Despite warnings and horror stories about Mexico, I loved it. Granted I was only there overnight, but what I saw I liked. I’ve come to believe a city’s airport says much about the city itself, and Mexico City airport was impressive. Not on a grand scale, but based on cleanliness, warmth, character, speed of processing and clarity of available information. I had clear instructions from the hostel about how to get there, and was on the lookout for a particular taxi company. I was a little concerned about the whole scenario, given my lack of Spanish and the so-called corrupt taxi drivers, yet I had nothing to fear. Buying my ticket for the taxi at a booth, I paid the fare based on my destination address. Once I had that sorted, I waited at the designated area for the taxi while a little guy in an oversized work vest radioed to see what number taxi was approaching and wrote it on my ticket. Signage in the taxi tells you to note the taxi number in case of lost property, and that had already been done for me. No money changes hands with the taxi driver, and unlike what I expected, the driver did not try to coerce me into going to a different area.
We drove through the streets of Mexico at about 1am local time, in the still warm air, and saw people gathered around the little outside eateries, laughing and talking, while music played from various stereos. The atmosphere was inviting, and I wished I wasn’t so tired and had more time to explore the area. Without a GPS to guide him, my shirt and tie taxi driver eventually found my hostel and graciously held up my backpack for me to put on. Unlike Africa, where people help you only in order to obtain a few dollars, I didn’t feel the driver was after any money, so I gave him what I think was one American dollar note. ‘Mucho gracias Seniorita’ was his reply, along with a slight bow. He waited outside the taxi until the hostel door opened, then waved as he drove away. I felt a bit stingy giving him only one dollar, however I had very little change amongst all the $20 notes from the ATM. When I later learned that the average Mexican wage is equivalent to $6.50 per day, I didn’t feel so bad.
The hostel was another delight. A traditional Mexican house run by a mother and son team, who were both still waiting up for me. I was warmly welcomed, and sat down for a chat. Thankfully Alberto spoke English, and was able to translate between his mother and me. I could understand more Spanish than I could speak, and again, made a promise to learn the language before my next visit. Time was creeping on, and I knew I should attempt to get some sleep before my next flight. I was shown to my room, which consisted of a double bed, a chair and a table. It was on the rooftop level, and I could hear cheerful music wafting up from the bar next door. I crawled into bed at 2am local time, and lay there wide awake for another hour and a half.
I walked back to the airport in the morning and everyone setting up their stalls was friendly and said hello – or rather, Hola! I wandered around the airport looking lost, because I couldn’t find the Aeromexico desks anywhere. Signs pointed to the International Departures, and I was getting frustrated trying to find where I had to check in. As the time ticked away, I had a sudden flash of realisation – I was in the wrong terminal! I needed Terminal 2, and like Sydney airport, that was a good five minutes away. Damn it, I was annoyed it took me so long to realise what was wrong, and now I risked being late to check in.
Arriving at the correct Terminal, I felt like a ping pong ball, being directed from desk to desk in order to self check in, change USD to Mexican Pesos to buy my Cuban visa, and finally to the bag drop area. I’d avoided having to change any money thus far, however I could only buy the Cuban visa in Pesos – so within 36 hours of leaving home I already had different two currencies in my purse. The visa would have cost me $110 if I got it in AU, and therefore I was okay with the extra currency because it meant I only paid USD $21 for the same visa.
The Aeromexico flight was good and I’d happily fly with them again. For a three and a half hour flight I didn’t expect much, if any, food, yet I got a whole lunch box with a croissant ‘sandwich’, chocolate, chips, nuts and a drink. As usual, I ate the consumable items, and kept the packaged ones for snacks (or meals) later on. All the announcements were in Spanish and then English, as were the in-flight magazines.
The flight was unremarkable, other than the guy sitting behind me. A loud and unexcused burp got my attention early on, after which followed a succession of snorts, snuffling and kicking my chair. The guy sitting next to me was similarly unimpressed with the untamed noises and turned around to glare at the offender. From his expression I guessed correctly that the guy behind us was travelling with his carer, and was therefore somewhat excused for his rude behaviours. I could ignore the noises, however I was wary of the few times I sensed his head and arm at the side of my chair in what I can only assume was an effort to say hi…