You know when your gut is telling you that something is just not right? That’s how I felt as I was getting ready for my trip to Cabo to celebrate my future sis-in-laws 30th birthday. Why, you might ask? Well as the typical Traveling Latina in me, I was monitoring the weather and it was showing a second hurricane in less than two weeks was getting ready to swing by Baja California. A part of me was staying optimistic and thinking, "no way a hurricane will swing by" and then there was another part of me that said “shit is going to be bad.”
We got to Cabo on a Friday and it was a gorgeous day! We all said “no way a hurricane is coming through, it's just going to be a tropical storm.” The next day, Saturday, it was extremely hot and gorgeous in Cabo, you really wouldn't have thought at all that a hurricane or tropical storm was planning on swinging by Baja California. We decided we were going to enjoy as much as we could of this beautiful beach town and had an amazing time at Nikki Beach inside the Me by Melia. After we were done partying like rock stars, we decided we wanted to do the boat tour and check out El Arco. Sure enough, that’s when things started to change. We were told that the water was too choppy and the national mexican coast guard was not allowing boats to leave the shore. They later said that the storm was slated to come in a bit earlier than what was anticipated. Again, we kept calm and continued on enjoying our trip.
Sunday morning, we woke up to a note underneath our door stating that the hotel was getting prepared for a category 4 hurricane, which was now planning to hit Cabo (when originally it wasn’t going to, it was just supposed to be a tropical storm). We all got a little nervous but we kept on with our day, until we saw those waves getting larger and larger, the sky getting darker and darker by the hour. 2:00 p.m. came around and we were given a second notice saying to evacuate our rooms by no later than 5:00 p.m. The hotel gave us specific instructions which said: leave your luggage inside the bathroom tub, close the bathroom door, only take your most valuable items with you and make sure to lock all windows and doors before heading to the hotel conference room area.
One thing I have to admit is that Melia Cabo Real did an amazing job making sure their guest were aware of what was going on at all times. The folks that work at the hotel did everything possible to be effective with their communications and patient with all of their guest which they felt responsible for while the hurricane passed by.
Starting around 6:00 p.m. that Sunday, the lights were starting to flicker until about 9:00 p.m. when the power completely went out and the backup generator kicked in. We were in a room with about 250 adults and approximately 50 children. The kids were being really fussy but I can’t blame them, it was hot as hell in that room and we only had one fan working for the entire conference room (while we had electricity).
Unfortunately, when you get too many people in one room some folks forget about common courtesy. A great example was when adults were starting to fart like it’s going out of style. I swear I gagged a few times at the smell of rotten eggs – gross, yes I know – Other grownups, were drinking vodka, and then there was a small handful that are just passed out and waiting for the storm to pass.
As the hurricane passed, we have heard trees slam into the hotel and the wind pick up by the minute. In addition, the hot air in the conference room and the cold air from outside caused a huge friction and actually made one of the walls inside the conference room explode. The noise from the wall explosion was extremely scary especially since the entire conference room moved as if it was an earthquake.
It was a bit scary to be in a room with a bunch of people I don’t know but the part where I felt connected with these strangers was the fact that we are all in the same situation – came to Cabo for vacation and are now in a conference room staying safe during this horrific hurricane— the power at one point, after the eye of the hurricane passed, completely disappeared, we were in the dark. It was pitch black in that conference room, the only light we had nearby was the light coming from my laptop.
Just to clarify, this was the first time I have ever lived through a Hurricane Category 4. I know folks in Miami, the Carolina's, southern USA or Caribbean are all probably saying "Category 4 is nothing." It's easy to say that statement when you are in the comfort of your own home with your family but I was in a third world country. It was definitely one of the scariest natural disasters I had lived through; the winds reached up to 115 mph, power was basically non-existent, and if you were near the beach (like our hotel) coconut trees and waves were going insane.
Monday morning finally arrived and the storm had passed but there was a part of me that still felt that the worst was yet to come. Sure enough, I was correct, yet again. We were not allowed to leave the conference room area until about noon when they finally open the doors to the hallway and feel that the worst is yet to come, why? Well at that moment they needed to inspect the entire hotel grounds for them to determine a couple of things: 1. if the hotel was safe for us to walk around and 2. if the rooms were good enough for us to go back to. Once they finished doing the walk through they determined that the hotel was basically 80% destroyed but that they were going to slowly start cleaning up some areas for us to walk through and take a break from being in a dark room.
I was staying strong this whole time mostly for myself, I couldn’t allow myself to break down and make a scene in front of 300 people who were all facing the exact same fears and anxiety as I was. Most people were starting to get frustrated (as was I) because we wanted information on what was going on outside of the hotel, now that the storm had passed. The hotel unfortunately provided us very little information the first 12 hours passed the storm. That Monday, was extremely tough! We had no access to a shower, no running water, no electricity, humidity was at its max, and we had to once again sleep on a floor. We made the best of it, but it wasn't what we wanted.
On Tuesday morning, we were blessed to wake up with cooler weather, gorgeous sun and the opportunity to walk the hallway of the lobby area (it doesn't sound like much but it felt super liberating). The hotel immediately told us that the Mexican government was planning a rescue plan for all tourist and that they were sending a couple of hotel representatives to the airport to obtain more information.
I'm not going to bore you to death with miniscule details about how we spent our days -- it was a lot of cards, formulating ways to get to the airport, and silence. Finally positive news came to our ears when the hotel said they were going to start slowly evacuating guest out of the hotel and to the airport. At 8pm, we all got our luggage together, then stood in line to make sure we were accounted for, and slowly started to get into vans and a bus to get to the airport so we can head to one of the "rescue airport cities."
At 1:45 a.m. on Wednesday morning, we got on our flight to Guadalajara. The minute the wheels touched ground in Guadalajara at 3:45 a.m. I called my fiance and family. Tears of joy came through on both sides of the telephone. We were happy to hear each others voice and reconfirm that we were all OK. That wednesday was by far one of the longest days of my life but I am happy that I am alive and back in Chicago.
I have to say that the Melia Cabo Real staff was amazing and they truly did try their best to make sure that we were happy at all moments in time. This was an experience that I will never forget and hope I will never have to experience again.
Have you ever survived a hurricane in a city you have never been to? If so, i'd love to hear your story.
UPDATE 10/02: Just a little bit ago, my future sister-in-law shared with me a letter she received from the Melia Cabo Real. Reading this letter made me slightly emotional because it just once again shows how amazing this hotel is and the people that work for them. Check out the note below!