Last Stop……Playa del Carmen
Days 349-353 (July 12-16, 2017):
Adam, Snyder, and I left Oaxaca early the next morning to return to Mexico City. We were flying out that evening to the beachside paradise of Playa del Carmen. We returned the car to the airport with time to kill. So, we decided to take one last venture out into the city to try some more amazing traditional Mexican cuisine. We decided to visit a spot not too far from the airport called El Pescadito Condesa. They were known throughout the city as one of the best places to enjoy fish tacos. We arrived before the lunch crowd, easily snagging a seat at a small folding table on the sidewalk. The whole restaurant was open, making it a lovely place to enjoy the warm weather. We each started out with one fish taco (taco de pescado) and one shrimp taco (taco de camarón). Generous portions of both were fried to perfection in a delicious batter and served on authentic corn tortillas. We took the tacos over to their toppings bar where we finished them off with fresh cabbage, pickled onions, and a large variety of both red and green salsas. This was literally my heaven. We each got two more, after finishing the first pair, and washed them down with a couple rounds of cheap beer. The crowds got larger as lunch arrived and soon there were no tables left in the place. We sat at our table soaking in the last bits of authentic Mexico before heading back to the airport with full bellies.
When we touched down in Cancun, we collected our things and set out in search of transport to Playa del Carmen, about a 45-minute ride down the coast. We had initially ordered an Uber to take us there and went outside to catch it. However, the taxi drivers in Cancun are a vicious and aggressive sort who quickly pegged us as waiting for an Uber and intimidated our driver into cancelling the fair and fleeing the airport. After scaring off our ride, the drivers tried to force us into the taxis of their choosing (at slightly elevated prices). We did not feel comfortable with the entire process or the drivers. So, we headed back into the airport and booked three seats on a bus to Playa del Carmen. We got off the bus on the far side of the main drag. We walked through the bustling downtown area, passing bright lights, loud music, well-dressed tourists and locals peddling free drinks before we reached our hostel. We had signed up for a tour the next morning to Chichen Itza, another Mayan pyramid ruin. Adam and I decided not to go and instead to try and find someone to take a look at my shoulder, which was still causing me trouble (although at this point I still had no idea why). So, we settled everything with the front desk and headed out to find some food. We stopped at a place on the main drag that was playing live music. We split some nachos and tacos, but the quality was not what we had gotten elsewhere in Mexico. After a couple hours, we headed back to the hostel to get some sleep.
The next morning, Snyder left early for his tour, and Adam and I slept in a bit. When we did get up, we headed out to the hospital, which was recommended online and began our wait. The whole experience was probably expectedly disappointing. When I did get in to see a doctor, they were less than impressed with my problem, told me to take an anti-inflammatory and told me to go home. I figured as much would happen given that there is only one MRI machine even close to Cancun, which is likely what would be needed to see what the problem was, but oh well. Adam and I made our way back to town, stopping to get a few beers and wait for Snyder. When he arrived back from the tour, he told us about how awesome it was. He loved the pyramid and he also loved the cenote that they got to swim in. It sounded amazing and he got to meet some cool people. As our last night together, we decided we were going to party hard. We started with a couple of drinks at the hostel bar, as the first round was free. Then, we grabbed some food at a place down the main street. We made our way to a bar on the beach that was playing live music. We hung out there, enjoying the views and downing a few more drinks, talking about the highlights of our adventures together. Eventually we left, and ended up at a club near the beach that was offering free shots upon arrival. We downed several more rounds while we were there and had a blast dancing. The club played a lot of old hip-hop dance music from my high school days and we tore up the dance floor and downed beers until we were three sheets to the wind. When we finally left that club, we made our way up to a more chill open-sir bar with a vintage vibe and decently priced cocktails. Unfortunately, we only got a round (or two?) there before they closed. We moved a little farther up the street to a place I honestly have only vague memories of being at. Adam and I were hungry at this point and since we had seen a little pizza joint around the corner, we decided to check it out. Snyder did not want to join us, and stayed at the bar. Adam and I each got one slice and then a second and ate them sitting on the curb not far from the pizza place. Afterwards, Adam and I returned to the bar. Snyder was nowhere in sight. We searched around for a bit, unable to find him and then decided it was probably best to go back to the hostel room and wait for him there. We got back and promptly passed out.
