To Tulum and beyond

It was a gorgeous day sailing to Tulum, fair weather and good seas. We motor sailed again because it was still fairly calm and we needed to make good time. Even with a good wind, the current is a strong 2 knots against us which drops our speed greatly. David is getting very good at putting and keeping the boat into the wind so we can get the sails up and down, a regular Sinbad in the making. It is nice to have the help aboard when it comes to dealing with the sails.

We knew it was going to be tricky to get into the reef, only about 50 feet or so wide and, with a 6-8 foot swell behind us, we would be surfing a great deal. It was definitely a sweet ride going in….people pay big bucks to ride something like that in an amusement park (called a roller….but I wouldn’t want to have to do it every day. Nerve-wracking comes to mind.

With the coordinates set and a good bearing we made it through okay and turned sharp north into calm-ish waters that were only 10-12 feet deep. We could see the bottom, see the rocks to miss, see the sand ripples…and we could see when the anchor hit which is always a good thing. It took a good few tries to get solidly hooked with the current so strong but once it grabbed, it was a good hook. Later that day we all went for a snorkel around and took a look at the anchor and it was embedded deeply. 🙂 Finally, a decent night’s sleep ahead! We don’t sleep well at all when at anchor because of waiting and watching for dragging – dozing on and off uneasily. It has started taking its toll on us for sure. Jean-Marie and I sleep in the cockpit most of the time so we are able to see and hear and feel everything that goes on. Sweaters and long pants and socks and our sheet and half the time a towel on top to keep warm. But, in order to be safe, it must be done.

The first day there, 9 Jan (I think), David, Melanie and I went to the Tulum ruins then downtown for a few supplies. The ruins had been taken over by the Mexican National Parks people and so were being restored and taken care of very nicely. 57 pesos to get in and there was no gauntlet to run like at Chichen Itza. The artizans were around but were very circumspect – you can find them but you need to look.

There were no maps or explanatory information signs on the buildings which made it a bit difficult to understand what everything was. This is how they made their money, though, so it was okay. You could hire tour guides to explain everything but we found it a bit expensive, so we just wandered on our own, taking pictures everywhere, and snuck in behind various groups to listen in when the guide was talking about certain places. It worked just fine. The buildings and areas were all roped off, just like Chichen Itza, because of vandalism in years past which really sucked but we could understand it. There was one house that wasn’t roped off so Melanie and I climbed up into the ruin and sat for a bit just taking in the sun and the feeling. Ah, it was so peaceful there, even with all the people around, we could just feel and absorb the energy.

Just below the big building known as El Castillo there is a sweet little beach that turtles use to lay their eggs in. The ruins caretakers need to clean it just about every day because of all the refuse that washes up from the ocean but it looks to be a nice little haven for the endangered sea turtles. Over a little further is another little beach with access from above via a steep staircase built next to the cliffs. Standing on the lookout point just above it we were hit by spray coming up from the sea, as well as sand kicked up in the wind. It was so wild and beautiful to stand there imagining what it was like a couple thousand years ago, watching the canoes of the nearby trading villages paddle in with the reef storming away behind.

The big building was not, in fact, a castle but when the Spaniards came they named pretty much every big building they saw “El Castillo” whether it was a market or temple or home. There were many other evidences of their ignorance but it would take an entire history lesson to speak about them all. Suffice to say, their arrival was not the best period for the Mayan people.

Leaving the ruins, we found a taxi from there to town would be 70 pesos so we opted to walk the 15 minutes back to the Paraiso beach (in front of where we were moored) where a cab would be only 50 pesos.

The town of Tulum is not huge but is definitely colourful. One main street with little alleyways off it, the ratio seemed to be about 10 souvenir shops for one Oxxo, or pharmacy or mini-super. The people were fantastic, so warm and friendly and full of smiles and hellos. A lot of dealing and haggling went on on the sidewalk so we were deking in and out to get past usually smiling or laughing right along with the shopkeepers.

We stopped in for pizza, said to be the best in Mexico. It was certainly tasty with mushrooms and cheese and brie and proscutto but it was the real thin kind with crispy crust – wood-fired, I think it was called, or something like that. Me, I like the thick deep dish kind rather than the cardboard thin (and cardboard bland) kind. But the price was right: 8 slices, approx the 14” diameter size for 130 pesos (about $11).

So, loaded down with pizza leftover, beer and cigarettes we headed back to the boat. We knew coming in with the dinghy that it was going to be a tad wet getting out. Even behind the reef at Tulum, the water was never calm. There were nice breakers on the beach with the waves reaching 3 and 4 feet at times so coming in to the beach was mainly surfing with them until we hit. We dragged the dinghy up as far as we could but didn’t really worry about it floating off since the tide was only 6-7” and hours away. We anchored it, sort of, anyway to make ourselves feel better. Jean-Marie said that it garnered a lot of interest while we were away though so he peered throught he camera’s zoom lens to make the people on the beach know that someone was watching them. It wasn’t quite the normal secure feeling we usually have in Mexico – this place was too full of opportunists (and tourists) for our liking.

We loaded everything into the dinghy and got it past the first little bit, deep enough for David to climb in and at least get it started. Melanie and I pushed it out further until we were about chest deep: otherwise we never would have gotten it over the breakers. It was definitely a wet ride back, laughing like hyenas all the way. People on the beach stopped and watched as well, laughing right along with us at our antics.

The few days spent in Tulum were sunny and warm; we swam and snorkeled and otherwise enjoyed the warm, shallow waters. There finally came a day that the wind died just enough that we felt it was safe to go through the reef.

And we headed for Xcalak.

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