Hola Mexico, Hola Yucatan! Chris and I had been to Mexico City and toured the Mexican backbone and Pacific coast a few years before Jerome was born. We had always wanted to go back and explore more of this beautiful country. We chose a visit over the late October UK half term as an ideal time to visit. In late October there is still a small risk of hurricanes, but the weather in October is also normally still nice and warm, plus it is not a busy tourist time of year. We booked 10 days in total for our stay. For our first stop the target was Valladolid, followed by a few nights in Merida and then at the end some days near the beach in Playa del Carmen.
We flew into Cancun airport and on approach could see the turquoise sea of the Caribbean just off the beaches of the peninsular. We had hand luggage only and were quickly out into the mayhem of the arrivals area after the usual queues at immigration.
We looked for an ATM as we had not exchanged any money into pesos and needed some to pay for the tolls on the Routa Cuota, but there was none to be found anywhere in the arrival lounge of our terminal (we later found the ATM’s were in the departure lounge). We avoided the queue at the bureau de change assuming we would find one outside or near the terminal.
Outside we soon enough found our car hire agent who called the transfer bus for us. After a ten minutes drive we arrived at the American Car Rental, they took down all the needed details for our car hire and soon enough we had our car to drive off to Valladolid. Beware that Mexican car rentals will demand a huge deposit on your card if you do not take their extra insurance or have other insurance. This should not be a problem but make sure you check details before travelling to avoid surprises.
There was still the problem with us not having any cash for the tolls, but I had asked the car hire agent and he assured me, in Spanish, that the toll could be paid with credit card. He had also told us about an ATM close by but we were not able to locate it or any others. We drove off, and shortly found ourselves on the Routa Cuota, the toll road across the Yucatan.
For miles we did not meet any other cars, and we only overtook a few trucks, some of them were long road trains, that drove rather fast. No one really seemed to pay attention to the speed limit and we only saw one police car on the way, so we made better progress than anticipated.
The sun started to set behind the jungle of low grown trees and shrubs, but there was not much else to see apart from a stray dog. It almost felt like we were completely away from civilization, we could not even see the other carriageway of the motorway. No petrol stations, no services and certainly no ATM’s!
After about an hours drive we reached the main toll gate in the middle of the toll road. Here we were in for a surprise as the guard told us that we would not be able to pay the 485 pesos with our credit card. We are still not sure if this is never or just their machine was broken that day. They asked us if we had any dollars, which we did not either. Luckily we had some Euros, which the guard told we would hopefully be able to change into pesos. He was friendly but would not take the money himself. Thankfully he asked the driver of the next car that arrived, and a friendly Mexican was very helpful and changed our 20€ into pesos for a big tip. Now we had just enough to pay the toll fee and could drive on to Valladolid. Stressful, but a story with a moral for other travellers.
Once off the motorway we were grateful to have our portable wifi with us and were therefore able to easily find our way to Hotel Zentik Project, which was set in the outskirts of the town.
Hotel Zentik Project is an ecological boutique hotel, set in lush green gardens, with a pool and an underground cave filled with thermal water. Different artists have painted colourful murals on walls throughout the hotel. Please notice that even though we were staying with Jerome at the Hotel Zentik Project they no longer usually allow children under the age of 15 years. We only found out this fact when we got there to check in. Thankfully the reception staff were very understanding, and said that they had only recently reluctantly introduced this policy due to some issues in the previous months where things were damaged.
We luckily were allocated one of the rooms on the first floor of the authentic huts with their traditional thatched roof and a balcony right outside our door. By now the sun had set and we were beginning to feel rather tired and hungry, our body clock telling us that is was way past midnight back home on the other side of the ocean.
The hotel’s restaurant had a small, but excellent, menu with different Mexican foods. We ordered a ceviche and selection of local Yucatan tacos, the dishes were delicious and just what we needed before heading to bed.