One half of Whohn Brose used to be fairly fluent in Spanish, while the other half took French in high school to woo a lady. You can probably guess which is which. Needless to say, the Spanish-speaking half of Whohn Brose had been fairly confident leading up to our departure that she would have all the power in terms of communication and translation. Oh how wrong she was.
You see, the Spanish-speaking half of Whohn Brose—or the Spanglish-speaking half, rather—has this crippling anxiety whenever she’s trying to speak the language with a native Spanish speaker. It’s like her mind goes blank and she forgets everything she has ever learned through AP Spanish in high school and beyond. This made for a funny—albeit awkward—interaction at a local tortillaria.
During one of their long pilgrimages to one of two BBVA ATMs in Playa del Carmen—8,000 steps worth of walking, if you’re counting—Whohn Brose decided to take a more residential street. Lo and behold, a tortillaria came into our view! We stepped inside and were confronted with a cooler that read, “Tortillas 30.” Immediately we took this to mean $30 pesos, which seemed like a steal for a stack of fresh handmade tortillas. It was also ideal seeing as we were down to our last $70 pesos on hand.
Just to be safe, Whit asked the nice lady behind the counter, “¿Cuanto?” to which she replied, “Nueve.” This is about the moment when Whit’s internal hard drive fried and took a dive. “Primera vamos ir al banco,” Whit responded, which means, “First we go to the bank.” Neither of us will ever forget the look of absolute WTF that came across this woman’s face. “¿Nueve?” she repeated. It was then Whit knew she’d made a huge mistake, and it was then that Whohn Brose forever learned the difference between nueve and noventa (9 and 90).
We’re still trying to figure out what the 30 on the cooler meant, as it certainly wasn’t the price or the number of tortillas. Even so, $9 pesos—0.48 cents USD—for 15 tortillas is a pretty spectacular deal if you ask us. But then, get this! After burning through those 15 tortillas—tacos for every meal, baby!—we walked past another tortillaria just a couple blocks down from our Airbnb. This was it—Whohn Brose’s shot at tortillaria redemption.
After repeating her lines excessively in her head, Whit went in for the kill. “¿Tortillas?” she asked. Off to a great start. “¡Si! ¿Cuanto?” the woman responded. Having both taken this to refer to the number of tortillas we wanted to buy, we settled on 10 and Whit replied, “Diez.” The woman then proceeded to pull out a stack of tortillas that was even larger than the stack we bought at the last tortillaria and set them on a scale. “Diez pesos,” she said cheerfully. Wrong again, Whohn Brose.
Later that evening when we got back to homebase with fresh produce and tortillas in tow, we counted out a whopping 31 fresh pressed tortillas. Tortillarias: 2, Whohn Brose: 0. Then again, we can’t say we were really losers in this situation—31 tortillas for $10 pesos? That’s like 0.54 cents UDS. Torti-YASSS we say to that!
One instance in which her Spanish didn’t fail the team was in catching a collectivo to Cenote (pronounced seh-no-tay) Azul, which is roughly 15 minutes outside of Playa del Carmen. Escaping the brutal heat and humidity on the Yucatan peninsula is a must, and cenotes offer the perfect reprieve. After a sweaty 40 minute walk to where the collectivos gather, we piled into a van with nine of our closest friends and family members.
To say collectivo rides are an adventure would be a massive understatement. To be fair, anything involving moving vehicles down here is a life lived on the edge of danger. But collectivos? Talk about cheap thrills! We spent $35 pesos per person from PDC to Cenote Azul, which is $1.87 USD. The best part is that, on the way back into Playa, you have to catch the collectivo by standing on the other side of the road and waving it down as it’s barreling in your direction at 80 km per hour. Basically, it’s like hitchhiking in shared taxis.
But we digress. The highlight of this excursion was most definitely Cenote Azul, which is so crystal clear that you can see straight down to its deep limestone bottom. Swimming in the cenote means sharing the water with fish of all varieties; and if you look closely, they range in size from tiny fish near the surface, to larger slow-moving fish on the bottom. Of course, size means nothing when it comes to which fish will give you a pedicure by eating the dead skin off your feet. We had to shoo some chunky catfish-looking fellows away from our toes on more than one occasion!
After we had our fill of cenote spa action and jumping into into the clear cold water from an elevated ledge, we caught a collectivo back to PDC feeling refreshed for maybe the first time since arriving in Mexico. It’s amazing how fast that feeling can fade, as getting sticky and sweaty takes all of about five minutes in the hot sun. Also doesn’t help that we’ve been averaging more than 10,000 steps per day, if not more! Can anyone say travel abs?
Speaking of steps, let’s talk about our first night in our second stop: Tulum. Looking at a map, Tulum is fairly compact. While the town itself is walkable enough, the trek to the beach is deceptively long. Of course, we didn’t learn this until we were walking down the seemingly endless beach road, for what felt like literally forever. After all was said and done, we clocked a whopping 15,182 steps! Then again, John needed to walk it off after almost breaking his bum by trying to sit in a hammock that was loosely tied to keep it out of the way.