Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
Prev / The Americas / Mexico Next

Tulum is simply a paradise that I will long miss. On the day I arrived I rescheduled my tickets to give me more time, and I was correct in guessing that I'd wish for more. In the collective cabana of the Santa Fe campground I met wonderful people and had fantastic experiences, from sleeping my first night in a hammock to finding joy in underground lakes. My time in Tulum was so wonderful I fear I'll never return, as there is no way my now-heightened expectations could ever be met once again.

I absolutely love cabanas. Though small and almost entirely without privacy (the walls are made of driftwood loosely assembled together, with 1/4" to 1" openings running everywhere making it more a cage than a room), there is no better sleep than a stone's throw away from the rolling beach. The room is equipped with a swinging bed (to keep it off the ground), a hammock, and my very own mosquito net. I felt like I was in some remote jungle in Vietnam.
Standing upon the Tulum beach and gazing out into rolling surf... it was just a great feeling to finally find a place that so vastly exceeded my hopes.
If you look closely on the distant rocks you'll see ancient temples to the Mayan wind and sun gods.
Waking in the dark at 6am, I walked out to the beach in my boxers and sat awaiting the sun.
The collective cabana is home to many transient denizens. Pictured here is the lovely Sarah, from New Jersey. Sarah enjoys drawing in her notebook, swimming topless in the waves, and waiting excitedly for the return of her passionate Italian boyfriend, Sebastian.
Notice how the elusive creature has five toes and walks upright. After extensive measurement and computation upon the footprint, I've determined that it's a female creature, under 6' tall, with brown hair, and wearing a white blouse. Sadly, she evaded my photography...
Mexico just keeps getting better as I go south. I grudgingly left Merida on a six-hour bus ride to Cancun where I found a city full of hotels, beer, and more hotels. Not ten steps into the center of the action I was approached by a guy trying to lure single men, such as myself, into a nearby strip club. Not terribly interested, I pushed him away. Offering me a "free sample" -- I could go in and look around for free, and only pay if I choose to stay -- I was still unmoved. As if to up the ante, he then started promising me all the joys a cheap brothel had to offer, all within the confines of Shampoo, the strip club on high. Even less interested, I eventually managed to convince him to hustle someone else. Later, however, he reapproached me and tried a similar technique, this time trying to sell me every drug known to man. Wow. That's service, but no thanks.

Cancun itself is really quite pretty. However, it's entirely designed for extracting large quantities of pesos from drunken visit... [more]
"Tulum was one of the last cities to be built and inhabited by the Mayans. The city thrived mainly from the 15th to the 16th centry. It was originally called Zama, which means "Dawn" and is related to its location, which lies on the extreme eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula, directly facing the sunrise. It is a walled city, reflecting the turbulent political situation of the time.

"The enormous walls, which defend its three landward sides, has only five small and narrow entrances. There are more than fifty buildings within the wall, most of which were temples dedicated to religious ceremonies, while others served as living quarters for the lords and priests.

"They were all constructed following a pattern: the major buildings lie in the center and from there, two roads branch out heading north and south, along which most of the platforms are aligned. On top of these were wood houses with thatched roofs, which have not withstood the effects of time.

"Commo... [more]
My curiosity for this girl's name was outweighed by my fear of her demanding me delete the picture.

Tulum is just filled with pretty girls. And I mean pretty. Not magazine glamor girls or skanky fourteen-year olds. Every girl I met was mid twenties to early thirties, had a pleasant personality and contagious smile, and looked good without makeup, frizzy salt-coated hair and all.

And, because they are mostly European, they seem to like American guys. What more could a guy want? Boys, I've found the promised land, and it is Tulum.
As I perused the list of available cabanas, I couldn't help but notice an establishment after my own image: Gringo Dave's. Though a tad pricy for my budget, I earmarked enough for a meal at the well-named restaurant. Of the many enticing choices, I selected the "stuffed grouper", chips and salsa, and a Cerverza Sol.

