Still On The Dirt

November 10 – 24, 2019


Mexico or BUST

We felt confident, as did most of the locals who WERE certain we’d been screwed by Enrique, that Tikal was probably not a concern.  It was getting to the Mexican border, and then onward to Palenque, that was seriously in doubt.  As for the Palenque to Playa del Carmen connection?  Ha… just getting as far as Palenque was highly unlikely.

A number of other tourist companies had indicated to other people that they had completely discontinued that run.

Ya… ya.  We now knew about Enrique.  Ya…ya.  We shouldn’t have given him money.  Ya… ya.  We had subsequently read all the posted shit.

That morning, as we waited to be picked up outside our hostel , yet another tour operator stopped and asked what we were waiting for.

A transfer to Playa through Palenque?  From the guy with a scar?  Why do you guys keep giving him money?  There’s not gonna be any bus…

Ya… ya.  We’ve heard.

A taxi rolled up and stopped.

That’s your ride.  Good luck.

We got in.  The taxi stopped at the shuttle drop off.  But instead of us getting out, two more passengers got in.  A high strung, nervous Filipino woman we had met the day before; and a backpacker from Spain, who (of course) spoke Spanish fluently.

They had paid to get to Palenque as well.  The high strung, nervous Filipino woman had given her money to a guy with a scar on his face.  People had told her she’d been screwed.  She spoke almost no Spanish and was already arguing with the taxi driver, who spoke almost no English.  The other woman didn’t seem too concerned.

There’s not gonna be any bus…

Apparently, there was no bus… but, there was a taxi.

Across the street, Enrique pulled a handful of bills from the stack in his fist, and handed them to the same taxi driver.

Four passengers paid instead of two… make sure they get to Palenque.  Easier to get them there than refund them all here.  

As we pulled away, the “thumbs up” Enrique gave us was downright creepy.

Eventually, thanks in large part to the Spanish woman, the taxi driver seemed to warm up.  It seemed less and less likely with each passing mile into the isolated countryside that the driver was going to pull over and shoot us.

Twice, the taxi had to stop for military road blocks.  Once, I’m pretty sure I saw a one hundred Quetzal note pass from the driver’s hand into the hand of the guy with the automatic weapon during a handshake.


Four passengers paid instead of two… make sure they get to Palenque.

As morning became afternoon, we arrived at the Mexican border.  The taxi couldn’t cross.  We had to walk across, get our stamps from both the Guatemalan and Mexican authorities, and then wait on the other side of the fence.

Someone will pick you up.  The taxi driver was waiting on the other side of the fence.  In Guatemala.

After an hour, no one had shown shown up.  One driver on the Mexican side of the fence had asked if we already paid for our transport.  When we said yes, he informed us someone else will come.

Still no one.

Eventually, we saw the original taxi driver on the Guatemalan side of the fence.   He was on the phone.

There’s not gonna be any bus…

A short time later, he was passing part of the stack of bills Enrique had given him to another driver on the Mexican side of the fence.

Someone will pick you up.

He signalled that this was the shuttle that would get us to Palenque.  Yes… it was paid for.

Four passengers paid instead of two… make sure they get to Palenque.

We piled into the car.  Four hours later, we were dropped off at the bus station in Palenque.   Inside, we stepped up to the ticket booth.  The woman didn’t speak English at all.

She looked at the “voucher” and smiled.  No… we definitely did not have tickets already reserved in the system.  Yes… it would cost us about one hundred US dollars to buy tickets from Palenque to Playa del Carmen.  No… she probably didn’t know Enrique.

Four passengers paid instead of two… make sure they get to Palenque.  Only two paid for the final connection… and they’ll be in Palenque when they find out the truth.

Paying too much for tickets, that was one thing.  But we had been sold tickets that didn’t actually exist… a whole different level of asshole.

But, hey as far as getting screwed, it could have been a lot more painful screwing.

Enrique is a weasely, dishonest, and unethical fat bag of shit.  Although returning to Flores to confront him could be potentially very satisfying, the Cartel connections (he more than likely has) make that prospect almost certainly a much more foolish venture.

Dumb mistake already made.  Best not to make an even dumber one.

Playa del Carmen

Some reunions can be orchestrated, some are the perfect fortune of unscheduled converging orbits, some are completely random and unforeseen.  Sometimes you get all of the above.

Such was the case for us in Mexico.

A planned reunion with Shannan and Vicki, our oldest and dearest friends from Pullman, who would be in Playa del Carmen for nearly two weeks.

Mostly eating and drinking, with an occasional wander around town or even out to Cozumel for the day.

It is when you get to see the people most dear to you that you can truly appreciate how special those moments really are.

Also, to our delight, three additional people would emerge from our Scuba Junkie past during that same time.

