August 18: Tulum and Coba Tour

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for joining me so far on my exciting Mayan adventure in Mexico's Yucatan and Quintana Roo states. Today will be a very detailed and exciting entry, as I visit the seaside Mayan middle and upper class city of Tulum and then the dense jungle of Coba, located further inland and surrounded by several natural lakes -- a very unusual geographic feature in the jungles of the Yucatan.

I woke up again at 5:30 am, again hot and wishing I'd had more sleep. It is very hard to get a completely rested sleep in this kind of heat and humidity without air conditioning. Have to keep that in mind the next time I visit Mexico, particularly if I visit again at this time of year.

 Left my room at 6:05 am and headed to the nearest OXXO for more tamales (orange corn with shredded chicken inside -- I will definitely miss them when I return to NYC, and will have to find local sources in my neighborhood in Brooklyn. Tamales make excellent, food allergy-friendly breakfast food -- gluten free and pretty nutritious compared to a bagel or other typical NYC breakfast options. Also purchased the first of many, many liters of water that I would consume today. Literally -- I think I consumed 5 or 6 liters of water throughout the day in Tulum, Coba and afterwards, rehydrating my body according to my level of thirst.

Caught a taxi, a bit quicker this time, to Plaza de las Americas, to the Fiesta Inn, where I waited for my 7 am pickup -- this time very confident that I was in the right place. What a difference a little sense of confidence can make to a traveler when he doesn't really know what lies ahead on a given day!

Again at the cheesy tourist mall in the Hotel District, this time I ordered a large cafe Americano sin leche and 3 tasty beef and onion tacos in soft corn tortillas (the way that all "proper" tacos are served here in Mexico, of course -- none of that crispy corn tortilla shit, as I found quickly found out the other day). Also purchased a snall bag of fake coconut cookies which were tasty but too carby and would make my skin break out later today. Dumb food decision. Stupid Brendan, stupid Brendan...

The bus departed at 8:15 for Tulum, and either luckily or quite sadly, no one sat next to me on the bus. I think there were only 2 or 3 empty seats on the whole bus, and the seat next to me was one of them. Note to self, because this happens to me often on Greyhound buses and other public transportation in NYC (and I know that I don't smell bad or anything to that effect, and I also know that I am a halfway decent guy): Find out what vibe I give off that makes people not want to sit next to me on public transportation. Sometimes it is a good thing, and sometimes it simply makes me feel a tad bit lonely...

I shot some video of the drive from Cancun's hotel district to Tulum, to give my readers an idea of what the roads and countryside are like here:


Tulum was amazing. Rather than write about it, I am going to let the photos and videos that I shot speak for themselves.

Here are 2 short videos of our bus tour guide explaining in Spanish and English about the history of Tulum:

Here are my first impressions of Tulum, first at the bus stop / entrance to the park, and then upon emerging through one of the walled gates into the restored portion of this middle and upper class city on the coast:

And here are photos and video from the guided tour portion of my visit, as well as from my hour of free time to walk around the site:

There were many iguanas at Tulum, perfectly suited to blend in with the rocks of the buildings and the grey, sandy soil.

This particular building was built on top of a cenote -- even on a cliff as it was, overlooking the sea!
This building is actually overlooking the sea. On the other side of the building is a 60 or 70 foot drop to the beach below.
From Tulum, we divided into several vans. Part of the group continuing on to a water park in the area for snorkeling, swimming with the dolphins, that kind of amazing stuff that I think I will do the next time that I visit Cancun (oh yes -- I am DEFINITELY coming back here, hopefully with a significant other to share the beauty and excitement of this place...). Part of the group proceeded to another cenote. And a third portion of the initial coach bus group was off to Coba. That was my subgroup. Yay!

On the way, we stopped at a restaurant serving traditional (modern) Mayan cuisine. I had no idea during the meal that we were literally 1/4 mile from the ruins of Coba, which was a very pleasant surprise, as I was super excited to see Coba -- a very different type of Mayan city whose ruins are still to this day literally in the middle of very dense jungle -- as opposed to yesterday's visit to Chichen Itza, for example, where all of the jungle vegetation has been cleared away to provide a huge open space to take in the enormity of the ruins, or Tulum, which is also a wide open space, having been cleared and also being right on the seashore.

Here are some impressions from the restaurant. During the mean, I had a wonderful conversation with Cindy and Jesse, a couple from LA, both of whom are spiritual counselors (Cindy is certified; Jesse is earning his certification in the same program). What lovely people, and we continued to have a nice conversation at the ruins of Coba after the meal.

This time, instead of a $3.50 USD Diet Coke, I splurged for a $3 USD limonada, literally lemon juice and water over ice -- no sugar in mine, thank you very much. Man, that was refreshing in this heat and humidity!

