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Bougainvillea in Tulum, Mexico
After sixteen days of travel to five cities, our last day in Mexico had arrived.  It was December 20.  We figured if the world was going to end on December 21, we would just as soon be back home with Paisley.  (And of course I'm just joking; we never for a minute expected the world to end, but it was fun that we were traveling during the peak of interest in the Maya world and right around such an anticipated date!)

We started with a wonderful breakfast in our favorite Tulum breakfast eatery, Azafran.  Despite some mosquitoes in the garden, we had a delicious meal, excellent service, and some of the best coffee that we had on our entire trip.  This is the only place we got whole-wheat bread in Mexico, and the freshly squeezed OJ was great too.  We can't recommend this place enough if you are in Tulum.  Barry ordered the same loaded omelet as before, and I tried the fruit crepes.  Delish!
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Barry's delicious omelet
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My fruit crepes
Here's a friendly fellow we met on our walk back to the hotel from breakfast, hanging out in front of his owner's home courtyard.
We'd be heading south on this road to Chetumal to catch the ferry back to San Pedro.  We got another beautiful day for travel.
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Waiting in the Tulum ADO station
As I may have mentioned in a previous post, while Mexican cities can have a ton of traffic at times, like this:
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Morning traffic in Merida
In contrast, the highways are typically practically deserted by US standards.  Most people seem to travel by bus.  Love the lack of traffic jams!  We had another great view from the front row in the ADO bus.
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Belize is "Belice" (pronounced Bell-ees-ay) in Spanish
But this day was not to be without drama and a bit of panic.  We had "open date" water taxi tickets back to Belize that we'd paid for as part of the round trip.  When we arrived at the San Pedro Water Jets terminal (via taxi from the Chetumal ADO bus station) at 2:15 for the 3 pm water taxi, we were informed that the boat was already full and that we should have made a reservation the day before.  Although there are two water taxi companies, and since we last visited Mexico, they have changed to an alternating day schedule, so there was no other boat to take back to San Pedro that day.  I strongly question the the alternating schedule since they could certainly fill both boats during high tourist season; though the schedule makes perfect sense during slow season.  This was not slow season.

We tried to explain that we had tried to get reservations for a particular return date when we bought our tickets but were told that we couldn't do that, and that we had a dog boarding in San Pedro whom we needed to pick up.  We were never advised back in San Pedro to confirm our return reservations a day ahead, probably because there were many fewer people traveling back in early December.  The attendant put us on the waiting list but said that they could not guarantee us seats as the boat was full.  She had a long list of travelers with confirmed reservations, but we could see that not all of them had been marked off as having checked in.  We had some hope since we weren't turned away immediately.

While we sat and waited, more and more confirmed passengers checked in.  Several other people without reservations came in trying to get on the boat, same as us.  One party of four was turned away because they were even lower down the "waiting" list than us.  A couple of other young men traveling alone were hanging around like we were, hoping for a spot to open up.  We had purposely spent most of our pesos other than those needed for the $300 MX (approximately $24 US) per-person exit fee.  If we'd had to stay in Chetumal, we'd have to find an ATM for more cash, get a hotel, contact Pampered Paws online (our cellphone did not work in Mexico), lose the money we'd prepaid for the tickets, and try to get tickets on the other boat the following day.  NOT something we wanted to contemplate.  Another far-fetched alternative would have been to take a bus or taxi to the Belize border, check out of Mexico and into Belize there, take another taxi to the Corozal airstrip, and try to catch the last flight of the day back to San Pedro on Tropic Air.  This possibility seemed fraught with problems because we were already tight on time, and there was no guarantee of any available seats on the plane without reservations, and no easy way to call without trying to locate and figure out a payphone.  Yes, I was inwardly panicking!

The clock kept ticking, and we kept watching the passenger list on the attendant's desk.  As it got closer and closer to 3pm, there were still a few people with reserved slots who had not checked in.  Finally, it became apparent that they weren't going to make it in time, so the attendant crossed out their names and put ours on the manifest in their places.  One other single man made it on the same way.  We breathed the hugest sighs of relief!

