Gather round children and let me tell you a story of how we took a small road trip round the riviera maya in search for ancient ruins, far away from civilization where no human has gone before, except for the thousands of tourists each month or so…
But still, our journey begins in Puerto Morelos, home of the baby leaning tower of… lighthouse, we hit the road drinking some coconut water and some delicious o.j. ( keep hydrated kids, you never know when heat is gonna strike ).
Our first stop was the ancient ruins of Coba, it’s cheaper if you’re from Mexico, so if you barely resemble a mexican but don’t speak spanish just put a big smile and use your fingers to tell the nice lady how many tickets you need, who knows you might just end up with a cheap entry, but i digress, we did not take a guide because we’re pretty sure we’d forget most of the information pretty much instantly, and I’m really good at making up stories on the fly.
These ruins are really beautiful, some of the highest we’ve seen so far, the first ones I’ve seen at high noon with beach weather, so you better bring a cap and some drinking water ( i told you being hydrated paid off ), we didn’t see the whole place as we were kind of in a hurry since we still had to find a hotel or a nice fridge box to spend the night so we only saw a few buildings and took the brilliant idea of climb one of the buildings (the only one that’s open), eavesdropping we learned that it has over 110 steps and it has a the feeling of taking an eternity to climb, but it’s worth it if only for the amazing view ( if you want to climb it you better hurry up since apparently they’re gonna close that part soonish so the archeologist can investigate inside, they think there’s ancient yummy mayan candy, it’s pretty much a giant piñata).
Before going to our next stop we took a pit stop at the Grand Cenote, if you’re not familiar with a cenote, it’s basically a giant natural pool filled with freezing water, it filters water from caves below the earths surface, you can do a number of things here, but the main ones are snorkeling, swimming or if you have your padi certificate you can dive here, the lifeguard told us it’s nearly 1 km for the bold divers, and around 75 mts where you can swim with some read eared turtles, through a small cave and view some amazing lightning effects from the sun shining through, or sit near the edge and let the tiny fish treat your feet to some spa action as they nibble at your toes and laugh at you for being cold ( head my warnings, every cenote is colder than the last one you visited, it’s not an exact science but at least that’s how i feel ).
After that cold cold swim we got in the car and drove up to Tulum, searching for some nice and cheap room to stay, we came across a couple but since the asking price was 130 USD per night we skipped those places and stayed at a nice little hotel downtown, the lady at the front desk warned us about the noise at night, and i thought she made a joke about the room counting with some earplugs as-well as organic shampoo and conditioner, but a joke it was not, and trust me you might need them, it’s a loud neighborhood, specially at weekends, still managed to sleep even if little, Xoch did get a nice rest, we were pretty tired by the end of the day, but i got what seems like an amazing sugar rush from a marzipan and a cold frappe, that and seeing cartoons before bed gets you amped, it’s like the old man’s version of skydiving, only safer and lamer.
Next day we ate breakfast, a nice plate of fruit, yogurt and some bread with butter and marmalade freshly squeezed from those tiny packets that make you feel like a clumsy giant every time you try to open one ; being rested we hit the road to see the famous ruins of Tulum ( the entrance is free on Sunday, but only if you show your ID from México, or if you can sing the mexican anthem whilst holding a giant sombrero ), now it the entrance might be free but the parking is not, see that’s how they get your sweet sweet money, they lure you in with promises of ancient buildings near the beach and then pow a 120 pesos parking space, pretty shady stuff, and since the parking lot is at least 1 km from the actual entrance to the ruins you’re left with a new choice to make : do i walk there or pay another fee for the trolley to take me there like the ancient mayas of yore did in their mayan prom or sweet 16.
Once we arrived at the entrance we saw a couple of coaties hanging around, a cute baby one which i think was with it’s caregiver and a large one foraging for food near a dumpster, or maybe they managed to train coaties to be low cost janitors. Once inside you’re greeted with some pretty cool views, the stones are nearly completely bleached from the sun and salt, at some points you can see both the ruins and the sea, it’s quite the view as well as encountering lots and lots of iguanas, the color of the beach is a nice and inviting blue, there were barely any waves, the sea was really calm that day.
After sweating what seems like half our weight we took a trip to yet another cenote, this one was really different from the ones we’ve been, it was called Cenote Manati, it’s really large and murky in some places, making it hard to see while snorkeling, also a roller coaster of temperatures for your skin, going from warm to freezing cold within a few feet of distance, so we’re spoiled about snorkeling having been living in Huatulco, and Cozumel, specially Cozumel with it’s pristine and blue water, it’s hard to describe this cenote’s visibility but let me try to break it down, at some places it’s like you’ve made your way into the largest green tea cup, being ok to see down to the bottom and another stretches being like swimming in a cup of coffee with milk right before you stir it to make it delicious, so it’s hard to see farther than arms length, that and the fact that it’s filled with manglar trees with it’s roots that look like snakes or giant chocolate octopus tentacles, and some fish might pop up out of nowhere to give you a nice scare as Xoch can attest to that.
They offer a guided tour which includes some secret passages through underwater caves, but we ran out of money… that’s another thing it’s hard to find a bank around here so bring enough and keep it safe; after our cenote dive we walked a few meters to find ourselves an the ocean once again and snorkeled once more, it was also murky, like swimming in milk which was reduced with water, and since we were so close to the cenote it has some cold water filter to the sea, making the entrance and exit some of the coldest we’ve had in a while.
Warning – Beginning of Rant
Our last stop for the weekend was at Akumal, it’s a beautiful white sand beach with turquoise waters, truly a remarkable place, it’s also where the sea turtles come to eat the delicious sea weed, so at certain seasons you’d come across these wonderful creatures chomping on the floor while you float above them; recently they had a big fight for the rights of the beach, I’m not sure on which side i stand, since owners of hotels wanted to close the bay for money reasons ( i know such weird concept in Mexico of all places [please read it with a smirk on your face from all the sarcasm]) and the people from the town were not happy about it ( for money reasons as-well) apparently they came to terms and now the entrance is free, but if you want to swim farther than the buoys to where the sea turtles are, you need to be with a guide, no flippers and life vest, the reasons seem noble at first, which are to avoid hitting the turtles with the flippers and to stop you from diving and disturbing them while they eat. Now you’ll be thinking what are you flapping about, that’s the best reason… and it is, except they don’t limit the amount of people swimming in those places, so it’s really crowded making it counter productive, they’re still bothering them be it in lesser ways but in greater numbers, so choose your poison… that and the fact that there’s the boats just a few meters away from tours, this is the part where i think either they control the entrance to the bay to as few visitors per day as possible to avoid annoying the turtles, or close it entirely to both the hotels and tourism and the turtles will live happily until they turn on each other for control of the sea weed, they really need to regulate that substance. I know i took a really extreme measure, but it seems to be paying off in Cozumel at Punta Sur, where there’s a specific number of visitors per day, so if you luck out you might not get in till the next day.
End of Rant
Now let’s leave the rant for another day, we swam with the turtles for at least 20 min or so, they sure are gentle giants, not sure what kind they are but its really nice seeing them swim in they’re habitat instead of an aquarium, a few had those flat fish that live giving hickies to the sharks, vampiristic looking creatures, either that or they got shoulder-pads from the 80s.
Overall it was a great road trip full of surprises and weird new words, on a side note while we were at coba we heard something funny and kind of sad, a fellow mexican was asking one of the tour guides if they still performed the ancient rituals with the jaguars… that they saw in a show at Xcaret a few days before… i mean obviously they still do it, am i right guys *high five*