Here is a view of one of the lakes of Coba, right behind the restaurant where our group had lunch:

 At Coba, like at Tulum earlier today, we received 1 hour of guided tour and then 1 hour of free time to walk around the area and explore the buildings and monuments. Coba is MUCH more spread out than Tulum, much larger and much older. Also much more confusing, without any kind of markers to tell tourists which way to go to see what, in any language. Spanish, English -- the difference is negligible for me now; I understand almost 100% of all rapidfire spoken Spanish coming at me at this point in my trip, unless someone is talking about a deeper concept, such as something philosophical, religious, political, or pertaining to love or relationships. Regular "non-fiction," and in particular at this point, archaeological words -- no problem with almost total comprehension now. What I do have a problem with is no map, no signs, and no other tourists or site guides to ask questions to...

When this oversight happens, one gets lost.

I got lost.

But, hey -- -- I am getting a bit ahead of myself.

Here are my videos and photos of Coba, along with a portion of the tour guide's shpiel and some explanation from me where necessary as to what you are looking at:

The larger of 2 ball courts at Coba, literally 1/10 the size of the one at Chichen Itza!

Jesse and Cindy, my new travel friends from LA, whom I met at lunch today.
Note the way that the trees are growing out of these ruins. This is one of the main struggles that archaeologists always experience in clearing and restoring these sites for public view...

The shorter of the 2 tall pyramids at Coba, this one was constructed keeping in mind the concept of "women," or female energy. The other, taller one that you will see in a moment, has more steps and was constructed according to the Mayan concept of "men," or male energy.

As I say, alas, I got lost at one point. In a way, this worked out in my favor...Our tour guide had attempted to dissuade all of us from taking a certain path that led off to some stellae in a more densely "jungle-fied" portion of the park, and though I thought I was on the right path to go climb the tall 127-step pyramid at Coba, the most famous building there, instead I accidentally visited the stellae.

Again, just because I could, I took advantage of the absurdity of this moment -- having perfect cellphone reception in the middle of the Yucatan jungle -- to call my parents and tell them where I was. Sometimes the blending of nature and man can be jarring, but also kind of wonderful...

This is a STELLA. Originally, it had a combination of glyphs and a drawing of a god or king.

Not one to be daunted or discouraged, though, I asked directions from one of the pedicab drivers waiting near the stellae area what was the quickest way to "the tallest temple." Thanks to a brilliant shortcut over a rocky path and through more jungle, I emerged in time to see the tall pyramid, but unfortunately not to climb to its top -- which had been one of my goals of visiting Coba.


Can you hear me crying?

In all seriousness, it was fine, if a bit disappointing; I had gotten to climb the temple at Ek Balam, and unless I am mistaken , the one at Ek Balam seemed either taller or at least around the same height.

Here is a video of me lamenting not having time to climb this pyramid at Coba:

Unfortunately, I shot one more selfie video at this location and my phone died, corrupting the video, which I then had to delete upon returning to my room last night and charging my phone. Also unfortunate was that I did not get to video my bumpy and super fast pedicab ride back to the entrance to the Coba archaeological site to meet my van -- which would have been amazing, had I been able to shoot that.

Again, we cannot have everything in life.


Upon returning to the entrance to the park, I paid the $7 USD for my pedicab ride and made my way to the exit, using the restroom and meeting my co-travelers from my Go Mexico! van. There was enough time to purchase and consume another liter of cold bottled water, as well as yet another pineapple pulp/juice/water popsickle for $2 USD -- maybe the best thing I had ever eaten in my life, given how overheated and dehydrated and just TIRED that I was at this point in the afternoon.

I want to remember the beauty of the experience of eating that pineapple popsickle in front of the entrance to the Mayan city of Coba for the rest of my life.

From Coba, the van drove us all back to Cancun. It was still daylight and I paid attention, really paid attention on the ride back, whereas everyone else in the van (besides the driver and tour guide) slept. I was able to see and get a feel for the layout of the entire Mayan Riviera from south to north as we drove past many enormous resorts, then through Playa del Carmen, and then into Cancun's hotel district. I am so glad that I got to see that, that I really paid attention, and I am making a note to myself now in this entry to look on Youtube for some kind of video tour(s) of all of these same resorts, so I can remember them vividly going forward, and so I can consider possibly visiting one or more and staying there some point in the future, perhaps with the family I hope to have one day.

Once the van dropped everyone back at their hotels in the resort section of Cancun, I was able to convince the driver and tour guide again to let me off at the ADO Bus Terminal in downtown Cancun. Drinks and snacks purchased at OXXO, I caught a taxi back to my place where I am staying, uploaded all of my pics and videos from today's tours, and crashed -- legs, body, mind and soul tired from my 13 hour Mayan adventure.

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