One of the places that stood out the most for me on my 1987 trip to Mexico was Tulum and the small Mayan “God of Winds Temple” that stood overlooking the amazingly turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. It was an idyllic tropical location with its palm trees, rock cliffs, and white sand beaches.
Whenever I thought about the Maya, I always pictured the pyramids, built in the jungles of Mexico and Guatemala, so I was surprised when I got to the seaside Tulum site. The Mayan where great traders and Tulum was their Caribbean port city.
Back in 1987 when I travelled what is now called “The Mayan Trail” which includes many of the Mayan Pyramid locations, I did so on a regular bus, not a tourist bus. I overnighted in the town of Tulum, where my $7.00 room was very much less than luxurious. The old proprietor showed me how to turn on the ceiling fan by touching the ends of the two live wires that were sticking out of the wall.
That night I ate in the local restaurant just down the road and had some very tasty shrimp in a spicy garlic sauce. The eatery looked like a dive from the outside, but the dish was quite attractive, garnished with a twisted slice of orange, a radish cut like a flower, and a quartered slice of lime. The meal cost me $3.70 (US).
The Archeological site didn’t open until 8:00 AM and because I had been waken up by a barking dog at 5:00, I had to move slow in order to kill some time so I wouldn’t get there before then. I took a bus but was a bit dismayed when I was dropped off at an intersection of the Highway and a local road. I assumed that the site was down the road so began walking. It was not a very scenic hike; flat with high brush obscuring everything but the sky. There were some workers cutting weeds with machetes along the road, and I greeted them with “Buenos dias” to display my great fluency in Spanish.
After about a kilometer’s hike, I got to the site where there were five other people waiting to get in. Once through the gate, I walked around to see the different ruins, then suddenly the peace was interrupted by the sound of diesel engines and shortly thereafter I was surrounded by 100’s of people: The tourist buses had arrived and unloaded.
Fortunately by that time I had pretty much seen everything there was to see.
I just checked Google Earth to see what Tulum looks like today, and was amazed at how much development has occurred in the thirty years since I had been there. I know that Mexico has recently put a lot of money into the pushing tourism along the “Mayan Trail”.
Thinking back, it is the scene you see in the photo that really sticks in my mind.
You can see my photo-realistic paintings at: davidmarchant2.ca