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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
Leaving the Isla Mujeres we are again the last car on the ferry and make it by the skin of our teeth. Perfect timing 😉 We roll south and checkout the extremely touristy, party-centric town of Playa Del Carmen before getting into Tulum right at dusk. We eat dinner and walk around for two hours trying to find acommodation only to find every hotel, hostel & motel completely full. It’s getting darker and colder, and both of us stop having fun around the two hour mark as we get more and more foot sore. At another booked-out hotel we randomly meet Barton, an ex-pat bartender who has a room for rent at his house, five minutes out of town in the jungle. We find a paradise awaits us and we make it our home for a couple of days to explore the Tulum area.
Up early to beat the crowds we enter the ruins at Tulum and are hugely impressed. The city was built on limestone cliffs overlooking the ocean and the whole area is absolutely beautiful. We wander around in the morning sunshine reading all the information boards and trying to overhear paid guides from time to time.
As the sun get higher and warmer we move on and drive out to the small town of Coba to see more ruins. The drive is supposed to take 30 mins, and in a daydream I miss to turn and we wind up driving twice as far and arrive only shortly before closing time. The ruins at Coba are spread over a huge area, and this combined with our lack of time makes renting bicycles seems obvious.
We have a great time rolling around, stopping every 500 meters or so to checkout another temple or building. At one stop we come across a little critter that I at first think must be an ant-eater then a couple of locals tell us it’s in fact a very close relative of the raccoon.
The main attraction at Coba is a temple 42 meters high, which is plenty enough to get a great view over the jungle canopy, which stretches endlessly in all directions. All manner of people are tackling the climb & descent with varying degrees of success. Back in Tulum we’re in the habit of eating out for every meal, which is going to hurt my pocket for sure – what the heck. We also love wandering up and down the main street poking into all the shops looking at various nothings.
One of the major attractions in the Tulum area are ‘centoes’, limestone caves filled with extremely clear water – perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. There are quite a few to choose from, so on the advice of a cool guy we meet we head out to Cenote Dos Ojos (two eyes) to get the run down. Once we see the photos we’re quickly convinced to hire a guide and do the full tour. The guide jumps in the Jeep for the few kilometer ride to the actual entrance so I ride on the outside standing on the running board holding onto the roll cage while Kate drives for the first time on the right hand side of the road. It’s a riot and might just be the most fun couple of kilometers of the whole trip
We gear up and head straight into the centoe and pretty soon we’re right in the thick of it. The water is extremely clear and we can see for maybe twenty or thirty meters underwater with powerful flashlights. Seeing the odd scuba diver glide by many meters under us really adds something. Our guide takes us through all kinds of connecting tunnels and small caverns, all filled with massive stalactites and stalagmites.
The highlight is going through one section about thirty meters long where the roof of the cave is never more than 30 cm from the water, and not much wider. Quite a few times we have to keep our heads completely in the water as only the tip of the snorkel has enough clearance.
I’m completely shocked at how beautiful the underwater formations are and walk around with a huge grin for the rest of the day.
Belize is close, really close