The Yucatan province is known for its cuisine. The capital of the province is Mérida. Our first Mexican vacation took us to Progreso which is about 45 minutes outside of the capical along the Gulf of Mexico.
As I explained previously, we flew to Cancun, where we would rent a car and drive to our rental home on the beach to celebrate a milestone wedding anniversary.
Cancun airport is bustling with tourists on their way to resorts. Lots of tour operators are waiting outside to transport their passengers to hotels and many taxi drivers are around to help the visitors find their destinations. We had no problem finding our driver to our car rental agency and with our mini-phrasebook in hand we made it to our rental company about 10 minutes away from the airport. We rented a VW Cross Fox and received some rudimentary instructions to drive towards the toll road that will take us towards Mérida and ultimately Progreso. Our car had no GPS and no paper map.
Cancun's traffic is insane but Herman made it out onto the toll road and the signs were very clear. The toll road is a beautiful highway and because it is so expensive it is also devout of traffic. We drove the speed limit, fearing retribution from the local police should we put a foot wrong as suggested by fear mongers. We drove for two hours and the arrived at a rest stop where we got some coffee and something to eat. We were still very nervous; we securely locked the car and didn't leave our passports or deposit for the house out of our grasp. I was carrying my "fake wallet" rather than my real one, which was hidden somewhere in the depths of my backpack. True South African style is was leaving no zippers unzipped and holding on to my bag with white knuckles, keeping my bag on the side of the wall not the street...if you are not South African you will lose me just about now.
We sat down had the best cheese empanadas and cappuccino. No one spoke English. Of course we do not speak Spanish at all.
We drove another 2 hours and somewhere along the way our car had started to make a really weird sound. It was now getting dark outside. Herman seemed to know exactly where he was going; I have no idea how, and did not ask at this stage. Usually I am the navigator but as I mentioned before I have no map, so we are relying on Google Map printouts we made before we left. Darkness had fallen and in rural Mexico, it is dark.
Our destination is the gas station as you enter Progreso, which is next to the grocery store and across from the Polices station. We have to meet the property manager who will have the key to our rental property and who will lead the way. Coming off the highway you enter the town over a bridge and the roads in the towns are mostly one way; one south, the next north, the next in and so on. The cross streets are the same - one west, one east. Of course we did not know this, so having passed the gas station, Herman made a u-turn and raced back up the road. Yes a one-way! We narrowly missed an 18-wheeler, and right in front of the Popo`s, he turns left into the parking lot of our destination. I do not know what they must have been thinking, but probably `crazy gringos`and since we did not kill ourselves or anyone else, they ignored us.
We arrived about 10 minutes late. According to our standards, this is disastrous. We are late. In Mexico. Somewhere. In the dark. I am envisioning taking turns standing watch while the other gets some shuteye. OK, maybe I dramatise but in my mind I am saying goodbye to my kids and blaming only myself for my tardiness.
Herman rushes into the store and in his non-existing Spanish asks the store manager if he can make a phone call. We do not have a He tries to make a call to the cell number for the property manager. No luck - calling a number in Mexico is apparently an art. We sit in our vehicle and decide to wait. Good decision, about 15 minutes later the brown pickup that we were on the lookout for parked beside us and our extremely friendly property manager apologised for being late, because she had to pick up her daughter from school and her husband was driving the car, not wanting her to meet strangers alone in the dark. How completely normal.
Our love story with the Yucatan began.