Sunday, April 7, 2013

Life is a highway...

So, first things first.  If you are wondering whether you can (or should) take the bus from Cancun to Merida, the answer is that yes, you can (and yes, you should).  There is a wonderful article on Yolisto that does a terrific job of setting out all of the "how to" information, far better than we could here.  I would add that the greeters at the Cancun airport, after customs but before you leave the secure area, could not have been more helpful.  There are several ATMs in this area, but the service fee was a dollar or two higher than we've come to expect.  The ADO ticket desk in this same area is convenient.  The commotion outside of the airport in the bus boarding area is not as intimidating as it sometimes sounds, and the ADO terminal in downtown Cancun is also not intimidating.  After steeling myself for chaos, the whole experience was actually fairly pleasant.

Darren loves a bit of glitz, so we bought tickets on the Platino (uber-luxury) bus.  The bus itself is well appointed, with large seats, leg rests, and in-seat video.  Before you get excited, though, the "current movie" list included such recent films as "Mr. Popper's Penguins" and "Planet of the Apes."

The bus was uncharacteristically quiet for Mexico.  It also seemed a little hearse-like, to me at least, since I was literally the only one to open my curtains.  Because there are even curtains in the front of the cabin (between the passengers and the driver), this can be disconcerting.  Typically when you are driving down a highway, at least you get a glimpse of the road in front of you.  On this bus, you don't.

The ride is smooth, without a hill or even a curve to interrupt it.  There are a couple of toll plazas en route, but no one got off the bus.  I suppose that with bathrooms, tea, and coffee on board, there is no real need to hop down.  As far as I could see from behind the curtains, there were few other cars on the highway.  There is also not much to see!

At the first toll plaza

But it was not smooth sailing all the way.

About 20 km outside of Merida, after the toll road ended, I felt a bump and heard a noise over the music on my Iphone.  The driver drove on for another kilometer or so, but he finally pulled over at a roadside bus stop.  He and another passenger went around to the rear of the bus, and I could tell from his expression when he walked back past my window that he wasn't happy.  He made an announcement in Spanish, and then a group of passengers (including Darren) followed him out.

This is what they saw:

I don't understand much Spanish, but I heard some exclamations that must be common to both Spanish and English.  Everyone else on board pulled out cell phones and started making calls.  After about five minutes, the driver came back on board and made another announcement that was followed by everyone taking their bags and heading for the exit.  We must have looked confused, because a young woman tapped me and explained that another bus had pulled up and that it could take us to the Downtown Merida bus station (CAME) rather than the Fiesta Americana where we were headed.  Or, she said, we could wait.  Since all the locals were leaving, we headed for the door as well.

In reality, it was nothing like a Chicken Bus.

The bus was an ordinary intercity local bus, and although we have described it in retelling this story as the "chicken bus," it was just fine.  The bus made a number of stops going into Merida, but ultimately pulled into the CAME station near San Juan.  We hopped a cab, and were at our destination only 20 minutes later than we had expected!

Being able to negotiate a mechanical breakdown on a luxury bus hardly makes us intrepid travelers.  For anyone unsure about their ability to take the bus from Cancun to Merida, though, it will hopefully prove by example that even with a little hiccup here and there and an utter lack of Spanish, your bus trip across the Yucatan will turn out just fine.

1 comment:

  1. hello, my name is kristen. i have been online looking for 2 friends of mine, emily and ryan (newie). they should be in the merida/yucatan area looking for me too. if you've heard of anything at all or know of someone who meets a lot of people passing through, please drop me a line and let me know...
    anything at all would help.
    thanks so much for your time,