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21. Tulum

Mexico

After a hot, sweaty run around Cancun, we ate our pancake breakfast and boarded a bus to Tulum. Again we avoided the fancy resorts (mostly because our budget didn't extend that far) and opted for a quiet hostel just off the main highway. Although the highway wasn't exactly screaming "relaxing, beachside town", it did contain dozens of bars and restaurants, so we were happy. 

 

What do you do in Tulum? You go to the beach. Should be easy, right? We found a collectivo and thought we were in for a quick, three kilometre ride to wide stretches of golden sand. Twenty minutes later we jumped out, realising that this collectivo was heading up to Playa del Carmen, nowhere near where we wanted to go. Luckily we were near Akumal, a resort with a palm tree-laden beach and hundreds of tourists (with lots more money than us). Too busy, too windy, and not at all peaceful. We stayed all of 15 minutes before heading back to Tulum. A lot of effort for little reward.

 

Bonus points to Tulum for having a vegetarian restaurant on the main street. It's not very often that I can order everything on the menu. It's hard having so much choice. Falafels, burgers, soup, pasta, hummus, salads - I couldn't decide so we ordered half the menu. After this amazing dinner we stumbled upon a night market, full of carnival games, clothes, street stalls, tonnes of food and, sadly, "bullfighting" (thankfully without the spears). The bulls would repeatedly scrap the ground before suddenly charging at the matador, who took one step sideways to hide behind a wall. How can they call this a sport?

Market purchases. They're just as badass as tattoos. Don't mess with us.

We heard there were more cenotes in the Tulum area, so the next day we hired bicycles (circa 1950 - I can't remember the last time I had to pedal backwards to apply the brake), a snorkel and a mask and headed out in search of sinkholes. First stop was Gran Cenote, an expensive but popular option and well worth the money. It was almost like a lagoon, filled with tiny, flesh-eating fish and a cordoned off area for turtles. Scuba divers were swimming through the cave system that connected various cenotes in the area, which sounded fantastic. This was the first cenote we swam in with a mask, allowing us to see all the stalagmites under the water. It was incredible. The second cenote was a bit of a disappointment compared to the previous one, but jumping down from the surface into a cave filled with dark water was enough of a thrill to keep me entertained. 

Gran Cenote.

Once we had lunch in our bellies it was time to hit the beach. The close beach. We rode down to the hotel zone, parked our bikes and walked through a random resort like we belonged there. On the other side were the wide swathes of sand we had been searching for, with rows upon rows of beach beds, blue water and not too many people. Excellent. We swam in the water for a while but spent most of the afternoon lying on the beach, watching kitesurfers ride up and down the coast. A perfect way to spend our last day in Mexico (along with a bar crawl that night to use up all our pesos).

Checking out the kitesurfing action.