Sunday, March 8, 2009


I’ve been in Tulum, since Tuesday and my love for Mexico has not changed since my last visit in ’06. There’s an energy here that I’ve always connected to and as much as there is danger and corruption, there is also warmth and light.

I arrived in Cancun on Tuesday afternoon after being delayed in New York by a day due to snow. At the airport in New York, there was a delay because one of the flight attendants was stuck in traffic – who knew they’d hold a plan for one flight attendant? I was nervous because I only had about 40 minutes between my arrival and connection in Detroit. I waited a bit and then finally asked the gate agent if I should be worried. She looked down at her watch and simply replied, “Uh, yeah.”

They put me on a new flight through Atlanta which got me into Cancun only an hour later than my original flight. Tulum is about 90 miles south of Cancun, so my journey was not yet complete. I wanted to be as economically conscious as possible, so instead of a private taxi ride ($50), I opted for the public bus which cost a total of $10 with a transfer in Playa del Carmen. I was a little apprehensive just because I wasn’t sure if I’d end up in some remote Mexican town simply because I didn’t understand an announcement or something.

I arrived in Tulum around 5pm. The bus station is towards the end of town on the main road. I had a general idea of where Karen’s place was, but I didn’t have an address – just some general directions. Taxi’s line up outside of the station, so getting one was not difficult. Communicating with the driver was the difficult part. I thought that I’d written down the name of her apartment complex, but I didn’t so it was the first moment of adventure potential as I got in the taxi and asked the driver, “Donde es la playa?” He pointed behind us. I knew she lived on the opposite end of the beach, so I pointed ahead of us and off we went.

From the conversation Karen and I had a few weeks back in NY, I knew that she lived at the end of town. According to her directions, I was to turn right at the 100km sign. So, there I am, with my new friend, the taxi driver, slowly making our way out of town looking for the 100km sign. At one point, I realized we were no longer even in town and I began to second guess my decision to follow my instincts. And just as I was about to ask him to turn around, there it was – the 100km sign. It might as well have read, “WELCOME TO TULUM LIZ!” because I squealed with delight while the taxi driver smiled victoriously. We turned right at the sign and pulled up to mi casa for the next two weeks.

Upon my arrival, I opened my door but decided to look for my money before getting out. As I fumbled around in my purse, a large, kind of goofy dog loped his way over to the car. A dog! I knew I was going to love it here. I decided he was my welcome wagon and I guess he read my mind because without any hesitation, he poked his head right into the car to say hello. Once outside, I paid the driver and stood there for a moment, looking at the apt. complex wondering which unit was Karen’s.

“HI Liz!!” a voice called from somewhere inside. I almost called out, “Hi Person!” but decided to eliminate the person part.

“Hi!” I called back.

“I’ll be right down.”

That must be Joanna, I thought. Karen told me about her, the property manager and strange bird of the bunch. At the same time, dog’s owner came out to greet me. I introduced myself as Karen’s friend and she walked me inside. On the way in, we met Joanna.

There are about 14 units in the complex and only four are occupied during my stay. Joanna is the Property Developer. She currently lives in the model with her three dogs – all rescues and two cotamundi’s which are Mexican raccoons. Joanna’s an interesting lady. She’s quite energetic and friendly. I learn rather quickly that there’s a whole cast of characters in the complex. I settle in, open the bottle of wine I bought at the duty free in the airport and sit back on the balcony happy to be back in Tulum.

Though there aren’t many people staying in the complex, there is quite a bit of activity. With four dogs in total running about freely, I learn early on that, if your door is open, you’re sure to have company. I’m thrilled with this as I welcome any kind of dog energy at any time.

I decide to venture into town for my first meal of the trip. The apartment complex sits just outside of Tulum and is about a 10-15 minute walk along the highway. There are no sidewalks and I wonder how it is in the dark as I make my way towards town. I pass several locals walking in the opposite direction and I figure it’s cool if they’re doing it, it must be safe.

I dine in an Italian restaurant of all places! Plenty of time for Mexican fare. The food is excellent and cheap. The wine is even cheaper! $4 U.S. for a glass of Chilean cabernet. Oh how I love Mexico!! I indulge in two glasses and a delicious meal before setting off to find an internet café of which there are several.

At home, I’ve never had to check my email remotely and the experience is new in addition to the navigation through the language. It turns out to be fairly simple as I learn it’s 10 pesos (around 50 cents U.S.) for 20 minutes online. I’m just happy to have access to my people at home as the only internet access in the complex is Joanna’s. I’m definitely working that angle, but in due time.

One of the keys to traveling solo, is access to the people you love. At least for me it is. They are my anchor. Without that anchor, I feel completely alone and it takes the fun out of the exploration. I tell myself I will limit access to the internet to an hour, but I know I won’t. In fact, who cares, really? Balance is balance.

After checking my email, it’s onto the store to get some staples for the apartment. I decide on eggs, milk, coffee and water. The eggs are not refrigerated which I find to be an odd thing. There is no real milk, but thankfully, my time in Trinidad prepared me for this. In Trinidad, people drink instant coffee with condensed milk. Now I’m not coffee snob, but I like my coffee. The idea of instant coffee was scary but I had no choice and in the end, it wasn’t bad at all.

So, warm eggs, instant coffee and canned milk it was. At least the water came in a bottle. My first night complete, I was happy to hail a cab and make my home for a good night’s sleep.

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