When you live in western Canada and attempt to go south for the winter, it’s a long drive down through the US until you get somewhere that is warmer than where you started. Although we have only driven south twice for the winter, both times were after Christmas – so the starting temperature were very cold and we don’t stop driving until we find somewhere that the night temps are not freezing. This means a minimum 24-hour drive down to the Nevada area, if we head straight south. It is more like a 34 hour drive to the Oklahoma if we go east, then south. Regardless, its a long drive. When we were talking about what to do for winter of 2023, we determined that we would like to be somewhere warm at a much faster rate than 24 or 34 hours. So the decision was made to park Ruby for the winter and get on a plane to a location that we wouldn’t drive her too…and we picked the Quintana Roo area. Jill has tons of air miles from travelling for work before covid and we’ve hardly used them because (of Covid and we really love touring around in our Ruby). We booked flights and departed Calgary on Jan 4, 2023. The plan for the next 11 weeks, was to Airbnb our way through the Quintana Roo area (Puerto Morales, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Campeche, Merida).
Neither of us had been to the Cancun area in well over 20 years – and I don’t think much changed at the airport – especially all the Taxi drivers trying to get your business! We had booked a pre-paid shuttle to the Hampton Inn for the first night (trying to maintain Hilton Honors status – hacking the travel perks system). It was less than 10 mins from the airport. The shuttle was a little sketch it turns out….it was a shared shuttle and the driver drove past the hotel to drop the other people off, then drove past it 2 more times, until we yelled at him to stop! He was not sure what he should do, so he backed up about 100 feet on the highway off ramp and got us to the backside road where we just said we would get out (an hour and 15 minutes after we got in). He did not make any money off us, I’m sure! The hotel was fine and located mostly outside the super tourist area. But it had everything we needed that we could walk too, such as an Oxxo (for a SIM card), Walmart for a few groceries and a taco place to eat (that we thought was pretty reasonable).
When we booked this trip, we both decided that we weren’t going to rent a car the whole time (aghast….I know!!) as half the fun about discovering new places is the adventure of not always knowing and then figuring it out. Car rentals can be very pricey along with the cost of the “Mexican Police insurance”. But with that, understanding the bus system in Mexico is definitely a challenge in itself. We weren’t entirely sure how to get from our hotel (north of the airport) to our Airbnb in the next town (Puerto Morelos) – we did various google searches about buses (in town, out of town, chicken buses), the collectivo system and in the end, we booked an Uber. The trip was 37 km and cost a whole $28. For us Canadians that is CHEAP! To get to the next town? Really? We each had a backpack, a carryon roller and a heavy bag of groceries when we arrived at our flat at 3 pm sharp.
After a quick 5-minute tour lowdown of the place (https://www.youtube.com/shorts/X54CVetNiP0 we unloaded everything, changed and headed down to the beach. The beach was 3 km away – it was a 20 min walk, or 40 pesos for a Taxi or 10 pesos for the bus. We decided to walk there and figure out how to get back.
The walk was mostly shaded, but by the time we got to the beach, we jumped in to cool off! But it wasn’t cool – more like bath water temperature!
After enjoying the beach for a couple hours, we walked around and discovered the Super Chedraui (grocery), where we picked up a few things. When we left the store, the main bus stop was a block away, where the bus pulled up when we arrived. So, we got on (the chicken bus) and hoped for the best – had no idea where it would let us off. Todd pressed the button, and it dropped us off 3 blocks away from the flat…well that’s convenient!
Todd was up at 5:30 (WTF – we are on vacation!) the next morning and at some point, we decided to head back to the grocery store (heaven forbid we didn’t have everything we needed!) for more food, water, sunscreen etc. We have a habit of doing 15 things in a day when we are on holidays, and before we left on this trip, there was a long discussion about stopping that craziness and learning how to relax and enjoy. So later that day we managed to go for a walk around town, play a game of crib, go back to the beach, the grocery store (one more time!) before we made it back home…this time on the “collectivo van” – where again we had no idea where this van would take us….Lucky for us, we found out that all the vans and buses basically go on the same route all day long. We met the flat neighbors (an older couple from Michigan) and headed out for dinner around 6:30. You can see that we really know how to take it easy!
We are always on the hunt for great taco’s as we headed into the town center of Joaquin Zetina Gasco. We stumbled upon this open restaurant El Sazon Mexicano for their Friday night special of 3 tacos el pastor for 35 pesos (we both took advantage of that special). The total cost for both of us to eat and share a very large drink was $7. Here we shared a table with Mike the pilot from Toronto and had a great discussion on travel, living simple, life’s short comings and the best places to go walking in the area. The finale for the night was the fireworks show at the end of the block (we are talking Calgary Stampede type fireworks) to celebrate the epiphany (complete with 3 wise men on horseback handing out gifts to kids in the street!).
The next few days have all been about learning to relax…going to the beach…finding the best el pastor taco’s, riding the bus, going to the store and generally figuring out how this little fishing village works.
After 5 days – I think this town has already taught us a few things…..
- We are walking at a slower pace
- There is no hurry, no rush, we have all the time in the world
- Not everything is perfect or comfortable
- You wait for a bus and it comes when it comes
- The plastic chairs at the kitchen table or at the restaurant aren’t the most comfortable – but serve their purpose
- The thread count on the bedsheets isn’t 800 – but its clean
- We have more than what we need (and we have each other!)