A Travellerspoint blog

Tulum

Where iguanas rule...

sunny 24 °C
View Yucatan and Colorado on KimiKat26's travel map.

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. Tulum_nick_073.jpg
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. Tulum_nick_084.jpg 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?

Posted by KimiKat26 20:27 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Quintana Roo

...and we're off

sunny -17 °C
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As the plane flew over the Gulf of Mexico, I felt like I was flying between two heavens: the vast ocean below, the borderless sky above, and the plane, just another cloud between two endless pockets of blue. I spent much of the time on the plane alternating between watching some Meg Ryan movie and glancing out the window: Are we over the ocean yet? The first time I looked out my tiny window and realized that, yes, we were over the ocean, I almost cried. For me seeing the water below meant two things: 1) I was almost in Mexico and 2) (more importantly) I was looking at the ocean (Obvious, no?). I recently realized that this past year in Colorado is longest I have ever been more than a 30 minute drive from the ocean. Then, the opaque ocean I know disappeared and became a translucent green. I was speechless. From above, the water of Cancun was breathtaking.

On the plane, wide mouthed, gaping at the splendor of the tri-color water, I told myself I would check out the beach after I got to my hostel. That never happened. At the airport, after the initial shock of what felt like 100% humidity in 90 degree weather, I found the public bus and realized that I had just spoken more Spanish in the short time I had been in Mexico than the last few years in The States. I was on the air conditioned bus, watching some American movie dubbbed in Spanish, heading to my hostel, reveling in the realization that I am in Mexico. I didn't want beaches full of tourists, I wanted to explore Cancun and see how the Mexican's live. My hostel happened to be in the downtown area and after finding it, I headed to the supermercado to buy food to cook for dinner. The streets were dirty, trinkets being sold on every corner, traffic barely stopping and me, joining the crowds, ran across streets trying not to get hit by some bus. A smell that I had forgotten came back to me. I cannot pinpoint the exact source of the smell - exhaust, sun on old pavement, gasoline - but it is a smell I can only associate with a Mexican city. Standing on a random corner, sweat beads sliding down my face, my stomach, the back of my thighs, like a dog I sniffed the air and smiled. After 10 years, I finally was back in Mexico.

The next morning, I had arranged to catch a bus at 7:30am for the hour ride down to Playa Del Carmen. I set my alarm and passed out. When it went off, the room was dark and muggy. All I wanted to do was hit snooze and sleep in a wind tunnel but, knowing neither one was on my list of choices, I got up. Plus, the idea of my curly-haired driver, Ricardo (I met him the night before), nudging me awake was tad-bit too humiliating to want to stay in bed. I stumbled downstairs to ask Alberto, the man in charge, if there was any coffee. He told me it was on the stove, and then I noticed it was only 5am. I, like the moron I can be, set my clock wrong. My only condolence was that I was still on Colorado time. So, up way too early, in the dark morning, surrounded by tropical plants, I sat on a terrace in Mexico, drank the best coffee (ever), and listened to multitudes of bird sing to each other as Cancun slowly awoke from her slumber.

I could and should stop the story there, but what is the fun in that? Overwhelmed by the surreal feel of the morning, I decided to do some stretches as the sun rose. Isn't that the kind of relaxing stuff I am supposed to do on a vacation? I decided to stretch on the upper deck of the cement patio - that way I could view the park across the street. Well, because I am a graceful ballerina, as I began to stretch, I stumbled backwards, slipped off the deck and hit both my knee and my face on one of the poles supporting the patio awning and fell back into a few of the chairs. I heard Alberto running up the stairs. Luckily, I was able to get in one of the chairs and feign wellness. Noise? What noise? No, I didn't hear a thing. Despite being in Mexico, I was glad to know that I still could find ways to bruise my legs. I could hear my friend Monique's words: "Where you at, there you is." The saltwater stings the cut on my knee.

