Tulum is famous for its ruins and beautiful beaches. Thankfully our Couchsurfing host, Tim, who had moved down to Mexico three years ago to escape the monotony of the daily grind in the US, had told us we could stay for as long as we wanted. The ruins are about 5 km out of town, and even though we were up early, we didn’t get there until about 10am. Being a Saturday, that didn’t end up being the best idea because it meant that the mammoth car park was almost full when we turned up. Said car park was positioned in such a way that everyone getting out would then have to walk a good way to the entrance to the ruins, through an area that from a distance seemed like a shopping centre of souvenirs to buy. Thankfully, being on bicycles we could avoid that and park right by the entrance, in actual bike racks.
The setting of the ruins is spectacular, and the ruins are very well maintained. The grass almost looks like it’s off the green at a golf course, which is surprising considering how many people decide to ignore the well-marked paths and cut across the grass, often chasing after photos of iguanas.
I’m definitely looking forward to coming back to Tulum after Cuba. I’m not sure what day it’ll be, but hopefully not on a weekend. The main problem though is that it’s the most accessible famous ruin to not only those tourists staying in any of the huge number of 5-star resorts south of Cancún, but also to those who arrive in Playa del Carmen or Cozumel, where cruise ships dump vast hordes of people on a daily basis. If I get there at 8 am on a weekday, I’ll hopefully have a better impression, which at the minute is beautiful but far too busy. It seemed to have the same number of people as Chichén Itzá, but in a ruin 1/10th of the size. The good thing, I guess because of the limited amount of space, there were no vendors inside.
There is beach access at Tulum, but we left and went a bit further along to get a bit more space. It was a beautiful space, with incredibly fine sand, but with the wind whipping off the Caribbean we were getting sandblasted just being sat there. There was also a distinct lack of shade which meant that trying to have a relaxing time researching my trip to Cuba, which I’d just bought the tickets for, didn’t work so well.
From Tulum, we headed to Playa del Carmen where Jorge Luis, my host from back in October in Veracruz now works. He had graduated from his course in Tourism and now working in the tourism capital of Mexico, the Riviera Maya – home to ridiculously expensive 5 star hotels and where even the ruins have been taken over. The audio below explains the ridiculousness of our experience in Xel-Há and Xcaret, one of them being a lot more positive than the other. The idea that ruins can be taken over like that is just offensive to both of us, but fit in with our image of the area.
We relaxed on the beach, using the rain flies from our tents, and felt so smart. We stayed there, me organising things for Cuba, and them swimming and enjoying that you can drink on the beaches in Mexico. Lots of the prices in Playa del Carmen are in dollars and pesos, and for those Americans who want to not use pesos, there were even ATMs to withdraw US dollars. I get that it could be convenient, but to me it feels a bit strange to go to a country and not even be willing to immerse yourself enough to use the currency.
Our final day of riding together took us 60km from Playa del Carmen to Cancún. Peter has been saying for a long time that the main reason that he’s going to Cancún is to get a cheap flight and cheap bicycle fee, Jet Blue only charges $80 for a bike fee, much better than the $1-200 that others do.
The road from Tulum to Cancún is a well paved, very straight road that goes up the coast. You basically never get to see the sea, and outside of very well maintained lawns which take ridiculous amounts of water to keep green, the only thing you see is the gates to very expensive hotels and cars flying past you far too quickly. It wasn’t really the best ending to a trip, other than the fact that we had a tailwind meaning effortlessly riding along at 25-30 km/h.
We arrived in Cancún, and made our way through some terrible traffic, seemingly trying to do it’s best to take us off the road. We’d had something arranged with a Couchsurfing host, but that didn’t really work out so we contacted a Warmshowers host and waited for him in a square near his house. We tried calling, but couldn’t get through. Thankfully, most people on Warmshowers share their addresses and Rodrigo was no exception. I went for a walk and found him, we were welcomed in to his house, cleaned up and then went to buy a few beers and dinner to celebrate making it to Cancún, and the end of Peter’s ride.
Getting ready for the photo shoot