Sunday, December 26, 2010

Surviving the Ferry of Death in Mexico


Having visited Chichen Itza  at the previous port of call my owner continued on the "march of the history nerds" (as a fellow traveler called it) by signing up for the excursion to Tulum.  Cozumel is an island so it's necessary to travel to the mainland via ferry, a ride that takes about 45 minutes.
Okay 45 minutes, a cast iron stomach, and the ability to keep at bay in one's mind every headline you've ever seen about how many people die when a ferry capsizes.

It was a beautiful sunny day and the water was a magical azure blue. MO found her group, had a sticker stuck on her (the "tourists are like kindergarteners" theme continued), boarded the ferry, and found a place to sit. She had made a narrow escape of being stuck with the single  friend of a couple she'd met at breakfast, as a companion for the day. After a couple of minutes of hearing about the woman's cat (Why do single fifty-something women never figure out the cat thing?) MO opted for a change of seating due to "the sun."

She ended up next to an amusing couple from Georgia, a high school principal and his highly entertaining wife who had led an interesting life growing up in the Virgin Islands without shoes. They both had something MO highly values in others...a snarky sense of humor. Does she detect sarcasm? You can be friends!

The ferry pulled away from the dock and the color of the water was intoxicating. It passed the ship and headed toward the mainland. It began to rock a bit. My Owner hardly noticed, so engaged was she in conversation with her new seatmates. It tilted a bit to one side...then to the other.  Again...people began screaming and upon the next heave a word came into MO's mind.


As in a ship, to one side. 

She was enthralled by the conversation however, and continued laughing as the ferry rocked back and forth violently. From the corner of her eye she noticed the crew had wedged themselves in various corners and were holding on tightly. Their expressions were resolute but without worry. MO held on too but managed to keep up her end of the conversation over the sound of people screaming and children crying. Then, the first person threw up.

A view that is alternately ALL sky, then ALL water, while waves crash over the TOP of a 3 story structure has that effect on some people. Fortunately MO does not get seasick, and so she continued to crack jokes and make discoveries about her new friends while her hands turned white from holding on and she put the thoughts of sudden and certain death out of her mind, though another word popped into it...


Now two lines of thought were going on simultaneously in MO's mind.

1.) The chatty bit of small talk she was engaged in with this woman about her childhood.

2.) Calculated risk... this ferry is safe or they wouldn't be using it for tourists (I'm going to die in a third world country). The crew doesn't look concerned (they've resigned themselves to an early death). I feel so sorry for those who are sick (the smell of vomit..ignore it...ignore it...).

MO's theory of how to deal with this situation is one she uses often in life which is, trying to keep your bearings and trying to behave in a highly unusual situation as you do in others isn't very beneficial. Sometimes when you don't have control you just have to go with it. (Hey, I never said she was deep.)

Finally the rocking calmed, land was in sight. MO loosened her grip on the backs of the seat in front of her and the one she was sitting on (she had braced herself this way to move along with the ship instead of fighting it). Her hands ached. The ferry pulled up to the pier and everyone stepped off, some laughing, some not so perky, but all relieved.

As MO stood on the motionless dock, she felt sick.


The ferry docks at the beautiful resort town of Playa del Carmen which is quite beautiful and she thought she might like to return there sometime. They met their tour guide for the day and boarded a bus for the lengthy ride to Tulum as MO remembered the Dramamine she had hidden in her bag.
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