Cancun/Tulum, Mexico – 18th June 2021
At last the sun has come out… the plan was to hire a scooter to get around on, but due to the heavy rain and Jet Lag waking me up at 4am I have already gone and hired a car for the rest of my stay here… bummer! Oh well, never mind at least I have some wheels.
I have arranged to pick it up at the airport as I will then be able to use it to get myself and my bags back to the airport to fly to Mexico City on the 24th.
I need to get myself to the airport first of course, so I check out where to catch a bus. The main bus terminus is just a 10 minute walk away… fantastic. After some breakfast I trot off to the bus station. Here is where I am staying… looks better in the sunshine I must say
I enjoy the walk and pass this mural on the way
Isn’t it great… iconic even. When I get to the station I have to buy a ticket at the kiosk, the next bus is at 10.15 so just a short wait… but where… position 1 she says. I wander through to look for stand 1 when a police man stops me… oh no what have I done now?? He says something to me in Spanish so of course I don’t understand him. He looks at my ticket and then motions for me to follow him back into the ticket hall; I must say I am slightly trepidatious given my previous run ins with the law… he takes me to a waiting area by the exit to stand 1 and calls over another guy who is all decked out in white livery.. he takes a look at my ticket and indicates I should take a seat… whew that’s a relief. I get myself an iced mocha and sit down to wait. There are 6 seats on the row and I am in the first one… then along comes a woman with a travel bag and rather than sit in a seat away from me she sits in the next one, even though it has a notice on it saying to maintain social distance and not use this seat… it’s in Spanish of course but even I know what it means. I am a bit miffed and huff a little bit while moving myself over in the seat to try and keep away. I think maybe I should just get up and move when another man, in green livery, comes over and is obviously telling her to move.. she looks blank and he tells her again slowly while pointing at the notice on the other seats.. I wonder if she doesn’t understand Spanish, but she suddenly replies to him and he then repeats the instruction rather more emphatically so that she moves over a seat. She then strikes up a conversation with a man on the other side of the seats obviously bemoaning the situation… seriously don’t people think there are enough fatalities yet??
Shortly after this we are allowed onto the bus.. it is a coach and very comfortable with full air conditioning.. lovely. It only takes 40 minutes and then I realise there is more than one terminal of course and the information doesn’t say which one!! The coach calls at terminal 4 first but I can see there’s nothing here except departures. Car hire places are normally at the arrivals side so I wait to see what is next. Next is Terminal 1 and 2.. this looks more like it and I can see signposts for several car hire companies so get off here.
I walk along the front of the arrivals building and every other man is a taxi driver and they each ask me if I want a taxi… one guy is a little more persistent, he asks where I am going so I tell him I am looking for a car hire firm.. he asks which one and then speaks to another taxi driver and tells me it is the blue one over there.. so helpful.. he then says if they don’t have a car for me to come back and he will take me for free… I laugh and it is only afterwards that I think why would he do that??? Maybe he’s some crazy serial killer… ok calm down!
I find the place and the paperwork goes relatively smoothly.. of course I am stung for ‘damage waiver’ to the tune of $17 a day, which is not too bad actually but it is always annoying with these car rental companies, they say the price on the website and then when you get there, there are always insurance add ons etc. Anyway it ends up costing £290 for 6 days so roughly £48 a day which is pretty good really. I have booked the smallest car… after the drama in Croatia last year I want something that isn’t going to scrape any walls. I am directed outside to pick up the car and met by a bit of a smarmy guy who engages me in conversation.. like where am I going etc. Another guy pulls up in a large family saloon… ‘Oh no I don’t want that it’s too big, I want a small car like I ordered’. I spot a couple of Chevrolet Sparks parked up and say ‘like one of those, can’t I have one of those’. Mr Smarm says, but they are ‘stick shift’ ‘yes that’s fine’ he looks surprised and tells the guy to see if I can have one of the small ones. I almost said I’m not American I can drive anything, but think better of it. He then hits me with the time share sales pitch… ‘Do you like Cirque De Soliel?’ ‘I guess so’ ‘Oh well we have a complex here and we can offer you a free lunch, it is on the way to Tulum and it will be lunchtime and then you can have a look around to see if you like it and you can come back for a free holiday’ ‘No thanks, I’m not interested in Time Share’ to which he simply turns around and walks off! The other fella brings me one of the Sparks and I check it over for damage and am soon on my way… very happy with it too!
There are basically only two roads from Cancun to Tulum, one is like a motorway and the other is via Coba, another Mayan archeological site. I plan to visit both if I can, but decide to go to Tulum first. I stop for petrol and a quick bite and a photo op
it is now 12 and Tulum is still a good hour and a half away. I notice the shore to my left is just a chain of ‘resorts’ ie private ‘all inclusive’ holiday complexes with private beaches. I notice one that has miles of barbed wire topped wall interspersed with watch towers every 500m or so with 2 men in each. At first I thought it must be some kind of military base, but then I see the entrance to the resort.. a massive stone edifice with private road and barriers with guards checking people in and out, I bet a stay there must be a pretty penny. Before long I am in a traffic jam, it is moving incredibly slowly, thank the goddess for air conditioning. Now I am able to really see these back to back resorts.. just miles of walls with monumental stone entrances to each Grand or Royal or Princess Something holiday prison… Butlins on steroids with a price tag to match!
