Friday, November 23, 2007

The cruise: ruins of Tulum

Steve and I recently went on a Caribbean cruise that stopped at two places in Mexico. So, technically I can say I've been to Mexico, even though I spent at most 16 hours there, a good 10 of them on buses and ships. As little as I've seen of that country, it shall not prevent me from filling up these pages with my detailed impressions. :-) As always, I'll do it in installments.

First, the Mayan ruins of Tulum.

Our ship stopped off at Cozumel and Progresso; a variety of tours was offered at each port of call. One of the options at Cozumel was to tour the Mayan ruins of of Tulum. They are not actually in Cozumel, which is an island; Tulum is in inland Mexico, ~ 1.5 hours bus ride from the coast. So, first you have get to the coast from Cozumel. It means taking a boat. A small boat. (Small, at least, in comparison with the gigantic cruise ship.) The waves are, of course, the same size whether you are on a big or a small boat, but the amplitude of motion felt by passengers is very different. What feels like a gentle rocking on a big ship, feels like a rollercoaster on a small ship. The ride was only 40 minutes, but man, did I get sick! Sea-sickness is a bitch. I felt residual nausea the rest of the day. And then I had to return to Cozumel on the same boat, across the same choppy sea! Fortunately, it wasn't as bad. Perhaps the sea was really calmer, or because I sat in the bottom deck (the amplitude of motion must be smaller at the bottom, at least in theory), or because I kept my eyes closed for the entire ride back (when you don't see the horizon heaving up and down, your brain has fewer clues that the ship is rocking), but I tolerated the ride back fairly well.

Nausea or not, the trip was worth it, even more so since I haven't seen ancient Mayan cities before. From the ruins of Tulum a beautiful view opens up to the sea. It was there, according to our tour guide, that the Mayans of Tulum first saw the masts of Spanish ships over the horizon. (Or maybe our tour guide was dramatizing, as the ruins themselves weren't very dramatic, at least not in rainy weather :-)) And we all know what happened next. This adds a twinge of sadness to the beautiful view. Tulum survived only a few years after that. Actually, the tour guide said the Spaniards left Tulum alone, because there was no gold in it. The Spaniards had made their outpost in what is now Cuba, and raided various places along the Mexican coast, mostly looking for gold. But after the Spaniards conquered the Aztec emperor Montezuma, Tulum's days were numbered.

Then again I'm not sure if (a) I heard the guide correctly, and (b) he wasn't making things up. I later noticed some things our guide said were of dubious truthiness. (Like for example, that a certain restaurant in Tulum, run by his friend, had the best margaritas in the world. I tried a margarita there, and it was decent, but I've had better in some places in Austin. Ditto for the food. Still, it wouldn't be right to go to Mexico and not have "authentic" Mexican food and drink, now would it?)

More of my pictures from Tulum and Chichen Itza can be found in my photo gallery.

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