Nov 25/2013: While temperatures in Calgary are dropping sharply, my excitement is rising. I’ll be spending two weeks at Elegance Blue in Manzanillo, Mexico. I plan vacations carefully but my family says compulsively. I’m very comfortable travelling and have many Mexican and ex-pat friends in Colima. However, upon finding myself stranded in Mexico, my excitement, care, comfort and clarity gave way to flight and fight!
Savvy Travel Plan from Calgary to Manzanillo
I always try to use my WestJet retired-employee flight privileges. Checking direct flights from Calgary, I find them nearly full. Lots of other happy souls making their way to beautiful Manzanillo. Due to greater numbers of flights, I book a one-way standby seat to Puerto Vallarta. From PVR, I can rent a car and drive 285 kms south, down the scenic Pacific coast to Manzanillo. Alternately, I could relax on a Primera Plus bus. Knowing I’d bore myself on a 4.5 hr drive I choose the sleek, airliner bus.
PP is the best bus line between PVR and Manzanillo. They have reclining seats, wifi, complimentary movies and free lunch. The experienced drivers provide a safe trip through the stunning, coastal rainforest. By taking the bus I also avoid a rental car drop-off fee. I save a total of about $120 Cdn. It also allows me to fly back to Calgary directly from Manzanillo as seats on departing WJ flights are plentiful. No one ever wants to leave!
My WestJet Colleagues Always add to the Excitement of a Trip
When current and former WestJetters arrive at their home base for their flight, there’s genuine excitement about seeing colleagues. My departure day is all that and more. Being retired from WestJet means I only see them on these days or the odd ‘wings and beer’ nights.
I arrive at Calgary International off a Park2Go bus. Using the kiosk I get my bag tag and recognize that as always, the WJ folks are working hard getting the guests off on their adventures. I am suddenly sadly aware of how quickly things change when you leave a job. Here I stand looking at strangers in charge of the kiosks, Full Service and Self Service areas.
On this very busy morning, there are only two colleagues I recognize. It’s great to catch up with Guest Service Ambassador, Jeanie and Customer Service Agent, Alice. They treat me to a few warm hugs and found a few moments to chat in the middle of their very busy morning.
It didn’t turn out to be the numbers of friends I had hoped to see this morning. The two I do see however really make my day and fill me with joy!
“First Leg” Excitement
Touching down in Puerto Vallarta I remember that we enter the terminal by a covered walkway. This just doesn’t have the Tropical CaChing that landing in Manzanillo has. There we walk down the aircraft stairs onto the tarmac to meet the glorious Mexican heat. We walk to the terminal staring at sad people staring back at us from the departure lounge.
I booked a hotel named “ONE,” only so I could remember it later for the cabbie! Changing, I grab a Pacifico and head to the beach for a few, much needed hours. I enjoyed a great dinner at PiPis, my favorite PVR restaurant. Deciding to have one cerveza, I avoid the “pour-in-your-mouth” tequila ritual it’s famous for.
I have to be at the bus station at 615 am so I book a cab and request a wake-up call. The clock radio alarm and my phone alarm both get set an hour earlier than the wake-up call. After all that, I lay awake most of the night because of my excitement about heading off to Colima.
Let’s Hit the Road
The bus stations in PVR are clean and have plenty of seats. They make frequent announcements about the schedule. I don’t fully trust my understanding of Spanish. For that reason, I’m out of my seat repeatedly checking the lane where the Board shows my bus will arrive. Finally, I’m on the bus, my suitcase is stored, bag lunch and carry-on safely tucked in beside me and my vacation has really started.
I love and depend on my carry-on! Novels, treats, phone charger, toothbrush, pens for entry documents, ballcap, toothpicks, earplugs, extra socks, underwear, t-shirt, sunglasses, hairbrush and my all-important black document folder!
“Reclined and Relaxed”
A bus trip from PVR to Manzanillo is really a must-do experience! It takes a little over 5 hours and I feel great on arrival. I’d been fully reclined and had eaten a tasty lunch. I read sub-titles during the movie Inception and several chapters of a Jack Reacher novel. Making sure that my passport and immigration exit card are secure in my folder is done a few times. Upon arrival, I remove some pesos to tip the bus driver and step into the soothing Colima sunshine.
The driver hands me my suitcase and I give him 100 pesos with thanks for the safe trip and head to the front of the terminal for a cab. One pulls up from the queue and the driver puts my bag in the trunk. I jump in and reach in my carry-on for the folder and the address card of the condo.
“Sixty-four and Stranded”
The WestJet folder is large but I’m not touching it! We pull away from the curb and the cabbie asks where we’re going. I motion for him to pull over and frantically shuffle between sunglasses, novels, charger cords and socks with no success. The driver’s eyes are boring into the side of my head. All at once it hits me! I’d taken pesos out for the bus driver and must have left the folder sitting on the seat next to mine.
My passport! My exit card, cash, credit cards, contact list. My God!
The cabbie’s mouth is open as I grab my bags and race through the terminal to the lane where my bus just arrived. I’m standing here staring at an empty lane feeling the vein in my neck pulsing. I’ve never felt the helplessness I’m feeling right now! https://ca.charmin.com (hope you get the subtle reference)
Why Can’t I remember Anything from Introductory Spanish?
I run to the Primera Plus desk but it’s empty. Then I try asking the clerk at this next counter but can’t because of my poor Spanish. I’m getting pretty loud. Loud enough apparently that an agent three counters away waves me over to ask me what’s wrong. I tell her I’d just arrived from Puerto Vallarta and need to know where the bus is right now. She says the bus travels back to Puerto Vallarta.
My first thought is to get a cab and catch up to the bus on the highway, get it to pull over and recover my folder. What if it’s not there? I’m out of Manzanillo in a cab with no money, no ID and maybe in worse shape than I am right here.
I tell her that everything important to me is on that bus. She sees how frantic I am, smiles just a little and says, “Senor, the bus is now around the back being washed to prepare for the trip to Puerto Vallarta. You will find it there.”
“Finish Line” Excitement and a Lesson Learned
My suitcase and carry-on don’t move but I sure do! Watching Seniors run is generally never a good site and this is no exception!
There’s the bus, parked and wet. At the bus, I realize that there are people cleaning inside as well. I climb the stairs, enter and make eye contact with several of them. Not one person speaks as I tentatively make my way to row 7. Lying right there against the black seat cushion is my folder exactly where I carelessly left it. The feeling of relief I’m experiencing can’t be described.
I greet and thank the cleaners and make a rude remark about how stupid I am in Spanish, to their delight. I pick up my bags and sincerely thank the lady who had assisted me. Back in the sunshine, I know it was my sheer excitement about getting here that played a big part in this near-tragic outcome. I’ve just dodged a bullet and learned a valuable lesson. (¡Tomar la vida más despacio, siempre hay mañana!) Take life slower, there’s always tomorrow!
I’ll really love the next two weeks in Colima and a little more so because of all the drama!!
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