Once upon a time, 20 years ago, we decided to take the kids on a nice trip for spring break. We actually had a great trip to New Orleans booked.
The rooms were paid for. We were going to the Audubon Zoo, the aquarium, Jackson Square, etc.- all the touristy stuff. The kids had never been there before and we thought they’d enjoy it.
All was well until the day before.
The day before a massive ice storm was in Houston then heading towards New Orleans. People in the South don’t know how to handle ice storms. They don’t know how to drive on the ice; so stores close; people stay home.
So at the last minute I had to scramble to make alternate plans. Somehow the thought of paying good money to travel on ice to sit in a hotel room in a city paralyzed by ice just wasn’t appealing.
I had to act quickly. School started again in less than a week. So I looked in the paper and found a travel agency with last minute deals to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. I’d been to Club Med in Mexico a few years before and had a great time so I didn’t hesitate to book it.
We quickly repacked our bags and off we went for some fun in the sun.
Did we have fun?
Not so much.
My first clue as to how the trip was going to go shoulda been when they ran out of food on the plane. Remember, this was long ago, back in the days when the airlines actually served entire meals and people didn’t travel with sardine and Feta sandwiches.
Well they didn’t run out of everything actually.
Brett and Amanda were seated in the row before us.
They got food- 3 pieces of chocolate cake- each.
Doug and I got zilch.
Brett was 9 and Amanda was almost 7. I knew that between all that sugar and the blast of caffeine from the chocolate that the kids would be all jacked up by the time we landed; but we were told there’d be food waiting for everyone when we finally got to the resort. We thought that once we arrived and we got some non-sugary food in them they’d settle down.
Not so much.
The bus that was supposed to take everyone to the resort had broken down on the way to pick us up and we had to wait at the airport for almost two hours.
That was fun.
Then when we finally got to the resort, there was no food of any kind available. The dining room was dark, empty and locked up tighter than a nun’s knees.
The kids had been good on the flight, during the wait at the airport and the ride on the bus despite being jacked up by all that cake. So when we finally got to the room they were bouncing around the room like two racquetballs; and I didn’t have the heart/energy to turn into Joan Crawford and discipline them.
I gave Brett the remote and told them to settle down and watch TV.
Not so much.
Not only was every channel in Spanish; but at 11 pm most of women on the TV had on dresses with plunging necklines that were teetering precariously closely to their teat s nipples.
I went out on the balcony to look at the Pacific and try to unwind. Since it was almost 11 pm I have no idea what I expected to see.
What did I see at 11 pm?
Lotsa palm trees.
I have no idea what time the kids and I finally got to sleep; but it was late. Doug of course fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
I was looking forward to sitting on the balcony the next morning and just relaxing before going down to breakfast.
So what did I see when I went out on the balcony at 10am?
Lotsa palm trees.
Partial ocean view my ass.
The only way I coulda seen the ocean from that balcony is if I’d been the love child of a male giraffe and this woman:
And even with that I’d have had to crane my brontosaurus like neck in a most unnatural angle to even get any peek at the water at all.
Doug took the kids to breakfast while I went to speak to the manager to see about switching rooms.
Of course being spring break there was no other room to be had. I told the manager I was most displeased’ but he said there was nothing he could do and suggested I take the matter up with the travel agency who booked the trip. (Remember, this was pre cell phones, at least for us.)
Needless to say I was somewhat less than thrilled by the time I joined everyone at breakfast; but the breakfast was actually good, or at least plentiful, so my faith that the trip wouldn’t totally suck was restored if only for a minute. While at breakfast we planned the rest of the day. We decided that we’d go into Puerto Vallarta, look around and maybe do some shopping. A taxi was hailed for us and we all climbed in- Doug in front with the driver. I sat in between the kids in the back. As soon as we got in I told the kids to buckle up.
They said they couldn’t. Of course that was unacceptable.
Then I saw why.
There were no seat belts.
The driver took off in a cloud of smoke. I spread my arms wide in front of the kids as if my arms would actually somehow protect them in case of an accident. As soon as we were on an actual street the driver started talking animatedly out his window to another taxi driver- in another taxi heading down the street next to us. The two drivers were having quite the conversation which had me really concerned til Brett said “Look Mom!’ as he pointed down.
There were multiple holes in the floorboard big enough to have swallowed up either Brett’s or Amanda’s foot. It was just dumb luck that they didn’t go straight thru to the ground when they got in the car. I told the kids to pull their feet up immediately.
When our ride in the Nightmaremobile was over I thought about throwing myself down and kissing the ground; but was distracted by a dump truck passing by us on the street. It had at least 6 policemen standing in the back of it.
They were all holding assault rifles.
At that point we decided to take a quick trip through the market nearby then return to the resort where at least we felt safe.
We went back to the hotel to find out what the “non-motorized water sports” I’d heard so much about in Houston actually included. Club Med had had a number of things after all.
I found out what was included.
Period. That was all!- no water bikes, paddleboats, mini sailboats or anything else.
I felt violated. That travel agent had sold me a bill of goods for sure.
Then we found out they closed the pool at 7pm!
Just what were we supposed to do with the kids after dinner if they couldn’t swim and couldn’t watch TV because it’s all in a foreign language? I wasn’t about to take them into the surf at dusk after all.
