A Travellerspoint blog

Stop 32 - Tulum

Ruins and famous (not so secret) secret beach

sunny 35 °C
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About a year ago Adam and I were watching a TV show about the best hidden beaches in the world. One of them was at the base of a cliff under some Mayan ruins. Well we found out where the beach was - its in Tulum, Mexico! So we've made our way here to visit both.

Turns out Tulum is heavily geared towards tourism and if you want to stay on the beach be prepared to spend $200 a night. We ended up staying in place called Zazil Kin which is more reasonably priced, beachfront and located quite closely to the ruins. The place is a taxi drive out from town but the food onsite is really good! We stayed in a cabin which was literally four concrete walls, a thatched roof. We had two beds with mosquito nets and a dodgy pedestal fan (a far cry from our 5 star all inclusive experience a few weeks before). The power was only available from 7pm - 7am, the only window in our place opened onto a sand dune and was therefore useless, the shared bathroom facilities were at the other end of the property to us - this could be seen as a pro or a con - definitely good for less smell and noise but not good for midnight loo trips. It was so hot and the only person that got a good sleep was Lucas who had the fan next to him. Annoying!!

We visited the Tulum ruins early one morning; as per Chichen Itza it was super busy! There were people and tour groups everywhere! And so much for a secret beach - the water was absolutely packed! large_DSC_0244.jpg

Our visit there, around and back took a little over an hour. Possibly the least time we have spent at ruins. The ruins are not as impressive as others we have visited but the view is beautiful. We turned our visit into a "spot the iguana" game. Everywhere you look you'll see iguanas. Not the pretty green ones either just ugly brown ones shedding their skin. They're not that scared of you and you can get quite close before they run away.
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Tulum is also good for visiting cenotes. We only visited one and compared to the two we visited in Valladolid it was incredibly busy and quite small. This one was quite shallow but had a lot of caves off to the sides of the main pool which was pretty cool.
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The beach here is a gorgeous colour. Beautiful clear water and powdery white sand. A lot of seaweed though. Its still a good spot to sit under a palm tree, read a book and drink a beer; which is how I spent a lot of my time.

This is our last stop in Mexico (*insert me sobbing here*). I loved Mexico and will definitely be back at some stage. There is still so much to see and do!!

Next up for us is an overnight bus trip to Belize City and quickly heading out to Caye Caulker. We've just missed the lobster festival but apparently they're still around in large quantities and incredibly cheap!

Posted by carlagregory 15:21 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Stop 31 - Valladolid

Finally visiting Chichen Itza

sunny 34 °C
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Leaving Cuba behind we head back to Mexico. A quick pit stop in Cancun (awful place!) and we're off to Valliadolid.

The main reason for stopping here was to take a day tour out to Chichen Itza but it ended up being a really beautiful spot. Again, lots of pastel painted buildings and a square in the centre of town.

After looking forward to visiting Chichen Itza for quite a while the day had finally come when we would visit the beautiful ruins and their majestic pyramid. We arrived 5 minutes after the park opened and were overwhelmed by the number of visitors already inside - soooo busy!! We opted for no guide but there were so many groups with English speaking guides that you could stand next to them and have a sneaky listen.

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The pyramid was the first thing you see as you walk into the ruins. Impressive to look at but not that big. And, only two sides have been restored. Its like they've just decided that no one will look on those sides....like when you don't decorate the back of the Christmas tree because its facing a wall and no one is going to see it....The day we visited wasn't part of the solstice so we didn't see the serpent shadow but we did stand in front and did the clapping thing so we could hear the squeak.

James was super keen to see their large ball court. It was quite big compared to the others we have seen. Other buildings around the site include an observatory and many places where they would conduct rituals. I'm beginning to think that if they have no evidence to support what the building was its automatically a place for conducting rituals; because what else could it be?!

