It can be a noisy town though
. The first hostel we stayed at we heard Mexican party music from an adjacent building start at 11o’clock and finish at 4 o’clock in the morning. Even when we found a second hostel there was music of sorts although not half as loud. Noise is very much part of the Mexican way of life. If it’s not car horns its fireworks, or loud speakers at the entrance of a shop squealing out distorted blown speaker music or party buses with day-glow lights and with loud music. They don’t seem to have cottoned onto the idea of peace and quiet. Noise abatement is just a figment of my imagination as it is certainly not even on the radar of your average Mexican. Or maybe I’m just getting older. The idea of swinging in a hammock trussed between two palm trees by the beach does have some appeal here but in England…nah, the absence of an Enlglish beach with sunshine and warmth is easily replaced by an Enlglish cottage equipped with a rocking chair by the open fire, cardigan, pipe and so on. Definately getting older.
There are Cenotes all over the region. These are cave pools of natural fresh water fed by hundreds of miles of submerged water tunnels in the limestone. We visited the Gran Cenote in Tulum where you can swim in the water and snorkel. The water was mild but comfortable enough and we got there early enough to enjoy the pools before the hordes arrived. One part, which is relatively shallow water, has a low slung natural stone roof
. For the unwary it can be a little bit of a shock when you swim on your back as you will see tens of bats hanging upside down watching your every move with those small little black eyes and leathery wings wrapped around them-selves. Every now and then one would let go of its roost and fly around the cave before returning to its hold, much to the shrieking delight of some ladies. Just a quick word, don’t shriek with bats around; it seems to excite them a little too much. What at one moment seems like a quiet idyllic location with subtle light reflecting of the cool water’s surface is descended into utter darkness as an army of bats storm out of the rocky creases in the ceiling reeking chaos amongst people with very long hair and nervous disposition.
The opening to the cave measured about 50m by 20m with a shear drop to the water of about 4m. Access was via a wooden stairs to a platform directly over the water. The recesses of the cave went underneath the rock but then rapidly dropped below the water. It was at time a little scary as I would swim under the over-hang of the rock into the dim light with nothing but blackness beneath me. If you were braver still and used a mask to look under water all you would see is the walls of the tunnels disappear into a very eerie darkness that had a very sinister feel to it. More 'shadows' probably. The most fascinating thing was watching the cave divers do their thing
. I think these guys are psycho. I mean caving is one thing but actually diving in water filled caves…come on. We watched a number of pairs during the morning prepping and diving into the darkness. I could follow them with my snorkel gear on the surface for a while until the blackness of the sub aqua cave stole the light from their torches and swallowed the divers whole. I mean, I Iike diving but that is just mental. One pair was exceptionally serious about their diving and understandably took a long time to prep. One of the divers had a conventional outfit on whilst the other had a re-breather kit on…psycho mental! Just stick re-breather diving into the web and see what it brings up. These guys are mega serious divers. Re-breathers filter and exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen out of the waste breath; in other words it recycles every out ward breath you make. It allows the diver to carry significantly smaller tanks and also allows him/her to dive for a considerably longer time and deeper, if necessary. His mate who had the conventional kit carried three tanks. Most divers carry one or two tanks. I think one tank can provide about an hour’s safe diving…mega psycho mental divers. I’ll stick to the reefs with 10ft of water.
Article on Re-breather diving: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebreather
There's a fair bit of this stuff on Youtube as well
We’re off to Belize soon where one of the world’s premier dive sites is located. It’s called the Blue Hole. It’s where the sea floor gave way to reveal a cave underneath. The bottom is about 400m deep. It’s now almost like the perfect cylinder with its own marine life. Loads of info on the web. I don’t have the experience to dive that one yet. In fact I don’t have a licence yet having only completed a couple of 'try’ dives, mores the pity. Its one thing I hope to achieve out in Belize or Honduras, when I get there.
The Blue Hole: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPehnEcCCmE
The other great draw to Tulum is the Mayan ruins. The only ruins with a sea view. It’s a very bijou site that is often exceptionally popular due to its ease of access and close proximity to the package holiday maker in Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Not the most spectacular of Mayan ruins when compared to the likes of Palenque or Monte Alban but worth a spare hour if you have it.
Apart from that Tulum is a one horse town
. We spent a couple days on the beach for a little R&R, bumped into a great New Zealand couple who we are travelling with us to Belize and spent time planning our Central America trip. I have been away travelling now since December and it has been as fantastic as it has been challenging. But with each new lesson I learn a different part of me grows. Another traveller once said to me that 'comfort restrains growth'. I have exponentially expanded on my comfort zone and definately experienced growth in the emotional department yet not ready to stop travelling yet. We have no idea where travel is is likely to take us and frankly, and Julie is in agreement with this, we do not care. I am learning to live for the moment and remain open to opportunities; but not just remain open but have actually see them too…quite enlightening at times!
One final thing. There is a phenomenon in this parts called the Crack-head Syndrome. It is mostly associated with westerners and always with coconut trees. Every now and again whilst sat down by the beach you are likely to hear a soft thud as another coconut drops from the upper parts of the tree and hits the sand. On occassions the sound changes to a sharp plastic wrap as the coconut hits a plastic chair or table. If you are really unlucky you might hear a soft thud and a very weak yelp followed by a second soft thud as the limp unconcious body of an unfortunate tourist lies on the sand with a dent in his head the size of a coconut. If it really is not your day then you will possibly wake up in a foreign hospital with a raging headache or worse still, playing a harp at St Peter's gate. Apparently each year there are a handful of tourists killed by falling coconuts off the trees. People can die in exotic ways in the land of exotic beaches and Palm trees.
Book of the Day: Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell
I have been looking forward to Tulum since before I came to Mexico when I saw pictures of the ruins. But Tulum is not just about the ruins there is more besides – though don't hold your breath there is not a lot more. The town is relatively unspoilt particularly when you compare it to its nearest neighbours of Cancun and Playa Del Carmen. It is popular with the tourist but the big hotel chains and commercial businesses do not exist here. They have either not bothered or not allowed here as all buildings in Tulum and on the beach are no more than two stories high. But with Playa Del Carman and Cancun with three to five hours away maybe that is enough for the package holiday seeker. As a consequence the lack of development has left the beaches in pristine condition. Fine white sand Caribbean beaches with leaning palm trees and inviting light blue waters warm enough to overcome the worst kind of shark phobia.