After almost three years, it was incredible to see Nic and Gavin again.  Not only catching up with them over food and lots of drinks; but also a day diving the two ridiculous cenotes, The Pit and Dreamgate.  It’s cool enough to go diving with SJ family, even better that we are returning to Dreamgate, a magical cenote we had the fortune of diving over fifteen years prior.  At that time, it had only been discovered a few months earlier and we were among the first two dozen people that had even been inside.  It was special to be able to share that with two old SJ friends from the other side of the world.

At The Pit, while we were changing over tanks, a woman in the pickup parked next to us recognised Gavin’s Scuba Junkie shirt.  An American who worked for another dive shop on Mabul nearly ten years ago remembered me from the MBR bar… fucking crazy.

And, at Dreamgate, our first tarantula in the wild.  Anyone who knows Kris, knows this was not a highlight of her day.

And later that day another SJ face from the past, a Canadian named Shane along with his girlfriend Sheena, caught up with us for the food and beverage part of the reunion.  The fact that he, too, was in the same location made the statistics seem impossible.

Sometimes the scale of everything seems vast and endless; impossibly unlikely in its particulars.  Other times, it seems like Jerry Falwell or Rod Serling are the only people who can offer plausible answers to impossible realities.

Fucking weird… must be the converging energy vortex.

Oh ya… and more random jams in bars.  This one with a smoking’ blues band one night while wandering in Playa del Carmen.

Have to go through Flores, eh?

Turns out, you pretty much have to pass through Flores in order to get back to the Rio Dulce, whether through Palenque (which we had no desire to pass back through), or Belize City (which might cost us just to cross the border).

Turns out, once you get back to back to Flores, it’s really hard not to walk past Enrique’s tourist office.  Just a matter of principle.  Just to have a chat.

Turns out once he screws you, you pretty much won’t see Enrique if you arrive at the office looking for Enrique.

Maybe… it’s for the better.

Maybe… one of those pivotal moments you never realise.  You don’t realise it because Enrique wasn’t actually there to make everything suddenly turn out potentially very differently… potentially very badly.

Survival… as a rule, a higher priority than revenge or justice.

Maybe… it’s for the better; part of that converging energy vortex.

Less than twenty four hours in Belize

If you’re in Belize for less than twenty four hours… you only pay US$32.50 instead of $40 to clear out… sweet?  Ok.  Fuck… really?  What’s it gonna take to get back to Exit?

At least we scored on two litres of coveted Belize One Barrel Rum during our stopover at the Belize City bus station… yes!

It was literally off the bus at the Mexico/Belize border, walk across the border after clearing past authorities on either side, then back on the bus.  Off the bus again at Belize City to purchase a ticket onward directly to Rio Dulce, wait four hours at the bus station (during which I had a wander into the nearby market and secured the two bottles of One Barrel), then back on a bus to the Belize/Guatemala border… less than twelve hours total inside Belize and a savings of fifteen dollars with Immigration.

Back to the Rio Dulce

A lot of shit needed to be done aboard Exit.  Nothing that required a haul-out;  but a handful of things that would certainly be easier with marina access.

Plus we definitely could use the free water.  We had filled tanks using the watermaker once since entering the Rio Dulce, but had heard mixed advice and were trying to avoid it, if possible.


  • Re-galvanise Rocna anchor
  • Replace Perkins oil and filter
  • Replace Racor and Perkins fuel filters
  • Replace the fuel hoses we had made in Roatan
  • Clean and waterproof dodger cover
  • Clean and waterproof bimini
  • Clean and oil interior wood
  • Sort out dinghy chaps
  • Sort out deck sun shades
  • Sort out bimini side sun shades
  • Replace the propane hose we had made in Roatan
  • Refill the near empty propane tank
  • Add spray insulation around fridge and freezer shells
  • Update our Navionics software (and set up our new iPad)
  • Fill the water and fuel tanks

A serious list.  Certainly not everything.  But an admirable dent for one stop.  Everything but the Sunbrella work and the anchor re-galvanising we were able to do ourselves.

We were ecstatic with our dinghy chaps and deck sun shades (which included an outboard cover), made by a local canvas guy named Nery.  His work was top quality, and he had everything done by the time we had returned.

But we were ready to cast Exit’s lines off the dock pilings and get back at anchor, damnit!

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving Day in a marina… ewww.

Yes.  The food was fabulous.

Yes.  Both the hospitality and kindness were limitless.

Yes.  The mean age of those in the marina had to be in the seventies.

Yes.  We were uber-thankful to be getting back at anchor in two days.

We had promised the marina managers we’d be out of the slip by the end of the month.  There were still a handful of things on the to-do short list, but they could wait days or weeks, and certainly didn’t require being tied up at a marina.

The three-country-road-trip was well worth all the effort.  However, neither of us could deny, we were both eagerly anticipating the chance to let Exit, once again, swing with the wind at the end of her anchor chain…

…where she belongs.  That, or underway.

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