Central America!

But before you launch Google in search of which of the 7 countries you think we might have landed in, hold your horses as the story doesn’t end where it starts…

So after weeks and weeks of biding our time, exercising patience and trying to remain on top of the never-ending changing of criteria for different countries, our flight out of Brazil did finally happened. But not without its challenges.

It’s midnight. Our flight time was scheduled for 2am. Not great but I caught a 2am flight in 2016 and it was great. Granted, it was flying out of the UAE flying Royal Brunei with a semi-empty plane enabling me to lie down, rest and not wake up until landing. This time around, we were in row 35 (the very last) right in front of the toilets and on a completely full plane.

We picked up the results of our rapid Covid test online earlier in the day and got them printed at the airport. If we’d have received a positive result, would these random airlines have given us our money back!? I dread to think but it does show how difficult a time it is to travel with so many variables unanswered. As for the process itself, it’s moderately quick but also surprisingly unpleasant. Not sure if any of you have undertaken the following and whether it was similar or dissimilar? 

Basically, they shove their swab sticks into your facial orifices. The lady pushed the swab so far into my mouth I thought I was going to throw up. I tell you, a couple more seconds and her white overall would not have been so! As for the nose, she went for swaps from both nostrils trying to collect some brain cell samples. Sadist, I reckon. So you go from wanting to vomit to tear-inducing. Viv confirmed the same as you’ll see below.

That’s tears of joy after being prodded, not for outrage at the £40 per person price tag.

It’s admittedly an impressive setup here and what a business it is. This is how the place looked at midnight. It was heaving earlier.

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So, let’s go…

  • Hotel check out and transport to airport – tick

  • Negative PCR result – tick

  • Flight check-in and baggage drop – t………..

No tick just yet. Copa Airlines seem to have a man asking people questions before permitting them to approach the check-in/baggage drop desks. 

“PCR test results, please”? He requests in Portuguese.

“No problem” as we hand the results over.

“Yellow Fever report, please”? 

Sorry, what!? He proceeds to explain to Vivian this is a requirement imposed by the receiving country. A little strange as I’ve seen no literature stating this over the last few weeks when keeping my eyes and ears open. 

I spot Viv’s annoyance but I see it’s more because she’s gotta go digging in one of her various bags to pull out a certificate for something that we did during my first week in Manaus. Thinking back, it would have been easy to have been sloppy back then and dismissed not doing this but we were wise and so we got it sorted. Much cheaper in Brazil than in the UK too! Anyway, 10 years protection or whatever, all sorted.

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But he seems to have an issue with it. He says it’s domestic, not international, Viv translates to me visibly a little stressed. He proceeds to explain that the international part is mandatory and needs to be undertaken within 10 days prior to travel. That the process changed back in 2017 instigated by various Central America countries for arrivals from Brazil and other countries.

WTF. This kind of thing only happens in the movies. Delusionally, we don’t believe what appears to be happening, is happening. A case of confirmation bias, perhaps. We have paid handsomely for these plane tickets, waited weeks to get out of the country, taken a PCR test valid for 48 hours and it’s late in the AM so please check whatever box you need to and kindly allow us to proceed.

Viv then turns to me after a minute or two of further discussion and says, ‘If you have one of your ideas, now’s the time!’.

I don’t, obviously. But hearing that line confirms to me the severity of the situation. I ask Vivian to request to speak to a supervisor. Shortly after we’re called over to see Felipe who is seated as one of the check-in staff. I quickly analyse, despite the language barrier, that he knows his stuff and that he’s also firm in his standing of whatever it is he’s saying. I see Vivian is getting more and more agitated so assume nothing is progressing so I step in and calmly ask in English:

“What are our options, please?”.

He returns to his monitor and says “Let me see what is possible for you”.

A glimmer of hope surely! And as you’d expect cos what we’re hearing is just crazy.

A few minutes later he reports: “Ok, you have some options. I know that at least 3 of the countries in Central America don’t require the international Yellow Fever so you can perhaps travel to those?”.

“Another option is that you can fly to ****** . They don’t require the international Yellow Fever vaccine certificate so this way you can catch your original flight, stop-over in transit, then fly out. If you want you can also have this option on the 24th” (a week later).

“Sorry, those are our options!? To purchase another flight somewhere to a country we’re not planning on visiting!? We don’t even know what extra requirements those countries have or what there is to do let alone the expense”, I say to him somewhat rhetorically.

He remains phlegmatic.

Despite being incredulous to what I’m hearing, I quickly accept that this needs to be looked at objectively which is hard when Vivian is still very much caught up in the emotions and disbelief of all this. 

“But I have to tell you now that the next available flight to ***** has only two spaces left’.

“Really!?” I curiously say but thinking to myself sure not. That said, no reason to think he was making that up.

“Out of how many seats?” I ask.

“160”.

Wow. That aside, staying another week in Brazil is not an option we want to entertain so I know the only option is to proceed and purchase this second flight and do the stopover. Viv hesitantly agrees still visibly quite in shock as to what was going on. Then there are the financial implications with travel savings naturally depleting.

“I’ve got this my lovely, don’t worry”. The Bank of Sami is open for business right now.

