Tacos, hippies and Mayan ruins

We never made a summary post of Tulum before we left for Cuba, so here it comes! We’ll try to make it short and sweet.

We had some great (9) days in Tulum, kicking off our travel with some sun, good food and a wee bit culture. We stayed both at the playa (beach) and in the pueblo (town centre), and both had its up sides and down sides. The playa was very relaxing and Tulum really has a nice beach. The downside is that it is twice (or more) as expensive as in the pueblo. It is said that the beach stretch from Cancun to Tulum has the most expensive places in all of Mexico.

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We stayed at ParaYso Hotel, which was the cheapest hotel we could find on the beach. It was okay, but the amenities were not very good and they were renovating the hotel when we stayed there. Recommended if you don’t need VIP treatment – the beach was awesome and there were restaurants nearby for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the pueblo we stayed at Hotel El Punto, which was cheaper, had more amenities like free bikes, air condition, refrigerator and breakfast, but had a hotel staff that were constantly hard to find.

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Either way if you stay at the beach or in town you get delicious food everywhere. We had our share of tacos, totopos and guacamole, and then some. Some of the best meals we had were at Hartwood at the beach (only have ca. 10 items on the menu and is a bit expensive, but oh so delicious) and El Asadero in town. Both had Argentinian-inspired steaks and very good atmosphere. Other than that we ate a lot of cheap tacos, which you can get for ca. 10 MXN = 5 NOK each, at small local restaurants across town. They didn’t have much salad and side dishes, but were quite filling and cheap.

A Mexican breakfast favorite of Tuva was Chilaquiles, which is totopos (tortilla chips), tomato sauce and cheese. We had totopos and guacamole at almost every meal, often times fresh from the oven. Looking at the typical body shape of the Mexicans we saw there, it seems they also enjoy their fair share of totopos and tortillas.

Another thing we found a lot of in Tulum was hippies. And by hippies we mean mostly young(ish) people with dreads or otherwise dirty/greasy long hair, and raggy clothes they most likely have sewn or customized themselves. They seemed to be everywhere and it may well be that we just mistook them for regular backpackers. Some seemed to be living on the street and some tried to sell bracelets and such to get some extra cash.

Lastly Tulum is famous for their Maya ruins, which is one of the most complete in Mexico and third most visited here. They are visited every day by several busloads of tourists from Cancun and Playa del Carmen, something we soon found out the first day we tried to visit the ruins. There were swarming with big, middle-aged Americans with their video cameras constantly recording and young couples on their honeymoons. We figured out that if you want to beat the crowd (and heat) you need to go immediately when they open in the morning (8.00, 9.30 is too late) or in the afternoon (16-17). We chose the latter and even though it’s said that you can spend half a day there we were quite satisfied with the ruins after an hour. We are probably not that big ruin-fans.

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Tulum ruins in sunset 4

Tulum ruins in sunset 3

Other fun things that happened in Tulum was that Mathias got sunburned on his chest the second day, which lasted for five days, and we both got more mosquito bites than we could count..

Tomorrow we will be flying back to Cancun from Havana, but we will only be staying there for some hours before taking the night bus to Belize City. We will spend the time stuffing our faces with tacos, totopos and guacamole.

Ciao!

Turtle bay and the lagoon (Nativo tours part 2)

After going to the Dos Ojos Cenote, we went to Akumal to see the sea turtles and go to a lagoon to snorkel.

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In Turtle Bay there were a lot of sea turtles eating the sea grass that grows on the bottom. We were not allowed to touch them, but we could swim quite close. David also told us that there often is a 1.5 m barracuda in the bay that you can swim up to, unfortunately (Tuva: NOT) it wasn’t there when we visited.

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We had some delicious fish tacos in Akumal, along with more guacamole and totopos! We have eaten a lot of totopos in Mexico (triangular fried tortillas) – it comes free with almost every meal! There is even a breakfast dish that contains mostly totopos, Chilaquiles, which is really good (it resembles what we call nachos in Norway).

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The lagoon was situated on a private property previously owned by the Grateful Dead, and rumor has it that the guy who bought the house had to scrape resin off the walls for 3 days. The lagoon had two layers of water, fresh water from a stream and sea water. This brackish water is blurry when mixed, thus the blurry pictures (of course not the photographers fault).

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Of marine life the most interesting we saw was a school of regal tang (as in Dory, Marlin’s crazy companion in Finding Nemo) in the lagoon. Other “marine life” consisted of a huge party (not only by numbers) of Mexicans bathing and shouting and having fun.

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Dos Ojos Cenote (Nativo Tours part 1)

We went on a snorkeling day trip with David Barlow of Nativo Tours this past Sunday to see a cenote, sea turtles and fishes. This post is about the cenote, and the next post will be about the rest (part 2). On the trip we also met Rebecca, a british girl living in New York, who did the trip for the second time (!).

First stop was Dos Ojos Cenote. A cenote is an underground cave filled with water, stalagmites and stalagtites (pointy limestone). The water was cold, and there was only natural light coming in from the openings of the cave. We went in with our snorkeling gear on, and David had an underwater flashlight to show us the way. Underneath us we could see the flashlights from the scuba divers swimming deep beneath the stalagmites – it looked scary to be down there!

It was a little bit difficult to take pictures in the cenote due to the darkness, but it was an excellent opportunity to try out the new underwater housing for my Canon Powershot S95 and it worked like a charm! (at least with a little natural light from the openings)

It is sad to say, but the whiteness of our skin in these pictures is not just the light and camera flash – we are still really norwegian-winter white and obviously not yet tanned backpackers..