We still had to make it through Immigration, though this time the officer was very pleasant and friendly to us.  (This was the same man who'd been so rude when we'd come to Chetumal for the day and had been forced to pay the exit fee even though it is not required for visits of less than seven days.)
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Whew -- we're on! I'm making the long walk down the pier to the boat we thought we wouldn't get to take
There was a lengthy holdup on the dock as the Mexican police and drug-sniffing dogs went over everyone's bags and searched the boat.  This surprised us since there was no luggage check on the way out of Mexico last time. I'm not sure why they would care about drugs being taken out of the country!  When we were finally able to board, we were packed in like sardines, but we were so happy to be ON the boat we weren't complaining!

With the long delay to get everyone and their luggage onboard, the boat was over thirty minutes late leaving the dock.  When we arrived in San Pedro, we'd have to go through customs and immigration, then run (literally) over to Pampered Paws to pick Paisley up before they closed at 6 pm.  It was going to be a tight connection, to say the least.  

We were sweating it out on the boat as it seemed like the longest ride of our lives.  The minutes kept ticking by, and when we finally pulled into the dock in San Pedro, we had less than 45 minutes before Pampered Paws closed.  I immediately called Kathy there and told her that we would be cutting it very close but were on our way to pick up Paisley just as soon as we made it through the lines.  She assured me they would be waiting for us, but I didn't want anyone to have to work late, so we hustled as close as we could to the front of the line for immigration.  

If we'd been at the back of the line, I don't think we would have made it, but we were lucky enough to make it through pretty quickly, and the custom's official didn't choose us for a luggage search; probably because we were carrying such small bags compared to a lot of folks.  She was in a jovial mood, and that set us at ease.  

Fortunately, Pampered Paws is not too far from the Water Jets building, so we were able to make it with a few minutes to spare.  Paisley was beside herself with joy and jumped up and down at least a hundred times behind the glass door when she saw us.  She always has a great time at Pampered Paws, and we feel totally comfortable leaving her there when we travel.  And they're so nice about keeping her a little longer if we decide to extend our trip by a day or two, as we have done a couple of times now.  

All that was left to do now was to catch a taxi back to our condo, never a difficult thing to do in San Pedro.  We were so thankful that we made it home and did not have to scramble for another day in Chetumal.  And what do you know, the world didn't end the next day after all!
El Fin...thanks for (virtually) joining us on this long journey!
Dennis and Tamara Rossi
2/14/2013 09:36:35 am

Dear Emily and Barry,
After traveling the world, reading every thing there is to read whether we were going to Prague or Belize or Jekyll Island, GA, we cannot express enough the joy, interest, chuckles, love of Barry's photos, interest in your stories, etc., etc., etc., that we have gotten from this 'Tale of Five Cities' tour you have blogged. Thank you! You both truly have a knack for travelogues, and we await your next adventure.

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BeBelize Emily
2/14/2013 10:05:14 pm

Thanks for your kind comments, Dennis and Tamara. It took so long to document the trip (much longer than to take it) that we weren't sure people were still with us! It's comments like yours that make the time and effort of maintaining a blog worth it. Thank you.

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Mike Mitchell
2/14/2013 08:38:08 pm

Thanks! I really enjoyed the trip. I have always wanted to get inland in Mexico, having spent a lot of time in Akumal, Playa Del Carmen and Cozumel, I am hoping to go on a loop thru Merida next year.
I just recently made the connection, my wife and I met you and Barry briefly at the Lazy Croc in Dec '11... Small world!

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BeBelize Emily
2/14/2013 10:03:34 pm

What a small world, Mike! You'll love Merida -- it was a fascinating city. I hated that we didn't make it to Akumal this time. Maybe next time. Thanks for your comment and glad you enjoyed the trip report!

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Tracey Giertz
2/15/2013 02:05:47 am

Thank you so much for sharing your journey! I loved every word and every picture. I hope to meet you on my next trip to Belize.

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BeBelize Emily
2/15/2013 02:48:14 am

Thanks Tracey, that's so sweet of you! Thanks for journeying along with us through Mexico.

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