Sunday, June 23, 2013

Here Comes the Sun: Tulum Ruins

In a desperate search for the sun, I abandoned Cozumel for Tulum.  The only thing I really know about the town was its proximity to the ruins of Tulum and Cóba.  The town itself isn’t much, there’s plenty of restaurants and shops geared toward the tourists that use it as a base camp for the afore mentioned ruins.
After a day of rest and catching up on emails, I slathered on sunscreen, rented a bike, and took off to the Tulum ruins 2 km outside of town.  Only problem with this plan was that I initially took off in the wrong direction, adding at least an extra 5 km to my ride by the time I recognized signs for the cenotes located on the other side of town.  Passing through the entrance to the ruins I was greeted by a  thoroughfare filled with hawkers and at least six “official” information booths.  I stopped for a free map from one and was flat out lied to about some ruins not being included in admission.  If you bike, you can ride all the way to the actual ticket booth and lock your bike up there.  As soon as I stopped biking and walked to the ticket line, the comfortable light breeze from moving about turned into the soggy grossness of high heat and humidity.  It was the end of my sunscreen, although I would discover that until much too late.

My kickass wheels for the day
You meander down and path to what appears to be a plain stone wall with a narrow tunnel.  Avoiding the persistent two-way traffic and low ceiling, you emerge into the ruin complex.  There was a little bit of a ‘through the rabbit hole’ feeling passing through the tunnel.  Buildings and foundations of buildings are found at regular intervals. Buildings at the edge of the cliff face rise above the other buildings an air of importance.  I overheard a guide say that the excavated site only encompassed less than 10% of the former city.

Entering the ruin complex

I spent two hours wandering around the site which was way longer than I needed to see everything.  The most popular views are el Castillo and el Templo del Dios Viento looking out to sea and the beaches at the cliff base.  There are not a lot of buildings around the site but the view on the cliff is hard to beat. The combinations of blues and greens and grays just as vibrant as the postcards and desktop backgrounds suggest.  There’s a staircase that goes down to the beach by El Castillo which proved critical for cooling off a little mid-wander.

El Castillo
El Templo del Dios Viento
 One recurring source of entertainment was the spiked iguanas that roamed around like they owned the place.  Every few feet a new lizard came into view, often taking an unsuspecting tourist by surprised. Most of the lizards were pretty small, probably 18 inches from head to tail and skinny.  But some of them have surpassed the three foot mark and are as big around as my leg.  Despite one cocky twenty-something male's insistence that they don't bite because they don't have teeth (please don't say things like this people, you sound like idiots), I'm quite sure one of these bad boys could put a serious hurt on any fingers/hands that got too close.  Luckily they didn't seem to care about the tourist milling about and pose as some of the more interesting subjects on the grounds.

The sunburn on my shoulder took a week to heal - I don't even want to talk about the tan lines.  I was so ready to actually spend some time in the sun while in MEXICO that I didn't care.  An all day pass to the ruins is $5.  The view from the cliff alone is worth the trip. I didn't go on a tour or have any sort of guide for these ruins.  As I said before the site is pretty small, I'm sure the additional information would have helped me appreciate the buildings more but the price difference wasn't worth it to me.  This trip could easily be combined with an afternoon at the beach.  I strongly recommend packing lots of water and lunch if you do.  My crispy, splotchy shoulders urge you to remember to bring extra sunscreen, especially if you're there around midday.

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