Tulum: setting a blistering pace

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January 21st 2012
Published: January 22nd 2012
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I had been looking forward to Tulum for months - white sands, Caribbean turquoise waters, hot sunny days - it didn´t disappoint in the slightest.

In my reading, I had noted the unwelcome developments and commercialisation of the area, slowly chipping away at its charm. So it was with some surprise that I arrived at my accommodations for the next week and saw how rustic it was. It was a very simple adobe hut with palapa (thatched) roof, a bed, a mosquito net around my bed, mosquito nets and shutters in place of windows but with a private bathroom and hot water. It was not much different from the simple room I stayed in on a beach hut in Thailand 14 years ago, albeit with a 21st century price.

The beach itself is the stuff of postcards and stretches as far as the eye can see in both directions. I was surprised at how untouristy it felt, however the entire coast is filled with hotels and restaurants so I can well imagine that compared with 5 or even 10 years ago it feels vastly different. I was surprised at how few people there were. I had a stretch of beach front and empty beach chairs all to myself, and it took about 10 minutes before I saw another sole. However I went for a walk along the beach later that afternoon and could see where it got much busier.

Tulum is famous for hippies and people opting out of the rat race. It wasn't long before I came across both. The first, a man with an impressive set of dreads was doing yoga on the beach. He was incredibly bendy. Then I saw a naked couple swimming. This was not a pretty sight. I suspect they are not normally nudists as his bottom was astonishingly white.

I wanted to enjoy some yoga while I was here too, so I set about finding some casual classes, and was rewarded with a yoga place about 10 minutes walk away, which also offers Ashtanga, which I have been practising at home. I bought a weekly pass and did my first class since New Zealand. Ow!

For my first night I walked back to where I had been for yoga at a little restaurant which I had spied. It was pitch black on the road, and it was quite scary trekking up to dinner. I was grateful for my torch. The restaurant was certainly worth it though. I discovered that although Tulum is very rustic, the prices are certainly not. Everywhere I've been I've had fantastic meals, nearly always seafood, but the prices are very expensive, certainly comparable to NZ.

Walking back to the hotel in the dark my main concerns in the dark were not what you might expect. My first and greatest concern was that my torch battery would not last. Secondly I was concerned about the stray dogs roaming the streets. I quickly realised that the hotels and restaurants were a very short yelp away so the bogeyman fears were all in my head. I tried not to think about the 14 types of rattlesnakes that the man sitting next to me on the bus had told me about.

I returned to my hotel, walked out onto the beach, and while I could see lights in the distance, either side of me was completely empty and the beach was mine to enjoy. Magic.

Initially I wasn't sure what I was going to do for seven days, however it soon became clear to me: absolutely nothing! Bliss! So my days have formed a pattern of sorts. I wake up about 8ish, lie in bed reading until about 9, then have breakfast. Then it's beach time. Sometimes I go for walks, sometimes I just read my book. About 1ish I start thinking about where to go for lunch and finally rouse myself. Then back to the beach for the afternoon, before heading off to yoga at 4pm.

Sometimes I break it up a bit, for example one day I had a massage with Mayan clay. The woman, Christine, had surprisingly strong hands and it wasn't as relaxing as I thought it might be. I also spent quite some time during the massage worrying myself about how I was going to get the clay out of my hair, so perhaps a little counter-productive!

One morning I went to see the ruins. I could have hired a bike for 220 pesos, or gotten a cab for 80 pesos each way. Simple economics, and the fact that it was nearly 30 degrees made the decision easy.

The ruins themselves are not nearly as impressive as others that I've seen, however the location is beyond compare. Perhaps because they are so accessible, they were over run with people. I couldn't believe the number of people who had spewed out of the quiet little hotels. They came from all over - I heard Spanish, Italian, French, German, Russian (?), Japanese, Korean (?), English accents from all over. For a good 20 minutes or so I gave up on the ruins and just watched the tourists. I was incredulous at some of their outfits. Many people hadn't realised that their summer shorts were several sizes too small, while others were swathed from head to toe in black lycra with clothes over the top, I am guessing to protect themselves from the sun. All in all an interesting experience.

I've still got a couple more days here, so more yoga, more beach time, and maybe even one more outing yet to come. I hope the summer weather has picked up back home. I'll be thinking of you all as I take another sip of margarita!

Additional photos below
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And if I turn left...And if I turn left...
And if I turn left...

Yes, that really is someone in the distance playing what looks like a didgeridoo

22nd January 2012

Amazing beaches!
Those beaches look amazing - especially as typically the weather isn't the best here at the moment! Enjoy your last days there :-)
24th January 2012

We\'re going to Tulum in 18 days and your blog has got us even more excited. Do you remember the name of the place you went to for yoga? I have a feeling we will have a very relaxed holiday lol.
24th January 2012

Yoga in Tulum
I do, it was called Yoga Shala or something like that. They seemed to have the most classes. I enjoyed them. Have a great time in Tulum, it is a fabulous spot!

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