This was our last full day of vacation. It’s really been great overall, We have had a good balance of activities, lounging about, and food and drink. When we started the week we scheduled two tours at the beginning of the trip, and one tour at the end. Today was our final tour which was the Tulum Ruins and adventure tour. We were up at 8 and in the lobby waiting for our bus. Weather was good, we had some breakfast and coffee, and I packed extra water in my shoulder bag. Our bus pulled in and we were off. I really only saw one problem.
We had no damn idea what we were going to do.
We asked some of the other people on the bus if they knew what the tour was going to be. Some said Swimming. Others said ATV rides. It wasn’t just our tour desk that had issues in telling people what was up. We suspected that a Tequila tasting might be involved, but that was likely wishful thinking. This was the same company that did our trip to Chichen Itza, so I thought that was a good sign – they were pretty organized for the last tour. I crossed my fingers that we would get the same. I also felt good that Tulum is only 30 minutes from our resort – so at the worst we could go catch a cab back if it all went sideways.
The bus pulled into the “Adventure Zone” for AllTOURnative tours. A guy in a semi-safari, semi-Survivor getup came out to greet us. This was already a bit silly. Our Guide motioned us into a covered area and started us on the standard “you are in Mexico you can’t sue us anyways” release form. Then we gave the itinerary for the day. Our activities would be including Rappelling into a Cenote, Multiple Ziplines, Snorkeling, Lunch, and a Mayan Ceremony. After all that we would take a tour of the Tulum Ruins. We looked at each other because this sounded like a crazy full day, and we didn’t want to get back crazy late like we did with Cozumel. We were told to change into Swimming gear to start. I looked at our crew to see if anyone wanted to bail out of this, but Yulia pointed out the area map for the Adventure park. Everything the guide listed was here in the park. It seemed to be laid out in a big circuit you follow.
Ok. Let’s go for it.
–We changed and loaded into some kind of open topped troop carrier. It left the checkin building and rambled off to the jungle. The road was skinny and pretty bad, if you didn’t keep your hands it you were going to get smacked pretty hard with branches as we drove along. We went through a set of steel gates that had a bit of a Jurassic Park vibe, and made sure not to miss any potholes. Our guide referred to this as the “Mayan Massage” Damn funny this guy. We left the transport and walked over to a jungle area with a series of huts and shelters. It was actually really well laid out and looked fairly new. We first went over to the rappelling area to rappel down into the cenote. We grabbed life jackets and were setup with harnesses. These were similar to the gear we had in our previous Cenote descent. But had some attachments that I didn’t recognize at first. I looked at it and after a minute I figured it out – these also had the attachments for using the ziplines. SO we were going directly to ziplines after this.
This was starting to make a lot more sense.
We walked over to the Cenote rappel, and Our guide volunteered Yulia and I to go first. It was a smaller hole and not as deep as our last one – so this was pretty easy. We hooked up, took our obligatory photos, and dropped down in. This cave was smaller overall, but really beautiful, the stalactites were much sharper inside and it was low and shallow, but went far off behind us. We swam about for a bit, then headed up and out. When the group was complete we walked over to our next area, which was the jungle ziplines. We were still a bit wet from the Cenote, but there was no stopping now. We went up a trail, then up a tower via a wooden bridge. At the top, we would hook up one at a time and zip line backwards through the jungle. We were held up a bit behind the group in front of us – one of the girls on the tour was scared to go, and was holding up the line. finally she disconnected, and went back to her boyfriend. The rest of their group went ahead and we encouraged her to try again. She was a trooper and hooked up, sat down in her harness and went.
It was a pretty long zipline, especially backwards. We hooked up on our turn and went down – you really get some speed! They had a great braking system at the end so you didn’t have to brake yourself, and that was a big improvement over the last ziplines that we did. We walked over to the next tower, and went forwards this time. There was no delay since the girl who was scared at first was going ahead full force now. Sometimes it good to push through fears. I went down and since I’m a bit heavier the treetops started rising below me, I stretched a flat as possible but still caught some branches on my ass and crotch. Guess I forgot the safe word.
Our next station was a zipline into a cenote, so we had to leave our shoes and put life jackets on. We got instructions on how to hit the water from the zipline, and I did OK, but again I’m a bit large so instead of a glide into the water I bounced twice, then caught and sank. Fortunately it is all on video so I get to relive that moment. Awesome. This was also where we were going to go snorkeling. I had thought we were going to the beach to snorkel, but we were going to snorkel and underground river that was part of this Cenote system. The upper part of this cave had swallows circling everywhere. They had nests n the upper part of the rock here, and kept flying back and forth. We waited for our group then we all geared up, and jumped into the river. It was cool, but no colder that the rest of the caves here. Our guide grabbed a flashlight and we swam as a group into the cave. There were some great rock formations and a few fish, but the deeper we swam into the cave, the most interesting part was the bats. There was a terrific stalactite system, and there were little bat-areas scattered throughout. we were right up close and you could see them napping upside-down and grooming themselves up on the ceiling.
