Mayan Coronas

The City of the Dawn
Thursday 19th March 2020 |
10 Chikchan |
 13 Kumk'u |

"Oh my God, that was an incredible night's sleep" I said turning to Julie, "I don't remember a thing after putting my head on the  pillow!"  I quickly had to apologise as I just woke her up.

It was by far the deepest of sleep I could remember, from which waking up was such a gloriously gradual process. The blackout binds were doing an incredible job of keeping the room as dark as night, 9am felt like 9pm.

As much as we could have done with a whole day in bed we peeled ourselves out for breakfast.

After sharing a glass of anti-flu smoothie I decided to try something different. The menu described it as Mexicanos but it's more commonly known as chillaquiles. There may be different ways of serving it but it's always tortilla chips soaked in a spicy sauce, either red from tomatoes or green from tomatillos. It's then topped with an egg in some form and some other bits and pieces.

I went for the tomatillos green as it's not something I would usually find at home. I have to say it was so incredibly tasty. Why I hadn't heard of this breakfast dish before?  Ask anyone about a Mexican breakfast and 99% of the answers would be Huevos Rancheros, but now I have a new favourite, and it was a revelation!!

Julie had the French Toast again, which was equally delicious but I didn't help her out today, I was savouring the flavours of my chillaquiles so much I didn't want to ruin the moment!

With breakfast done we headed out for the day.

Our first task was to take a bag of our dirty clothes to a laundrette directly opposite the Pemex garage. 

It wasn't far but we almost didn't make it. It was a combination of looking in the wrong direction (they drive on the right here) and the fact that the garage forecourt and the road was the same layer of tarmac!

There was no kerb or pavement, not even a white line to mark where one ended and the other began.

So we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of the road without even realising. Fortunately all the cars were stopped at a red light a hundred metres away. It was all that revving of engines as they all got given the green light that alerted us to the fact we were standing in their way.  As soon as the penny dropped we scarpered to the safety of a central reservation, just in time.

At April's Launderette we handed over our bag of festering underpants and sweaty t-shirts. They weighed the bag, which must have been heavier with our bodily moisture, and gave us a price. We agreed regardless and arranged to pick them up later in the day.

Originally I had planned to walk to Tulum Ruinas the local Mayan archaelogical site but after five minutes of pounding down the pavement which also doubled up as a cycle path we decided to turn around and get a taxi. It didnt look far on the map but when I checked the distance it was almost 4km away and in this heat it was too far to walk.

We hailed a taxi who dropped us off as close as it could. There was a barrier stopping us from driving any closer. The remaining half a mile was pedestrianised but at least it had some shade from  the trees that lined it.


Eventually we reached the entrance and paid our pesos to get in. There was only a small queue, but in front of us there was a very tall German having a slight coughing fit. Under the current pandemic climate there's no such thing as a polite cough anymore but to cough without even covering your mouth with your hand, which is only polite, or at least following latest public health guidelines of coughing into the inside of your elbow, like you were attempting to do the DAB like Ussain Bolt, was just plain rude.

Whatever, he didn't give a shit about those in his vicinity and was quite happy spreading it around from a great height.  We tried our best to stop breathing as soon as we could, and distance ourselves from him.

We walked through the ticket turnstiles a little purple in the face but we had at least bought ourselves enough distance between us and his COVID spreading behaviour.

Our progress was immediately halted when we were greeted by a 5ft iguana calmly crossing our path. Clearly it had got accustomed to people as it posed for a photograph. I just had to hang around for a bit to get a decent snap shot.

We followed a path through a landscaped garden / forest until we came to an archway in a very thick stone wall, into which we walked. 

Tulum or Tulu'um means wall and was the name given to this site when the ruins were discovered.  However, the original name for this settlement is thought to have been Zama, which comes from the Mayan word Zamal for morning. Given its enviable position on the coast, facing the sunrise, it's often refered to as the City of Dawn.

We emerged out of the tunnel of the fortified walls into a wide open plaza with several buidlings dotted around. Whilst it lacked the focal point of a great pyramid like Chichen Itza or even Coba, it was situated on the cliffs' edge, overlooking the incredible sea, scooping the "most dramatic location" category.

We walked towards the first structure to our left, known as the Temple of the Wind God. (Cue childish fart noises!). The wind god is also known as Kukulcan, the feathered serpent venerated in Chichen Itza's great pyramid. Today happened to be its name day,  Chickchan or Kukulkan, the serpent god, the framer and shaper of the universe. It's beleived that today is a good day to get rid of your anger, to get things off your chest. Well, it hasn't happened yet. 