Brett went para sailing that afternoon. Amanda swam in the surf with Doug and I spent the time telling the roving beach vendors that we weren’t buying any of their over priced goodies. We tried to poop out the kids during the afternoon so after dinner perhaps Doug and I could have a few minutes to ourselves.
By this time all I wanted to do was get back home; but we had 1 more day at Club Hell to endure before we could go home. The next day we were supposed to go to a nearby island where we were going to go snorkeling.
Not at all.
When we got to the cove where we supposed to snorkel you could barely see the water. It was blob to blob jellyfish for as far as you could see. They looked like a floating carpet. So snorkeling got crossed off the list.
After riding in the boat for awhile longer we came up to the highlight of the day we were told. We were going to go to the place where the movie Predator was filmed. There’d be dense jungle and a waterfall where we could swim.
I was really looking forward to it.
Did I see the waterfall and go swimming there?
Not at all.
After we got off the boat we were led on foot through a village. We were told that, if we wanted to pay an additional fee, we could get horses that would take us up and down the hills to the waterfall. We’d be at the waterfall for an hour or so then come back and be treated to a great lunch of the catch of the day.
Then we went around the bend and saw the horses. They almost made me cry. They were old, thin and swaybacked. I felt like I shoulda been carrying one of them on my back; and I was way thinner than I am now.
Amanda was told to ride with me, Brett with Doug. I was so horrified by the condition of the horses that I didn’t even notice 1 thing which was about to become obvious, literally painfully obvious, very soon.
The saddles were made of WOOD!
I do not lie. It looked unwonderful to be sure.
I’d never seen anything like it; but not wanting to be a spoil sport I decided to give it a go. Amanda was going to ride with me and Brett with his dad. So up we we went, and for the first few minutes on flat terrain it was tolerable. It was uncomfortable, but tolerable.
Then came the hills.
Going uphill was fine, for me at least. For the horses, not so much. By the time we reached the top of the hill they were laboring. I felt sorry for them. On the way down they broke into a trot taking advantage of the slope.
Then I felt sorry for me.
Going downhill my body slid forward on the saddle and hit the saddlehorn. With every step they took it felt like someone was hitting me in the hoo-ha with a baseball bat- over and over again.
It was the height of unwonderfulness x 10.
I hung in for two hills, then told Doug life was too short and that if he ever wanted to have sex again I had to get off that horse. So I got off and Brett rode alone, Doug had Amanda with him. We were told it’d be another 15 minutes of riding before we got to the waterfall. It was hot and steamy and I’d had enough. I told them to go ahead; I was going back to the beach and would wait for them there.
I was just getting to the bottom of the 2nd hill when I heard the sound hoofbeats and “GET OUT OF THE WAY!”
Five of those horses, each laden with a tourist, were running down the hill, and straight towards me. I don’t actually think that was their plan to take me out; but the path was only about 15′ wide or so; so someone had to yield- and it was obvious it was going to be me. Without thinking I threw myself off the path into the lush vegetation that grew nearby.
A woman who was about my age now yelled back “SORRY”, as they went by. The whole scene probably looked comical. To me at that exact moment, not so much.
I somehow found it less than amusing when I discovered I’d thrown myself onto some gnarled roots. I laid there for a minute and pondered just staying there and becoming one with the island; then I remembered that every time you see a jungle movie, there’s always a snake.
So I got up and just kept on walking, eventually getting back to the beach. I walked into the water and sat down, happy to safe and cool again. After about 20 minutes I looked around and noticed there were pelicans everywhere- probably at least 100. It was like a pelican convention. They were just chillin- floating in the water all around me. A few were almost within arms length of me. It was fabulous and for me the best part of the trip up to that point.
Eventually Doug and the kids returned. Then we were told to come to lunch which was a good thing because everyone was famished. As they put the plates down in front of us a young Mexican woman said “It’s the catch of the day. Enjoy.” Doug looked at me and our eyes locked. We were both thinking the same, but said not one word, not wanting to spook the kids.
One thing we knew for sure- whatever was on that plate in front of us had not lived in the water-ever.
We never knew exactly what we ate for lunch that day. We feared it was just something that ran too slow; but one thing was for sure. Whatever it was had had feet not fins. More than that we didn’t want to know; but we noticed there were no cats to be seen. Had we have had other options we wouldn’t have eaten it; but we were on an island, with no store or even vending machines of any kind. It was eat what was in front of us or starve til dinner which was still a boat ride and hours away. So we ate.
While eating our mystery meal I asked the kids how the waterfall was. “It was great Mom.” Amanda said. Then almost as a side note she said “Brett almost drowned.” Needless to say I was more than concerned and shot Doug a withering look.
“She’s exaggerating.” was all Doug said.
I turned to Brett for an explanation. He said he climbed up the slippery rocks to get to the top of the waterfall where there was a rock slide. Then he slid into the pool of water at the base of the falls. (Remember, Brett can’t swim.) Amanda who can swim like a fish was already in the water and luckily was next to him in a flash.
Of course I wouldn’t have let him climb up there without a life jacket to begin with; but that’s the difference between a mom and a dad.
After lunch it was time to head back to the resort. Almost everyone else was dozing on the way back, having tired themselves out from the horseback riding and the swimming. I was wide awake and sat there watching the water and thinking just how one trip could be so fucked up. Then, when I least expected it a grey whale surfaced about 10′ in front of me!
Ye Gods I just realized this epic is turning into Gone With the Wind so I’ll wrap this up for now. More another day…