We swam back out and headed back up through the jungle after showering off and getting our shoes back. We stopped in an area where the local Mayan villagers had their homes – as always there was a gift shop. Nothing here was amazing, and we already had our souvenirs lined up. We walked around while the others looked at the stuff there. we found chickens and dogs nearby. but the chickens didn’t like us and the dogs didn’t like that the chickens didn’t like us. We gave up on that and just stayed in the shade until the others bought what they wanted. We hiked back and wen to the last two zipline towers of the group. the last one was huge and took us all the way back to the main area.
We got rid of our gear and went down into a cenote to do a Mayan Ceremony. This was a bit of a repeat of our first tour, but it was done a little differently. Apparently, the birds that were nesting in the cave with us were a type that only nests in Cenotes, so if you see one in the jungle, you know you are near water. We did the ceremony, grabbed smoke from the brazier with our hands and held it to our heart, then the guide said a traditional thanks to the elements, and we released the smoke up and out of the cave. Maybe a bit touristic but I loved it.
Lunch was next and we were all starved. It was a nice layout of the green Mayan tortillas, chicken enchiladas, rice and Hibiscus tea. The Hibuscus tea was popular everywhere. Honestly I want to see if we can get that at home. It’s awesome. Lunch was great, but sitting there relaxing made me realize something. We smelled bad. We had been swimming underground, then running in the jungle in the heat, and back again. I’m glad that the transport was open air for the ride back.
Back at home base we changed and I was able to wipe down in a sink a bit to be less noxious. Clean clothes helped a lot. I bought the picture pack from the gift store – of course. I really don’t even worry about what’s in them. So long as the quality is good the price for a family group of pictures is always worth it. I also grabbed a couple of bottles of Electrolyte water as a preemptive thought. We were supposed to go to the ruins next, and we needed to hydrate.
It was a short drive into Tulum from the Adventure Park. Technically, the Ruins were Tulum, the ancient city specifically – and the current Tulum is just in the same area. Kind of how Newcastle, Wa near us is actually a new city named for the old Newcastle that was here over a hundred years ago – Newcastle was basically swallowed by the forest once they stopped mining coal. The only thing left of the original are some mine shafts and the corner of one building. Tuum is far older and faired far better.
The van parked in the parking lot of the visitors area, and we were met by a local guide. It was afternoon and getting hotter. He gave us each a tour sticker – or “Mayan GPS” as he called it. The Mayan jokes never stop. We followed him to the gif t shop where we were in the shade and he could organize us. He also handed out some water – first time anyone did that on a tour. Partially I thought this was very cool and thoughtful – then I figured that probably some white people died from the heat and they were tired of the paperwork. Either way I took the water.
We walked as a group from the plaza toward the ruins themselves. It was probably a 10 minute walk tops – but we quickly sought out shade since the sun was serious today. By the time we made it up to the wall, we had finished the water I got at the park and were starting on what we got at the gift shop. The extra water made sense. The whole of central Tulum was surrounded by a city wall. we could see one entrance as we walked up, but we actually entered the city from the north, and would exit to the south. That meant 3 gates on land – the 4th was at sea since this was built on a cliff. According to the guide, the gate locations were to match the Mayan importance of the 4 cardinal directions and 4 elements. We went in and started our tour.
The ruins were in remarkably good shape. there had obviously been a fair amount of restoration, but a lot had simply been buried by the jungle and left undisturbed. The central city was for teh High folk of the city, Priests, traders, etc. everyone else lived outside, so not dissimilar to a European castle and land arrangement. It was high up on a sea cliff with an accessible beach so good for both trading and defense as needed. Our guide walked us around and described each of the critical buildings, gave some history, and pulled out some drawings done by early explorers that showed what the ruins looked like when they were rediscovered, and one of how the city looked when it was still originally occupied.
This was very different from the Chichen-Itza ruins, and I’m very glad we chose to see both. Our guide finished his part of the tour and said we could walk the rest ourselves, or head back to the plaza and shop, have some ice cream, do a tequila tasting, etc. We walked a short time to get a few more photos then the ice cream and tequila were calling us. It was a hot walk back but we found enough shade to make it without overheating and went straight for the ice cream. We shared a bowl of Coconut Ice cream – it was pretty rich and good to cool down and got more water. From there we made a beeline for the tequila tasting. I’ve actually been trying some more Mezcal than tequila, and they had some really nice samples of both. They also had Xtabentún. This was mentioned on our tour as a local Honey/Anise drink that is based on what the Tulum priests (and other upper class) would drink. This was a newer version of the same – and it was excellent! Several bottles of this made it into my basket.
It wasn’t too long before it was time to head back to the van – We were really glad at this point – today was a huge tou and we were going to get back to the resort before 4:30. We could actually relax and pack tonight so we would be ready to leave in the morning.
Later in the evening we went to the Sports Bar restaurant. This was chosen less for the food and more because it had the A/C cranked up to 11. We had some really basic food, and some drinks to decompress. This turned out to be a great last day to a great vacation.
We walked back to the room and saw a few cats, we stopped to say hi and they talked with us for a bit before heading into the bushes. We passed out tired.