A day around Tulum

b tulumTulum is the most touristic place so far. Sure, Playa del Carmen is also touristic, but it’s a bigger city and at least half are Mexican tourists anyway, so it feels more authentic. Here, it feels like everyone is European, and they’re the typical hipster backpacker kind, so there’s a lot of vegetarian restaurants, souvenir shops, and a lot of bike renting shops (80-150 pesos for a bike of varying quality per day). The reason for the latter is that the beach is about 5 km away, and ruins and other sights are also a few kilometers away.

There are also lots of burritos here, even though I’ve been told that burrito (my favorite dish!) is NOT really Mexican (or at least not southern Mexican), but rather Tex-Mex. Here they have it in spades though, because tourists keep asking for it.

Emotion Tulum Hotel & Hostal
I’m staying at a very normal standard hostel, 16 beds in a well air conditioned dorm room. One loud and drunk guy at night and music played outside past 3am, but I’m an earplugs lover, so sounds don’t bother me much.
The included breakfast consisted of the standard coffee, white toast and cereal, as well as the usual “I’m from this country and I’ve been here and there for this long, how about you?” conversations with the other backpackers. 2 eggs per person was a nice bonus though, and for 8 USD per night, this place is affordable.

07 easy road
Most were about to rent bikes for the day, and me and a Danish girl decided to go to the Tulum Ruins archaeological site just outside Tulum together. The trip was 3.7 km, and it was a breeze compared to the long trip from the day before, with a separate path for bikers to avoid deaths. My friend’s bike was quite crappy and its saddle kept breaking, so that made it even more slow-paced, which was nice in a way, because we were in no rush anyway.  Perhaps a bike for 100+ pesos is worth it, rather than the cheapest you can find!

Upon arrival, I was very disappointed to see huge lines of tourists, queueing to get in. I don’t know why I expected the place to be empty and ready to be explored in privacy.
We decided to bike back and find a beach instead, and maybe get back to the ruins early tomorrow morning instead.

08 beach roadTrip was nice, went in a “wrong” direction first but eventually found the place, and I ended up biking almost 16 km today. Yesterday I forgot to complain about how my hands got very numb now and then from biking. It happened today as well, but not as much. I think my body is learning that biking is not a lethal activity!

09 beach arrival
We arrived to the beach through some vegetation, and it was amazing to cool down in the Caribbean sea.

10 playa
La Playa! Plenty of tourists, overpriced sun chairs and king sized fluffy sun beds, but there was also empty patches of beach that we could enjoy.
Then we got hungry.

El Paraíso
Nothing along tourist beaches is cheap, but we settled at this beach restaurant and ordered a “molcajete” for 300 pesos; a meal for two people. I just had to mention it because so far I have not been super impressed by the food in Mexico (it’s my favorite cuisine in other countries, heh), but this one was awesome. Unlimited corn tortillas, guacamole, beans, sauces and a big pot of chorizo, beef, pork, chicken, and veggies. Normally I try to be vegetarian (for all the reasons, it’s the future if you ask me!), but when traveling in non-vegetarian-friendly places, you need all the protein you can get.
So yes, I recommend that one if you’re in the neighborhood!

The trip back home was uneventful, but when I came back to Tulum and wanted to withdraw some money from the ATM, that little douchebag decided to eat my card and not give it back to me! This is a pretty serious problem, because you know. It’s how I get money. I woman tried to help me, but the bank attached to the ATM was already closed, and we couldn’t do anything.
I suppose I can send money online to Western Union offices here and there in each country (it’s probably cheaper than the ATM fees even), but I will still go to the bank tomorrow morning and try to get my card back.

Let’s hope for the best. 😦

Total biking distance for the day:
Hostel – Ruins: 3.7km
Ruins – Wrong way: 3.9km
Wrong way – Beach: 2.2km
Beach – Hostel: 6.0km
Total: 15.8km

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Playa del Carmen – Tulum

a playa - tulum04 me and bike

Except for the initial confusion of how to bike through a Mexican city without dying, the trip started really well! It was not very hot and I kept a good pace, I sang loudly, I enjoyed the wind, I compared my speed to the cars (counting seconds until I reached a certain spot that the car passed), and there are decently wide paved sides of the road where it’s easy to bike without getting killed. Also, barely any uphill at all! “This is the perfect route to start a biking trip!” I thought.

Then the road kept going, and kept going. The smaller cities I was supposed to pass never came. I had suspected that it would often get dull, biking through the same terrain for hours, and my solution is to listen to an audio book to pass the time faster! But this first time, I wanted to experience it al natural. Then suddenly the cities came swooshing by one by one, and my mood got better again. Perfect route to start a biking trip.