We stayed for about just over an hour and were quite disappointed with that. Unfortunately unlike the other sites we have been to you are not allowed to climb anything so you just look from the outside and then move on. Also, it is spread out across a large area with no real directions / route to follow so you feel like you're double backing.

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What better place to cool off after a hot day than a refreshingly cool cenote. Not too far from the centre of Valladolid (a 5 min walk) is Cenote Zaci. This is an uncovered cenote and the first we visited. People online had said it is not that impressive but we thought it was beautiful. We had breakfast onsite the day we visited which allowed us free entry into the cenote. The water was beautiful blue and filled with little black catfish and the little fish that massage your feet. Free foot spa!! This cenote has lots of places to jump in from and all at different heights which all of us enjoyed.

The second cenote we went to was cenote Oxman. This one is down a long dirt road and apparently the buses cant get down so its usually quieter than the others. Again, it was stunning with beautiful blue / aqua water, lots of little fish and as its still partially covered a lot of tree roots dangle in from the ceiling. This one had a tarzan rope that Lucas thought was the greatest thing ever! For a kid who wouldn't go on a swing when he was little he spent a good portion of his time here swinging out over the water and letting go at ridiculous heights. This cenote also has a restaurant and pool that you can use if you're tired of the cenote...or in my case freezing cold after 2 hours in the cenote.

Thus ends our short stop in Valladolid. Next up Tulum!

Posted by carlagregory 15:11 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Stop 29 - Varadero

sunny 33 °C
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Our next stop in Cuba is the resort town of Varadero. This was our holiday from our holiday; an all inclusive resort for 7 days. We had the best weather, the most gorgeous beach and even had some kid free time. Hooray!!

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The kids thoroughly enjoyed the all you can eat and drink lifestyle. I don't think I saw them without food or softdrink the whole time we were there. James also discovered the joys of kids club which he'd take himself to and once Lucas found out they had playstations he too spent a lot of time there.

Not much else to report. We came, we drank, we ate, we swam and we left.

Posted by carlagregory 19:33 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

Stop 30 - Trinidad

sunny 33 °C
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After Varadero we jumped in the car and drove 4 hours to the colonial town of Trinidad. It has been renovated a little more than Havana and it is quite pretty. The buildings are painted pastel colours, the streets are made out of stone and people still use horse drawn carts as a mode of transport. There are also loads of vultures...actually all throughout Cuba there are large groups of vultures circling in the sky.

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The wifi here is only available in the squares and I think every single tourist sat there during the evenings checking their emails etc. Its quite a painful process. You have to buy a card which will last you for 1hour then try and connect with all the other people in the square which is hard to do when people are making video calls and stealing all the internet! I'm not quite sure it works like that but its quite frustrating to see people making video calls when you cant even connect.

We took a drive down to Playa Ancon (or Ancon Beach) and spent the day sitting under the permanent umbrellas they have set up. Its free to use them and there are loads of food / drink options available. The beach here was not as impressive as Varadero but still fun and a good way to pass the day.

We also ventured out to El Nichowhich was a group of waterfalls an hour and half outside of Trinidad. After our last visit to waterfalls failed we were really hoping that these ones didn't disappoint. We arrived early and were so excited to see beautiful blue water. The water is absolutely freezing and takes your breath away when you jump in but you eventually get used to it. We spent a bit of time here swimming and exploring the various swimming holes. It was quite beautiful and definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.

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Trinidad also had some amazing food! We didn't struggle with food at all during our stay in Cuba. I was warned they had quite bland food. It wasn't as spicy as Mexico but we were not disappointed. And the servings are massive!! We were only eating breakfast and dinner as we were being given so much food. They also make really good pizzas which I found quite surprising.

So, after our quick jaunt in Trinidad we return to Havana for a night then off to Mexico again. This time visiting the coast. More beach time for us - woo hoo! Again, more pictures will be uploaded once the internet starts co-operating with me.

