After an absolutely horrible sickness -- the kind where it feels like continually breathing through a water-filled snorkel -- I've safely arrived in Quito, Ecuador and found my first cup of tea. All is right in the world. Or, it will be when my fleabites fade, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
First, I must apologize to the Mexican world for so vastly underestimating your country. Until just a month ago, I equated all of Mexico with three images: Tijuana squalor, Cancun excess, and Mexico City smog. I am so extremely happy to learn of my ignorance, and shall strive to atone for my misconceptions henceforth. Now, with that out of the way...
After several attempts to start this paragraph, here is the best I've come up with: Tulum is paradise. It is everything you envision of a remote beach-side cabana. I just don't know where to start. For example, the sand is actually made from tiny bits of the nearby coral reef. The result? The beach is a fine, pure white that remains continually cool to the touch despite a day's full sun. Brilliant green water separates the white boiling surf and rolling blue sea. Pelicans in careful coordination swoop over the breaking waves, and hover in the shore's updraft. Coconuts litter the ground and palm fronds obscure the sky. In terms natural wealth, Tulum erupts gold.
As for lodging, I chose the low-cost, zero-privacy, highly-social option: the "collective cabana" in the Santa Fe campground. For just over $4.50/night (with you own hammock, purchased for about $20 on site) you share the tropical beauty with other like-minded world travelers. Though the population changes daily, the cornerstones at each moment were Benito (an English laser-quest master, and partial-producer of the Gorillaz videos), Harm (simply the coolest Dutch guy I've ever met, even though I stole his girl on the dance floor -- sorry!), Katia (the luscious French temptress), Martin (the fearless cenote explorer), Bob (the brash New Yorker with amazing tales of virility), and so many more. Oh, and me (the mostly-clueless and insatiatably-curious wanderer), of course.
A typical day in Tulum would consist of the following grueling activities:
- Wake up lazily to the sound of waves in the late morning,
- Wolf down hot cakes with honey and fresh-squeezed orange juice
- Perhaps flag down a bus going into town to check email and get tacos, amongst other critical supplies
- Stare listlessly out into the waves (with furtative glances at the topless girls)
- Nap away the exhausting afternoon in a hammock
- Head out snorkeling on the reef or swimming in a cenote
- Wrap up vegetables in tin-foil and toss into the fire for dinner
- Head over to Don Hernandos for flaming Sacrificial Mayans and late-night dancing
- Return to the beach for full-moon drum circles
- Skinnydip in the moonlight
- Head back to the cabana to pass around a tequila bottle as a nightcap
- Plunge into hammock sleep in preparation for another brutal day.
In trugh, my day actually differed from most as I managed to snag a web-design job with an exclusive group of cabanas down the beach. Way down the beach. Like a two-hour walk down the beach, which I made frequently due to the lack of taxis that far down. Incidentally, the walk was made with a flashlight in one hand and bared knife in the other, ostensibly to fight off the dogs should they decide to stop barking and actually attack, but more practically to assuage my fears.
Of course, like all descriptions of paradise, this one is not without its dark side. The collective cabana, in addition to the other paying guests, had about a thousand fleas that enjoyed feasting upon exposed flesh. My ankles are absolutely covered with bites, and believe me it's not terribly attractive. Likewise, the toilets didn't actually flush, per se: when you finished you walked outside, got a bucket of water from a nearby well, and then poured it into the bowl manually. That, and toilet paper goes into a nearby trashcan, not into in with the rest of the refuse. Furthermore, the "shower" is actually just a hose of brisk water aimed more-or-less down in a room more-or-less secure from observers. And I'm only now, days later, getting all the sand from my crevices (sand has a tendency to complicate even the simplest actions). But for all it's downsides, I wouldn't trade it for the world. Though I would prefer toilets that flushed.
Anyway, all things -- both good and bad -- must come to an end, and my stay in Tulum is no exception. On Sunday I reluctantly drug myself (and several others) out of bed to watch my final sunrise, taxied downtown to catch a bus to Cancun, flew to Mexico City; San Jose, Costa Rica; and finally to Quito, Ecuador, bringing us up to this very moment as I write upon my notebook in a swanky cybercafe (Papaya.net) in "Gringoland" (no joke). From here, I intend to sleep away the remnants of my hellish sickness, head to the jungle, and continue the same journey, new continent.
But no matter where I go, the memories of rocking to sleep to the crashing waves will never be far behind.
PS: This is going out about a week late, due to my days of uselessness while sick. Likewise, I'm way behind on the site, and many of the pictures have no stories. I'd fix that, but in an hour I catch a bus to the Amazonian jungle, and the monkeys beckon.