Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Holiday Warning

We've had a very hot spell this week in the metro Vancouver area, and I'm feeling a little lazy.So I'm repeating one of my earlier blogs. It's timely for the summer season as well.

In our travels abroad we have encountered many adventures but generally no real danger. However, there was a night in a mountainous region of Mexico when we threw caution to the wind and the ending could have been disastrous.
Our journey had taken us from the turquoise bay and curving, white beaches of Acapulco to the picturesque silver mining town of Taxco, perched precipitously on the slopes of the Sierra Madre Mountains. The views from our hotel were enchanting. After marguerites and lunch at the outdoor restaurant, we strolled along the cobbled streets enjoying our first taste of the real Mexico.
Absorbing the ambience of the main square or Xocalo, we stopped to listen when a handsome young Mexican in a small corner stall asked for a few “minutos” to explain the tour he was offering.
“Senor, Senora, have you seen the Yucatan flyers here in Old Mexico?” he asked. “We offer you an evening of fun and entertainment.” Here was something I truly was interested in. Without even considering the consequences, we purchased the tickets.
As promised, the taxi arrived at our hotel at six o’clock, just as the sun was setting behind the western peaks of the high Sierras. Night falls quickly in the tropics and, by the time we had travelled a few blocks through the town, darkness enveloped us. Soon we left all signs of civilization behind as the road wound higher into the surrounding jungle.
For the first time a sense of vulnerability hit me. I thought of people who had disappeared without a trace in other Latin countries. A man we’d heard about, living in a rented house in Puerto Vallarta, disappeared from sight along with his whole family one day, never to be heard from again.
No one at home knew of this new addition to our itinerary. Was this a trick? Were these a group of ‘banditos’ who would murder us high in these mountains hoping to get our money and our passports? Beads of sweat broke out on my forehead. I moved closer to my husband and took his hand. He smiled reassuringly at me but in the small glow of light from the dashboard, I noticed his face had taken on an anxious look.
Just as panic was about to overtake me, we emerged into a clearing in the trees. Besides the outside arena where the pole for the Yucatan performers was set up, there in the middle of this jungle hideaway was a large, round building from which emanated revolving coloured lights and loud music—a Mexican disco!
Well, the show did go on—we had our evening of fun and entertainment—but the lesson I learned that night in a Mexican jungle about using discretion when travelling will never be forgotten.

Sadly from time-to-time we do hear of these disappearances: a young girl on a vacation with fellow graduates disappears in Aruba; a passenger on a cruise ship to Alaska, after stopping at Victoria, B.C., is never seen again.
It pays to use common sense when travelling abroad just as it does in our own cities. There are areas in Vancouver that I would never walk through—day or night. So—just a reminder—over the summer holiday period, use discretion and stay safe.

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