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Day 12 - Tulum and Coba

Written on: Wednesday March 29th, 2006

A journal entry from: Mexico 2006


We woke up a little tired this morning after our long day visiting Chichen Itza yesterday. Like the previous morning, it was too early for us to enjoy our free continental breakfast at the hotel so we stopped at Fresh! I had tea and a bagel and Kevin had his usual strong coffee and brownie.

We walked to the van pickup location from the previous morning and discovered we had the same guide and driver for the day. In our van, were 7 other people all with different tour itineraries. I was confused at first on how they would make it work but it did. We stopped at the Xel-Ha eco-park to drop off the first couple, then we drove to another artesan shop to view their assortment of souvenirs (same stuff!) and to try some free Tequila (at 10 AM). I have to admit that I did fall in love with a pitcher and glass set but we hadnīt brought enough money with us to buy it, even after negotiations. Itīs okay, as much as I regret not getting it, it would be really difficult to bring it back with us on the airplane without breaking it.

Once we left the shop, we drove to Tulum, although when we stopped we didnīt realise that we were there. We parked in a parking lot and started walking. Seems our guide wanted to save money by making us walk the kilometer road instead of paying for us to take the little train. Usually I wouldnīt complain about a measly 1 km walk, but it was nearing mid-day and the sun was blazing down on us. After the usual confusion at the ticket counter and queueing up into various lines to get into the park, we were in. Nothing impressive at first, we like all the tourists at the site, followed a foot path through the woods until we got to a stone wall with a tiny entrance. One by one we went through and came out to awesome view of the Tulum ruin site along the ocean. Tulum is a much smaller site than Chichen Itza but itīs location makes it easily one of the most photographed and visited mayan ruin. The main temple is built on a cliff overlooking the crashing ocean below. This is the only mayan ruin found (up to now) located beside the sea. After our quick visit around the site, our guide provided only general information about the site so it didnīt take long, we walked down to the beach located below the temple cliff. We had a great time, riding the waves as they came into shore. We only had 1 hour and it went by very quickly. We had to run to the van to arrive on time for our departure for Coba. I had sand in my bathing suit for the remainder of the day! This could be a new form of torture, making people walk around with wet bathing suits full of sand.

On the way to Coba, we stopped at the home of a mayan family. They did not have running water or electricity and lived in a very basic cabin made of wood. They supplemented their living by trapping animals of the forest and caging them for the viewing of the tourists. We saw a couple of monkeys, a jaguar (I think, it looked more like an ocelot), an eagle, something like a anteater, etc. I wasnīt always sure what I was looking at since they didnīt speak spanish, they only spoke their traditional mayan language. They had 5 young boys and they stayed home helping their parents. The mayans do not send their children to school in order to preserve their traditional way of life. It was sad to see how poor they were compared to our standard of living. We had some extra food (we had learned our lesson from the day before) and left it with them. They seemed to be happy with our donation.

Our next stop, not yet Coba, was a restaurant on the side of a small lake for our lunch. It was a buffet again and the food was okay. We got to know the other passengers in our van. There was us and a young italian couple joining us for the Coba section of the day. The other passengers had been dropped off at a Cenotes and Xel-Ha in separate vans after Tulum. They were on their second week of vacation after having spent their first week in Jamaica getting married. They were on their honeymoon! We didnīt speak a word of italian and they only knew a bit of english so we spent a lot of time smiling at each other.

Once we were done lunch, Armando informed Kevin and I that we were going to have a separate english speaking guide at Coba. He introduced us to Raul who was also guiding a father and son from Southern California. Turns out that Raul is an archeologist by trade and is passionate about Coba. He provided us with a wealth of knowledge about the site. We could have spent a couple of hours longer with him discovering the place. The father and son from Southern California had him as a guide previously at Tulum and Chichen Itza and said he gave a great tour. Out of all the site, we have to say that Coba was our favorite place. We learned about their calendars, knowledge in mathematics, discoveries in astronomy, advances in architecture, etc. It was fascinating! We rented bikes and rode from temple to temple, learning about a culture for which a lot is still unknown. At the end of the tour, we climbed the highest temple (I canīt remember the name) and saw clear across the forest canopy as far as the eye can see. We got some really great photos that we are hoping to share later on next week. If anyone is looking to get a really great guide, you can book Raul through Odyssey tours located between Calle 2 and Calle 4 in Playa del Carmen. You wonīt regret it.

Once we got back in the van, we quickly fell asleep. The 2 hour ride back to Playa del Carmen went by quickly.

Later on, once we had showered and changed into somewhat cleaner clothes (we need to do laundry), we went out for supper. We walked up and down the Quinta and finally settled on a restaurant located on the second floor of a shop with a palapa roof. Kevin had the seafood lasagna (so good!) and I ordered the chef special which involved our waiter cooking gigantic shrimp in butter, garlic, chives, wine, tequila, chilis, etc at our table. It was some of the best food Iīve had in a long time! We got back to our room at 11 PM, which was the latest we had stayed out during our trip so far. Yes, we are party animals!