Where iguanas rule...
05.07.2007 - 06.07.2007 24 °C
The last two days I have been caught in a whirlwind storm...or so it seems. The past 48 hours have flown by and I am sad to find myself safely placed back on the ground. Is this how Dorthy felt when she found herself back at home, far from Oz? Yesterday morning, I arrived in Tulum. I had barely placed my belongings on my bed when I found myself walking down a dusty road to the Maya ruins with Osvaldo [Mexico], Ariel [Israel], Dana [Israel], and Nick [French Canada]. Walking down the road, sweaty and dusty, was so much fun. I find it amazing how people who didn't know each other an hour earlier can immediately find a common ground to laugh on. We all walked, talked,joked and bitched about the heat and humidity like we were old friends; never mind that except for two of us, we were all from different countries, spoke different languages.
I had read somewhere that to avoid the crowds, the best time to go to the ruins is before 11am. Well, it must have been noon and we were in the middle of the cow herd. There were people everywhere! The ruins, as impressive as they were, seemed to be hidden somewhere among the many tourists that had flocked to see these ancient remnants of the past. Sadly though, I was more in awe of the present residents - iguanas -rather than the remains of the past residents.
The iguanas seem to match the tourists one for one. They sat on walls, bathed in the sun, posed for the cameras, and played God on top of the ruins. I have heard that Tulum is incredible not for the ruins but for its location - the ruins sit on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. This is true. As we bobbed and weaved through the crowds, I stopping to take pictures of ever other iguana, Ariel kept complaining about the heat and crowds. He just wanted to go to the beach and cool off before looking at the pyramids. Looking at him standing in his own pool of sweat, I did not have trouble imagining him rapidly melting away. I believe the others saw it to or, looking at him, we all realized how much we each wanted to cool off in the ocean. We found a spot behind some rocks, next to the cliffs, and put our stuff down. We ran into the water and I hope never to forget what I saw when I turned back towards the shore. In the midst of the light blue magic of the Caribbean Sea, my only view was of a majestic temple atop the moss covered cliff. I literally was breathless. Who were these people that lived here before the iguanas? I spent the afternoon jumping waves with wonderful people and stealing glances at the temple above me. When did life's wide grin become so contagious?
Today I rented a bike. I truly believe life is always better on a bike and today was no exception. I rode out to a cenote with Nick and we wasted hours away jumping in and out of the cavernous hole in the ground. Afterwards, Nick went back to the hostel and I went to explore the town. Tulum is technically considered a city but still looks and feels like a pueblo with one main street and palm frond huts. Two roads east and west from the main street, the pavement ends and the streets become dirt roads. I found myself riding up and down dusty streets, watching kids play soccer, dogs roaming between worn down buildings, poorly constructed houses with holes in the walls, hanging clothes waving as I rode by, smelling laundry detergent in the air, listening to telenovelas on high volume, and ranchero music in the distance. I discovered a cemetery where a family gathered with flowers in their arms and I pedaled away, not wanting to intrude on their intimate moment. This time by myself, watching the people, hearing them, was the most poignant for me. As a skeletal dog scampered by, guarding the orange mass in his mouth, I was acutely aware of the poverty here. And I only imagine it will only get worse. The dueno of the hostel I am staying at told me that there are plans to make Tulum two times larger than Cancun. Already, builders are clearing the forest to build an airport. In time this precious area will be brilliant white stone resorts eating away at the land that these people live on. In Fort Collins, the water that comes out of the tap tastes so fresh and clean that it rivals bottled water. Here, in Tulum, I use bottle water to rinse my toothbrush and clean my fruit because the water that comes out of the tap smells so bad I find excuses to avoid washing my face. When water is a necessary resource for human survival, how can we allow people to live in such poor conditions?