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Dag 1: Departure from Holland

Mexico - Saturday 20 November 1999

Hey, thankfully, it's starting off well. Experience teaches that the best vacations begin with stress, delays, and chaos.

This time, I assist in the stress by being very late in getting ready for departure. At the moment I should be closing the door behind me, I'm halfway through my final dishes. I must water the plants... making sandwiches is left undone.

Thankfully, the roads are quiet, and we reach Schiphol within half an hour. Diederick has also come to bid me farewell. We can even grab a cup of coffee. The stress isn't so bad, but my mind isn't entirely present. I absolutely don't feel like I'm on my way to Mexico.

I still have a lot to do: withdraw some extra dollars, buy rolls of film, and choose a pair of binoculars. I find a nice pair for 100 guilders.

Still, I'm comfortably on time at the gate. And then the party begins: a wild strike at Schiphol! The technical staff on the platform stops work and won't resume until there's an agreement. This could take hours. If it goes beyond two hours, the flight will be canceled. I thought we lived in a developed country with a polder model...

After an hour of the strike, KLM staff starts explaining that we need to move to another space. They will redistribute the boarding passes. My transfer in Mexico City is definitely out the window...

Just at that moment, the relieving call comes: the strike is over! Cheers erupt among the waiting passengers.

It's a 747-400, the largest plane I've ever been in, I think. I'm in the middle section, by the aisle. Next to me, a friendly man from Guatemala who has been vacationing in Europe.

The flight is relaxed. Boring music on the headphones: dull jazz, tedious country, dull love songs, and a decent hit radio band that starts again after an hour.

The movies are enjoyable: a film about a rich scoundrel who steals a Monet for thrills, and a female detective who has to catch him. She quickly knows he's the thief but fails to catch him. Of course, she also ends up falling in love with him. However, the ending is surprising...

The second film is Notting Hill. A delightful rom-com where they naturally end up together at the end, but the way it happens is rather remarkable. Very funny scenes.

The captain manages to limit the delay to just three-quarters of an hour. A bit of a rush, and I'll make my connection.

That's what I thought: no idea how I can quickly navigate through all the lines here (as you could at Schiphol). It's certainly not chaotic, but in total, it still takes three-quarters of an hour. I arrive exactly at 5:35 p.m. at the check-in counter; at that moment, my flight departs. Luckily, there's another one tonight. Now I have time to exchange money and have something to eat, though I'm not very hungry.

It's warm, and it's getting dark unusually early. By 6:00 p.m., it's pitch black.

It's not too difficult to order something to eat, even partly in Spanish. Only when, after 5 minutes, another waiter wants to take an order, can I not explain that it's already been done.

The food is disappointing. Way too hard tortillas, with some mayonnaise and unappetizing-looking salad. Ah... I eat a little, and at least the coffee is good.

The flight to Cancun is dull but okay. An old beast of an aircraft but well maintained. It's extremely hot in Cancun. Even when I arrive late in the evening (10:00 p.m.), it's stifling. Taxis are expensive here, but if you take a group taxi, it's not too bad. 75 pesos, around 15 guilders.

The taxi first drives past all the mega-expensive hotels. Apparently, this is where most tourists come: they're all enormous buildings with hundreds of rooms (maybe even thousands!). The Novotel where I need to go is right at the end of the road. It's much nicer than you'd expect from a Novotel: small, artistically decorated, a pleasant atmosphere.

The rooms are across a small square behind the lobby. I'm in a room with Wolfgang, who arrived earlier. We introduce ourselves, and it seems we get along well.


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