The night before, I had decided today would be spent doing nothing but laying on the beach. I got to Playa Del Carmen, put my stuff away and walked the 1/2 block to the beach. Once again, when I saw that water my brain shut off except for one thought: WOW! I have to get in that emerald water. The beach here is fantastic. The sand is the softest (yes, 'soft' is the right adjective) I have ever felt. Walking through the sand feels like whipping cream that has been beaten in a food processor until it is light and fluffy. It just shifts and lifts with each bodily movement. Let me say again, the sand here is soft. Soon, I learned, it also acts as an adhesive to wet skin. I rented a lounge chair for 4.00$ (American dollars) and read a book for about 5 hours. The only time I left that lounge chair was for the occasion dip in the Caribbean Sea. The sea salt was so abundant I didn't have to fight the ocean to stay afloat; I just layed in the water and stared at the sky, thanking a God I didn't even know I believed in for allowing me each of these amaxing moments. I thought about the sterotypical cerveza commercial and if it wasn't for my not-so-flexible budget I may have traded in my water bottle for a beer.

Playa Del Carmen, it doesn't take a genius to figure out, is a mecca for tourists. The main street, Avenida Quinta, is a brick walk that follows the coastline. In truth, I found it to be a sardine packed cement canister of shops, hotels, and bars. I could not walk the street without being accosted at every other shop to buy this or buy that or accompany some man to go dancing in the evening. At night I went exploring with a Canadian woman, Olivia. At 10pm, Avenida Quinta was more crowded than it was at 3pm. I was sorry that I was staying there two nights and decided to leave for a day trip the next day. From the top terrace of my hostel, I could see the lights of Cozumel in the distance. After experiencing Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel was not an option. I could only imagine all the same tourists riding the ferry to experience that island.

Today, I found the priceless gem Puerto Morelos. Puerto Morelos is a small pueblo about a 30 minute bus ride north of Playa Del Carmen. Nobody in the hostel had heard of the town and the man working the desk had nothing to say about it. Already, a sign of good things to come. The bus dropped me off at a corner of Hwy 307 where a taxi waited. The taxi man, a thief in civilian clothing, wanted to charge me 10$ for a ride to the town. Quickly, actually without a bit of hesitation, I decided my legs worked just fine. The walk turned out to be 20 relaxing minutes along a rode lined with Mangroves. I didn't even know what a mangrove was when I woke up this morning, but now.... Sadly though, many of the mangroves were dead due to Hurricane Wilma in 2005. I am quickly learning that Wilma, that crazy girl, destroyed a huge portion of the Riviera Maya and much of it still has yet to be restored. I would equate walking into Puerto Morelos to holding your breath in a long, dark tunnel and finally exhaling in the bright, warm light of day. It is a quiet town with few tourists. I walked straight to the ocean and met Paco and Gustavo, two men who run a snorkeling business. They made me feel comfortable right away. Maybe it was because Paco has a friend, Steve, who lives in Denver. Ah, Steve. Good guy. I eventually went snorkeling with their guide but first I walked the bright and empty streets. I saw a few workers, a small farmer's market, and only a handful of cars driving by. The town was quiet except for an occasional child's voice and a lone bird. I was in love. The quiet solitude of Puerto Morelos was a sweet fruit after all the crowds and noise of both Cancun and Playa Del Carmen. Following the advice of Paco and Gustavo, I found a group of palm frond huts where the local artisans were making and selling woodwork, ceramics, hammocks and clothes. One woman showed me how she handstitched and embroidered all the dresses in her shop. From a corner she brought out the materials she just recently bought to make blouses. I was truly honored to be talking with this craftswoman. I regretted not bringing more money because her work was exceptional. Instead of the blouses and dresses that I coveted, I opted for a simple blue, hand-embroidered head scarf. I then headed to the vacant beach where the only other tourists were native spanish speakers - except for the woman sun bathing in only a thong, I suspect her to be European. Walking the streets, smelling the sea air, hearing a solo bird sing, I couldn't help but smile. Here, in Puerto Morelos, nobody tried to sell me a tacky beer holder or overpriced "Riviera Maya" labeled hat. I didn't want my day in Puerto Morelos to end. Compared to the crowded, over-developed Playa Del Carmen, here I was on my own private island. If you ever get a chance, go check out Puerto Morelos. But be sure to find Paco and Gustavo near the leaning light tower. I recommend paying 20$ and spending 2 hours snorkeling - your life will shine a bit brighter afterwards.

