Photography and travel blog

Tulum

After Campeche, we spent a night in the awful Playa Del Carmen. It probably would have been better had it not been raining since we could have gone to the beach or visit Cozumel, but alas, it was raining very hard. The day was spent walking down the vastly overpriced touristy strips which quoted prices in US dollars, always a bad sign. The ATM only dispensed US cash, another bad sign. The main strip was dominated with US food joints and retail stores, and I have to admit, that it left me perplexed. I do not understand why many Americans opt to patron these joints when they have an opportunity to try something completely different. Shopping at US-owned joints also defeats the purpose of tourism contributing to the economy. Sure these shops employ Mexicans but I think it’s better to visit smaller shops which put more money in the pockets of the locals.  It also empowers them since they do not have to depend on foreign companies for employment.

After Playa, we stayed in Tulum town, a one-street, truck stop not without its charms. We were very excited about visiting coming here where we planned to swim at the beach, visit the ruins, bike, kayak and snorkel. Unfortunately, we came while it was experiencing one of its coldest winters ever. This affected our plans but luckily we ended up being able to do everything but swim and bike.

The first day we visit the Tulum ruins which is not known for its craftsmanship but its beautiful setting. It is situated on a cliff overlooking the beach and ocean. I was a bit disappointed, however, as the ruins were crowded with tour groups coming in from Playa del Carmen and Cancun.

We decided to enquire about kayaking tours at Sian Ka’an, a protected biosphere reserve. We rented bicycles from Iguana bikes and went the 2 km trek to the CESIAK office. The ride there was on flat terrain but I struggled – a lot – and berated myself for being so out of shape. When we arrived at the office, a man looked at the bike and told me that a wheel was completely flat! The kayak tours were cancelled because of bad weather but they told us to come back another day. Returning the bikes to Iguana was difficult. The man who worked there was in an awful mood. Luckily he gave us a refund but the people who visited after were yelled at and told that Iguana did not rent out bikes. I would not recommend renting bikes from them.

Since we couldn’t kayak or bike, we went snorkelling at Dos Ojos (two eyes in Spanish) which consists of two cenotes (essentially underwater sinkholes).

The cenotes were beautiful with its crystal blue water, however, I have to admit that I did not enjoy the experience because I was just too cold. My wetsuit was too big, the cenotes were located in dark caverns and I get cold easily so I was shivering the entire time. I felt guilty for not soaking in the beautiful atmosphere and enjoying the unique experience more.

The next day the weather was again too poor to go kayaking. We opted to go to Coba, a small township with a set of Mayan ruins. I enjoyed Coba very much. The complex is set in the jungle and it is not fully excavated so there are trees growing out of some of the structures. Paths have been cut into the trees which allow for tranquil, pleasurable walks or bike rides. My friend, an archaeologist, visited about 10 years ago and she still rates Coba as one of her favourite ruins, although when she went there were no paths and the ruins were more buried. The complex is home to the Yucatan’s largest pyramid at 42m.

Coba also had a lot of insects. We saw a massive trail of ants, many of which were carrying little pieces of leaf. My friend also noticed a very strange bug which moved like a slinky.

The next day, the weather was not so great in the morning but we noticed it clearing up in the afternoon. We went to the office and were told that the sunset tour was on! The Sian Ka’an biosphere is a little piece of heaven with white sandy beaches and gorgeous blue-green water. The kayak tour was one of the highlights of the trip. It led us through a swamp which is home to many species of birds. We saw pelicans, herons, spoonbills, osprey and best of all, flamingos which were stopping by for a couple of weeks before they migrated further south. After kayaking, we were served with a delicious meal of trout and rice. I would highly recommend doing the Sunset Birdwatching Tour with CESIAK.

Tulum was one of the highlights of the trip and I recommend you make it out there if you can. We visited when they were experiencing a cold spell and we still had a wonderful time. It can only be better with cooperative weather.



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