So as you may or may not know, Jessie and I were in Mexico, during Hurricane Wilma. We stayed at the Barcelo Maya Resort, about 30 miles south of Playa Del Carmen, which is about 40 miles south of Cancun. As far as the news footage we have seen, and stories we heard at the airport, we had it easier than most. Below is a day by day account of our trip.
Click on any of the images to see a larger version.
|Arrived at the resort, which was beautiful. Walked around and took some shots of the grounds!|
|Equally beautiful day, read about "Tropical Storm Wilma" which was off the coast of Jamaica and possibly heading to Cancun. More shots of the grounds! Spent the day at the beach, enjoying the sun and ocean, and the free bar! (How do you say Banana Daquiri in Spanish??)|
|Yet another beautiful day! Didn't get a paper that morning but it was a gorgeous day and again spent at the beach!|
|Finally got our paper, over the last 24 hours. Wilma had gone from a Tropical Storm, to a Category 5 Hurricane. One of the biggest in history, and was heading straight towards the Yucatan Penninsula. However the weather was beautiful and no one seemed panicked. We spent the day at the beach again, enjoying the ocean, and the sun. By late afternoon the the ocean got the slightest bit bumpy, but not enough to prevent anyone from swimming. By late evening the clouds started coming in.|
|No paper, but it was clear the Hurricane was coming. The Resort had gone into preparation mode, all the while trying to keep the guests happy (the bar was still open!). The waves had gotten extremely choppy and by 3pm the beach was closed. We were moved from our ground floor ocean view room to a 2nd level side room. By 6pm we were confined to our rooms until "further notice". At 8pm the hotel delivered a dinner and breakfast combo, and told us that the bathroom was the safest place if the storm got really bad. We were told the hurricane should arrive before midnight, and pass by the next afternoon!|
|Video: Beach about 12 hrs before Hurricane hit|
|The hurricane was much later than we were told! I think it started around 3 or 4am. However it stayed much longer than anticipated! We woke up friday morning with about 2 inches of water in the room. The bed was our little island. We were confined to the room 24 hours before we heard anything from the hotel staff. They stopped by with some food, enough for an evening meal. Again they were saying the hurricane should pass soon. About 12 hours later they came by with another meal and some towels and more "pass soon". We tried with little success to get the water out of the room. About 2 hours after that they came back and told us the hurricane was returning (never knew it left!) and we were told to put the mattress over the window, and again told about the bathroom being the safest place. We spent an uncomfortable evening on the box spring. By morning the hurricane was gone. We had spent 60 hours in our room! During this 60 hours, it never seemed that the hurricane stopped. It rained the entire time, and you could hear the wind almost constantly. Towards the end, it would die down for a few minutes but it would always come back. We were asleep when the hurricane finally stopped, but it was sometime around 6am Sunday October 23rd.|
|Video: Water in the room, brief shot of hallway out side our room||Video: Inside Room, Hurricane About 10am Friday||Video: In the hallway, outside about noon Friday||Video: On the Deck, outside about noon Friday||Video: On the Deck, outside about 2pm Friday|
|As soon as the hurricane passed, the resort staff started cleaning up. We walked around the resort, along with many of the other guests, just surveying the damage. We had not yet seen the damage that had occurred in Cancun, so we thought the damage to the resort was bad! In comparison it wasn't that bad, besides the loss of one building(the snack hut) and the boat port, it seemed that over all the resort had a lot of minimal things to repair.|
|Lobby Entry||Lobby walkway||Theater Bar (which was open by 8pm)||Theater. About 2 feet of water, Theater was also open by 8pm||Another view of the Theater Bar|
|The previously flat beach||Rancho Grande snack shack, we ate lunch here EVERYDAY!||The roof of the Rancho Grande all over the beach||The beach in front of the Rancho Grande and more of its roof||yup, more of the beach and the roof|
|The former boat hut, where they kept the kayaks,pedal boats, and hobie cats, which they removed before the hurricane.||All of the lounge chairs were stacked in groups of 10 and tied together, then put in the pool. Here they are removing them.||Cleaning the grounds.||No entry to the Rancho Grande!||Getting the lounges out of the pool.|
|After the shock of the damage wore off, we realized that we were now stuck! Our flight was scheduled during the middle of the hurricane! We were told the airport was closed, and probably wouldn't open till Monday....later that became Tuesday, then Wednesday! The phones were out, and our "vacation rep" was nowhere to be seen! By late afternoon, we heard that cell phones were working in Playa Del Carmen. Bad news, my cell phone was dead, and I didn't bring my charger. After asking every American & Canadian I could find, I finally found a charger. We charged the phone and we headed for Playa Del Carmen in the morning. I called my mother in law first. Luckily for us they had made us a flight for Tuesday out of Cancun. I called my mom and some others, and we headed back to the hotel, to enjoy our "last day" at the resort. The staff did a great job getting the hotel back in shape! The buffets were open & so were the stores. People were even back on the beach and enjoying the ocean, so we did too! The Theater was open, so I bought a couple of cuban cigars and set out to enjoy our last night!|
