After visiting Chichen Itza and Coba a couple of weeks ago, we stopped in Tulum to find dinner. Only, we’d been on the road since 430am and were particularly tired and cranky. So when we couldn’t seem to find a restaurant on the beach, we chucked a ‘Tulum sucks’ tantrum, drove home and had a very bad take-away pizza.
We showed them…
Then Tyrhone’s Mum Skyped us the other day.
“Have you been to Tulum?” she asked us expectantly, knowing it was only 45 mins south of our home-base in Playa del Carmen.
“Umm kind of…” we told her, though we had really just driven through it.
Long story short, we decided to give Tulum a second chance, since just about ever other person on the planet seemed to rave about its rustic, laid back atmosphere and rugged white-sand beaches.
One of our neighbours here recommended we rent a bungalow at Playa Esperanza, which had some good off-season rates. Spending the night in Tulum rather than just driving through it would surely help us appreciate the coastal paradise second time ’round.
We tossed up whether to rent a scooter or a car, but decided to do it on the cheap and catch the $3.50 Collectivo, or mini bus. Luckily we didn’t go the scooter option, as when we arrived in town, the streets were wet with dark, fat puddles from an early afternoon shower. So instead of making a bee-line for the beach, we ducked into a little corner restaurant with plastic chairs and matching plastic table cloths.
The food, however, looked fantastic.
And me stuffing them in my face.
And it was. Four tacos wrapped in the thinnest, freshest tortillas, two crunchy tostadas and a new addition to our repertoire: The Salbute, was hastily shovelled down (see above). All that and two drinks coming to a mere $9 or so. We gave the friendly waiter a tip and hopped in a taxi to the beach, situated 5km from the centre of town.
The area of Tulum is much more spread out than Playa del Carmen. You’ve got the town, which is home to a rustic yet increasingly boho-chic selection of restaurants and shops, then 5km away, those famous pristine beaches, flanked with mostly upmarket bungalow-style resorts.
I suppose ours sat somewhere in the middle, definitely rustic beach-chic, but with luxury design touches like marble floor tiles and distressed wood furniture. It was lovely, situated right on the beach. We had the choice of two bungalows, an upstairs room with a deck looking out over the leafy garden to the sea…
Or a beach-front bungalow with a private bathroom. The deck almost had me sold, but after my China crisis in a shared bathroom (well, I didn’t quite make it to the bathroom, which is exactly my point), we decided to go with our own bano (bathroom), just to be on the safe side.
Our very accessible ‘bano’…
Outdoor beach shower…
And our front yard…
When the rain cleared, we headed for the beach. Despite being spoiled with a lovely beach in PDC, this one was less developed and less populated. We bounced around in the turquoise waves for a while, before strolling up and down the blindingly white shore line, scoping out somewhere to have dinner (yes, we’d just had lunch, but come on! Priorities people!).
We checked out the nearby ‘Paraiso’ beach club, and then quickly high-tailed it out of there due to the ridiculous prices. We decided to walk the length of the beach towards the ancient ruins, which jutted out from a cliff overlooking the ocean.
Now those Mayans certainly had good taste in real estate!
We stopped on a quiet stretch of shore and watched birds with two-foot wide wing spans dive towards the water, piercing the surface with hungry beaks, then flying at the poor seagulls to chase them off their turf.
The seagulls were either really stupid or just really hungry, because they returned to the same stretch of beach again and again.
And that was the most eventful thing that happened that day. Which was the point of the weekend I suppose, no laptops, no TV, just us and the beach and the ruins.
And the birds.
Later we caught a taxi to a beach-side restaurant down the coast. We drank tangy lime drinks and shared an enormous plate of nachos, marvelling at the umpteen plates of food being delivered to the Mexican family next to us.
Just in front of our coloured tables that dug into the sand, children in life jackets played in the surf with their Dad. At one point, the youngest addition to their family toddled off towards the road, before being guided back by a concerned diner from the restaurant.
That’s how things worked here, I supposed, people were slowed down enough to notice things like a wayward toddler (except the Dad of course!). The food, the surf and the sand were the only distractions.
After dinner, we went to bed. We had no idea what time it was, but it was dark and our eventful day of eating and swimming and bird-watching had us beat!
I awoke to Tyrhone scrambling over me in the dark, telling me to turn on the lamp. The wind roared outside our thatched bungalow, and whilst I fumbled with the mosquito net to get to the light switch, I felt a drip, drip on my leg.
A storm had rolled in and our chic beach shack was leaking! Before my still-asleep brain could register what was happening, Tyrhone had thrown towels on the ‘roof’ of the mosquito net to absorb the rain.
We burst out laughing, at our panic over a few drops of drain, then went out on our terrace to survey the storm.
A wild wind whipped through the palm trees and rustled the dried thatched roofs, but luckily the rain had subsided. It was 1030pm. I felt like I’d already had a night’s sleep and was now wide awake!
A beam of torch-light shone across the sand in front of our bungalow. It’s bearer, a back-pack wearing girl, directed it towards us as she moved up from the beach towards us.
“What the hell is she doing?” I whispered to Tyrhone.
“Is this Playa Esperanza?” she asked wearily.
“Yes, yes it is,” I assured her.
She stuck her head around our door, surveying our lodgings.
“Ooh it’s really nice,” she swooned before making her way into the grounds to find a staff member.
“Where the hell is she coming from at this time?” I asked Tyrhone, knowing he had no answer for my late-night befuddlement.
Actually, it was all a bit exciting, The Mystery Of The Wayward Girl Of Tulum writing itself in my head. A late night fight with a boyfriend, a party-boat from Cancun washed ashore, the possibilities were endless.
After all the drama, however, we did eventually get off to sleep again.
We rose for early for a morning swim. The water was an iridescent blue as ominous grey clouds hovered overhead, threatening to deliver their contents over us.
We decided to pack up early and head for the ruins.
Our late-night visitor rose from her water-front hammock (where I think she may have spent the night), and started questioning us on the ruins, where they were, how to get there, etcetera.
“Ooh and it’s Sunday, so you don’t have to pay!” she informed us, even though just moments before she didn’t even know where they were.
“Oh cool,” I humoured her, though I hoped she was right. I think she was on drugs, or at least had been on drugs recently, but that didn’t mean she didn’t have the scoop on free shit.
Through a light rain, we meandered through the crumbling ancient structures (which, disappointingly were not free). My initial opinion about these particular Mayan’s taste in real estate was confirmed by this gorgeous cove that they would have once overlooked:
When we exited, we saw our ‘friend’ walking towards us down the road, wearing a blank look along with her backpack. Tyrhone smiled at her, we at least wanted to warn her that in fact things are not free in Mexico on Sundays (weirdly enough, I mean, it’s SUNDAY!), but she walked straight past us as though we’d never met.
Half relieved, we piled into the collectivo and hurtled along the highway back to Playa del Carmen. Despite the rain and our interesting visitor, the weekend had been good for us. We’d talked, laughed and watched the birds. We’d appreciated nature and been annoyed by it. But mostly we had a deeper appreciation for the place we’d chosen to call home for the next couple of months.
Tulum is stunning, a lovely place to visit. But for us Playa del Carmen is providing us with the best of both worlds, a place we can work and play, with A/C, wi-fi and satellite TV!
Sometimes you need to get away to appreciate what you’ve got, and right now, there’s no place we’d rather be than right here.
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