Every day we’ve had on the drive to Playa del Carmen so far has been crazy and today was no exception. The list of our experiences today includes, but is not limited too, 5 Police checkpoints, 1 police shakedown, starting the day at 4 AM due to thinking the alarm had gone off, almost 11 hours in the car and arriving in a city where the streets are all numbered in both directions and semi-trucks fly down streets built in the Spanish Colonial era.
By now seeing State Police, Federal Police and military checkpoints has become old hat to us and they normally just wave us on through but today our luck ran out. Five times today we had to pull over and explain who we were and where we were going while they went through our paperwork. Fortunately no one seems to care that we have a full carload of stuff. Four of the men were formal, but polite, but a municipal police officer (read small town cop) in Champoton hit us with the dreaded “mordidas”. Mordidas means “little bites” and it is slang for a police officer soliciting a bribe, normally from a dumb tourist. This kind of thing happens once in awhile but has become pretty rare in this day and age. Basically the officer trumps up a charge and offers to take care of it if the person is willing to pay a cash fine on the spot rather than spend a lot of time and hassle to “fix” the situation.
In our case the officer said that our paperwork wasn’t in order and that we could either go to the state capitol (hours away) and petition for new paperwork or we could pay a ticket. He then said that he was out of the ticket needed but that we could just pay him and he’d take care of it. We knew he was full of crap but at that point it was worth our time to just pay him the $200 pesos he was extorting rather than argue with him or try and find the police station and report him. We gave him the equivalent of about $15 and were on the road again in less than a minute. I have to reiterate that this is not something that typically happens to anyone but drunk Spring Breakers or people drawing undue attention to themselves. Driving the entire length of Mexico with Kansas Plates and a Trek Hybrid bicycle hanging off the back of your car definitely attracts attention and today we paid.
Other than that little bit of nastiness, today was a great day as a good portion of it was spent driving a few feet from the ocean. The route took us through many small towns where our progress was really impeded but it gave us an opportunity to soak in the scenery and culture and enjoy it. We arrived in Merida a few hours ahead of schedule, not because we made great time, but because I’m an idiot! I dreamed that my alarm went off so I got up, showered and chugged a big Mountain Dew all before I realized that it was only 3:45 a.m. Needless to say, we were on the road early this morning but it turned out well since we were able to watch the sunrise over the ocean with the satisfaction of knowing this is the first of many.
It was another long day but really rather pleasant and it’s great to finally be within striking distance of Playa. When we crossed the border days ago the Aduana agent didn’t know where Playa del Carmen was and now after driving all this time we’re actually seeing it on signs and it’s increasing our excitement. We’re supposed to meet our landlord tomorrow afternoon and the drive should only take us 4-5 hours so tonight we’re finally relaxing and getting some much needed sleep. In the morning we plan to grab some breakfast and finally roll into some familiar territory and a place to call our own.