One aspect that Pirates of the Caribbean didn’t convey is how absolutely paradisiacal the place is. Tulum has been the perfect rest stop over the past two days and it’s going to be a hard place to leave. It turns out that 100F degrees isn’t that bad if its passed laying in hammocks, snorkeling in reefs, and socializing with the world’s most exciting people.
Alex and I are staying in a hostel called The Weary Traveler on Eddy and Lizzie’s advice. Rather than a hostel, this place is more like a dormitory. We walk through the front entry and into a long courtyard. On the right are a bar and an open-air kitchen. On the left are two floors of rooms full of bunks. In the middle are a massive community table and a series of hammocks beyond that. Free breakfast, AC, and a party every night for $140 pesos.
We arrived after a three hour ride Thursday afternoon and settled into our room. After five days alone on the road together, Alex and I quickly parted ways and went off to do our own thing and meet our own people. Watching Alex walk up to a brand new group of people who haven’t heard any of his stories is like watching Al Pacino bury his face in white powder at the end of Scarface. He gets all wide eyed, he tenses up, and then he just goes to town on the innocent audience. Al got all strung out on gab until 4:00am Thursday night before he finally crashed hard. He woke up tired and quiet. Classic.
Tulum is amazing; a strip of authentic Mexican shops amidst a blossoming forest of palms along a white sandy beach. There are plenty of tourists wandering around but they seem to be of the more adventurous breed (otherwise they would be hung over up in Cancun). Two hours south of Cancun and one hour south of Playa del Carmen, this little city is going to explode in the next decade. There are countless mega-resorts, infinite beaches, and even a kite school (not enough wind for windsurfing). And according to all the other travelers, Tulum is the greatest place in the Yucatan.
Friday was one of the best days I’ve had in the last two months… the perfect mix of adventure and vacation. Alex and I shared a room two Seattleites named Zac and Amber. The two are down here for a three week vacation through the Yucatan, Belize, and Guatemala. We started chatting about home and everybody’s travels and soon enough we had an entire day planned together.
The four of us plus a French named Alin and a German named Dominic all strolled over to the local dive shop and rented snorkels, masks, and fins for the entire day for just $5. Then we hopped in a ‘colectivo’ (a big Toyota public transportation van) and headed off to a beach called Akumal. The colectivo dropped us off on the side of the highway and it was a five minute walk to the beach. Akumal is more of a resort that’s open to the public. It is a huge bay filled with fishing boats, divers, swimmers, and a coral reef. I immediately threw on the fins and hit the crystal clear bathtub water.
With plenty of other swimmers and explorers in the water already, I swam out pretty far trying to find the reef and take some pictures with my waterproof camera. I was splashing around for half an hour getting frustrated unable to find the reef when my luck changed. Right below me on the seafloor was a turtle grazing on seaweed. I watched for a few minutes as he ate, then surfaced, then went back down for more food. Eventually, I decided to see how close I could get. To much delight, he let me swim right up beside him and even touch his shell (don’t tell Fish and Game). I wandered around the ocean floor with the three foot shelled sea turtle for twenty more minutes mimicking his activities and taking pictures. Eventually I lost him and went back to the beach.
I spent the next few hours sunbathing and had a great lunch across the highway with Zac and Amber. It was really a relief to hang out with some true neighbors. When traveling, I usually just put on a happy face and act very agreeable to everyone else on the road whether I like them or not. What a pleasure to spend some time with people who actually think the same way and share the same mannerisms. Zac and Amber both work at a Seattle restaurant called Dragonfish. I laughed because that’s where Drew, Derrick, Nicole, and I always go after the Seattle bar scene for the late-night sushi happy hour. I’m sure we’ve all crossed paths before Tulum.
After lunch I followed Zac and Amber out to the reef. On the way, we ran into five more turtles all in the same area. We hovered around them until they all scattered and then we kept going. Turtles don’t look like they’re moving fast as they gracefully glide through the water, but they’re hard to keep up with when they don’t want to be bothered.
Five minutes later we were out above the reef examining the exotic habitat. The reef was just like any nature program portrays it: teeming with colorful fish, full of different coral formations, and very vibrant. My favorite discovery was a squid pushing along right above the reef. His eyes were massive and looking right at me. Again, for an animal with no spinal cord, he made me think twice about who had control of the situation out there in the reef.
Back in Tulum I went out with Zac, Amber, and another lady for fish dinner. For about $8 each, we ate the most bountiful catch the Caribbean could deliver. We ordered rich guacamole, a pound of ceviche, two fried fish, and a beer each; no one could clean their plates. The food was all incredible. It tasted like the ocean, but it wasn’t fishy either. It was the perfect ending to a day of snorkeling in the ocean.
We returned to the Weary Traveler and saw a new bike in the lot with Colorado plates. Intrigued, Alex and I eventually found the other biker and started cooking plans. The Coloradan is named Ty and he’s currently riding two-up with his girlfriend Jill on the same route we are. We spent the night sharing drinks and telling stories but the real news is that we have a new team put together for the next few weeks.
Ty and Jill headed to Belize on Saturday while Alex and I are staying here in Tulum one more night. Tomorrow we will head down behind them to catch up. The plan is to meet up before Guatemala and head in together. Tulum has delivered. I have new friends at home and new friends on the road. Tomorrow we drop into Belize and the adventure starts all over again.