Monday, September 22, 2008

Escape from Puerto Vallarta

After an afternoon of hiliarious pool aquatics (if only we had a waterproof camera to capture the magic), mediocre street food, testing out the quality vendedore merchanise (Nic in Prada) and an evening stroll along Puerto Vallarta's malecon (or waterfront street), we headed back to the hotel. As if knowing it was their last day in paradise, angry travel gods hurled an impressive and hair-raising display of thunder and lightning down the jungle mounts. The next morning, Jen and Eric were well on their way home, our plan was to take a cab to the airport and haggle with bevy car rental agents on a 4x4 for the next leg of the trip, ambiguously called the “Mexican road trip” subject to routine downsizing. The night before we were laughingly compared to a European visitor Eric had once known who had flippantly rattled off a driving itinerary that included driving to Las Vegas from Seattle then hopping over to Los Angeles, then back to Seattle, all in one week. Despite our public transportation independence, we’d definitely under-estimated the time it would take to get anywhere and to give us more than 12 hours of surfing in south Mexico, we tossed aside glamorous Oaxaca and the tequila fields of Guadalajara, our only intent was to reach the next good surf town.

We got as far as taking a cab to the airport before things started to go awry…or merely get more adventurous! Spanish small talk leads to our driver swerving off the road to drive through a dilapidated gate to an even more dilapidated and dark rental car agency building where his friend works. Supposedly his friend can give us a good deal, much better than the airport we’re told. Two hours later we’re rattling down the road in an oversized white Jeep with bad gas mileage, flimsy plastic windows with a flickering “check the engine” light that we’re assured is ok. 10 or so hours of driving in remote areas ahead of us, Nic’s the first to point out the obvious that this is never going to work. He pulls our first Mexican U-Turn from the far right hand side of the road. (Mexican Driving Tip: there is no such thing as a left hand turn lane or suicide middle lane. The inner lanes of highways are reserved for non-stop traffic only. Any turns or turn-arounds are made by exiting to one of the far right lanes, waiting, and then turning left).

It took some searching to find the literal whole-in-the-wall we’d rented the car from. But we did return the Jeep to a disappointed but understanding man. Credit card slips in my hand, we march out to catch a cab to the airport and back to our original plan. We divide and conquer the rental agencies at the airport, settling on the third inquiry (who likely overheard the prices we declined at other places) and got us into a trusty, comfortable 4x4 for a couple hundred less than the other guy. We agree that we’ve learned an important lesson today: don’t succumb to pressure to purchase something you don’t really want.

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