Posted by KimiKat26 16:46 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

One Foot Out the Door and Facing South

18 °C
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I am leaving for the airport in about 1 1/2 hour. Surprisingly, right now, I feel nothing. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that the time is 4am and I am thinking about crawling back in bed. Originally, I had plans to write some elaborate entry here about what this trip means to me. But really, right now, I just can't do that. On an almost obsessive level, I keep checking and rechecking my bags and documents - positive that I will forget something vital, like my passport, ID, insect repellent, or underwear.

I am leaving knowing I have some of the best friends in the world.PDRM1904.jpg The last few days, I have holed myself away at home, dealing with my nerves, feelings, and packing for this trip. I found myself to be cranky and each friend gave me the space I needed while I gathered my strength to go on this journey. Last night at dinner (see above picture), my friends asked me if I was ready and I couldn't answer the question. I was a bundle of nervous energy and wasn't able to focus enough to even search for the answer. Here I am now, needing to hop in the shower, make sure the cats have water, and re-check that I have all the necessary documents, and I ask myself "am I ready?" No matter what the answer is, I am leaving in an hour. But yes, I am ready. Despite my sister's unyielding belief that I will meet a gruesome death in Mexico or,in my father's words, that I am "wasting money" going on this trip, I am ready. I don't know what is going to happen down there but I do have faint images of me snorkeling in vivid blue water and standing in lush green jungles, quite alive and loving every money-wasted moment.

Posted by KimiKat26 22:15 Archived in USA Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The Small Miracles of Everyday

semi-overcast

I don't know if it because I am leaving the country soon, because I am on summer vacation, or because it is simply summer (maybe all three?) but I find myself increasingly aware of the gem that is Fort Collins, Colorado. I have spent the last couple of days riding my bike around town trying to get the little necessities for my trip done. During these times, I am hyper-aware of the simple beauty that this town has to offer: an undeveloped corner full of prairie dogs chattering, a gaggle of bikers waiting while the train crosses through town, and a sky so blue, so full of white cotton clouds that after a year, I still find myself marveling at the precious blue of my overhead. Where I grew up, only after the rare rain or Santa Ana winds blew through, did the sky just dazzle in clear blue and white. "The Simpson" clouds is what I have nicknamed them. PDRM1844.jpg

As for my trip, I am throughly excited. Except for those few times I was lucky enough to accompany my girlfriend down across the Tijuana border while she took photographs, I haven't left this country in a decade....and damn-it, the time has come for me to go somewhere. In this whole world, I choose to explore Yucatan, Mexico. I am baffled by why? Why Yucatan? - as a solo woman traveler, wouldn't Europe be a wiser choice? So, I continue to ask the questions: What does Yucatan have in store for me? What adventures? Lessons? Life fun and heartbreak? I am really excited to find out the answers to these questions and those that I never thought to ask.

Posted by KimiKat26 15:34 Archived in USA Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The "To-Do" List

sunny 26 °C

Well well well, here I am at my desk trying to sort together everything I have to do before my trip. I leave in exactly one week and feel a tad-bit overwhelmed. For the last month, I have put off doing the necessary, but mundane, things because...well, because I can be lazy at times. I need to start thinking about packing, buying those little extras like tissues (for those times that toilet paper is not available), budget my money....ah, the workings of those fine details for a trip to the Yucatan that I did not believe would truly happen. I guess I better actually get up off my ass and start doing something before I really feel the crunch of time....

Posted by KimiKat26 05:56 Archived in USA Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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