Our destination is Valladolid, an inland historical city of the Yucatán Peninsula, that sits halfway – two hours -- between Mérida and Cancun. Comparing both airports, it makes sense for us to fly into Mérida: we even save a few hundred dollars on airfare.
To save even more money, we want to use a taxi driver familiar with Valladolid. We know a few taxi-drivers in that area and they know us. They are fair and helpful, and in return, we support them.
To circumvent this problem, my husband Norm texted his Valladolid taxi driver before leaving Canada to discuss another airport pick-up possibility. Our man on the ground recommended -- and put us in touch with -- Julio, his compatriot taxi-driver in Mérida. It is agreed. Julio will pick us up at the airport. He will also charge a more reasonable fee, and transport us to our destination in Valladolid.
Norm texts back (thank goodness for Google Translate) that this plan will not work for us. We have too much luggage to drag for 1 km.
Okay, texts back Julio in Spanglish, not to worry. He will drive another car into the airport visitor parking lot, pick us up with our luggage, drive to a designated spot outside the airport where we will change cars, jump into his taxi, and be on our way.
We agree to this plan of action.
The time is at hand. We land on schedule. Quickly processed, we claim our luggage, use the washroom (a two hour car drive awaits us) and proceed to the exit. All the while, Norm is in text touch with Julio.
Outside the terminal now, we must find Julio. Lots of folks are standing around and they all look the same. How do we find Julio? Where to look? Norm hears the familiar ping of his cell. He reads a single command from Julio: llámame. Call me.
Immediately Norm does so. I hear two loud and brief exchanges. Suddenly there is a friendly wave in the crowd. And a wave back from us.
“Julio!” we grin.
“Welcome! Bienvenidos!” grins Julio, his arms outstretched in a warm greeting. “Let’s get your bags into the car now!” He is a muscular man with thick black curly hair, a generous grin, and the air of a man in a hurry.
Together, Julio – and we – drag our luggage across the road under the watchful and suspicious eyes of waiting authorized taxi drivers.
He stops at the first row of parked cars. A sad-looking clunker of indeterminate colour, with junk shoved inside the trunk and piled on the back seat, greets us. Lest we show any concern, Julio is on top of it. “Don’t worry,” he says in broken English. “This is only until we get to my taxi.” We smile conspiratorially.
Exiting the airport, we proceed along a wide avenue. Tall palm trees, uneven pavement, barbed wire-cement walled businesses greet our eyes. No other taxi is in sight.
“Do not worry!” he assures in Spanglish. “My taxi is not far on a side street with my friend.” He must have seen us glance surreptitiously at each other.
Finally, he turns a corner, stops behind another car.
From the front car jumps a younger man, Fernando, who rushes to shake our hands. We have never seen him before.
“I have business I must tend to,” explains the friendly Julio as he turns to us. “Fernando works for me. He will drive you to Valladolid at our agreed price. However, it is best not to take the cuota (toll) road because it is closed. Fernando will take you via the little towns and you will come safely to Valladolid but it may take a little longer.”
After our luggage has been moved to the bona fide taxi, Julio enthusiastically pumps our hands, welcomes us again, addresses Fernando in Spanish and waves goodbye.
We have no choice. Fernando is now our driver. He speaks no English. We speak minimal Spanish. It would be easy for us to suspect something was amiss.
And so, we are off to Valladolid.
Despite Julio’s instructions to drive through the small towns, Norm directs Fernando to take the toll road with the understanding we will pay the toll. Neither of us relishes the thought of driving through small Yucatecan towns of winding roads liberally sprinkled with topes (speed bumps).
It was a good decision. We arrive at our destination in approximately two hours, as planned.
So, we ask ourselves, did we outfox those high-priced airport taxi-drivers?
Well, it’s all about the thrill of finding a great deal. Isn’t it?