Driving in Mexico is like investing your money in the stock market and skydiving… at the same time. One mistake and you could be seriously injured and/or take a large financial loss. People often pass vehicles on any side that has an opening, the speed bumps and topes (pronounced TOE-PAYS) will destroy your vehicle if taken too fast, gas station attendants will try to rip you off by not resetting the pump, and of course the infamous corrupt Mexican police that will want you to give them money after pulling you over. It was these reasons that we decided it might be in our best interests if we relied on local transportation to get around.
Our next destination was a small boutique hotel located right next to the famous Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. The initial plan was to take a bus there and back, but after looking at the limited time and distances involved for the return trip, it wasn’t going to work out. We contacted a transportation company and even asked a taxi driver, but those options were too expensive. So, our new plan was to rent a car and drive ourselves there and back. The last time we drove in Mexico (excluding the recent Jeep rental in Cozumel) was during a vacation to Cabo San Lucas in 2006. Cabo has some of the craziest drivers we had ever seen and we came very close to getting into a high-speed accident (not my fault…really) and were nervous about experiencing something like that again. Since arriving in the Yucatan Peninsula we had noticed that the drivers were a bit more relaxed than in Cabo and the police were too busy taking naps to pull anyone over. We could do this.
After 7-nights at the Hacienda Tres Rios we checked out and loaded our bags into a taxi. I had made an online reservation to pick up a rental car in Playa del Carmen and we would return it 3 days later at the Cancun International airport. After arriving at Thrifty Car Rental in downtown Playa del Carmen we filled out the paperwork and piled into a brand new Nissan Tiida. After our rusty Jeep adventure on Cozumel, this was luxury. We made our way through the busy streets of Playa del Carmen and found the highway leading south to Tulum. The other route to get to Chichen Itza was to head north to Cancun and take the toll road, but it cost $280 pesos. It was cheaper and most likely quicker to go through Tulum.
After a nice drive down the highway, and only one police checkpoint, we made it to Tulum. Once in Tulum we turned right onto the highway that heads inland to Chichen Itza. We had taken this route before when we hired the taxi to take us to the Mayan ruins at Coba. At that time we had planned to take the bus for this part of our trip and did not expect to be passing through this area again. But we were also excited at the prospect of finding a hammock and Mexican blanket. Just before Coba is a village of small concrete block houses that line the highway. Many of these houses had hammocks and blankets for sale in their front yards. After passing by several of these we saw one that was on our side of the road and had a nice selection of hammocks and blankets. I stopped and got out of the car to take a look.
“Hola?” I called out, as no one was around.
After looking at the hammocks I noticed that they were of high quality and probably beyond what we were willing to pay. I was about to leave when a gentleman with two small children came out of their house.
I asked him in my limited Spanish, “Cuanto cuesta hammocks?”
Looking at me knowing full well I was not very good at speaking Spanish, he answered in English, “550 pesos.”
I was expecting a 3-digit number and was about to say “No gracias,” but then it occurred to me. He said pesos. 550 pesos is about $45 USD. That’s cheap! We walked over to where the Mexican blankets were hanging on rope creating a wall like appearance around the front yard of their house.
I asked him in English this time, “How much are the blankets?” pointing to a large colorful blanket with a Mayan warrior design.
“280 pesos,” he replied.
That is less than $25 USD and was a lot cheaper than anything we had found in Playa del Carmen. But being in Mexico, I had to haggle on the price. We agreed on 750 pesos for both the blanket and hammock.
We continued on down the highway towards Chichen Itza with smiles on our faces. We had found our Mexican blanket and hammock.