Now, when I order chips and salsa at Chili's in the states, it comes out instantly. Thus, I was getting antsy when fifteen minutes later, I had no chips. Just as I began to lose hope that they're lost forever, I realized that the quiet chop-chop sizzle-sizzle coming from the back room was the cook actually fixing my chips and salsa, from scratch. When it finally came, it was an absolutely stunning combination. The chips were hot and salsa fresh, and I was very happy to have been made to wait.

The main course arrived a while later, and it was darn good. So good that I didn't notice until I was done that the "stuffed grouper" wasn't actually stuffed at all ... [more]
One day I decided to walk the length of the Tulum beaches, including the various rocky shores in between. At some point I stumbled upon a very nice secluded grove of coconut trees which I envision could be host to a fantastic picnic. It's quiet except for the surf, has a good blend of sun and shade, is accessible but still off the path, and so on. Sadly, I had no checked tablecloth on which to sit, so I contined on.
The only place to check email within walking-distance of the beach is the Copal Blue Cafe, though location isn't its only strong point. Computer-wise it's fine: fast connection, good computers, not outrageous pricing, etc. But more importantly it has great lighting, good music, and a wide selection of tasty beverages. On every occassion I picked the chai, and was always pleased. Just off-camera to the left is a large magazine rack with reasonably-current issues of many leading titles. In the foreground is a guitar, which can be picked up by any adventurous guest (as well as a pair of bongos, not pictured). Comfortable pillows adorn the floors and incense fills the air. Overall, a very nice place indeed.
On the same day I learned that scorpions can be found in the Yucatan, I learned that one was found in our cabana. One more reason why hammocks are a good idea.
Martin, our great cenote hunter, got a tip that an unmarked cenote could be found nearby. Little did we know the journey it would lead us on. First we took a taxi to the Grande Cenote: a highly-touristy cenote frequented by many scuba divers and snorkelers. Due to its popularity it charged a bit of a fee, which we didn't feel like paying. So, we started walking down the road in search of our Moby Dick.

We walked and walked, with directions not unlike those used by the kids in Goonies. One thing about this street, in addition to it being the runway for a high volume of extremely fast land-bourne fighter jets, is that it is absolutely littered with... litter. At some points the stench was so overwhelming it made me gag.

Eventually we came upon the first clue: a white building, partially constructed, with a path leading to the cenote. Following the path led nowhere. Walking the grounds turned up nothing. Looking from the exposed second floor turned up no evidence ... [more]
(Coming soon)
As I walk back from the city, down the deserted road to the ruins closed for the day, I notice the rising moon hanging over the ancient fortress. Unwilling to pass up the opportunity, I climb up to century's-old protective wall, set my camera, and take a shot.
I'm absolutely amazed this picture turned out as well as it did. I took it standing, being buffeted by the wind (it's on top of a cliff over the waves), with the long-exposure mode. Several other attempts came out as unrecognizable blurs.

The small building in the center is actually a shrine of sorts. A crucifix is hung on the back wall along, surrounded by candles (currently out), pictures, and Christmas-tree tinsel.
Also staying in Tulum are a set of absolutely amazing drummers, with accompanying performers. Captured here is just one instant of an incredible performance of fire and motion.
This wicked concoction of tequila (Don Julio, Blanco) and Kalua, doused with Anised and lit aflame, shares the Mayan paradox of being brutal and beautiful, in equal proportions. While our core group was joined by a particularly attractive pair of California girls, we order a round out of curiosity. Along with the drinks we are handed a set of straws with which to drink. Be forewarned, the fire is not ornamental: getting the straw to the liquid to enable drinking requires speed and commitment. A moment's hesitation spells disaster for the straw, though the drink continues its inexorable burning. The Mayan flame can only be extinguished by sucking the drink up just as the straw is stabbed in, flame coursing through the straw as through the fearsome veins of Ppiz Hiu Tec, god of war. We make our moves and one by one, the fiery drinks are consumed.
The moon in Tulum is just incredibly bright. Combined with the clear air, white sand, and complete lack of light pollution (or air pollution of any sort), there is never any trouble navigating the beach at late hours. The moon casts such stark shadows, creating a world of ungradiated black and white, the landscape becomes almost cartoonish and surreal.

Copyright 2017 - David Barrett -