No cash, no gas, 40 kms from home

Yesterday we were taking out scooters in Yucatan in Mexico. We had fuelled up to the max, so these small 125cc machines would be more than well fuelled for the 90 kms round trip to the Coba Mayan temple complex, ancient 1,000 year old stone structures in the jungles.

The road there from Tulum on the coast is pretty straight, passing through forest and it’s wonderfully uneventful except for the odd butterfly hitting your helmet and a sign that said ‘beware of jaguars’.

Little did I know it then, but that sign would trouble my thoughts incessantly later in the day.

We finished seeing the Mayan ruins by 4 pm and with the heat at 37 degrees C decided to cool off at a nearby flooded sinkhole, called a cenotes, where we snorkeled amongst fishes and turtles in clear blue waters, encased in a backdrop of stalactites.


On the ride back, Sarah said that her fuel gauge had hit the red zone which I found odd as mine was still at the half-full point and we were riding the same power machines, had filled them up with exactly the same amount of petrol, and had ridden the exact same distance. Odder as I’m 10 kg heavier than her.

So we turned in to the petrol station at the Coba roundabout, flipped up our seats and unscrewed the petrol caps. Just before the attendant started filling I asked him if they accepted credit card payments. He shook his head.

“Cash only.”

Oh shit, I thought. I rummaged in my wallet for any cash. The only paper in my wallet were some old receipts and a fully-stamped loyalty card from the local coffee shop in Clapham. It had value but not to him. I asked Sarah if she had cash. She had 35 pounds sterling and I asked him if he would accept them.

He replied, “no pounds. Pesos or US dollars.”

Bugger. That was a turn up for the books.

“Is there another petrol station nearby that accepts card?”

“Yes,” he nodded.

My spirit rose. I would thank my lucky stars. 


Damn. That was no use, that was where we needed to get to, 40kms away.

“Or Valadolid,” he suggested. 

Again, that town was no use, it was also 40km away, and in the opposite direction.

“Is there an ATM around here?”

“Yes. In Tulum.”

Sighs all round; we were pretty well scuppered. I could ride back with Sarah as pillion, but we couldn’t just leave her scooter by the side of the road.

We rode to a Starbucks to ask them for any help (it was the only shop close by) but all they could do was offer coffee. I did contemplate a short shift washing mugs for them, but discounted the idea. They most likely had a dishwasher, quicker, better, cleaner.

So Sarah came up with a plan and that plan rested on the assumption that her fuel gauge was faulty, and her scooter actually had, like mine, a half tank of fuel.

If the assumption was wrong and she really didn’t have any fuel, then we would ride until her scooter stopped, hide it in a forest, go back to Tulum with her as pillion, buy a jerry can, fill it with petrol from a station that took credit card and ride back to the forest, find the aforementioned scooter, fill her up and bring her home. Bob’s your uncle.

The other theory, which was more troubling, was that my fuel gauge was also wrong and Sarah’s was right. We could both be low on fuel. We could both stop at the same time on the way home miles away from anywhere, and if that happened that meant needing to be rescued.

That meant waiting by the roadside in the forest maybe in the dark.

This is where the jaguar sign came line dancing in to my thoughts. It didn’t bear think about.

The 40km ride back to Tulum wasn’t as pleasant as it should have been. The lush greenery of Quintana Roos, the wind in the trees and the evening sun were so picturesque but we were too worried about the assumption. Did we have enough fuel or was Sarah’s scooter just about to stop.

Worse, would both our scooters be about to stop?

Even worse, how do you wrestle with a jaguar?

Slowly we passed through sleepy single street towns and counted down the odometer, 35km left, 20, 15. When it got to 10 left, my relief was palapable. My wife was still in the wing mirror.

We reached Tulum and we high-fived at the card-accepting petrol station to curious glances from the attendants. Odd tourists.

I like to think that even if we had been stranded a kindly truck driver would have stopped for us and taken us to Tulum, or perhaps he would have been able to siphon off some fuel for us.

Pipe dreams perhaps.  Better left as what ifs. 

But this I know now for sure: always carry at least some cash on your travels, treat your fuel gauge with a modicum of scepticism and never ever contemplate wrestling a jaguar.


  1. A little extra something to make you sweat…

    I had a chance to scuba dive a couple of cenotes about 40 km NE of Tulum at the end of March. I have a story for it I wrote for my dive club, but it probably will not make it to WordPress until the end of my Mexico series – it’ll be a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Looking forward to reading it Dave. You’re a brave man to go diving in a cenotes, I noticed the edges where the blue water / sand drops away in to deep black. Very mysterious.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s