The cenote was very pretty (at least what we saw) and awe-inspiring, considering the thousands of years it has taken to make the rock formations. We also saw some-hundred bats in the batcave. (unfortunately not The Batcave) All in all the trip was well worth the time and money (2150 MXN) spent and we can recommend David and Nativo Tours, as he focuses on private tours with few people at the same time.

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Entering the cenote

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The batcave

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One of the many pictures not doing justice to the spectacular sights, but because of the low light, most ictures came out blurry and/or black

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The cenote ghost (because he is white as a…)

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Ms. Milky White

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Mathias freediving like a boss

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Mathias again freediving like a boss

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A mermaid or Tuva.. not sure

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Testing out the new camera

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Rebecca and the guide David

 

Learning Spanish in Tulum

We decided that we wanted to learn a little Spanish before we left for Cuba (Thursday!), and have enrolled at Chac Mool. Chac Mool is a language school here in Tulum pueblo, where we’ve been staying at the hostel El Punto since Sunday.

The school is on the other side of town, and we ride our free hostel bikes about 20 minutes through town to get there.

Our maestra de gramática is Alexandra and our maestra de conversación is Tania. They are very good teachers and always in a good mood.

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Alexandra and Tuva

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Tania and Mathias

We’ve learned how to greet people, what to say in restaurants, stores, taxi, the bus station and some general vocabulary that is necessary for travelling. We’ve already used what we learned to buy bus ticket to Cancun at the ADO bus station here in Tulum! It went very well, although after really practicing spelling our names, we didn’t need it because he just pushed his keyboard in to us.. Well, if you ever need to spell Tuva’s name in Spanish – here is the way to say it: Teh ou uveh ah.

Tomorrow is our last day of language school for now, we’ll continue in Guatemala in January!

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We’ve ordered our first tacos using only Spanish (there wasn’t even a menu), and we actually got food!

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Mathias is blending in with the Mexicans

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Dos Mexicanos

Relaxing on the beach in Tulum, Mexico

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We’re here! We’ve actually startet our journey! It’s really strange to finally be on our way after all this time saving and planning. A strange feeling, but also a GREAT feeling.

We have also updated our packing list with what we actually brought along. Some will probably say it’s too much, some will say it’s too little. Either way, the backpacks ended up a few kilos heavier than we earlier estimated and hoped for.. oh well.

Tuesday 27. November 2012 – travel day
We spent our last night in Norway at Andreas and Thea’s house, getting up at 5 am to catch an early Flytog to Gardermoen. Our flight left at 7:40 to London. Next was the longhaul to Dallas, and lastly a quick hop to Cancun. All the flights were on time and rather pleasant. Some strange people of course, we had a rather strange woman sitting next to us from London to Dallas, with her big backpack on her lap the entire flight, lots of newspapers scattered around her, and constantly asking the staff for something. Looking at the flight attendants she was even less popular with them than with us..

Arriving in Cancun we realized we should have planned more, we ended up spending way to much to get to Tulum. We knew there was a local bus, unfortunately we hadn’t made plans or knew where to buy the ticket. We ended up in a taxi with a young Argentinian couple (on their honeymoon!) who knew just a little more English than we knew Spanish – but they were SO happy to be traveling so it didn’t matter. On the way out of the taxi the guy shouted his name and for us to look him up on Facebook, so we could hook up when we go to Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, we forgot his name before he closed the door – 24 hours of travelling will do that to you.

When we finally arrived at ParaYso hotel on the beach in Tulum, it was dark, almost eleven o’clock at night and the hotel was under renovation. Suddenly a young man came running and luckily he found our reservations, a key and a room for us. There was no electricity at the time, and after telling us it would be there in three minutes, he closed the door to our room and left us in utter darkness! The light never turned on that night, and we were glad we brought our headlights! It didn’t really matter though, as we were super ready for sleep.

Also worth mentioning about our hotel is that it didn’t have warm water (related to the power) and the weak water pressure reminded us of a certain Seinfeld episode, and also the toilet has one of the weirdest soft toilet rings – welcome to paradise!

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Wednesday 28. November 2012 – looking around
The next day we walked far up the beach, checking out the other resorts and getting to know the area. The beach is absolutely amazing, with the white sand, the constant waves, the warm breeze and not too many other people!

We ate our first tacos for lunch and decided we looove tacos, and have eaten tacos every day since.

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Thursday 29. November 2012 – tanning time
We woke up to beautiful weather, and decided to just lounge outside our hotel on the beach. Got out our Kindles and simply enjoyed ourselves – just like paradise!

We also decided what to do next: On Thursday December 6th we’re flying to Cuba and staying until December 25th! We’re looking forward to travelling around, dancing salsa and learning more Spanish :)

This was also the day our hotel got electricity AND hot water (although still no water pressure)! Even after just two days without warm water, this felt great!

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These pictures were actually taken on Wednesday when the weather was not so good..

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Friday 30. November 2012 – biking around

We got up early to rent bikes, and went to Tulum center. It’s actually quite far, about 8 km I think. We went by the Tulum ruins as well, but didn’t enter as there were busloads of tourists being let of at that exact time! (mostly big Americans from Cancun) We’ve decided to go another day and be there when the park opens at 8 am.

Tulum center is very different from the beach, and has it’s own charm. Everything is much cheaper and we found a hotel to stay at next week – the rooms have fridges, but we’re actually not sure whether there is hot water. We’ve also found a language school, and some cooking classes that we’ll be joining.

On our way home from Tulum, we stopped at one of the roadside shops to find a hat. We didn’t find any we liked though, but the guy working there also does guided tours, and we ended up planning a tour on Sunday. The tour is for swimming with sea turtles and lots of colorful fish and going into a cenote. We’re looking forward to it!

It’s really strange to still have seven months left doing exactly as we want, but it also feels really really good! We’re loving it :)

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