Topes Y Cenotes, Tulum, Mexico Part 2 - We're there!

We landed in Cancun and breezed through customs.  For some reason, when we were going through customs in Jamaica, I was incredibly nervous, but I was not nervous at all going through Mexican customs, despite the fact that I had to discard a packet of seeds in the ladies restroom that was a favor from the wedding that we had attended the night before.  How ridiculous, right?  What are the odds that I would be given a packet of seeds the day before I go to a foreign country AND I forget to take them out of my purse?  Somewhere in a Mexican dump, there is a packet of Burpee Squash seeds growing...

Anyway, after customs, we collected our luggage.  Once you get your luggage you then go through a security checkpoint where they scan all of your luggage, including your checked bags and carry-ons.  Then, you go through an x-ray machine and at the other end of that you talk to a guy for a minute and then press a big red button.  If the light turns green, you are free to collect your luggage and go.  If the light turns red, then you have to submit your luggage to an inspection.  The inspections are random and so I think that having each person press the big button on their own makes people feel like it really is random, and people who do have to have their baggage inspected feel less specifically targeted.  But we got the green light, so we were off!

We walked into the terminal where the rental car companies were located, and noticed a currency exchange booth right next to them.  The rate that they were exchanging was $10.6 pesos for $1 USD.  I had read that the currency exchange booths in the airport didn't really give the best rate, and that if you wanted the best rate you should use your ATM card to withdraw pesos.  But DH was nervous about using our ATM card in a Mexican machine, and preferred to just exchange cash.  I figured that after the ATM fee it probably ended up evening out anyway.

We weren't mentally prepared to have to consider the rental car and currency exchange at the same time, so we were standing there, debating whether or not to exchange money first.  DH said, "Let's just exchange a little, and then we'll see if we need more later."  "But where will we get more later?" I asked.  I was torn because it really wasn't a very good exchange rate but at the same time, I had no idea where else we would be able to do it, so I said, "Let's just get our car first, ok?"  DH just followed me without arguing, because he's good like that.

So we got the Hertz counter and I pull out my handy dandy folder and we check in.  This is where the language barrier really kicked in. The guy spoke mostly Spanish, and very accented English which was hard to understand. We stumbled our way through the conversation and then he steps out from behind the counter and motions for us to follow him.  We start following and realize that we are leaving the airport terminal.  Oops.  So much for exchanging money, I guess...

So we get into the Hertz van, which takes you to the actual Hertz "store" (is that what you call them?) that is located at the airport.  We check in fairly quickly - what really took time was debating whether or not to purchase the optional insurance coverage.  I was fairly certain that my credit card that I used to pay for this trip would cover rental car insurance if something should happen, but I wasn't sure how that would work since the trip was booked through Orbitz and thus bulk-billed into one big Orbitz charge on my card.  In the end, we decided to decline the insurance altogether, although we were a little worried about what that would mean if something should happen.

We did decide to opt for the pre-paid fuel option, which meant that they filled up our tank, and we didn't have to return it at any certain level.  We probably paid more per liter than we would have at a regular gas station, but we didn't want to have to deal with the hassle of getting gas, since I had read horror stories about gas station attendants ripping off tourists who don't speak Spanish.  It was about $300 pesos to do this option, and we only used about 3/4 of the tank (you don't get your money back even if you don't use it all.)  But in the end it was only about $24 US dollars, so it was well worth it considering that we never had to go to a gas station at all, even considering how much driving we did.

As we were leaving the Hertz station, an Irishman provided us with some maps that were blatant advertisements for XCaret and Xel-Ha - two theme-park like places that we would see heavily advertised throughout our entire trip.  Once he realized that we didn't have children with us, he stopped trying to sell us on them and told us to enjoy our trip.  His final word of advice was to beware of the topes, pronounced TOE PAYS.  It took me a minute or so to understand what he was saying (DH never caught on - he thought the Irishman was saying TOLLS the entire time and when we walked out he was like "What's this about tolls?"), but I finally understood that topes were like speed bumps, located along Highway 307, the road you take to get to Tulum.  He made some marks on the map approximately where they were located, and we were off!

We had the funniest little car.  It was an "Atos by Dodge," which is made by Hyundai.  Seriously.  It had the Hyundai symbol on it, but where it would normally saying "Escort," or "CRV," it said "Atos by Dodge." Who knows.

That's our car! (The light blue one in the middle...)

DH had to be the driver because the car was manual transmission. He was definitely nervous to be driving in Mexico but I had him read up on some tips about driving in Mexico, and I was armed with maps so that I could be a great navigator. I had also done a lot of reading up on the drive to Tulum and knew that it was extremely easy, but since he was literally learning about this trip as we experienced it, he had no idea.*  We could have opted for an automatic transmission but it was more expensive and at the time that I was booking, he was all confident that he would just drive and it wouldn't be a big deal.  In the end, it really wasn't a big deal at all.

The Atos by Dodge by Hyundai - "By Dodge" is written under the Atos

So after circling the airport once (my bad, the map was confusing) we merged onto Highway 307 and we were on our way to Tulum!

 The Mexican highway

Our tiny little car made a funny squealing sound whenever we would first start going - it made it sound like we were peeling away every time we moved.  The little car also shook like crazy once we started going above 100 kilometers per hour, which made it very easy for us to stay within the speed limit.  No speeding tickets for these tourists!

Coming up - find out what topes really are, and how they rocked our world.

* It was his choice to not know anything about the trip before going.  He gave me full decision-making power, and I only asked him for input when it was something that I didn't feel comfortable deciding on, like whether or not to get a car with manual transmission.  I know that this sounds like a fairly one-sided vacation, but trust me, this is how he works.  He also knows that I am an obsessive planner when it comes to vacations, so he knew that I was doing way more research than he ever would about every single thing that he booked and he was confident in my decisions and my knowledge.  I was a travel agent in another life, I am sure of it. Besides, I think it's sort of exciting to go on a vacation that's basically a total surprise to you, right?


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