Let’s talk about life in Canada for a moment. Growing up in Toronto, I always mocked people for their views regarding extreme cold. They would say stuff like, “Yeah, it’s minus 40 where I live, but it’s a dry cold,” which somehow justified their choice of living conditions.
To me, minus 40 was minus 40, no matter how intent your spin was on making it more palatable. It wasn’t until I moved up north into my log-cabin that I realized there was a notable truth to this odd perspective of weather extremes.
Dampness and humidity have a definite bearing on chilling one to the bone. While maintaining my mural-painting business for several years in the big city, the 6-hour drive south proved to me that a minus 15 celsius indication near a large body of water could easily feel more uncomfortable than a minus 40 one at home in the woods.
With those thoughts in mind, let’s consider a third category, beyond dry and damp, to describe the effects of cold on the human body. This condition is known as “ADO.” Though it’s the name of the bus company that efficiently shuttles people most everywhere in Mexico, it’s also the designation of a punishing, soul-destroying state of mind where one feels the sun may never shine again — a mental hopelessness that relegates “warmth” to legend, fantasy, or myth.
Such was my discovery traveling 12 hours on a night bus from Palenque to Playa Del Carmen.
When the mind begins contemplating smashing the nearest window of a machine moving a hundred kilometres an hour, on a dark highway, to leap desperately into any other physical environment available just for the possibility of even one more second of life not governed by a cooling system that would put most modern deep-freezers to shame, this is a strong indicator symptom of ADO infection.
I have two working theories regarding this subject of inhumane vehicular refrigeration. The first, and most obvious, is corporate recognition that a market for winter clothing in the bulk of Mexican territories is non-existent, which led some ambitious blood-sucker to challenge himself to prove he could make people buy shit they didn’t need, anywhere in the world, by generating an artificial market.
Because of my poor linguistic skills in this country, there was good chance I misunderstood what the vendors, who trolled the bus vehicle aisle at every stop we made, were actually selling. I surmised sandwiches and snacks, but now I’m fully convinced those bins contained “hot-shots,” battery powered heating pads, wool blankets, and some form of body-numbing pharmaceutical, all carrying “Official product of the ADO” labels.
My second theory comes from an understanding that translation mistakes are often made when ordering electronics or machinery from China. It’s a possibility the control system on the ADO bus air-conditioners that the Mexicans requested to range from “ON–COOL–COOLER–OFF,” was mistakenly constructed to provide “COLD–DEADLY COLD–TESTICULAR DESTRUCTION–LOSS OF WILL TO LIVE” functionality.
Though I’d had the foresight to bring a hoodie and long pants with me on the 12-hour ride, no amount of clothing, save a portable bio-dome suit, could have protected me from the elements best described as a no-frills visit to a Plutonian campground, which made me entertain thoughts of suicide by immersion in molten lead or boiling water. Or perhaps a good ol’ fashioned stake-burning, followed by a leap into a crater of soothing lava.
There was no need to spend 5 pesos to empty one’s bladder at the frequent stops we made with toilet facilities looking to make an extra buck. It wasn’t that I had an aversion to pay-toilets, it had to do with the frozen block of urine in my bladder that came nowhere near close to thawing during the 10 minutes spent outside the confines of Mexican Hoth. If dead Tauntauns were available for purchase at any of these small outlets, my lightsaber would have been the first one fired up before hurriedly entering their gut cavities.
As 6 AM rolled around, I assumed our final destination was imminent, only a half hour behind schedule. Praise Jesus. But I didn’t take into account an unexpected time-zone shift when I checked my dying phone. When the driver announced “Tulum,” I found myself on the verge of screaming aloud a movie-clichéd, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! PLEASE GOD NOOOOOOOOOOOOO, NO MORE!!! WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME!!!!” before introducing uncontrollable sobbing.
But I held my shit together. As my mind entered the core of the sun to stave off insanity for the remaining 45 minutes, God’s mercy finally allowed the materialization of our destination, and I exited the rolling tomb, grateful to still have partial feeling in one of my toes.
Ah, Playa Del Carmen at last.
Though my plan entailed hopping another bus immediately north to Puerto Morelos, I figured there was no need to rush, especially since a warm ocean was only a 10-minute walk away.
I chilled at the bus station, literally, for an hour to make use of the free Wi-Fi, and scope out possible hostels for a one-day stay. Why not? Though I had no desire to wander this tourist trap, when would I ever experience this neck of the woods again? Adventure is always the name of the game, no matter how uninviting the environment (ADO!!!!) may seem to be.
I came across a hostel possibility to the west, perhaps a 25 minute walk, but the price was right at 120 pesos per day, with free “continental” breakfast, whatever the fuck that might mean in Mexico, which would still leave me lots of room to spend the rest of my daily budget frivolously on whatever I saw fit.
I find it’s best for me to set-up shop before doing any serious exploring, so I made my way to the hostel first, instead of the ocean, to procure a bed and unload my 45-pound pack I constantly refer to — like I’m tough or something.
As a trio of wild dogs yipped their unhappiness with me wandering into their territory, I entered the hostel and made my way to el recepcion. Space was available, but because of my early arrival time, I ended up sitting in the common area, waiting patiently for the head honcho to tap my shoulder when a bunk was ready to hang my hat upon.
Sitting in the courtyard, some dude approached me to ask if I was part of a new Workaway influx. I told him I wasn’t, merely waiting patiently to be directed to a bed, knowing I’d arrived well before check-in time. He introduced himself as Mantas, from Lithuania, and suggested he could expedite a bunk for me, as he was a volunteer of the hostel.
True to his word, ten minutes later, I set up shop to allow myself unencumbered wandering of whatever this tourist hotspot had to offer. It quickly became apparent I didn’t want to be here. As I made my way downtown, witnessing all the worst displays Western culture influence had to offer, I figured the majesty of the beach would justify the offensive nature of this contrived environment. The 3 minutes I spent soaking my toes in the overcrowded, seaweed inundated, rough-wave beach area was enough to cure me forever of desire to wander this stretch of the Caribbean again.
I made my way back to the hostel, intent on getting the fuck out at sunrise, when I came across Mantas one more time. He was on a break from his hostel duties when we began an unlikely conversation that led to him informing me of an ayahuasca ceremony he was attending in a week.
This medicine ritual has been on my mind for quite some time. Mantas explained the curandero, originating from the Cofan tribe, was flying up from Columbia to host the ceremony at a temple retreat in Playa Del Carmen, a location Mantas was familiar with through past volunteer experience. The master plan of Mantas was to end his time at our current hostel, and trek south to Bacalar and Mahahual, locations I past in my haste to get to Puerto Morelos. I was invited to both the ceremony, and to explore the new destinations on his agenda.
I was in.
We’ll pick this up next post, as the thought of another ADO ride has induced a minor seizure in my brain, necessitating an hour or two of fetal-position rocking before any more writing can be done.
Stayed tuned… more crazy fun shit is imminent…