and heart to new experiences and given me a new appreciation for home.
I hope the boys are learning a lot from our travels as well.
We hadn’t planned an excursion this time around, we were more interested in trying to locate our old hotel and in getting to the other side of the island – the really pretty side. At least in my opinion.
The pier was stuffed with shops — really nice tourist-y shops. Dude felt downright uncomfortable with the sheer number of locals that tried to lure us into their shops. We were being bombarded from all sides …
“Senora, please come see our beautiful jewelry.”
“Senor, we have low prices. Come look!”
I always feel awkward in this type of situation, also. On one hand, I hate to be rude and just ignore them, but on the other hand, if you give any sort of encouragement they circle around and block your path like a hungry shark.
So, we just kept moving.
We located the pavilion where all of the taxis were lined up and rode one to the square. We had honeymoon pictures of us eating on the square and we wanted to see what it looked like today.
It was huge, much more developed and quite pretty. We didn’t see as many tourists in this section of town and we were a bit uncomfortable with that — we were heading off the beaten track.
There were several shops down alleyways and every time Kevin steered us down one, I started to get nervous. Even though I’m sure the people on Cozumel are perfectly nice and they were certainly hospitable, you still never knew what their intentions were so even though we wandered down a few alleys, we didn’t usually go too far from the main thoroughfare.
We were down one such alley when a man approached us. He was trying to coax us into renting one of his cars. I wasn’t terribly interested, but Kevin perked right up. He negotiated with the guy and the guy then led us back to his office down a side street.
My heart jumped into my throat. I began picturing all sorts of bad things happening (naive family of four is found murdered in back alley), but I kept it together so I wouldn’t spook the boys. He led us back to his office and we rented one of his cars. (There’s a picture of us standing in front of the car in the slide show. I have no idea what kind of car it was, but it was a convertible and we had a ball putting the top down and appreciating the clean, salty sea air). He even offered to give us a ride back to the pier so we could catch our boat.
And for the record, everyone was super nice. In fact, while we were waiting for them to bring the car around, we walked into a 7-11 to buy something to drink and the clerk didn’t know English. A local woman translated for us and we were able to complete our transaction. We walked away with 20 pesos (a little over a dollar in American money — the exchange rate, at that time, was 11 pesos = 1 dollar. That’s important later).
We piled into the car and Kevin drove us to the other side of the island.
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It was wonderful. We were on our own! We stopped for lunch at a restaurant right off the beach. We were hot, but there was a cool breeze coming from the ocean so it was really pleasant. The only fly in our ointment was our money situation. We hadn’t taken enough money on shore with us and we weren’t sure we would have enough to pay for our meal. So, we ordered two dinners and shared them.
There were three college-aged boys at the table next to us who were laughing and having a good time. They ignored us, for the most part, but it was hard for us to ignore them. They weren’t obnoxious, only interesting to listen to. After a time, they finished their meal and all three stripped down to skimpy spandex swim trunks.
I thought they were quite beautiful to look at, but all three of my guys were really uncomfortable being so near half-naked men and the top of my head nearly exploded as I tried to hold my laughter in at their horrified expressions.
The other side of Cozumel is undeveloped and wild. We asked our server why that side didn’t have big hotels and other development there and he said it was because that that was the side that received the brunt of the storms whenever they blew in and destroyed everything they built on that side. The current is very strong on that side as well, so it was unsafe to go swimming, though that didn’t deter our three “friends.” 🙂
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We got back into the car and continued our drive. Our car guy gave us a map with directions on how to find his office and when we reached the outskirts of town, we stopped at a gas station and began to navigate our way back.
(Side note: Our credit card was denied at the gas station. Luckily, we had another card to cover the cost [always carry a back-up credit card!], but now we were worried about why our credit card company had denied us).
According to the map, all we had to do was continue down the road we were on and it would take us directly back to the office. So, we sat back and enjoyed looking at the city. We passed one corner that had one speaker on one side, and another big speaker on the other side, both playing quite loudly and both playing something different — it was as if they were competing with each other for attention.
Imagine our surprise when we encountered a dead end. We could no longer go straight, we had to turn either left or right. We were unsure what to do, so we turned left and promptly got lost.
We were caught in a labyrinth of side streets that all looked the same. Kevin, nor I, had our glasses with us and the writing on the map was so small, neither one of us could read it. We had the boys look at it and since the streets are in Spanish, they couldn’t read them out loud.
They had to spell the names of the streets to us.
In the meantime, the clock is ticking. The afternoon was passing us by and if we didn’t make it back onto the boat by 4:00, they would leave without us. And to top my stress off, I forgot to bring my watch on shore with us (the watch we bought on the ship so we could use it for this very reason!) and we had no idea what time it was.
I started to panic.
We backtracked and made our way back to the gas station. We took a moment to look more carefully at the map and with the boys’ help, we managed to find the streets we needed in order to make our way back to the office.
We finally stumbled onto the office. I was the only one who had paid attention to the landmarks surrounding the office and it’s a good thing — we would have likely driven past the thing, several times.
We got out of the car and went into the office. There was a different guy behind the counter and he didn’t act none too pleased to hear we had been promised a ride back to the pier.
I started to panic.
We were out of money. We had one dollar and the peso note. That was it. It cost $7.00 to take a taxi back to the pier.
And time was ticking.
Thankfully, our guy came running and he happily loaded us back into the car and drove us to the pier. Kevin engaged him in conversation (his English wasn’t great so we all got a laugh at our attempts to communicate with him) and asked him if very many people had gotten sick from the swine flu.
To our surprise, he snorted and then began to laugh. He said that no one got sick and that it was all a ruse from the media to make people scared. He said that the mainland (Cancun and beyond) had had a few cases reported, but nothing like the American media made it out to be.
We liked him instantly. 😀
We arrived safely back at the pier, thanked our very helpful guy and made our way back to the boat. It was about 2:45 by this time so we had cut it close, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been if we hadn’t found our way back to the office as quickly as we had.
We really enjoyed renting that car. And it had been a spur-of-the-moment thing — just like it had been 19 years ago when Kevin rented a scooter and we had driven to the other side of the island together. We felt like we had come full circle.
(Side note: Kevin called the credit card company. Apparently, they got suspicious when they saw that someone was trying to buy gas in Mexico. Which was us, by the way. Even though it was a little annoying that they had cut our access, it was reassuring to know that they were on top of it and noticed a strange transaction like that so early. That company was Citibank, by the way, and no, they didn’t pay me to tell you that.).
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And that’s it. We had a full day at sea the day after our Cozumel stop and we had a chance to relax and stuff our faces. We arrived back in Miami right on schedule. Our number was finally called about 11:00 a.m. and we left the boat, picked up our baggage, slid through customs and got right into a taxi — very smooth process. We arrived at the airport about noon, had some lunch and boarded our plane back to St. Louis at 3:30.
We caught the parking lot shuttle back to our car and started the four-hour trip back home, which seemed like it took much longer because we were all pretty tired and really ready to get home by that point.
We did pull over and have dinner at a Jack-in-the-Box (Dude had heard about their tacos and suggested it) and Kevin had to take over the driving from that point on. I was feeling really dizzy and drowsy by that point (something about my inner ear being out of whack from being on a boat all week long) and we finally arrived back home at about 11:00 p.m.
It was a great trip. We had so much fun and if you EVER get a chance to take a cruise, we highly recommend it.
We’re now on a course to plan our next one.
I’m thinking the Eastern Caribbean this time ….
Thanks for reading!!