The Cancun Breakdown

My tour of the Cenotes with local guide Gustavo was also my last day in Merida.

I was back to the hotel in plenty of time, so I grabbed my bags and hot-footed it to the bus station. Then I had to again try to collect my ticket using broken Spanish.

First, I couldn’t find the entrance. I’d been dropped off in some car park, but couldn’t find a way in. While wandering aimlessly outside an official came to find out what I was doing and directed me inside.

Even inside, and in the wrong place, he pointed me to the right desk.

The ticket collection went more smoothly than the outward journey, and I boarded my evening bus.

I slept most of the way back to Cancun, dozing in and out of consciousness, while a TV played a Spanish-dubbed Spider-Man: Homecoming. Even in Spanish and with eyes closed I was mostly able to follow the plot.

There was also a dubbed Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. It was hard to follow, and I wonder if it makes sense in English.

The bus eventually arrived…somewhere. It was hard to know. The driver made an announcement, the bus stopped, and most people got out. But not everyone, and not the person in the seat next to me. I was confused where we were, but the bus set off again. About 10 minutes later the bus arrived in Cancun, with me relieved I hadn’t got out too early.

At my hotel, there was confusion with my booking. What the difficulty was, I still don’t know. I feel like perhaps they had me booked in twice, but we eventually gave up trying to understand each other.

They gave me a key, I looked for a lift without success and instead carried my bags up two flights of stairs


The next morning, my transfer picked me up according to plan and dropped me at the airport, easy as that. Things were going well, and I had already checked in for my flight online.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Proudly, I presented my passport at the desk to drop my bags. But there was something wrong.

I tell them where I’m travelling, and the time of my flight. I show my boarding pass. They explain to me the trouble: this is for Friday. Today is Thursday.

Checking my documents, I realise they’re right. I’m due to fly to Mexico City on Friday, and home on Monday.

So what about Thursday? Everything proceeded as scheduled, the trouble was that the schedule had only come together at the last minute when one of my tours wasn’t available and things had got shifted.

Somewhere between the cities and the tours and the time zones and the international date line things got confused, and we all missed an entire day we hadn’t accounted for.

But there I was. Cancun airport, 24 hours early for a flight, and nowhere to stay. I called the Emergency Assistance number for my travel agency and discussed options. I wanted to be adventuring in Mexico City rather than Cancun for 24 hours.

The assistant is looking for alternate flights, and I get disconnected. I tried to make a call with Whatsapp with no more luck.

Using the airport wifi, I shoot them an email and got an instant, automated response. It could be hours before I’d get a reply. Not knowing what else to do, I had a breakdown in Starbucks instead.

I sat with my head in my hands and sobbed because I was far from home, with nowhere to stay, nobody to help me, and didn’t know what to do next.

After a few minutes of this, I pulled myself together. Crying in a coffee shop doesn’t help, I have to put on my big adventurer pants (or tourist in a city airport pants) and just get my shit together.

The fact was I couldn’t change my flight on my own. Even if I could change it, I would be 24 hours early in Mexico City, have nowhere to stay there and nobody expecting to pick me up. The sensible thing would be to book a room for a night in an airport hotel, and come back the next day.


Mexico City here I come
Photo by Adro Rocker on Unsplash

So that’s what I did. The taxi was an absolute rort, charging me 600 pesos plus a tip (over $40 AUD) for a 5-minute journey.

The hotel staff were friendly and helpful on my arrival. I was too early to check in, but they took my bags, told me where I could find the aggressively air-conditioned business centre upstairs, and that I could access my room at 3pm.

All things being equal, it wasn’t how I would have chosen to spend a day, but it was an excellent opportunity to be nowhere and do nothing and just have some downtime.

The next day I got a taxi back to the airport. The driver practically kicks me out at the curb when we arrive. It’s that way he says, pointing to the terminal. He’s not getting any closer, makes no attempt to help me with my bags. I don’t tip him.

This time, I drop my bags off without incident. I’m on my way to Mexico City.

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