To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to the trip. I mean, Mexico is hot. At least when it's cold, you can dress for it. When it's hot, there is only so much you can remove before you're arrested. My line of thinking is, why have a vacation in the hot, hot south, when there is so much to see and do in the north?
If you haven't guessed, I am not very fond of the heat. When it's too hot, I can't sleep. When it's much too hot, I lose my appetite. And all of that combines to make me irritable. And I don't like to be irritable. So, when my sister-in-law and future brother-in-law-in-law announced that they were going to have their wedding in an out-of-the-way place in Mexico, I was, well, less than enthusiastic about the idea. It was an imposed vacation to some place I didn't want to go.
"If it's going to be in a hot place, why can't they have the wedding somewhere that's less expensive and easier to get to?" I asked Fawn.
Fawn bluntly reminded that it wasn't my wedding which, loosely translated, means, "Shut-up. You're going."
Not going had never crossed my mind. Not really. I mean, it was my sister-in-law's wedding and she is a pretty cool little sister-in-law. I wanted to be there for her wedding. I just didn't want her wedding to be there.
Getting to Mexico
Perhaps to help me with the acclimatization to the warm weather, Fawn arranged a few extra days for a visit to Victoria and Vancouver. After our flight from Whitehorse to Vancouver, we rented a car and drove to Tsawwassen for the ferry ride to Victoria.
During the ferry ride, I did a bit of work and Fawn and Jade made friends in the kids' play area. Before I knew it, we were docked on Vancouver Island.
Someone had slightly modified a warning sign. Personally, I prefer the modified sign to the original.We were going to Victoria to visit our friends Rachelle and Peter and the newest member of their family, Evvy.
While Jade and Fawn spent time with Fawn's godparents, I went to Bellingham, Washington to do a bit of car shopping. That same night, we were flying to Mexico City on the Air Mexicana red-eye.
With the exception of a few touristas, nearly everyone in the departure lounge was a migrant worker. Huddled around portable DVD players, they watched movies and laughed. You could tell they were excited about going home. As we waited to board, we met Mani, who was also travelling to the wedding. We knew that we were going to be on the same flight beforehand so it was pretty easy for Mani to pick us out and it was pretty easy for us to spot him. We were the only couple with a kid and he was the only Iranian-Canadian waiting to board.
The flight itself was uncomfortable. Jade was draped over our laps. We all tried to sleep, but when she stirred, we woke. When we had to stretch, we disturbed Jade's sleep. On top of that, the plane was hot. Far too hot. The little oven on our laps didn't help. The air vent blew warm, dry air and didn't help to cool us off at all. I was getting irritable, but was trying desperately not to be. I kept thinking to myself, "This place had better be worth it. This place had better be worth it. I'm going to try to enjoy myself, but this place had better be worth it."
It scared me a little as we descended from blue sky into brown haze on our approach to Mexico City. Although our stay in Mexico City wasn't long, I didn't like the idea of breathing that gunk into my lungs. I especially didn't like the idea of my little girl breathing it either. That's one of the reasons I don't live in a bigger city. Smog. Yuck.
Getting into the airport was a relief, though. It was much, much, much cooler than the airplane and gave us all a chance to stretch. Then, the running around began.
The Mexico City airport is...confusing. All we asked was a simple question: "Which gate does our flight to Huatulco leave from?" We were told to go from one gate to another to another, with a strange little security checkpoint and a stop at immigration along the way. Eventually, we ended up in a lounge with hundreds of other people who were also waiting to find out which gates they were supposed to be at. I suppose this allows the airport to be more efficient in their use of gates. It's also a great way for the passengers to get exercise.
Finally, they announced our gate. Along with everyone else on the flight, we ran and made it to the gate a few minutes before the neat elevating bus drove us out to our plane.
We were going to be flying on a regional carrier called "Click". It got me wondering: What is the deal with the names that larger airlines pick for their regional carriers? Click? Jazz? Tango? Why would they pick these names for an airline? What sort of mental image am I supposed to get when I think of airplanes and Click?
The Click flight to Huatulco was much more comfortable than the flight to Mexico City. The plane was cooler and the seats more comfortable. I felt myself relax as I glanced the amazing mountain and desert scenery below. Then, the mountains were blanketed in trees and the plane began to descend.
But the journey was not yet over.
The Huatulco International Airport was attractive, with it's thatched roofs and hut-like appearance. When we stepped off the plane, and onto the tarmac, we were hit with a wave of hot air. Fawn tried to take a picture, but the airport staff wouldn't let her. We collected our bags and began to head for the door, but were stopped. We were confused and we weren't the only ones. Some people were being let through and others were made to line up in a very intangible line. There was a small street light with a button on it that one of the immigration staff members made some people press, but not others. Nobody could really understand the process so most people stood there blankly while the bossy little immigrations man told them where to stand and when. He must have thought he was herding cats. Eventually, we were through.