Some of them are really quite impressive; I can imagine if you have booked to stay at one of these you would be very impressed with the presentation.
After over an hour of slow moving traffic I check out the route and the ruins at both Tulum and Coba will close at 3pm so I am not able to get there in time. I think I will go for a swim instead, the area is famous for it’s Cenotes, basically water filled caverns that one can swim and dive in. I do a quick search on my phone and decide to head for Cenote Dos Ojos..
As I get closer to Tulum I can see a definite difference in the area, much more up market and the resorts are even more palatial, if that is at all possible. The other item of note is there are increasing numbers of hoardings advertising the resorts and all the people in them are white, blond haired, one imagines wealthy, Americans.. not a brown person in sight! Then I start seeing advertising for condominiums for sale and am amazed at the prices.. one was just $125,000 and the most expensive I saw was $299,000.. really very reasonable given the location. Not my cup of tea though, imagine me in one of these places.. not! Lastly I pass the entrance to the Tulum Country Club.. I mean just a typical American rich list venue, I bet you have to be sponsored to get a membership there; totally elitist and right next door to the PGA golf course.. of course.
Before long I arrive at the Cenote. As I pull into the entrance I am told to park up and get my ticket. There are several Cenotes here and as I am late arriving I just want a quick swim so go for the cheapest, Cenote Nicte-Ha. The guy gives me a wrist band and tells me to drive down the track for about 2 kms and then I will see it. When I say track I actually mean assault course.. I have never, ever driven down such a series of pot holes in my life… one of the clauses in the rental agreement was not to go off road.. this is more like off planet! The car is bouncing around and I am sure I’m going to bust an axle any minute. Little signs along the way urge drivers not to go more than 20km per hour… are they kidding, you would have to be certifiable to drive at more than 10kph down here! I have never known 2kms to be so long… but just as I think I have missed it, there it is… hurrah.
I am told to take a shower and I must wear a life jacket, it is mandatory.. ok thanks. The facilities are more than basic with a mixed changing room so I am glad I have arrived late. A quick change and then down to the water hole. There are still quite a few people here, about 20 or so, mostly Americans who are jumping in from the side.. bombing.. I feel for the fish!! I have put my bag etc. where I can see it and just as I am entering the water a large American starts saying that he has just caught one of the locals going into his bag trying to get his wallet… he is making a big thing of getting everyone in his group out of the water so they can leave. I must say I am a little dubious about it as he has not tried to detain the alleged thief and in fact says that when he turned around and saw him he hurried off… I’m inclined to think he had just had enough and wanted to get everyone out so he could leave. Having said that, I do get out and put all my stuff in the car. When I get back I enjoy a rather nice, if cold, swim. There are hundreds of little tiny fishes and I think one might have bitten me a little bit. As I get out I spot something so rush back to the car to get my phone so I can take a photo…
Here is the Cenote
Iggy is so chilled that I started to think it was a model… in fact as I got back one guy was leaving and almost stood on Iggy.. obviously didn’t see it, but Iggy never even blinked. I then notice the tail moving slightly so it’s definitely alive.
Quick change and back in the car to suffer the dreadful drive back up to the main entrance. I decide it is so treacherous that I should film it for your delectation… this is uncut so you can see where the phone is thrown out of my hand
That warning sound is because I don’t have my seat belt on.
After a quick stop for a selfie I make my way back towards Cancun. I don’t want to get caught up in all that traffic, (it was due to roadworks btw), so I opt to go via Coba and the back road route.
Just as I leave I spot a Starbucks and believe it or not there is a Dominos pizza place next door.. well one just has to doesn’t one…. and very nice too.
A much more interesting journey, although every village has speed bumps, some quite severe, called Tope, which are sometimes not marked so a bit of a surprise and are set at every 200-300m in some villages. It is quite the contrast compared with the vulgar opulence of the coast properties, these are much more simple and I wonder if these are in fact indigenous Indio villages where they are still living in traditional housing. A lot of it is extremely dilapidated but I stop for a pic of this one which is obviously quite new methinks. Of course it would be easy to make value judgements about the extremes demonstrated here within a 50 miles radius, but who is to say one is better than the other?
Another item of note is this…
.. look like bird nests to me, but what is interesting is there is only one… only one per span.. i.e. between each pole the wires only have one nest, there is never a pair or group at all so obviously these are solitary birds. Even the trees are colonised by just one nest… how bizarre.
It is soon getting dark and the road, although very straight, (the Mexicans can teach the Romans a thing or two about straight roads), are narrow and the driving here is quite something… very impatient with lots of overtaking. I am not rushing and indeed spend quite a long time behind a bus so don’t get back to my accommodation until gone 10pm. Finding the place was quite a trial too after both my GPS and phones died just as I enter the area. Luckily I know where it is in relation to the Market area and know to look for the dark green building which is opposite my road. However, that doesn’t stop me from driving into cul-de-sacs and the inevitable turnarounds.. ho hum!