The end of our time in Tulum
And saying goodbye to our friendsSadly, just as we all seem to be settling into our new surrounds our friends have to leave.
Our last few days we actually began leaving the house. Our daily game of who might suggest leaving finally began to see some takers and the group surprisingly mustered the strength to leave the premises for a few days. A couple afternoons we snorkeled into the bay looking for underwater life. Sadly, there's very little living/thriving coral left but we did spot a turtle hanging out a few feet down one day and a few other delights (pufferfish, lionfish, etc) another day. It further awakened the need for us to be underwater more and while the coral and life here was lackluster, it reminded us of exactly how driven we used to be by the underwater world.
Our next trip (flying somewhere) may just have to be a snorkel/dive trip like the old days!
One day jen and i headed into town for supplies and seeing what the actual town of Tulum (rather than the hotels along the beach) has grown into. The following day we all left the house and spent most of the afternoon closer to the center of the hotel strip. Driving the madness that has become that strip, walking the beach and laying in the sand, and taking in a few bars/restaurants along the way.
Another day we made it just far enough up the road to take our friends for a cenote swim and some shrimp tacos on the beach, but still another chance to prove we were capable of packing up and exploring something further than the pool in front of our villa. Each trip out we made sure to return with enough time to get comfortable, pour a cold drink and assume our places along the pool for our sunset ritual over the bay.
The ocean is as beautiful here as it ever was, the sand as perfect and fine and the blue as magical as we remember...but it's fair to say that's about the only things. Our trip here was magical and fun and relaxing, but all of those things were a factor of ocean waves and great friends and could have arguably happened just about anywhere.
Tulum and surrounds have changed from the once sleepy european hippy tourist destination (with no electricity and the ability to walk for an hour on the beach without seeing another soul) to something that looks like anywhere else that's been too-long-discovered. The hotels are packed in like sardines and the construction crews are hard at work squeezing even more in. The very beaches where we once spent entire days alone or able to lay naked in the sand without ever being spotted are now jam packed with people, and with them the vendors trying to make money off of them.
Don't get me wrong. This place is still full of beauty, and if you had not been here more than 10 years ago with something to compare it to- i'm absolutely certain it's paradise. But for me... as good of a time as i'm having with our friends it's very hard to not think back to what this place was when we first stumbled upon it. To imagine that hidden gem in the jungle where we stayed in our private palapa cabana right on the beach with only a candle to light us and water flowing from a conch shell to bathe under. With a beach to ourselves and a long walk up or down the beach to the next cabana cluster. It's hard to not be somewhat disappointed by the crowds and the development and the modernness of it all now. While the designer in me loves the exploration, and seeing the groovy bars and hotels and discos, the escapist in me longs for what was. At every stop our group spends more for only a round of cocktails and tacos then jen and i spent for an entire weekend sleeping, eating and drinking in that private "luxury" cabana back in the day.
As we return down the long dirt road to our casa I realize that this is the only way i still need to visit the area. On a small secluded bay or a private beach that's far enough walk away from the megaresorts and the crowds that it still feels mostly unfound. Close enough to enter the strip when we seek something more, but just as able to escape it for days as we want. There are only 2-3 of such bays left in the rivera maya, and who knows how long those will hold out...but at least for now were happy to have stumbled over this little oasis in the middle of the madness.
We enjoy every hour left with our friends, trying not to think or talk about the fact that we know it's coming to an end, and then on the last day we begrudgingly pack up our bags, return to the other side of the bay (for the ridiculously good shrimp quesadillas we stumbled on the day before) and eventually then head north towards the airport. Our friends drop us on the side of the road in playa del carmen and after a collection of hugs drive away toward the airport.
When it came time to book our flights a few months ago, Jen and I booked a few extra days simply for the cheaper flight. Once we had all committed our flights had gone up almost $400 to fly on the same day as the group, so we decided it made more sense for us to save money with a weekday flight, get 3 extra days on the beach and even with room/board break even or come out ahead. Certainly one of the beauties of setting our own schedule, and we will always choose to spend our money on a few extra days on the beach over flying at a certain day/time.
We roll our single bag down the streets of Playa del Carmen missing our friends, our eyes trying to acclimate to the noises and crowds of the city around us and looking for one of the hotels we had picked out the night before. The trip must go on...but ironically part of us wishes we were flying home with them rather than walking toward a hotel on the beach.