Visiting Dawn

So the tour to Tulum….

It was yet another early morning, Tuesday, April 29, beautiful though a little cloud covered and we headed downstairs to the Tulum ballroom for breakfast. Afterwards, Andy went to his conference’s “town meeting” and I took a stroll through the gift shop and headed to the beach. Wading while waiting…. who can beat that? I figured I didn’t need to change into a swimsuit since I was in shorts and could kick off my shoes. Yes, I know. The sea can be capricious and one of the waves broke across my legs and got the side of my shorts wet. Not that big of a deal but for the sake of my iPhone, I retreated further back.

Just a quick background: The conference offered a paid activity and there had been several to choose from: Swimming with the dolphins, zip lining, snorkeling, etc. Visiting Tulum and shopping at Playa de Carmen had been ours. We left at 10:45 a.m. with our boxed lunch.

Tulum is located “80 miles south of Cancun, 35 miles south of Playa del Carmen, 25 miles south of Puerto Aventuras, 15 miles south of Akumal, 40 miles from Coba, [and] Can be visited as a shore excursion for cruise ship passengers docked in Cozumel or Calica port.” – http://www.mayasites.com/tulum.html

We had enough people to fill the bus. Tour buses, I decided, have less room than coach on an airplane. We had a guide named Alfredo who told us interesting facts about the Mayans. One example, and heartbreaking too was that the jungle-dwelling Mayan people shared their books with the Europeans who upon seeing pictures of snakes within and associated snakes with the devil, burned them. The guide also told us that Cancun itself means Nest of Snakes in Mayan.

We only had one potential mishap when a runaway pear got loose and rolled to the driver and the guide took all of us to task, nicely but…

We got to Tulum, got off the bus and headed for a ice cream shop while our guides got our tickets. The place was jostling with merchants and clothes, crafts, masks, wooden skulls, etc. Passed this area, and before the tractor-driven trams, were a couple of men dressed like Mayans posing for pictures. I got two faceless pics before being told each pic would cost $5.

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I visited the only public (not have to pay) bathrooms located near the entry gate. The facility was just adequate but to wash your hands you had to step outside to share communal sinks. This arrangement came close to pinging the “scary bathroom” category but I’d find worse later in the vacation.

We entered the park, passed the educational shop with books and DvDs (didn’t have time to go in) and got a mini-lesson with a scaled model of Tulum. One of the things we learned was the site had/has five gates in correlation perhaps with the five unlucky days in a Mayan year.

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There’s a path past the entry you have to follow, maybe a five minute walk…lots of stone steps. We were shown a sacred Mayan tree which was hollowed and wild animals, nothing too dangerous. The most plentiful we saw were the iguanas.

Tulum is a bit unusual. It has a defending wall on three sides and a cliff overlooking the sea, one of the few Mayan cities with a wall. Anyway, Tulum was a harbor city.

If you want to know some tidbits about its archeological history, these seem to be good sites:

http://www.resort-cancun.com/tulum#.U3jc59q9KSN
http://www.tulumruins.net
http://www.sacred-destinations.com/mexico/tulum
http://www.todotulum.com/tulum-mexico-history/
http://www.travelthruhistory.com/html/historic35.html

I have to admit, hunched over as I shuffled through the gate entrance, I touched the stones as Mayan hands might have done centuries ago and then behold, Tulum was before me. I thought I’d cry. I was actually here!

Tulum was/is magnificent! The only down side, we both wanted more time to explore but as this was a tour we had an allotted amount of time (aka read “NOT enough time”) before we had to reboard the bus. Regardless, we got a lot of pics, some video clips and I put a mini-documentary together.


Tulum video

There is an app, Tulum – Be Your Own Guide for an iPhone I discovered after I returned to the states. It’s very informative. I’d recommend getting it before visiting the site.

The first house the guide showed us was the Cenote House. If you don’t know what a cenote is … this area of Mexico has most of its water coming from underground rivers and sinkholes (aka cenotes). Cenotes provided not only water for its residents but also they played religious role as a place of sacrifice. This first house had a cenote under it. The guide said that a sacrifice would be purified here before being taken to the Temple of the Winds which was just in the distance. (Structure 45)

It was extremely windy here but with the day’s heat, it felt great.

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Map of Tulum [http://www.resort-cancun.com/tulum]

Other things of note included the beach where the harbor was. (Tulum’s beaches are named one of the best in the world). Part of it is protected because of nesting sea turtles.

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The Temple of the Frescos made me wish I had brought a better camera. I used my phone for all the pics and it did a great job but I wasn’t able to zoom in to get the faded frescos inside the building. 😦 Oh by the way, do you see the building’s corner face?

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El Castillo, the palace, is the site’s crowning jewel. It’s set on the tallest hill. Here is where I wished the buildings weren’t roped off. Even if I couldn’t climb up the castle steps, it would have been nice to walk around its complex.

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Or be part of the team who was up on the Temple of the Diving God. Above their heads is a figure descending or diving and it shows up on many of the buildings.

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What I am thankful for is being able to visit these amazing places and being able to take as many pics as I could. I know I’ve been enjoying reviewing them, reading up, learning and noticing things that I hadn’t seen before. Like how many diving gods the site had.

We got back to the bus as one of the last stragglers…but not the last ones. Yes, that was me lagging behind.

The next place we stopped at was 5th Avenue, Playa de Carmen for an hour. It was fun stopping in the little shops. I got to say “demasiado” a few time… I mean, haggling is very in vogue here.

We stopped at an outside bar having a 2 for 1 sale and allowed ourselves to be talked into having four margaritas between the two of us. I had mango and Andy had a Tamarind. If you aren’t familiar with Tamarind, it’s kind of tangy.

I wasn’t really tasting the tequila in the margaritas so when our waiter came up I said with a smile “Donde esta la tequila?” [where is the tequila] I wasn’t expecting him to bring out an additional tall shot to add to the drinks. I split among the four and wow, did I feel fuzzy after that! I guess there had been tequila in them. The drinks were just deceptive and tasty.

We boarded the bus again back to the hotel and got ready for the conference’s awards ceremony. I enjoy dressing up and I had brought a Latina-ish black dress for the occasion. I didn’t have pockets so I didn’t get any pictures. We drank Sangrias during the cocktail hour and then journeyed into the large ballroom for a wonderful three-course meal with Fillet Mignon and a thin sliced potato casserole. Oh, and the cleansing small scoop of lemon sorbet between the salad and main course. It was one of the more fancy dinners I’ve enjoyed but I would see fancier before the end of the vacation.

After the function, we headed back to the bar for drinks and dancing. I had more of the latter than the former. We retired not dreadfully late but not that early either. Many of the people we were hanging with were leaving the next morning but we were staying an extra day so we could get to Chichen Itza which will be another post.

But one last thing for now….Tulum, they believe originally was called Zama “City of the Dawn.”

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