Our first trip to Mérida, Part 2

The interior of the Yucatan fades to almost complete black after the sun has set. Driving along the main highway connecting Cancun to Mérida, thanks to delays at the airport and car rental, we didn't have a lot of sunlight to work with.

As the sun was going down we would occasionally see a man with a cart, usually attached in some fashion to a bicycle or motorized bicycle, loaded with freshly gathered wood. A lot of the houses around here are still fueled by wood. Wood cooking, wood heat (do you need heat?)

With my nerves frayed and my anxiety at peak levels we drove into the dark, barreling straight ahead into a David Lynch film.

At some point we had stopped talking and sat in silence. Not out of anger, we both were just spinning the wheels of our minds about what was going to happen. Will anyone be at the house when we arrive? Should we have stayed in Cancun? Was this a giant, poorly planned, mistake of a trip?

After what seemed like an eternity in self reflection, we were close enough to Mérida that we could see the glow in the night sky. According to my phone's GPS we were quickly approaching our turn-off to the town of Ticopó. It was very dark, was this actually a town? I'm used to seeing more lights in a town, even a small town.

My hesitation was quickly compounded by my lack of understanding as to how this turn-off thing worked, and I missed it.

For your consideration. To turn left from the main highway onto a crossing road, you do not simply get into a left turn lane and then turn left onto the road. You must drive past the road you want to turn onto, get into a left turn lane, and then turn into a curving ribbon of road that flings you around and follows along an apron until you get back to the road you intended to turn onto. Which, you then accomplish by turning right. Basically, you're performing a long and wide U-turn.

This may be a superior system of ejecting yourself from a highway, but in almost pitch black and all anxiety-d out I was less than prepared.

Here's a Google Maps view to better illustrate the situation. Now imagine it's incredibly dark and this is your first encounter with such a concept.

We continued along westbound until I found the next one of these strange turnarounds and I whipped us about, nearly careening us off the road in the process. I'm fairly certain two wheels were hanging over the ditch.

I drove slowly back, trying to find our turn again, determined not to miss it this time.

"Is this it?" I asked.

Angie wasn't sure, but we took the turn anyways. It was dark in the northern part of the town. Everyone seemed asleep. Do people go to bed early in the Yucatan?

Down the road a short distance and around a small bend was the answer to my question. No, they did not. The small square near the center of town was lit up and bustling with activity.

We drove slowly over the tope, Mexican speed-bumps, eliciting a few stares from some of the children sitting nearby eating their candy as we passed.

Back into darkness on a narrow road. We were getting closer now. On we drove through Canicab and further south in the dark.

According to the GPS we were very close. Into another small village and we were almost there.

"It should be here up on the left," I told Angie as I drove slowly, but the trees and the inky blackness of the night made it difficult to tell where exactly the road was to drive in to get at the little dot.

We were going to be staying at Casa Sisal, which is a part of Hacienda Sac Chich. According to the GPS, it was just to the left of us in the thick trees. There was a private drive with a large gate. I pulled up to it, but then backed out, because it just didn't seem right. A little too imposing and dark.

There was another dark private drive to the south of that, but I didn't pull in because it wasn't marked. So I drove on by. There was nothing else along the road and the GPS told us we were past it. So I turned around and went back. And slowly passed both drives again. Still unsure if blindly driving down possibly the wrong private Mexican drive in the dark was a wise move. I've seen movies!

I turned around yet again and pulled off the side of the road near a patchwork concrete basketball court in the little town. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know where to go. I had assumed that the person who was supposed to meet us had obviously left and we were stuck in the jungle with no place to stay for the night. What do we do now?

Everything really is falling apart it seems.

Angie encourages me to drive by slowly one more time.

The first gated drive seems unwelcoming and certainly can't be right. As we approached the second drive, Angie saw two women walking out to the road and flagging us down.

"Casa Sisal?" she asked.

"Si, si!" and they motioned us down the dark drive and closed the gate behind us. As we slowly drove closer we saw Hacienda Sac Chich lit up in front of us. One of the women motioned for us to take the small road to the right, which we followed to its end. We were finally here! Casa Sisal.

The measure of relief that we both had at that point was immense. We both felt like the elephant who had been standing on our chests had finally stepped off.

We were grateful to the ladies for having stayed so late to let us in. Whether they understood our gratitude I'm not sure, as they gave us a quick and friendly tour, fairly heavy in Spanish, and took their leave.

I didn't get to see any of the Super Bowl that year, but it didn't matter, it was a blowout anyway.

We turned the lights off and watched the fireflies, twinkling like stars fallen from the heavens, in the grass of the drying field that surrounds Casa Sisal and we exhaled.

Fireflies twinkle in the grass in front of Casa Sisal.

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