After a more or less sleepless night in the jungle, we had been looking forward to getting rid of our hiking boots and enjoying some city life in Campeche. Campeche is the capital of Campeche state and was declared world heritage site in 1997. (By the way, Campeche’s original name Ah-Kin-Pech means “place of snakes and ticks” – doesn’t that sound awfully inviting?)
Our drive to Campeche, though, proved to be full of hurdles. Like before, we got stopped at each and every police and military checkpoint. Finally, we were about an hour away from our destination when we entered a roundabout. Straight on, there was a waving policeman standing, however, we needed to turn left. Upon entering the street, we got stopped by a second policeman. He checked our license, registration card and told Mr. R. to get out of the car. Apparently, we had done something wrong. You might remember how I was raving about freestyle Mexican driving but my enthusiasm turned out as a little premature. The policeman, let’s call him Paco, pointed out Mr. R. hadn’t used the indicators.
Although sometimes Mr. R. tends to drive like 007, he almost always indicates, a fact that Paco couldn’t possibly know. He took all the papers and told us we couldn’t drive on, instead they would keep the car until we had gone to the nearest police station to pay a fine, and we would get the car back tomorrow. Mr. R. insisted we needed to get to Campeche where our hotel room was waiting, but Paco kept repeating: “Today you will go nowhere, Sir.” At that point, I would have waved with some peso notes, but Mr. R. didn’t give up. He claimed he had indicated and that I was his witness. Paco started thinking. Then we had to show him that our indicators worked. He thought some more and said, well… MAYBE he didn’t see it because of the sunlight.
Looked like we could have continued on our journey? No, Paco still wasn’t happy. Probably he had to buy his wife a birthday gift or something and was a little short on cash. He took our registraton card and claimed it wasn’t a valid formate. Huh? Mr. R. then pointed out that if the state of Quintana Roo didn’t use the right formate, it wouldn’t be his fault, would it? Paco sighed, shook my husband’s hand and handed him the papers, whereupon Mr. R. gave him a pat on the back. It almost seemed like the tender beginning of a beautiful friendship. But then we drove on and left Paco behind.
And while we were still laughing about how ridiculous this whole incident had been, we entered the next checkpoint. To our relief, they didn’t find anything wrong with our papers or their formates this time. The rest of our trip, it became my husband’s obsession to analyze the faulty vehicles we passed, and almost every car had something that was off: lack of an outside mirror (or 2), no license plates, 25 passengers too many, a sooting exhaust pipe, cracked or missing windows, flat tires… Not to mention all the families that all squeeze onto one motorcycle – without wearing helmets, of course. Well, at least that little incident kept us entertained until we reached the city of Campeche.
We checked into a beautiful colonial style hotel in the old town and were eager to explore the city. That is until we entered the room. Once I saw the room, I felt like never leaving again, it was stunning. Maybe even more so after our experience of the previous night. But forget about the room, I could have LIVED in that bathroom. Anyway, never mind, we wanted to go for a city tour. When we went outside, it was like walking into an oven, but luckily, the plaza where the city tour busses leave, wasn’t far from the hotel. To our disappointment, though, there were no city tours between 12 and 5pm.
Instead, we went for a walk. So we walked down one pretty, colourful street and found out that all shops and restaurants were closed until 6pm. Then we walked down another pretty, colourful street, and then another. One street looked like the other – beautiful, but if you’d seen one street, you’d seen them all. We decided that there had to be more, probably on the outside of the old town.
The tiny picturesque old town of Campeche is surrounded by an old city wall, and we paid a little fee to go up and enjoy the view of the city. Maybe then we would discover where we had to go. Well,… There was really nothing to see. What amused us was the fact that we saw many colourful housefronts – with nothing behind. It was like a theatre backdrop, very bizarre! Sweaty and exhausted from 97 degrees (36 Celsius), we returned to our cool hotel room and hung out until 5pm to then finally take that sightseeing tour. However, the friendly lady at the ticket counter informed us that today there was a big event in Campeche that all busses were needed for. But the next morning, they would start again at 9am.
A little disappointed, we went to the waterfront (Campeche is by the Gulf of Mexico), watched the sunset and went for a little walk. And then we saw the event that the lady had referred to earlier: Hundreds of people were marching into the town square, all wearing Mexican costumes, a band was playing, and all those people started performing a dance. It was beautiful to watch! Well, maybe not the dancing, but all the costumes, the cheering crowd, and all the happy faces put us into a very festive mood.
We found a charming little restaurant serving Italian and Mexican cuisine and a little chocolaterie where we had the best chocolate cake ever, and decided that Campeche was worth a visit for half a day – preferably after dark.
When on the next morning we were informed that the next city tour would leave at 12pm only – in the unlikely case of 5 or more passengers showing up until then – we packed our bags and drove back to Playa del Carmen.
By the way, once we had passed the border to Quintana Roo, we never got stopped by the police once.