Posted by carlagregory 19:21 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

Stop 28 - Havana

Its 1966 again...

sunny 33 °C
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Well we're finally back in Mexico and I think the internet access is worse here than in Cuba! I've been trying for 3 days to get pictures uploaded and the blog done - its taking for ages!!! So now I give up. I'll post the blogs but the pictures might take a little bit longer to appear.

Anyhoo, here is the Havana entry I wrote whilst in Cuba. Enjoy :)

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Angry birds, angry birds and more angry birds. It's like we're living in 2002 and we don't have the internet. At least we don't have to play snake on our Nokia 6110.

For so many years Adam has been saying "We need to go to Cuba! It's not going to remain as it is for much longer...." Well he might be right. But not because Obama opened up trade routes; probably because it is too far beyond repair that it needs to be pulled down!

What was I expecting going into Cuba?? Old cars and old buildings...and you do see those. However 85% - 90% of the buildings are derelict and falling apart. There is so much filth and decay everywhere you look and possibly a little bit of beauty.

I asked both Lucas and James if they could live here. There responses were:
James "No"
Me "Why not?"
James "Its too hot and busy"

Lucas "Yeah but I reckon I'd live by the beach and build a modern place"
Adam "Where are you going to get the building materials from?"
Lucas "I'd just import them"
Adam "I think you've missed the whole point of the trip...They cant import stuff and that's half the problem"
Me "Do you think you could live in the city?"
Lucas "Yeah and I'd just buy a bike to get around"

Clearly they have not noticed the wreck and ruin that surrounds us daily as more observations by the two of them are...
James "Mum, I don't think these buildings are ancient...they have electricity and TV's and stuff"

And on another walk...

Me "That payphone is the place to be! There's always a line up for it"
Lucas "That's the first time I've seen a payphone. How good is it!? Its pretty fancy!"

During its day this city would have been absolutely stunning!! And I really wish I could have seen it in all its glory. I feel like I'm living in some sort of ghetto; I don't feel safe walking around, everyone looks angry and is yelling in Spanish the whole time. But at the same time there is music galore and as soon as someone turns on some music people are dancing in the street! And not just one group of paid dancers; these are regular people who are just hanging out on their stoops. They get up and start dancing in the street. And, if you actually stop and talk to people they are sooo friendly!

We took a ride on the hop on / hop off bus that took us on a circuit through the city and out into parts that we wouldn't be able to walk to. We went past the Copacabana hotel and I haven't been able to get Barry Manilow out of my head since! We didn't hop off anywhere because we had no idea where we were! We have no internet and we thought we had a lonely planet for Cuba on the iPad but it turns out we don't! So we have been completely blind in our travels this time. No idea where we are, where to go, what to eat....Are we doing more because of this? I'm not sure. Are we finding more because we're wandering and having to look for stuff to do? Maybe?!

One thing that is totally different here is the way they shop. After our bus ride sitting on the roof with the bright blue sky and sun beaming down I was burnt to a crisp so we had to head off to find some aloe vera gel. We also needed water so we headed to what we thought was the water store....turns out its the "we're selling whatever you can mix with water" store. I think we bought what was a moisturiser but it smells oddly like sunscreen....but I digress. To get into the store we had to line up out the front. As one person left, one person could enter. There is a security guard manning the door and locks it and unlocks it as people are coming in and out. And this is the norm for the majority of stores here! There is one person working behind the counter, all the products are behind the counter and they have to serve you individually. I feel like I'm in a TV show set in the mining boom out in the west as this is the only other time I have seen this type of service. It is incredibly frustrating!! If you go late in the day there is nothing left on the shelves.

The other annoying thing with their stores is the lack of signage to let you know it is a store. Windows are empty or have one mannequin in them and lights are never on. Is the place open for trade?? Who knows! The whole shopping experience really bothered me and got me quite angry - can you tell??

And on that note I think I need to say goodbye to Havana. Off to Varadero next for a holiday from our holiday.

Posted by carlagregory 15:56 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

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