Improvised road trip… for one girl, for one day. The Riviera Maya

24 hours, that was all I have. For such a short time, I wanted to make the most of the day.

It was around 6 pm when I arrived at Cancun’s airport. “¿Cuánto al centro?” How much to the center? I asked one of the taxi drivers that were immediately outside. A fare of $600 mexican pesos (MXN) one way, hell no. No, no, no…. I’m not gonna pay that much for a 20 minutes ride! Oh didn’t I mention, I had 24 hours AND a low budget. And when I say low budget, it’s truly low. My money would ran almost out, just for coming back and forth from the airport!

“    ….. if I take the bus, then I’ll need to get another bus tomorrow to move around, and another one to go back to the airport, or maybe it’s better a guided tour? Well, it’s still expensive (low budget means low budget), and maybe it needs to be booked in advance….” I was thinking all this to myself when I came across a car rental. Hmmm….. I wondered. Let’s ask.

Thirty minutes later I was in front of a Chevrolet Spark, signing the contract and free to go! Can you believe it! It turned out it was way cheaper to rent a small car for one day, than what the taxi was charging. And I could easily move around as I pleased! So, I hadn’t even think it twice, when I was already switching on the car to go.

That’s how you improvise a solo road trip, for one girl, for one day.

It was starting to get dark, so I headed towards the center where my Airbnb room was. I went to bed early that day. I wanted to be out before sunrise. Errr… that didn’t happen. I’m not a morning person. But wanting to go out before sunrise was a little bit exaggerated maybe (considering it’s at 6:30). I didn’t took long anyways. Breakfast was included, pancakes, hard boiled eggs and fruit. Oh, fruits here are something to die for! Bananas and fresh mango, I could have eaten a dozen of those mangoes. By 8:00 I was out already. To go from Cancun to Tulum one must take the Cancun-Tulum 307 highway heading south. It’s impossible to miss it, seriously. And obviously, first stop: Tulum. Everyone says it is a MUST when driving through the Riviera Maya. It was a 2 hours drive and barely 10 am when I arrived. To my surprise, it was really crowded. On a Tuesday? So, it doesn’t matter if it’s midweek during low season, a must-see as Tulum, apparently, will always be crowded. And there is no doubt why! Tulum, which means wall in Mayan, is an archaeological site situated on the coastline, and the main port to Cobá, the ancient city.   

Entrance fee is $70 pesos (students for free!) One can have a guided tour, if wanted. Not really sure if it’s available in any other language than Spanish, I guess there’s in English, but i can’t be sure as I decided not to take it. The first part is like walking in the jungle. Lots of green surrounding, combined with ancient stones. I’m really fond of this kind of textured scenes. You cross a stone arch and come to an open area. It’s astonishing. I wonder how it would have looked like in ancient times. I followed the trail, stopping every now and then to capture Tulum’s details. Birds of bright color, reptiles creeping as if they owned the place, a vast vegetation and vivid flowers completed the whole sight. There’s a track that leads to the beach. What a view! I’ll say it again, WHAT – A – VIEW! If paradise exists, it surely looks like this. I mentioned before I like textured scenes, right? Well, the landscape in front of me had tons of them. Blue sky, accompanied by soft clouds, the sea in all its tones of blue, jade-green and turquoise, vastly varied vegetation, close-to-white sand, and man-made fortresses from Prehispanic times (although it seemed like they’d been there forever.) I could have stay there all day, but there was more to see. Next stop, Cobá.

My host had suggested taking the bike taxi, but, low budget, cough cough…. so I walked for about 20 minutes to get to the Nohoch Mul Pyramid. It was a little taller than I expected. Climbing it is no hard task, and the view from the top is really amazing. The whole jungle around and a delightful breeze. It was March 21st, the spring beginning and as tradition says, I was dressed in white to capture all good vibes. If you’re superstitious or not, doesn’t matter; being there brings a unique peace. Now, going down was a little bit more tricky, but there was a fine rope in the middle that helped. On the way back I did take a bike, to catch some breath. It was a 10 minute ride for $75 pesos. Enough time to have a nice chat with the driver, who was replying to the other in a language I couldn’t recognize.

“Which language is that?”
“Mayan”
“So you know Mayan and Spanish.”
“…and little English too, for tourism you know. Mayan is what we learn at home, later Spanish for work and English, well it helps.”
“Interesting, and could I learn Mayan?”
He laughed a little, “Nah, don’t think so, there’s no school for Mayan.”
He did taught me some words. Now I can just remember how to say ‘How you doing?’ which is Bix a bel (biʃ-ɑ-bɛl).

After that nice encounter, I drove to the Gran Cenote. The entrance fee was around $150 pesos including services but not lockers, snorkeling equipment or towel. So, don’t forget your towel as I did. It is so amusing to see this natural system, and I truly liked the fact that despite being an established service, it doesn’t feel any less a natural environment. DO rent the snorkeling mask, completely worth it! The view underneath is mesmerizing, little fishes and turtles share the experience with you. Although it doesn’t seem that big, it reaches up to 10 meters deep, water is refreshing cold and completely crystalline. I didn’t need a towel afterwards, it was so hot I dried before getting back to the car.

Finally, and before leaving to the airport, I stopped at Playa Paraíso. A nice beach midway Playa del Carmen and Cancún. I had little time so I didn’t swim (I’m always eager to swim in the sea). But what I did instead is catch as much as I could of the moment to remember it for later. Oh, and sand too, I filled a bottle with it to take it back. Light colored sand, let’s go back together. Farewell paradise, until next time beautiful Riviera Maya!

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