We ran out of pesos five days ago. There hasn’t been a bank or ATM since we left Comitan on December 21st and we spent more money than we had anticipated during our sick time. Credit cards are useless around here as it’s cash only transactions. We’ve been using the Bank of Heather to get us through to Benemerito where there is reportedly an ATM. We’ll only be riding with Heather for a few more days, then she’ll continue north and we’ll head east over the Guatemalan border. We need to settle our debt and get some cash to take to Guatemala. We’re crossing at the Usumacinta River to a small village where we’ve heard the road leading out, into Guatemala, is not paved. We doubt there will be an ATM for a while.
Benemerito is described in our guidebook as desperately basic. We tried to form our expectations with this in mind, though we were all still very excited to be arriving in the largest town since Comitan, 14 days ago. There has been fantasy talk about what each of us would be so excited to find in Benemerito. Me: peanut butter. Scott: cold beer in a hot shower. Heather: red wine.
Unfortunately, Benemerito has lived up to its reputation. We are 0 for 3. And the ATM we were promised doesn’t exist. There is a bank in town but they don’t have an ATM. We are carrying a small amount of US dollars, but the bank won’t change US dollars. They’ll change other currency, like euros, just not US dollars. We’re told this policy is due to drug trafficking history across the Mexico-Guatemala border (we’re a stone’s throw away from the border). But we’re told that the guys down at the Pemex gas station might be able to help us.
At the Pemex we learn they’ll let us use our credit card to purchase the gas sold to arriving patrons and they’ll give us the cash. We’re not sure what the catch is. We’re a little skeptical, what’s in it for them? We never get to find out because when they try to run our card, it’s declined. Now we need to contact our credit card company. There’s no wi-fi in this town and the internet cafe doesn’t have internet today. We find a public phone where we can make an international call. They report that there’s nothing wrong with our card and it must be a problem with the Pemex card reader. Back to Pemex we go and sure enough, their card reader is not functioning properly.
While at the Pemex we meet a local man and have a nice chat about our travels. As we bid farewell he gives us a ripe cacao pod. The cacao beans need to be dried and ground to be edible, but the white stuff around them is sweet and can be eaten. It occurs to me that this is the first time I’ve seen a cocoa plant. Considering chocolate is my most favorite snack, I find it strange that I had no idea what it looked like in its natural form.
The closest ATM is a 3 hour combi ride (shared mini bus) away in Palenque. At this point, this is our best option. Maybe the situation is a blessing in disguise. We had originally planned on visiting Palenque to see the ruins, but our change in route meant we’d miss it. Now that we have to go there to get money we might as well check out the ruins while we’re there.
We’re going to try to do the trip in one day. Heather will stay in Benemerito because she’s planning on visiting Palenque via bicycle. So tomorrow, Scott and I will leave our stuff in the hotel room, catch the 5:50am combi to Palenque, find the ATM, check out the ruins, and return in the evening to Benemerito. I’m also hoping to find peanut butter and red wine while in Palenque. Scott will have to boil some water in a pot for his hot shower because all the hotels in Benemerito are cold water only. And unfortunately, by the time we settled into the hotel today, the tienda selling beer was closed.