The next morning, when we awoke, we were delighted to find Snyder passed out in the bed next to us. We looked at the clock and quickly shook him awake. He had a flight home to catch back in Cancun, and time was of the essence. We quickly discovered he was missing his phone and all of his cash. We searched the room, but alas, none of it had not made it back to the hostel. Having no more time to search for it without him missing his flight, and since he had already missed the bus back to Cancun, we quickly found a taxi and paid the fare to get him to the airport. We hugged him goodbye, thanked him coming and having such an amazing time with us, and promised to look for his phone that day. Then, we went back to sleep for another couple of hours. When we woke up again, we packed our things and checked out of the hostel. We had arranged to stay at a nice hotel a few blocks away. We found it, checked into our rooms, and wandered out in search of food. We ended up eating at this small quesadilla place around the corner. The food was great and super cheap. We walked into town, doing a little shopping as we went. Snyder had left us the incorrect login information to his apple account, so we could not locate it, and instead were forced to wait until he made it back to our friend’s house in Chicago. The phone, it turned out, had been stolen, and the thief text us trying to get us to give them the login information for the phone. When we refused, they became angry and said they wouldn’t give it back to us. So, as this back and forth continued, we walked the entire main drag, down to the Portal Maya archway sculpture by Branimir Minkov. As we walked back, we stopped at a place called Fat Tuesdays and split a giant frozen drink. We sat and people watched, making up stories about the people who wandered by, laughing as they got more and more ridiculous. Around dinner time, we made our way to a restaurant on the beach where we sampled cocktails and stuffed ourselves with delicious-albeit not super authentic Mexican food. We decided to turn in early after our craziness the night before, and enjoyed the squishy feel of our clean hotel bed (a luxury we did not have often the past year).
Our final day in Playa, we started with a delicious breakfast on the patio out front of our hotel. I had an omelet and Adam opted for the pancakes and fruit. We changed into our bathing suits and made our way down to the water, determined to spend a significant portion of the day on the beach. We lounged around on the bright white sand and cooled off I the crystal clear Carribean water. Adam was surprised at how bright blue the water was here. After a few hours, and a bit of sunburn, we walked back towards our hotel. We stopped for lunch at a place called La Perla known for their chilaquiles and pulque. The food was incredible, with the right amount of heat and terrific flavor. We were also very happy with the pulque. We had been told by people in Mexico City that we must try pulque while in Mexico, but until today we had not done so. It was a unique, milk-colored alcohol, made by fermenting the sap of certain types of agave plants. It is typically mixed with other fruit flavors in cocktails. I opted for the orange and vanilla pulque recommended by the waiter and Adam got some other tropical flavor I cannot remember. Now with full bellies, we returned to the hotel. I went for a dip in the pool, which consequentially gave me a bit of a rash, and then we laid down for a nap before dinner. We decided that dinner was going to be a special night out. It was our last big meal while on our whirlwind tour around the world, and we were going to treat ourselves. Leaving the hotel, all dressed up, we headed for a Brazilian Steakhouse called Bovino’s Churrascaria. We spent the evening stuffing ourselves on delicious spit-fired meats and their enormous salad bar, sharing our favorite memories from an amazing year. We finished bottle of wine and headed down the road to a modern-looking bar on the beach. We got a comfy chair near the sand, facing the water and ordered a couple more cocktails. The bar had a musician playing acoustic versions of old rock songs, and Adam and I lounged there, singing along enthusiastically. We ended the night and our trip with a shot of whiskey to all who helped and motivated us to take a chance on such an epic adventure.