Anyway, the Temple of the Wind God seemed more of a watchtower, taking prime location looking out over the stunning azure seas. We were kept at an arms length, unable to get up close to the ruins which was a shame but completely understandable. Tulum is the third most visited archaelogical site in Mexico, after Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan.

The path continued down to a small bay called Playa Tortuga beneath the site's largest structure, called El Castillo in Spanish. It was a beautiful secluded beach, cordoned off to discourage the hordes from descending. A bi-lingual sign in Spanish & English (no Mayan) explained that this was to protect the area for the nesting turtles who return here between June and October.

The path brought us back to the main plaza, to the Great Palace, which wasn't looking very great.  The House of the Halach Uinik and the House of Columns were just fragments of what once stood here.

There was a collection of other smaller buildings scattered around including the Temple of the Frescoes, which apparently had inside the faint remnants of a painted wall where snakes and Mayan deities could still be made out. Unfortunately entry into the temple wasn't permitted. 

We continued along the prescribed route, with the main temple of El Castillo to our left.  It stood over 7 metres tall and shared its foundations with the Temple of the Diving God and the Temple of the Initial Series on either side of it.

I think we were too close to fully appreciate the structure, a better view would have been from the furthest opposite side. 

At it's height, between 13th and 15th century, Tulum would still only have been a relatively small town of about 600 people. It's believed it served as an outpost of Coba, provding the larger city state with access to the sea and lucrative trade routes. 

Today's residents were a troop of Iguanas. They were literally every where. At times it was diffiult to distinguish them from the stones as they stood as still as statues.

We soon reached the cliffs, where it seemed most of the visitors had accumulated. It made us realise how fortunate we were here during a global pandemic, keeping the numbers down! On an average day over six thousand prople visit Tulum.

We didn't hang around for long, I wanted to see Playa Tortuga from up here. We followed the path as it continued behind the plain windowless back wall of the Castillo and came to an end at the point where it overlooked the turtle cove. The viewpoint was surprsingly free of people for what was the most breathtaking view back across the bay towards the Temple of the Wind God.

Having lapped it up we returned from behind El Castillo and continued along the path skirting the clifftop. There was an option to drop down to a public beach, only accessible down a wooden staircase but we chose instead to stop and admire the rugged coastline.

Whilst here I spotted this impressive iguana basking on a rock right on the edge of the cliff. I must have taken about five minutes trying to get a decent photo of it. Julie was being very patient. Eventually I was happy with what I had got and we could move on. 

We continued along the path which now left the cliff edge and headed back inland. It meandered through a well tended garden back to the plaza. From there we could have returned to have a closer look at the other temples but we decided enough was enough.

We left the site through another archway through the fortified wall, in the South Eastern corner of the park, the opposite end of where we entered. This alternative exit was perferct for us as we came out onto the Beach Road.

After a short walk we came to the first resort, called Santa Fe, and walked through it to the beach. It felt a bit cheeky but I'm sure they don't mind. They may catch some passing trade for their beach side bar. 

The moment we reached the beach off came our shoes. It felt amazing to feel the powdery white sand between our toes. We headed straight for the water and dipped our toes in the warm Carribean for the first time. It felt so wonderful to stroll hand in hand along the beach in the gently lapping waves.

The next resort along was Villa Pescadores. We were so excited to see it because this was where we had two nights booked (on Sun/Mon) to finish our trip on a high. We decided to stop and have a drink. Whilst gulping down our perfectly chilled Dos Equis XX beer we had a look at their menu and felt hungry all of a sudden.

What caught my eye first was a very unique dip, often called the Mayan hummus, Sikil P'ak is made from roasted pumpkin seeds, tomato and chilli. I had tried to make it at home before coming out here and really enjoyed its intense flavour but this was much nicer.

Thinking about it I came to the conclusion that the tomatoes must have been dry roasted or charred to add a smokiness, and undoubtedly the chillies they used were more complex than what I could get at my local supermarket. It was also a looser paste than the thick spread I made. I can't wait to get home and have another go!

I scooped it all up with a few tortilla chips and in a flash it was gone.

Next I had Elote, chargrilled sweetcorn rubbed in butter, seasoned with salt and ceremoniously presented on a skewer, sticking up on a 45 degree angle to a wooden plank with a line of mayonaise, chilli powder, a large wedge of a lime, and grated cheese.

