Posted from Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Reunion! (Photos are below)
This past week was simultaneously exciting and relaxing: exciting because we welcomed our first visitors since we have been outside the country! Relaxing because, well, we just made it that way. After spending Friday night camping near the beach in Tulum, we headed to the airport in Cancún on Saturday to pick up Joe’s sister Jennifer and her fiancée Jason, who spent the week with us. We rented a little house near Tulum, spending time hanging out and introducing them to Mexico. Well, tourist Mexico – but still Mexico.
Our modest rental house had a kitchen, so we cooked almost every meal at home, with Pepe offering Jen some tips on different ways to approach Mexican cuisine. Unfortunately, two of the prepared moles that we brought along for the week contained ingredients to which Jen is allergic. Regardless, no one starved that week. The house also had a washing machine (big score!), air conditioning (maybe a bigger score!), wi-fi, and a couple of cute, harmless geckos flitting around the house to amuse us. Jen even surprised us by bringing Olaf (one of Joe Camper’s brothers) along to taste-test different moles and reunite with his brother and friends.
In addition to hanging out in the house and catching up on favorite movies (Caddyshack may or may not have been viewed), we took time to visit the beach and two nearby locations of Maya ruins. The ruins at Tulum are world famous; but, as we have visited a few collections of ruins recently, we felt that they were a tad disappointing. They are situated high upon the ocean coast, which does make the site extraordinarily beautiful, and which also may have contributed to their less-than-spectacularness, due to erosion from salt water and winds and the occasion storm (hurricane) over the past 1000 years or so. Very few buildings are still intact; mostly we walked around viewing bases of houses and the bottom sections of pillars. But nonetheless, these are artifacts more than 1000 years old and incredibly impressive. And if we weren’t studying the remnants of a building, we were admiring the dozens of iguanas that freely roamed the grounds. They are actually kind of cute and have no interest in any contact with you.
The other site of ruins is an hour’s drive away at Cobá. These were very different to experience as a visitor: whereas the ruins at Tulum were on the ocean and the grounds were very open and airy, in Cobá, the ruins are practically in the jungle, surrounded by trees and presented with much less direct sunlight. But more structures were intact here, including the tallest Maya pyramid in the northern Yucatan (or at least that’s what Erik thought he read). At Cobá there are actually four different “villages” of ruins, so there was a lot of walking that day (although the park does rent bicycles), but since we were protected from the direct sun and didn’t mind a little exercise, it was all good.
For our trips to both sites, we arrived when the parks opened at 8:00. A tip to anyone wishing to view these (or other ruins): DO get there at 8:00 when they open. And go on a weekday. There was practically no one else at either location for the first hour or two. But at 10:00 the tour buses arrive and it gets busy. Literally, as we exited the ruins at Tulum around 10:00 or so, we passed hundreds and hundreds of people making their way to the entrance. Plus, the temperature is cooler in the earlier morning.
We also visited the beach a couple of times. All the beaches in Mexico are public, so we could go anywhere we wanted. But we just chose a quiet little place suggested by one of our neighbors here. Just north of Tulum is Playa del Carmen, which is loaded with fancy, swanky resorts and spas and golf courses. But since we didn’t know if they would allow for Olaf or not, we were happily to stay in our charming little rental for a week.
On Saturday morning we dropped Jen and Jason back at the airport in Cancún to do battle with the customs officials once again, and we headed to the northern region of the state of Yucatán. We are getting back on the wagon once again – a two-week Help Exchange stint on a farm. Hopefully after three months of Spanish language school, one month exploring the culinary culture of Oaxaca, and then one week enjoying a little sun on the beach, we will still remember how to work…
Coming Up: Yes, we’re still working on two more posts from Oaxaca. And of course we’ll have the details of our Help Exchange. And soon…a game-changer of a big announcement. Stay tuned!