It’s worth noting that I’m not an experienced biker. I did actually bike for an hour or so in Croatia back in 2014, but other than that, I doubt I’ve used a bicycle at all since 2001.

A sign said “Tulum 35”. Halfway there! I celebrated by taking a short break and eat a banana. It was probably the best banana I’ve ever had. Was thinking of taking a longer break somewhere, for example by the many cenotes (cold fresh water streams surrounded by trees and vegetation, they’re quite nice), or by one of the Maya ruins that were advertised along the way, but I decided to just go on while I was in the zone. “I can do some fun things tomorrow instead!”

05 bananaI think it was around the sign “Tulum 25” where I realized that I was getting exhausted. I felt new pains every five minutes. My foot cramped up, then my shoulder complained about the position, then my legs started dying. Then my neck hurt. Then the foot cramped up again. Then my knees.
“Almost there though, it’s a little challenging but not more than that.”

My second banana was eaten in practically one bite. My 1 liter of water was almost out.
“Definitely need more than that next time”. I started eating cereal out of the bag while biking, because by now, my stomach was the loudest complainer.
“Come on Tulum, any minute now!”

Then finally came a new sign. “Tulum 15“!! The kilometers got longer and longer for every minute! All I could do was to look down and power through, step by step.

I kept wishing for a new Tulum sign, but it never came. “Tulum 10 should have been here by now. Maybe even Tulum 5!” It was so demoralizing that I never got an update! I began to plan what to write in this blog. Something like: “Then it finally showed up. Tulum 10. Never in my life have I hated a sign so much!”

But in the darkest of moments, I was greeted by this sign:
06 tulum 500m
Never in my life have I loved a sign so much!

Found “Emotion Hostel“; I had chickened out and booked an 8 USD dorm bed before departing, and as I entered and told them I had a reservation, I could barely stand up. Had a shower, and crashed down on my bed in this wonderfully air-conditioned room.

Now an hour later, I’m already fully restored, and it doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore! But unless you’re fit and have done some regular biking recently, I recommend that you take a lunch break and a couple of hours of rest somewhere in the middle of the distance! 64 kilometers in one go is a lot. It’s satisfying now though, and I’m sure my body needed the wake up call! I’m sure there will be much tougher roads yet to travel…

Now let’s see what I can find to eat.

Stats:
– Distance: 64 km
– Time: 3 hours
– Difficulty: Let’s call this one a 2.5/5
– Number of crashes: 0
– Number of sudden wiggling that could have resulted in death: 3
– Number of insects in mouth: 1
– Number of dead birds on the road: 2

The journey begins

Hello! I’m Fredrik, Swedish guy, just entered my 30’s. I suppose the older you get, the better you figure out who you are and what you want with life. At least that’s how I’ve felt up until now! Life has made more and more sense, and I’ve felt that maybe this “life” thing will work out after all!

Well, I will not get into it too deeply, because that’s not at all what this blog is supposed to be about! Let’s just say that I wanted a big change, and last week I ended up in Cancún, Mexico, simply because it’s usually the cheapest airport to arrive in when wanting to go to Central America. That’s a pro-tip right there! Cancún, write it down, and search for cheap flights.

I’ve wanted to travel through the countries in Central America for a long time, to practice my Spanish, and just see what it’s like (and cross off more visited countries, as I aim to have visited all of them one day). And I stumbled upon the idea to buy a bicycle and travel that way, for the freedom (and low costs). This will be the lowest budget trip possible, hopefully less than $500 USD per month. ($5-10 USD for per night at hostels (and preferably other options), $5-10 USD for food,  and then room for unexpected extra expenses.) I will keep track on what I spend, and share what places, restaurants, hostels, roads etc are like.

First off, here’s the bike I bought yesterday, in Playa del Carmen! (It’s a pretty nice beach city you can get to directly from the Cancún airport, it’s 1 hour by bus.) There are many bike shops on 30 Avenida / calle 30, and I went in and asked what they had, and settled with this one.01 Fredde with bikeWhat I ended up buying:
– Bike with lots of gears, new and shiny
– Small rack behind me, to put my backpack on
– Basket in the front to put water and other things I want to reach quickly
– Padlock
– Pump and tire repair kit

I spent about 2000 MXN (around 100 USD) for it all, which I felt was cheap, but maybe it’s a crappy bike, I can’t really know! (Until it breaks in the middle of the road somewhere.)

Alright, I think this is enough for today! Tomorrow I will begin with my first distance; going from Playa del Carmen to Tulum! Wish me luck! 🙂