I assumed I needed to apply the condiments in sequence, so I began with rolling the end of my cob in the mayo. I then took a pinch of the smokey chilli powder and sprinkled it all over. Next I skipped the lime and dipped my sticky spicy end along the small pile of grated cheese. Before returning to the citrus fruit which I squeezed plenty of its juice to finish it all off.

My first bite was an absolute revelation. It was the best combination of flavours I had on this trip. Even better that the chillaquiles I ate this morning. I purred with excitement as I worked my way down the length of the corn, dipping the kernels in the mayo, chilli and cheese combo as I went along.

With lunch this good we were looking forward to our stay at this resort on Sunday.

It was time for a siesta so we left the beach and caught a taxi back into town. There were plenty of cabs waiting for fares at all the beach exits, which was very convenient. 

We asked the driver to drop us off on some random street (Calle Geminis Sur) because we had searched google maps for a shop where we could possibly find some swimwear for Julie. We got out, exactly where we asked but there was nothing here, mostly some shabby looking buildings.

There was nothing for it but to walk back to our hotel.  Fortunately it wasn't too far and there plenty of bars along the way in case we got too thirsty!

One local bar, called El Parader looked fantastic. It was brightly painted and had high energy mariachi music pumping out. However we were a little reluctant to go inside. The iron bars on the windows didn't help and it was so dark inside it just wasn't giving us a welcoming vibe.

We did stop at one bar, called Kalhua, a tin roofed shed with a woodfired pizza oven inisde.For a change we weren't hungry but we had worked up a thirst.  

It took us about an hour to make it back to Casa Agape where we chilled in our room, waiting until 5pm before we could quickly pop out to collect our laundry from April's laundrette.

After a few hours snooze we woke up ready for supper and decided on trying a restaurant we had seen earlier on our way to the ruins. It was called Emilia Tulum and it looked fanastic decorated with lights along it's thatched canopies.  It was a large building, as if it could have been a hotel but there was no mention of rooms.

Inside was nicely decorated with a lot of wood. I mean, I wouldn't have it in my house but all the teak furniture gave the place a homely feel. We checked out the menu whilst sipping a margarita.

Julie had the steak as it seemed to be their speciality. It was grilled over a charcoal fire but it didn't seem to impress Julie as her "I've had better" comment summed up.

I didn't really have much choice and went for a salad which consisted of spinach leaves, tomatoes, crumbly cheese and chopped walnuts. It tasted really good, the dressing packed a punch but the thing was, ... I was still hungry after I had eaten, and that's not a good sign.

The best bit of the meal was the cutlery, they were fabulous! I couldn't have imagined a more Mexican knife and fork! They were so ornately engraved, they could have once graced the table of nobility!

Once we had eaten we returned to our hotel. Having had our siesta we weren't ready for bed just yet, so we went up to the rooftop pool. We sat poolside, dipped out feet into the warm water and reflected on the past few days.

The urge to dive in was strong, but Julie still didn't posses a swimming costume. But the more we splashed our trotters in the pool, the more we wanted to strip off and just go for it. Which is exactly what we did!

Well, let's be clear, we were not naked skinny dipping, we're not kids anymore!  But we stripped down to our underwear, (which was no different to swimwear really), and enjoyed bobbing around in the water for about half an hour.  It was so much fun!

Whilst it was very spontaenous, I still ran downstairs to fetch some towels before we got wet. When I came out of the pool in my soggy boxer shorts I was glad that I had.  We dried ourselves and sat on the loungers for a while discussing everything and nothing but mostly the pandemic.

Australia and New Zealand announced today they were closing their borders to all non-nationals. It didn't really effect anyone from the Mayan Coronas group. Aussies Rich and Margaret arrived home safely today. Alex and Suzie were travelling home tomorrow. Whilst Mari and Michael were like us, hanging in there, with original flights still valid, making the most of a bad situation, hoping we don't run out of luck and get stranded here in Tulum!

Mexico announced their first coronavirus death today. It was hundreds of miles away near Mexico City but we were a little concerned about what the reaction may be. We know there are worst places in the world to be stranded, but without your freedom you may as well be home.

Although at the moment it felt safer here.  The death toll in the UK is now up to 144, Italy had now reached 3,500 deaths which was higher than China, who incidently reported no new cases of COVID-19 today. A glimmer of good news, a light at the end of the tunnel.

Grasping onto that flicker of a positive thought and ignoring the fact that the UK seemed to be mirroring Italy's trend,  we called it a night and returned to our room for what we hoped would be another wonderful night's sleep.

  Next day >  

ęCopyright 2000 - 2020 Colin Owen