|A random street in Playa Del Carmen||Some damage||More Damage!||...still more damage||Playa Del Carmen was one of the few places the phone worked, so lines were ineveitable.|
|People were stil enjoying the beach and sun||More beach shots||Awww....the rancho grande, where we ate and hung out on the beach!||More of the messsed up Rancho Grande||The Captain Morgan (a mirror copy of the Rancho Grande), which was closed after the hurricane in July, was scheduled to reopen while we were there. It took a lot less damage than the Rancho.|
|Video: Streets of Playa Del Carmen|
|Cleaning out the pool|
|Before we get to the road home, here are some comparison shots I took before and after the Hurricane.|
|Taken the first or second day; a shot down the beach of the resort||Same beach but much closer than the other but you can see the buildings as they stood in the original||Same beach but looking the other direction, you can see all the stuff washed up on the beach, which was not there previously|
|Taken from the balcony of our first room||About the same area, couldn't get to the old room because of the flooding on the lawn.|
|Taken near our first room, note the palm that is slighty above and to the left of the red circular bush||Near the same spot, but that is the palm I pointed out in the last picture|
|Jessie and a palm near the end of the beach||Jessie and the same palms after!|
|On Monday after we had talked to Jessie's parents and gotten our flight, the mood at the Resort had changed. A lot of people were concerned about leaving and had no idea what to do. Some of the tourists were bussed out by their tour companies to an airport in the next state, in the city of Merida. Tuesday AM the airport was still reportedly closed, so we went to Playa Del Carmen, to see if we could get info. We found out our flight was cancelled and rescheduled for SATURDAY! Also if we wanted to fly out of Merida, we couldn't book a flight till Nov 4th. Every person we talked to had heard something different: Merida was the better choice, Cancun WAS open and flying planes, Merida wasn't an international airport etc. Having been stuck in England during 9/11 I knew that the airports didn't want people there since there were 4 days of flights backed up at this point, same with Merida. The resort had no phone or information, and we never did get a hold our "pleasant holidays" rep. On the way back we made the decision to go to Merida. It was a stab in the dark, and a four hour ride that cost 250$ USD. Since it had suffered less damage, and was opened right after the Hurricane, I thought we had better odds there. We got to the hotel, ate lunch, packed, checked out and hailed a cab. The road to Merida is not an easy one! Most of it is one lane and the cabbies drive it FAST! We were averaging about 80-90mph for most of it. There was one stretch that was flooded (didn't stop our cabbie) and another stretch that was easily 60 miles that looked like it used to be a mine field. Now add a cab doing 80 zig zagging around other cars, trucks and busses and potholes, needless to say it was white knuckle trip!
When we got to Merrida my heart sunk. There were lines and people EVERYWHERE. Worse than any rock concert or line I stood in for a roller coaster! We got out of the cab, I had no plan. I had Jessie wait in the line for Continental airlines, while I scoped the airport for info. I squeezed my way into a door; people were screaming at me for "cutting" and trying to block me, but I managed to find a clear spot inside. To my left was a table marked "British consulate", next to it was an unmarked table with people speaking English. The lady was telling a couple where to go. I asked her if she had any info; she asked "Are you American?" "Yes" I say. "There is a flight leaving for Dallas in 1 hour!". I went outside, got Jessica, and headed to the checkin all the while explaining to Jessica that we were leaving in an hour! We dropped off our bags, received our boarding passes, & headed to our gate! We spent the next 45 minutes relaxing and getting ready for the flight. As our last little Jab, once we were boarded and the flight was taking off, the cabin started filling with smoke! People in the back started Yelling SMOKE SMOKE!! The crew was frantically rushing around, then the alarms in the bathrooms went off! Eventually the smoke stopped and the alarms were shut off. Turns out that the main air conditioning unit was "over heated". After that the rest of the flight was smooth! That was probably the first time the whole trip that I actually thought we could die! We landed in Dallas, and as much as I hate Texas, I was at least in the US. We spent the night in Dallas and flew home the next day via Denver, then Oakland.
|The road to Merrida, more like the "jungle cruise". Jessie's purse is still wet from that part!!|
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