I’m here! And I need a shower! I arrive only a half-hour late. They gave us our forms for customs and immigration to complete on the plane and, like any good traveler, I brought a pen with me knowing there would be forms to fill-out, many did not. I could have rented out my pen and made some serious pesos. The one thing I forgot is that immigration likes to know where you’re staying (nosy little buggers). How can I tell them when I don’t even know? Truth be told, at some point I plan to stop by Merida to stay with my old friend Stewart. The problem is that I have his address in a Facebook message and have no internet access. My solution? Make it up. I decide that Playa Mar may or may not be the name of a hotel here so I take a chance and write that down. Immigration seems to have no problem with it, although I might just be a wanted woman in Mexico now.
As we wait at baggage claim, my fellow passengers and I discuss whether our luggage will actually arrive here in Cancun or whether it traveled on our old airplane to Colombia. Within twenty-minutes I spot my bag. I breathe a sigh of relief and I breeze through customs and head out to claim my rental car.
The only reservations I’ve made prior to this trip are the air and the car rental. If you go online to rent a car, you’ll notice that you can get one for a week for about $30. Yes, that’s U.S.! You must, however, keep in mind the extras. Most U.S. insurance companies don’t cover you in Mexico. You have a few options; purchase an add-on policy from an online broker – often not accepted by the car rental companies, purchase insurance through the rental car company – this can be quite expensive, or you may already have it through one of your credit cards. I checked with both American Express and Citibank about the coverage on my cards. As it is with most cards, the insurance is secondary, which means it kicks in for what my auto insurance doesn’t cover. Since my auto insurance covers nothing in Mexico, the insurance through my credit card becomes my primary insurance. I’m covered! Now, here’s the tricky part; it doesn’t cover liability. If you look at the small print on the car rental websites, they mention the requirement of liability insurance and, for the low, low price of at least $15 per day, they’ll cover you. As my friend Stewart is a local (by way of Ireland, England and the United Arab Emirates, or something like that. His past is a bit shady, even to his friends) he has recommended using Hertz as, although their prices might be a bit higher than some of the others, they include liability. My grand total ends up being around $173 as I’ve added emergency road service at $3 per day and a full tank of gas.
As I exit customs I see the desks of all of the rental car companies all in a straight line with people standing behind the desk looking as if they’re on a jury (crap, perhaps immigration really did catch me). I step up to the Hertz counter and am greeted by a very nice lady who finds my name on the list and escorts me to the shuttle bus to take me to the Hertz car rental building (apparently the statement on their website saying they are on site at the airport means they are on site to take you to the bus. Whatever, I’m in Mexico!)
I exit the bus and, after some waiting and a great amount of paperwork, I’m instructed to wait outside and they’ll pull up my car (note, mine will be a manual transmission as it’s less money and I know how to drive one. This is not the place you should decide to learn). I see the employee walk over to a car and start it. As he does, I hear a cat screech like someone has just stepped on his tail. Oh wait, that’s my car. It screeched for ten seconds or so and, after moving some other cars around like a giant Tetris game, he pulls my car out in front of me and presents it with a big smile. In English, I ask the non-English speaking man about the screech. He sits down in the car and presses on the accelerator while looking at me as if to say, “No problem ma’am, there’s no screech.” The problem is, it screeches as he does this. I let him know I want another car and reluctantly he goes inside to get more paperwork, and then goes to get me another car. In the meantime, he points around the corner and tells me to talk to the man there. I go around the corner where ‘the man there’ tells me I can get $100 off my rental car if I only go and see some property he is selling while I’m here. Ugh, really?
As my ‘new’ car quietly pulls up, I escape the salesman and do the walk around inspection. I note the many scratches in the paint and, here’s a big note on renting a car, I take out my phone and take photos of the scratches. Do it.
I pull out and make my way out of the tourist areas of Cancun and Playa del Carmen and head towards Akumal. “Why Akumal?” you ask (you did, I heard you). In the last day or two, I’ve communicated with a woman I found online about volunteering at the Akumal Library. I know that the children are there from 2:00-5:00 daily and, as tired as I am from my red-eye flight, well, you’re not paying me to sleep. Wait, you’re not paying me at all. But, as I’m not even sure where I’ll be sleeping as I have no reservations, the library seems as good as any place.
I drive along the main highway singing to songs in my head as, the one thing I didn’t check before leaving Hertz was the radio, and that just doesn’t seem to be working. I stop at a roadside taco stand for lunch that’s is not for the faint of heart. It’s an open-air stand with a few plastic tables, some chafing dishes full of meats and tortillas, a table with Tupperware filled with various toppings and salsa and coolers filled with soda. This is authentic.
I head out on the road and about forty-five minutes later I see the sign for Akumal. I carefully drive over the potholes as if they’re landmines as I’ve rented a compact car and these could eat my car for dinner. I pull into a parking space and see a woman standing outside of the library (it’s all really mostly outside).
“Are you Anne?” I ask.
“Yes. Carole?” she seems surprised that I actually showed up.
Anne shows me around the tiny place that has a book area (which doubles as her office), a craft area and a playground. It’s about 88 degrees with 100 percent humidity outside. None of it is air conditioned. There are a few kids here already and Anne soon heads off to go pick up more; about forty more. I stay, change my clothes in her ‘office’ and get to know the kids, none of whom speak English (I’ve already described my Spanish speaking skills or lack thereof).
I soon see a little girl who is sitting by herself reading. I talk to her but she doesn’t respond so I think she’s a bit shy. No problem, I worked for Disney, surely I can win her over. No luck. Before long a little boy comes by and, between speaking in Spanish and hand signals I soon begin to understand. Her name is Stephanie, she’s five years old and she’s deaf and mute.
Stephanie and I spend the next hour reading books and drawing. She likes to pull books off the shelf, find characters (the Cat in the Hat, Beauty, the Beast, horses, etc.) and point to a dry erase board for me to draw them. I do my best because, you see, I’ve fallen in love.
Tomorrow – A romantic evening for one and visiting the Mayans’ stuff. Read about it in – Is This Akumal? No, it’s Heaven