Going cashless in a cash economy… hmm…

25 August – Day 34

Sayulita, Mexico to San Juan de Alima, Mexico
Distance: 431kms

So… I’ve got a habit, at home, of not carrying much cash in my wallet. It’s just that I so rarely go to ATMs – and other than coffees of a morning, most of what I buy can be bought via electronic means. For those times when I need cash, there’s always an ATM nearby (even if I have to pay the inflated ‘private ATM’ fee!!).

It works fine in Australia. In Mexico? Not so much. Yup…  today was the day when we ran out of cash.

We left Sayulita about 8.30am with a couple of destinations open to us, depending on how quickly we made progress (due to the state of the roads, both in terms of the number of curves and small towns along the way, and the condition of the road more generally). Shortly after exiting this beachy utopia, we were quickly reminded about where we were via our first army checkpoint for the day. It was the first of many. On this occasion though, we were waved straight through.

A small aside: I didn’t know it at the time – Adrian did (and didn’t tell me) – however only last month, the Mexican Navy’s Vice Admiral was gunned down very close to where we’re driving today by one of the drug gangs. The gang set up a ‘detour’ off the main highway, forcing all cars to use a dirt road for a short segment. And then they pumped his car full of bullets. As a result, the President has sent several thousand more troops and police into this area. No wonder I thought there were more than normal… and no wonder Adrian was going faster than usual through the detours – and there were quite a few of those, too…

Anyway – we were making pretty good progress, so we thought… until we realised that it wasn’t 1.30pm, like we assumed; it was 4.30pm. I have no idea what happened to those three hours. We’ve been through so many different time zones and places with and without daylight savings that we often have no idea about the time. And it can be hard to tell without asking someone in each and every city we’re in… For example even though Sayulita is in a part of Mexico without daylight savings, the closet airport (32kms) away is in a different state which does have daylight savings (or maybe it was the other way around). Loads of tourists were apparently missing their flights because they didn’t realise that there was a time difference – so the city of Sayulita decided to change its time to airport time. Just like that!

Anyway – so it was 4.30pm, we’d already stopped for a snack, and we decided that we may as well stay in San Juan… but… we had about $440 pesos total (approx. $40), there was no ATM in the town, the hotel didn’t take credit cards and we were hungry. Quite the conundrum. Luckily, the hotel agreed to take payment in USD and we got a cheap dinner at a local taco bar where we were literally counting our pesos to see if we could afford a second bottle of water! I don’t think that will happen again…

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