Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Wilma 09

The light was fading from this stressful day as we made our way ever closer to Cancun. As one heads north from the coastal road into Cancun, there is a junction with another major road that actually goes into downtown Cancun or the ferry. Anybody who has ever been to the island has traveled on it. Most likely by taxi from the airport.

As we reached this intersection, we were shocked. Nothing we had seen so far had prepared us for what we were now seeing in the dying light of the day. The devastation was massive. It looked like somebody had dropped a bomb. The once palm lined streets were now devoid of any vegetation. Not a piece of green to be seen anywhere. Traffic lights were lying in crumbled huddles on the streets. Almost every power and telephone line that we could see had been toppled. Some leaning precariously against homes and apartments buildings. Some lying across the road with the broken wires snapping in the wind or stretched across the road just at windshield level, ready to catch an unsuspecting victim. Windows were gone and broken glass was everywhere. Pools of water filled the roadsides and, at times, the road itself. "Look at that! Look at that!" filled the car as we passed once familiar landmarks.

The worst was the huge shopping center, Plaza las Americas. The anchor stores at either end of it were the hardest hit. The one on the north end looked like it had just collapsed in upon itself. The one on the south end looked like the wind had gotten inside and ripped off the roof like an exploding can. We could not see it then, but it was easy to believe the stories we heard later of how the wind and rain had gotten inside the mall and ripped it to shreds.

It was now going on 6:30pm and totally dark. That made the going worse. Now I could not judge how deep the water on the road was and could only watch the bumper to bumper traffic in front of me. If they dipped into a pothole, I swerved. If not, I followed. L was in the passenger seat and it was his job to watch for fallen power lines and try to keep me from driving straight into them. No easy task in this crazy world of jumbled up wires. Some of them looked like a ball of yarn after a kitten has had its' way with it. We finally reached our turn that would take us to the ferry docks and our final leg home. All the time we had been discussing what we would do if the ferries were not running. The only solution we came up with was to sleep in the car for the night and do what we could the next morning. At that time, we had no idea of how dangerous Cancun had become and that sleeping in the car was tantamount to suicide.

We finally reached the first ferry to the island. The Ultramar, yellow and blue one. This is the one that most tourists take over to the island. There was not a sole around. The parking lot entrance was blocked and we could not drive in. L got out and ran up to the ticket window while B and I waited nervously in the car. The huge pieces of canvas that once covered the parking spaces were now just flapping in the wind. We could not see it in the dark, but the tower restaurant building had been blown apart from the inside. Huge pieces of it were missing, probably never to be seen again and now trapped somewhere in the nearby jungle brush. L returned after just a short time and said that he talked to a watchman and nothing was open and no ferry was running. He said he could not even see the island when he looked across!

Even though the going on this road was rough, we decided to head the mile further down the road to the older ferry service. It was like driving a dune buggy. There was so much sand on the road that there was no road to be seen. We just picked our way carefully along, guessing where the road was underneath us. All the time avoiding pieces of debris and tree limbs on the road. Once again there was no parking lot at all. Just a huge area of sand and no cars anywhere. I parked in the general area of where taxis usually wait for passengers. L once again went to see if he could find anybody. While he was gone, B and I were elated to see the lights of a ferry approaching from the island. Maybe we could get home tonight after all! Just about then L came running up to the car, threw the door open and told us to grab everything we could. This was the last ferry and we had five minutes to get on it. Not much time since I had to find a relatively safe place to leave the car overnight, open the trunk and grab our backpacks and the few things that we had bought while were gone...including some food and water. As we raced towards the dock, the guard was yelling at us to hurry or we would be left behind. It seems the only reason that the boat had ventured to the mainland was to bring a load of military guys over to help out in Cancun.

Safely loaded onto the boat, we were a little surprised to see that we were the only passengers. In retrospect, I guess not too surprising but we expected that there would be more returning island people trying to get a ferry. There were two staff members on board. They happily answered our questions. And we had a ton of them!

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