The place where we were staying had arranged a taxi for us. One with seatbelts, we were told, so that we could strap in Jade's car seat. Fawn had heard bad things about some of the taxi drivers in Mexico and had discussed it with the owner of the place we were staying. As the parent of a two-year-old herself, she had immediately understood.
Unfortunately, we were to find out later, the owner had taken ill and couldn't ensure that a vehicle with seatbelts was sent. The Volkswagen van that had been sent had no seat belts, save for the two in the front seats. I did the best I could securing the seat in a rear-facing position, propped against the driver's seat. I sat close beside the car seat to make sure it didn't slip sideways.
Fawn, Mani and Jade all dozed off while I watched the scenery and fought to keep the car seat from sliding. The roads were very narrow and very winding. The driver was going quicker that I could have imagined the little van going. He tailgated, passed in dangerous places, took corners faster than he should have and then, when the roads straightened, he began to fall asleep at the wheel.
I began trying to talk to him, but he spoke no English and I couldn't speak anything but. I tried to use my little Mexican-English phrase book, but that was slow and painful. When I asked him about a certain tree crop, he began looking for a pen and, while driving, began writing the name of the tree into the cover of my phrase book. Never once did he take his eyes off his writing to watch the road.
The drive took only a couple of hours, but it seemed much longer.
When we got to our destination, I breathed a deep sign of relief. We had arrived. At that point, it wouldn't have mattered where we were, it would have seemed like paradise. I was tired, hot, and hungry. It was late in the afternoon and I hadn't eaten a meal since the evening before, but I wasn't cranky. Relief was in sight.
Our first order of business was to drop off our bags and change into cooler, less stinky, clothes. Our second order of business was to get something to eat.
The place were were staying was a collection of about a dozen villas. Our villa had two bedrooms, a kitchen, and an open-air living room. It was nice and cool, albeit less private than some of the other villas.
There was a restaurant there. It was pricey by Mexican standards, but the meals cost about the same as they would in Canada. Only they were much, much better. It was darned good food. Later that night, I was salivating over an Arrachera steak which rivalled my Chief's steak in tenderness and delicousness.
There were a bunch of little restaurants along the beach. The surfboard displays the menu for one of them.
At the Beach, Under the Water
I didn't get to go as often as I would have liked, but I got to do a bit of good snorkelling. There were lots and lots of fish and, at one point, I swam around with a little sea turtle. The water was usually clean, clear and warm. I could have spent hours and hours just floating around. Nem wasn't so lucky. A wave pushed her against some of the rocks and she struck her arm on a sea urchin. Fortunately, the barbs came out and, after a good cleaning, you could hardly tell she had been impaled.
Seen Around Town
We went out and walked around the town. Although it was a little more inconvenient and slightly more expensive, I was glad that we weren't staying at some all-inclusive resort. It was nice not feeling like I was in some sort of fancy prison. I had fun trying to figure out how to do all the things that I usually take for granted (like buying groceries).
We went out for a walk around town on our second day. We were starving, so we stopped to get some food from a quesadilla vendor on the street. The vendor refused to sell us the food. At first I thought that it was because he thought the food would be too spicy for us. Then we remembered the warnings that some tourists have stomach troubles after eating at the roadside carts. Grateful for his honesty, we walked on to find a nice little restaurant.
After trying the lime from my limonada and not liking it, Jade decides to try the lime from Fawn's. She didn't like the taste of that one either.
The meals were inexpensive and usually delicious. The juices were fresh squeezed and just as expensive as the meals.
One night, everyone in the wedding party went out for dinner. Some of us then went to see a bustling evening street market. There were lots of vendors with lots of touristy things for sale. I didn't get anything other than a locally made lime popsicle, though. Yum.
Most of the tourists were Mexican, and they came from a larger inland city. We'd heard how everyone was expecting the place to take-off and become a big tourist destination but that everything was pretty much the same as it was a decade ago. I have to admit that I was glad. You might have noticed that I haven't named the place where we went. That's completely intentional. If you want to know where we went, there are several clues hidden within this blog entry, but you're going to have to find them on your own because I'm not going to tell you.
There were lots of little critters all around. Lizards scurried in the grasses and cute little geckos climbed the walls in the evening. Tiny hermit crabs scurried along the beach, invisible unless you looked for them and even then, you'd only be able to see them by their movement.
