Beaches, cenotes and Maya ruins
13.12.2007 - 17.12.2007 25 °C
Tulum is a very nice place.
We recently changed our plans and decided to spend a few days here instead of travelling up to Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, which are known to be a lot more developed and expensive. Cozumel apparently offers the best diving in the Caribbeans, but since we are not diving, we decided to avoid the mass US tourism found up north and the subsequent sky-high prices that go with it. The beach in Tulum is just as stunning as the one in Playa del Carmen, if not better, and without the high rise hotels and annexed infrastructure. In fact, Tulum, while being a very touristy place due to its Maya ruins, is not that built up at all, especially on the beach. Things of course are bound to change but, for the time being, you can walk the long beach and find lots of wild stretches with no facilities at all, while the hotels that exist are generally cabaña style or very low buildings. The water is a fantastic blue turquoise and the sand like talc. Really delightful! Of course, the Riviera Maya does not come cheap, not even in Tulum, where the most basic cabaña will cost you almost $40 without bathroom or breakfast. We landed at Zanzil Kin, nowadays the first 'hotel' south of the ruins, where we were given a very poor round cabaña with a face more or less saying "you either take this one or you can piss off, we are the cheapest here and there is a queue of tourists like you waiting out there". We still took it, of course, resisting the temptation to punch the male receptionist, and the cabaña was indeed very basic and the bed unconfortable, but the bathrooms were clean and the setting really nice, with a number of cabañas scattered amongst the sand dunes, 100 meters of so from the beach. Some of them actually look quite nice, we just got a particularly poor one - still very pretty from the outside. We spent two nights there and then it started to rain. We thought that Olga was finally coming - remember the hurricane we mentioned back in Mahagual, on its way to Mexico after flooding Puerto Rico? - so we did not enjoy the beach much, but the evenings at Zanzil Kin were good, with a good happy hour and pool table. On the last night, after showing off our great skill at billiard when I, me, Flavia, beated 3 male players (!!!) we were challenged by the barmen to play for a cocktail, and we won! That was really good fun, certainly my first time playing for something - I had been playing quite badly the second night but by the time a drink was at stake, I suddenly got a lot better...
Anyways. While exploring the beach, we came across a nice Italian place called La vita e' bella. Essentially a posh expensive place that however offers three cabañas in the back yard with shared bathroom at the bargain price of $42. I had a moan about the current cabaña we had and the owner, Silvia, offered us one of the cheap rooms for the same price at Zanzil Kin - so the next day we moved over to the new accomodation. It was different - the restaurant completely different style, very different prices, no billiard, very quiet, hardly any people around, and sunbeds on the beach!! We spent a day and a half swimming (Gregory) and floating (Flavia) in the turquoise swimming-pool-like gorgeous sea before us and had a really nice time - Olga apparently dissolved up in the skies and the sun came out in full the day we moved. Inbetween we also walked up to visit the Tulum Maya ruins, which are famous for their stunning setting on the sea. There were quite a lot of tourists, but it was nice to walk around nevertheless.
Today we came back into town (3 km inland from the beach) and, after checking out four overpriced places, we checked into Hotel Cocos2000, at $27 with bathroom, a/c and TV! What a jump in comfort! We actually do not need the a/c, the nights have been quite chilly and tonight we are spending most of the evening at the Internet Caf, so we won't need the TV either, but hey, we have it all! In the afternoon we booked a tour with Cenotes Control to the local cenote called Dos Ojos, apparently one of the most popular. It was the cheapest deal we could find, at $30, with prices varying between $30 and $50 for essentially the same tour. Prices here are so crazy that you really have to shop around hard - even for burning DVDs you have places charging $7 and then nextdoor someone else will charge you $3. And, generally speaking, the approach is quite rough - the people do not seem to care a great deal about your custom, you often get semi-cold below-average food, etc. But the natural beauty of this place is something else!
Anyways, back to the cenote. A cenote is a type of freshwater-filled sinkhole typically found in the Yucatán Peninsula and some nearby Caribbean islands. Cenote water is often very clear, as the water comes from rain water infiltrating slowly through the ground, and therefore contains very little suspended matter. The groundwater flow rate within a cenote is usually very slow at velocities ranging from 1 to 1000 meters per year. In many cases, cenotes are collapsed sections of roof over an underlying cave system. Around the Riviera Maya there are hundreds of cenotes, all attracting large numbers of cave divers and, the few that can be snorkelled, snorkellers. Cenote Dos Ojos can be snorkelled as well as dived, and this is where we went. We got a wet suit included in the deal, which turned out really useful, since the water was quite cold and we spent a good hour in there. Essentially, you swim through an open cave and you see lots of rock formations below and above you, plus the divers at the bottom of the cave - the divers can enter parts that snorkellers cannot, clearly. But you still see quite a lot from up above, including the bat cave, which you reach by snorkelling through a very low ceiling of less than half a meter. We took a lot of pictures with our new super underwater camera, however the environment is quite dark, so very few came out. This is a link to the website of our tour company, which offers a few pics to give the idea of what we are talking about:
And these are our fab pics for Tulum....
La vita e' bella
Cenote Dos Ojos
Tomorrow we are heading for Chichen Itza and then a quick stop in Merida for one night. After that, we have 3 nights in Palenque (more ruins) and then San Cristobal de las Casas for Christmas. Then it will be Puerto Escondido for New Year and then a precipitating way up to Mexico City for the end of our travels.