She was emotional prior but this tops her off and she breaks, then I break. Oh, what a mess but we’re suddenly smiling again. Little does she know that behind the scenes I’ll be requesting loans from Bank a la Teresa, Bank a la Mainstone and Bank a la Piscina.

As our internal processing continues and some colour returns to our drained faces, I ask Felipe, has this happened before?

He responds, ‘Yes, all the time, it’s quite common’. 

I’m still not sure what to make of that. You’d expect that to be enough to start a process improvement, somewhere.


6.5 hours later and we land in Central America. It’s now 8.30 Brazil time, 06.30 local time.

We felt (and still feel as I write this) tired, nauseous, weak, hungry, sick and confused. In fact, Vivian threw up in that tiny airplane toilet during the flight for reasons relating to all the above. Poor thing.

Now, instead of beginning our adventure in Central America, we endure a 4 hour “stop over” until our next flight. Y’know, the flight we didn’t want or ask for but had to pay for. Still heavily disorientated, we quickly realise that we can’t use the 4 hours to recuperate. We have to do a ton of work to do including: Finding where to stay for the night in the new country, filling out e-forms (that we actually wouldn’t need in the end) and trying to work out what we’re going to do in the country we hadn’t planned to visit. To put this into context, neither of us even know what the currency is in ****** !?

Any guesses to which of the 7 Central American countries we first stopped over in?

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We board our next flight for a further 2.5 hours duration and eventually land in the country we spent our first night in last night and where I write to you from.  This much shorter flight was uneventful but had a surprise visitor, just like the earlier fight did. We also grab a pic of us looking and feeling fabulous, not….. 🤣

So where on God’s green earth are we. Here are your clues:

The area/province we’ve landed in is itself a pre-Covid touristic area. It’s not cheap to get here and it’s not cheap to stay here. It has historically been an area where lovers, honeymooners, or general families come to escape everyday life and enjoy some holiday luxury here in………………..?

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Hola Cancun!

Yes, folks, we’re in Mexico – very much not Panama and very much not looking as battered as we did prior.

However, we’re slap bang in the middle of what I alluded to above – a holidaymakers paradise. But we’re backpacking, of course. So before you think that’s a heavenly place to end up, remember we don’t have the funds to participate in the lavish lifestyle. Sadly. 

And it’s especially sad when we capture the very tip of the Mexican peninsula known as the Yucatán. I mean just look at this view and shoreline towards the Caribbean sea.

So in the space of 14 long hours, we stood on South American, Central American and now North American soil.

The research starts now but we will aim to somehow make our way to Mexico City and any well-known surrounding areas. That said, geographically, Cancun happens to be relatively close to one of the Seven World Wonders as most of you Mexico visitors will already know so that’ll be a must.

Thanks for reading. I hope it conveyed even a small percentage of what the last 36 hours or so have been like. Anyone got any tips or tricks about Mexico!? I have always understood the general people to be warm and friendly like I heard about the Thai people and Brazilian – both I have been able to confirm. And then it’s famed for its food, which we can all attest. Judging from our supper last night and especially our breakfast this morning at a “hotel airport” – we can confirm this too!

Mexico, please be kind to us.

Brazil, you were more incredible than I could have ever wished. Thank you Vivian for the privilege.

8 Responses

  1. Awful luck guys. Sorry to hear that. If you do get to chichenitza check out one of the amazing Cenotes – IK KIL which isn’t far if you get the chance. Take your swim shorts. Mexico has the best food I’ve ever experienced especially all the local fruit👌🏻

    All the best
    Alex

    • Helloooo and good morning. Or should that be Buenos dias. Thanks for the sympathy, was truly awful. Great intel though, thanks! Especially the cenote. We will try to get to that exact one then if we can but we’ll have to see how planning and logistics go. Great that you had such a good time and enjoyed the food. As you saw from our first breakfast in just an airport hotel, it was epic. Love ourselves some fruit so you can count on that. Tequila too, I reckon. That’ll have Viv vomiting yet again lol. Hope all is well your end.

  2. Hi Sami and Vivian,
    Sorry to hear what you two have been through. Thank God you had Vivian with you for the language and halve the stress. I have to say Sami you made me laugh on the bit about the covid swab. Hope Vivian is over her sickness. Dad and I went to Mexico the year Paolo first went to Austrlia, he must have been 17 years old at the time. We stayed in a beautiful five star hotel , all inclusive on the beach. We loved it there so we didn’t venture further out of Cancun. Enjoy xxxxx

    • Hi Mum, yes quite the ordeal but we have been rewarded by being in a beautiful country, as you and Alex confirmed. I can see why people from back home come here for their luxury annual breaks! Are you really sure you can’t be convinced to come back? I know its the flight more than anything. Shame. Stay tuned over the next week to see what we get up to and our successes and failures X

  3. Great Post im moving on to the next shortly. Glad you got a flight…. by the way you know the shares in bank a la piscina are worth nothing since the divorce of 2016. I might have some Italian lira lying around in one of the old vaults somewhere but 6000 of that will probably get you an in-flight water 🤣

    • So very, very funny. I was laughing out loud when I read that. Could have done with an injection of the humour throughout that 14 hour order. Horrendous.

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