Xmas morning. We set our alarms to wake us by 8am, figuring that if we get to the Tulum ruins by 9:30 we might be there before the tour buses arrive from Cancun. We were woken by a baby crying in the room on one side of ours, and by the couple on the other side talking loudly at 7:30am so proceeded to ready ourselves for our trip to the ruins.
We decided in September that we needed a warm vacation this winter. 2013 was a challenging year for our family of three with me having an emergency appendectomy in Febraury, a thyroid crash in April, our son having chronic headaches starting in May which were finally diagnosed as Migraines in September, and me having another thyroid crash in October. We asked our son if he wanted to join us on this vacation but his doctors are still trying to find a drug that alleviates his daily headaches and I think he wanted to play house with his girlfriend. He turned 18 in November and is very responsible so we left him to fend for himself over the holidays with his grandparents on call for things like grocery shopping and Christmas dinner. Both my husband’s and my families live in Saskatoon so Xmas gets a bit crazy with relatives, which is really hard on three introverts!
So the two of us are in Mexico, warm finally (one of the major symptoms of low thyroid is feeling cold all the time), getting what we hope is a few months worth of vitamin D, and generally taking it easy. One outing a day is about the right pace for us. We try to eat somewhere different every day and spend the afternoons and evenings reading and relaxing.
The Tulum ruins are about a 15 minute bike ride from our hotel. We had biked out there the first day but only up to the tourist trap market where every stall has almost exactly the same items. Today we zipped by them and onto the road that led to the ruins.
When we arrived at the main entrance there were only about 20 or so people milling around. We politely declined a tour guide (because we hate being herded along with a group) and began the walk up the jungle path to the ruins. We both recognized house plants from our mothers’ places, some of which we had never seen blooming until today. Apparently even the warmth of a house in Saskatchewan is not enough to make some of them bloom, they need the intense heat and humidity of a jungle.
The ruins are surrounded by a wall. Zama, as the city was originally called, was an important trading port and a place where the Diving God was worshipped. Obsidian and jade were their most common exports. Zama was one of the last cities to be found by the Spanish and apparently it lasted 70 years before the city of 1600 was wiped out by European diseases. (Yes, I got all that information from Wikipedia.)
We entered the ruins through a small tunel that we had to crouch to get through. About half of the buildings no long exist but you can see their foundations in the grass. All the structures are roped off and though there are wall frescoes inside some of the buildings they are no longer open for public viewing. The photo here (and I will post more photos on my instagram feed for those of you wanting to see more. Hnt hint David Wade!) is of the back of the main building. When I posted it it looked to me almost like CGI, but I was there this morning. Really!
Some of the structures are placed in such a way as to line up with the sunrise and sunset and the planet Venus. There are limestone cliffs at the edge of the city, and a couple beaches. One beach is a turtle nesting ground, and the other is open to visitors to the ruins. We both wore our bathing suits under our clothes but found that we were more interested in continuing our exploration than going for a quick swim. By this time it was 10:15am and tour buses had arrived. The ruins were being filled with groups speaking many different languages. (Somehow I always get stared at by the Russian tour groups wherever we are…perhaps it is my Prussian ancestry?)
On the facades of some of the buildings facing away from the sea you can still see carvings of beings with wings. Perhaps this is the Diving God?
There were many lizards and birds on the site. Basking in the sun, trekking across the grass, flying seemingly haphazardly eating bugs. Some of the larger lizards would stop and seem to strike a pose when they saw a large group of people, and all the cameras would come out (mine included).
The site itself isn’t that large, but there’s something about being around buildings that are so old that I absolutely love. I used to think it was because on the Canadian prairie the oldest buldings are from the 1890s, and anything older than that carries an aura of history and people around it that I didn’t experience until our move to Japan in 2003. I also grew up fascinated by ancient cultures and Medieval Europe to the point where I seriously considered becoming an anthropologist or majoring in Medieval music. A lot of the books on my shelves at home show these interests, even as I attempt to curate them down to a more reasonable number for our small house.
Now that we’ve seen the ruins we’ve done all the things we came to Tulum to do. (Except for tracking down some sort of Mexican rum for my brother) I guess that means more beach time, and trying more restaurants (there’s a French place, Le Bistro, that we’ve eaten at twice and has been excellent both times). We’ll bike and be warm and store up some sun for heading back to Canada right before the new year.
A funny thing happened when leaving for the airport.
Things learned while in Tulum
In the standing for best octopus I've ever eaten.
goth Mayan oyakodon
There's a jungle out there.