I finally made it to the Tulum ruins one afternoon when it was a mere 75 thousand degrees. The place is beautiful with the most spectacular views. I can honestly say it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Absolutely worth the wait. The ruins are spread out around a grassy hill with the famous clifftop fortress the highest and most noteworthy building. I didn’t take a guided tour to Tulum and I never brought my trusty Lonely Planet Guide. I was content enough to wander around the site alone, reading all the little blurbs by each building. I didn’t really know what I was looking at. I don’t know who built Tulum, when or why. I am fairly sure that it was actually built as a theme park for iguanas. To this day you can see hundreds of them clambering over the ruins loving life.
The sea that Tulum overlooks is so blue it must be artificially coloured. It’s the colour of blue Smarties. You can access the beach from the ruins and I jealously watched people splash around in the sea. The water was dangerously choppy and I was fearful for everyone in it. As scorching as it was I was willing to melt rather than get pulled away by the undercurrent. Much more important than safety I stupidly did not wear a bikini so a trip to the beach was off the cards.
The ruins of Tulum are all roped off. No chance of climbing up things but as the ropes are only a metre or so high they don’t really hamper the views. There was one party who kept climbing over the ropes to take pictures of themselves. Now, I love the rules. Those ropes are there for a reason. One of the party put his foot on top of one of the buildings. Oh boy, did that make me angry. “I don’t think you should do that” I said to the man. He laughed at me and walked away. My blood boiled. How dare you deface this historical monument with your touch and then be rude to me. I’m not proud of myself for this but I did spend the next 15 minutes following them around and getting in the way of all their pictures. Eventually I broke them and they huffed off. I bet they think twice about breaking any more rules. Fairly sure I can now be classed as a vigilante.
I had been happily wandering around Tulum for an hour or so, being cooked,snapping pictures and chatting to iguanas when the batteries on my camera died. My instant thought was, I hope I don’t see anything else good. Quickly followed by, if I see anything else good then I will have to come back. I was annoyed with myself that after waiting so long to come to Tulum I didn’t take the one second to check my batteries. Serves me right for taking a million selfies. Luckily, I didn’t see anything else good! My camera had already captured the best of Tulum.
With Chichen Itza, Coba and Tulum under my belt, the question now is, where shall I go next?
My first 6 months in Mexico blissfully passed in Playa Del Carmen. Beautiful beaches, endless sunshine and sizzling temperatures : It was very easy to enjoy a Mexican Winter. Playa is very touristy, you are never more than a metre away from a novelty shot glass, but I do love it there. When I could drag myself away from the beach I would spend hours wandering around town, trying to get off the tourist trail of 5th Avenue and hunting the back streets for the perfect mojito. I managed to spot a few weddings at Carmen’s church. Sultry brides and overly made up guests pose in front of the dazzling white church with peeps of blue sky and beach behind. You would never know that there was a McDonalds and a bus station in grabbing distance.
Mexicans are amongst some of the warmest, most welcoming people I have ever met. They don’t care if you are Scottish or American or Chinese or German, all they want to know is if you can party! The nightlife in Playa is wicked. One of my favourite memories was stumbling into a local cantina with my equally blonde friend and finding it full of hotel staff still in their uniforms drinking beer and listening to salsa. We were treated like old friends, tequila was brought over, nachos produced and we had a line of new amigos waiting to say hello to us. We pondered what to play on the jukebox for a while then settled on international favourite … Bob Marley. My favourite haunt in Playa however is a dark, dingy karaoke bar filled predominantly with taxi drivers. Night after night we would go in, sip our Pineapple and Grey Goose Vodkas, listening to the men singing Spanish heartbreak songs like they meant it. The microphone would be passed from table to table and it was impossible to tell who was singing. Then one of our requests would come on and we would make a stage in the centre of the bar and blast out some classics from Alanis or Madonna. The nights I can remember, I will remember forever!
Half way through my season bags were packed, and I was on the move again.
SD ARMY PARA LA VIDA
Tulum has some beautiful ruins nestled up on a cliff overlooking the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. The ruins are supposed to be spectacular. I wouldn’t know though, because I have never seen them.
I don’t know what it is about me and Tulum. On my first day in Mexico I was supposed to do a day trip there but because of a miscommunication I never went. I have wanted to go since then and 4 months later I drove down there with my friend. Despite setting off early, by the time we got there the lines were so long that we didn’t make it into the temple. I can tell you that Tulum has a very ticket booth. Those Mayans were well sneaky. You can only see the temple if you buy an admission ticket in. One day I will get into the fortress and take lots of pictures. I’m sure it will be worth the wait.
Tulum has been voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the World. The sun was shining on the day I was there but it was too windy to lay out or get in the water. I had to make do with hamming it up on the beach for some photographs. When in doubt, head to the bar (my life motto). Tulum has such a hippy, bohemian vibe which I love. I spent a while, sipping cocktails on a swing in a beach bar serving free tequila. A blissful way to spend a Saturday morning.
During my trip to Coba our tour group stopped for a visit at a traditional Mayan village. It was humbling to see the village and witness the Mayans still living a traditional way of life. A local shaman came to greet us as we entered the village and performed a cleansing ritual with us. I’m not sure if he banished all my demons but he didn’t have me talking in tongues so I presume it was a success. We walked around the village en masse, stopping off to look at the animals they are rearing and plants they are growing. We entered one of the thatched houses and watched the mother of the family cooking dinner.
As interesting as it was, observing people like they are animals in a zoo is uncomfortable for me. I can’t imagine a group of Mayans coming to my house and watching me cooking dinner. It is hard to act naturally with a scheduled group of tour makers observing you and for that reason it is tough to gauge the authenticity of the experience. However, the money these tours create for the community is so beneficial that I could never criticise such a wonderful initiative. I did my part for the locals by buying some beautiful handicrafts in their shop. I know, I really am self less.
I do enjoy visiting local villages. I like anything off the beaten track which makes me feel like I am really experiencing a different culture. I would have rather of stumbled into a nearby cantina for a cervesa or dos with some banditos, but I appreciated this experience for what it was. I am all for supporting people making good, clean money from tourism.
I like to think of myself as somewhat of a pyramid connoisseur. I have documented my many visits to some of the world’s most famous pyramids. I can’t get enough of buildings shaped like bits of Tobelorane. A flat bottom, four corners and a point… yum!
The ruins of Coba are all nestled away in the jungle. I like the feeling of stumbling across ruins and pretending I am discovering them for the first time (even if I am on an organsised tour with 40 other tourists). Coba is the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula and, unlike Chichen Itza, you can still climb up it. I love clambering over things and getting the history under my finger nails. The walk up was sold to me as a death-defying struggle above the jungle top. It is only 120 steps. I have climbed Mount Fuji and I will not let anyone ever forget that! This little pyramid was a doddle compared to that. The views from the top were beautiful well worth the little stroll up. Looking out over the jungle I felt like The Queen of the Monkeys overseeing my kingdom. I would have liked to have sat down, enjoyed the moment and tranquility but in reality it was like a highway crossing up there.
Sadly, the pyramid is eroding away from all the thousands of tourists that have been climbing up it. In the very near future no one will be allowed on to the pyramid. It is a shame that others will not get the chance to see the beautiful view from up there but I understand that for conservation reasons it is a necessary step to preserve this important part of Mayan heritage. I’m very grateful I got the chance to climb it and also tick my 7,642 pyramid off my list.