There were also scorpions. I thought the scorpions were pretty awesome, but not everyone shared my excitement. Or, rather, they were excited, but not in the same way. When asked to remove the scorpions, the villas staff members always had the same expression on their face that I would give to someone freaking out over a mosquito or a horse fly.
I jumped and looked down at my pocket. Hanging onto my shorts with just a couple of legs was a dark red sand crab. How it managed to crawl into my pocket I do not know. I was glad it wasn't a scorpion.
The father of the groom and a few others decided to do some fishing. I decided to join them, though I was somewhat reluctant because the last time I went fishing on the ocean, most of the party (not me) ended up sharing their most recent meals with the fishes.
It was apparent pretty quickly that our guide, while he had some nice equipment, was unorganized and probably not much of a fisherman. We didn't get any bites, but it was still a nice boat ride.
I went out again another day with my in-laws and the bride and groom. It was a much better trip with a much better guide. We hooked a few fish though we only managed to bring one in.
Yes, I know it looks like I wet my pants, but I didn't. They put a towel on my lap to act as a cushion for the end of the fishing rod. The towel was wet and that's all there is to it.
It wasn't all just fishing, though. We saw dolphins, which chased our boat and jumped all around. They put on a great show.
On our way back, one of the guides jumped out of the boat to catch a sea turtle. He explained that there are two types: friendly ones and unfriendly ones. He caught a friendly one, which was quite placid. He invited us to jump into the boat so swim with it, so I did. I was glad our friend Anissa had given us her water-proof camera case. The turtle was a bigger version of the one that I had snorkelled with. Neither seemed to mind my presence.
As much fun as I was having - and I really was - the real reason for the journey was for my sister-in-law's wedding. I won't add any pictures of the wedding here, since Chris Beard, the wedding photographer did a much better job of capturing the event than I ever could.
For travelling so far, the bride and groom gave a gift to us. It was a hot day but we went out to a lagoon to see some the birds. There were lots of them and they were large. I was especially interested in the mangrove trees that surrounded the lagoon and how they grew. The lagoon was a neat place and deserved more exploration than we were able to give it - I'm guessing the guide wouldn't have liked it if I had started climbing into the mangroves.
Employing the dying art of the siesta, I had survived the heat and our week in Mexico was at an end. We bid our adieus and climbed into the van for the ride to the airport. This time, the van had seatbelts.
Except for Jade's sippy cup, which oozed with juice when the pressure in the plane changed and except for the strange lemon-flavoured peanuts, the flight to Mexico City was easy and uneventful. Before heading inland, the plane flew along the coast, passing over the place we had just left. Then, it soared above the mountains and deserts and badlands and, eventually into the smog of Mexico City.
We had checked Jade's stroller before getting onto the plane and expected it to be there when we got off. It wasn't, so we had to leave the secure area to retrieve it at the baggage carousel. At first, I was annoyed that we would have to go through security again in the oddly run airport, but after walking around outside, I was glad to have had the chance to see more of the airport.
We had dinner at the airport. I had arrachera steak tacos from a fast food restaurant and it wasn't half bad. We looked in a few of the shops and, eventually, made our way through security. Once again, they didn't know which gate would be ours, so we walked around and killed some time, taking turns accompanying Jade as she rode up and down the accelerated walkways.
They announced our gate and we made our way over. There was a line-up of migrant workers, most of which looked eager to get onto the plane. I was grateful that they let people with small children on first.
Again, the ride was uncomfortable, though not as hot as before. The next time we fly with Jade, she'll be two and we'll need to pay for her seat. I can't say that I'm terribly upset about that.
We spent that night in a hotel in Richmond. The hotel offered a continental breakfast through the adjoining restaurant. According to the restaurant, "continental breakfast" means two slices of toast. According to me, two slices of toast means "appetizer". Annoyed and still hungry, we went to the airport and had breakfast there.
When we got to Whitehorse, our ride was nowhere to be seen, so we took a taxi home. The temperature outside felt...perfect. The pets were happy to see us and we were happy to see them. It was nice to be home. I would only be home for a day, though. I had business to attend to in the NWT and, after that, I was getting our vehicle from Washington State.
It has been a busy month of travel and has helped a little to cure my itchy feet. I learned a lot on our trip to Mexico, but mostly I was reminded that I shouldn't let preconceived notions dictate whether or not I like I place I've never been. After all, it drives me nuts when I have to explain to people who have never been north of 60 that I don't live in a frozen wasteland.
In spite of the heat, I have to admit that I had a great time. For that, I would like to officially thank the bride and groom for making me go. Thank you.