Sweat poured down my face as I dragged my heavy black suitcase through the streets of Cancun. I had just arrived in Mexico the night prior, and already the humidity felt more than I could bear. On this day, with just a single night at a dingy little hotel under my belt, I opted to make way for Valladolid. I was looking for somewhere a little less touristy and a little more Mexico. I thought leaving the coast for a quaint colonial town would be a reprieve; not only from the humidity but from a city that seemed intent on turning my wallet bare.
I was half right.
After twenty minutes of walking, sparse droplets of rain soaking into my clothes as I stepped, I reached the bus station on Calle Pino. I scanned the large room for the ticket desk and, as I approached, heard the rain come down. A drizzle at first, and then more. I quickly purchased my ticket and then found a seat far away from the building’s open-concept entrance.
Watching the scene unfold, it was no time at all before water swelled in the streets with nowhere to go. Tourists trudged into the bus station drenched from head to toe. The water climbed high, sloshing against the underbelly of every taxi waiting nearby.
I texted my friend who was to meet me in Playa del Carmen a few days later, “Don’t forget an umbrella.“
As I sat alone in the bus station, I calmly watched the rain. All around me, fellow travelers purchased sandwiches and water from the concession stand, armed guards stood sternly near the ATM’s, and young families attempted to keep themselves together before their bus was called for boarding. I breathed deeply, taking in the fresh air that only a good rain can bring, and felt ready to experience the month of Mexico ahead of me.
Just then, my Valladolid bus was called and, with a clear mind, I was off on my adventure.
They warned me about traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula in the rainy season; bloggers, family members, friends. The days would be hot and sticky, torrential rainstorms would happen often and, oh yeah, it was hurricane season too. But I braved on, never one to turn down adventure in the face of weather.
Not to mention, the time to travel was right. And so, with a slight air of pomp, I heeded all warnings and proceeded with my plan.
I arrived in Valladolid at around 2:30 in the afternoon, and it was exactly as I thought it would be; a quaint colonial town. The prices suited my budget, the buildings were bright and colorful, and I found it surprisingly easy to get around with only a few licks of Spanish on my tongue. Plus, the locals never failed to anticipate my needs — helping me get off the local bus at the correct stop, pointing out what was the best on the menu, and quietly sitting with me on park benches when they noticed I was alone.
Valladolid was my kind of place.
I took my time in Valladolid, slowly wandering the cracked streets with my camera in hand. I was there with no real agenda but to take it in, planning a day at a time. Yet, just as it was in Cancun, the humidity was everpresent. In no time at all of being outside, my clothes would become damp and even my forearms would break out in a sweat.
But there was always a reprieve. Of course, it would always be just as I got out of my hotel’s general radius that I heard the first cracks of thunder overhead. The sky would inevitably grow dark, and the first raindrops would come down as I wondered where the nearest shelter was, knowing my umbrella didn’t stand a chance. As I fast-walked to the nearest park, I felt the sprinkle turn into a fountain, and I hid under a tree to wait it out.
During those Valladolid rains, it seemed every tree had a person underneath. The trees would hold off the water just enough for its inhabitants to feel like maybe it was a better place to be than completely exposed on the street, but not enough to keep them at all dry.
But the water brought a welcomed coolness to an otherwise stifling hot day. Refreshing, rejuvenating.
Later, once my friend and I settled into our villa in Playa del Carmen, I would sit under my little blue backyard patio umbrella and watch the rain pour down. Geckoes would scurry around as the first few drops came, and then disappear entirely as the rain became so deafening I wondered if it was a good idea to be outside.
I spent a month swimming in the sticky sweat and pouring rains of the Mayan Riviera. It was a month that started out sweet and full of adventure, yet who’s days quickly became longer, it’s contents darker. For everything I loved about Mexico, there would be an antithesis. No matter where we turned, there was a black shadow bearing down from overhead. This made the trip not what I thought what it would be but, in the end, something I could learn from.
I couldn’t have predicted the events of my month in Playa del Carmen but, like a faithful dog, the rains would always come. And when they did, I’d close my eyes and the deafening sound would wash everything else away.
The rains followed us to Tulum. They followed us to Cozumel. They followed us to Coba.
After a few weeks in Mexico, I once again found myself alone; exploring the city in a personal way as only a solo traveler can. At this point, my days in Mexico were quickly coming to an end, and yet I felt that, due to all the trials and tribulations of the month, I hadn’t done the town justice. My photos of Playa were scarce, and I never really had a chance to experience it unfettered.
So, as I did most days in Playa, I hailed a taxi from my neighborhood in Residential Marsella to 5th avenue, the main tourist stretch.
“Estacion de autobuses, por favor. Quanto questa?”
Camera in hand, I walked the streets of Playa del Carmen — quiet on the sidestreets, and hectic every time I turned back towards 5th. The sellers were peddling all kinds of goods, from cheap to overpriced liquors, carvings, jewelry, hats, trinkets, and more. The selection was astounding and beautiful but always eluded me due to the uncomfortable sales pitches.
As I took photos on this day, the yells and demands from salesmen on the street became unbearable. On 5th, the shouts were always obnoxious, but being alone made it even louder. It was my very last day in Playa del Carmen, and although I would have loved to escape the madness of the tourist strip, I knew I had to be there to close off my time in Mexico.
5th Avenue in Playa is the city’s most famous street. It’s where you can sip $1 homebrew shots, pet a lion (although I’d never condone this), and go high-end shopping all in the same stretch. It’s a unique area and, having taken no photos of it, I wanted to capture it to the best of my ability. I got a few good shots, and then just when I thought I wouldn’t take one more person yelling “Can I get you something? Mexican boyfriend?” the familiar thunder boomed overhead.
As it always did, the rain started out as a patter, and then quickly grew to a roar. Within no time, the streets cleared out, and the goods became hidden under thick sheets of plastic. Like everyone else, I soon dove into a nearby shop, somehow completely left alone as I did so. For the next while, I wandered the aisles, checking out all the interesting things I hadn’t before. I felt secure and cozy.
After I bought a few souvenirs, I left the shop and hailed a taxi, walking through inches of water just to get to the car. After negotiating the price, we began the 20-minute drive back to my little villa in Marsella. We skirted the major streets, as they were too full of water, and yet I could still feel the torrents rolling under the car floor beneath my feet.
Water swirled in alleyways, and at times I could feel it lift the car for just a moment before the wheels caught traction once again. The rain completely took over, and there was a moment I wondered if we were going to make it.
When the car finally arrived at my gate, I paid the agreed 50 pesos and climbed out of the car. As the driver sped away, I stood there, letting the rain fall on my face, and I smiled.