We were told that the Maya ruins in Palenque were definitely worth a visit and this weekend seemed a good a time as any to do so. We had it all planned out very neatly: hotels were arranged for and we booked a car so we could come and go as we pleased. I have to say that the ruins were indeed amazing and you should just go and see for yourself. We also visited Agua Azul, some nice waterfalls with a stream of shops along the trail. The waterfalls were beautiful, but the shops along the trail were a bit too much for my liking (especially since they all seem to sell the same souvenir rubbish).
Enough about the touristy bit of the trip, this blog really is about taking one for the team and blows to your pride.
Before this weekend we would call ourselves seasoned travelers; now we exclude traveling through Mexico from our statement. We both did many road-trips on various continents. Of course things went wrong here and there, but we learned from them and moved on. All that knowledge is null and void in Mexico. It is different here.
To get to Palenque from Villahermosa you basically go down the freeway and turn right at the sign that says Palenque. At least that was the plan and based on our previous experiences, it was a fair plan. We went old-school, reception can be flakey and fancy digital gadgets probably would be useless. Since it was just down the road we didn’t get a map either. (Actually we tried to find one, but so far unsuccessfully. If anyone can tell me where to get a road map from Mexico, I would appreciate it).
Anyway, while driving and chatting and trying to find a cool radio-station, Dave noticed a sign E. Zapeta. Uhoh! This town is after the turnoff to Palenque. A nice military officer who was checking cars, told us that it was at least about 30 minutes back towards Villahermosa and then you couldn’t miss it. Hmmmm, obviously we can, because we just did.
We followed his suggestion and guess what, on that side of the road there was a sign to Palenque! Right at the gas station where we debated whether we needed to make a pit stop or not. We were laughing about it. ‘This could happen to anyone,’ is what we said. ‘The side of the road that we came on was being remodeled, so they must have taken the sign down. Haha.’ We took the turnoff and then made it smoothly to Palenque a half hour later.
In Palenque we did what we came to do (Mayan ruins and Agua Azul) and on our last day we figured we would have breakfast in a nearby restaurant and leave. We did just that. The waiter found us when we were packing the car, and asked if we could please pay the bill. Oops!
The way back sounded even easier than the way to Palenque: drive until the end of the road and then turn left to Villahermosa. Since we knew there was a gas station on the corner, we figured we would get gas there and pay with our bank card, instead of trying to find an ATM in Palenque. We blew all our cash at the ruins (and breakfast) and figured that we wouldn’t need any until Villahermosa, a real city with an ATM on every corner.
Finding the road was not a problem, getting gas was not a problem, paying for the gas was a problem. We did not have cash; they did not have a card-swiper. Ouch! Who would have thought of that? A gas station on a main highway only accepting cash? We tried to convince them that we would go back to Palenque to get the money and we promised to really, really return. They were quite friendly, but not stupid. One of us had to stay with the Mexican gas station guys, while the other would go to Palenque, find an ATM and rush back to relieve the one who stayed behind. Selflessly, D. volunteered to be the ‘hostage’ while I would do the money run. One hour later I returned with the cash and the Mexicans let D. go.
So, you think that we learned from this experience? I’d say yes and no. That night we had dinner at a little upmarket bistro. Before ordering we checked whether they accepted bank cards. Feeling rather smart about ourselves, we enjoyed a nice bottle of wine. When the check came we confidently handed him our card, but… his fancy mobile card-swiper did not work. My One-and-Only volunteered again and through rain and thunder he fought his way from the restaurant to the hotel and back with the cash, while I enjoyed another glass of wine.
We were getting reckless at this point. Surely it must be possible to pay with your card somewhere? We chose a wine bar close to our hotel to test this theory. They accepted cards so we had some drinks. When we handed her the card, she took it and asked us to follow her to the bar. The guy behind the bar looked difficult and a whole conversation started. All we did was look at each other and laugh, that would be just too funny. After a few minutes she motioned us to follow her. Through a maze of little alleys and rooms full of stuff, we ended up in our own hotel! Yeah, for the first time that day we managed to pay digitally. We decided to leave it at that and go up to our room hoping that the next day would be less perilous money-wise.
And it was.
But, we discovered that our camera had gone missing in action. So all those beautiful pictures we had to show you are somewhere between Palenque and Villahermosa… They may pop up on internet one day. If you see them, let us know.