Days 172-173 Tuesday-Wednesday October 9-10, 2007 – Tulum, Coba & Chetumal, Mexico
The ruins and town of Tulum sit about an hour south of Playa Del Carmen in Mexico. In addition to visiting Tulum, we also wanted to visit the Coba ruins about 45 minutes beyond. After consulting our options to accomplish this, we decided to book a bus directly to Coba where our guidebook said we could store our backpacks while we visited the ruins.
The bus dropped us off in a small one street town about ten minutes from the entrance to the ruins where a hotel acts as the terminal. After inquiring about backpack storage, the man at the counter informed me that they no longer provided such a service, but perhaps they would let us store the bags at the entrance to the ruins. Without much choice, we lugged our backpacks uphill for ten minutes until we reached the entrance. At the entrance, the ticket seller told us they don’t normally store bags, but he would make an exception for us. Those words were music to our ears.
We quickly bought our tickets and locked up the backpacks before entering. The ruins of Coba don’t get nearly the attention of Tulum, but are much larger. Coba’s real claim to fame is the fact that it is home to the tallest pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula. The ruins themselves are separated into three groups, each of which sits at least 1km from the others. To enable visitors to visit all of the areas quicker, a fleet of rickshaws zip around the pathways between the ruins. We opted to walk as much as possible and quickly found the first group which lies near the entrance. Soon after this, a fierce storm rolled over head and unleashed monsoon type rain on us.
The rain was quite nasty and we found out quickly that we were ill-equipped, having only two umbrellas to protect us. After a few minutes of ducking under trees to get a little cover, the rain slowed down and we had no choice but to walk on the slippery limestone ruins. Literally seconds after we started walking around again, I pulled out my camera to take a picture and slipped on a rock. While doing everything I could not to break the camera, I sacrificed my body a bit. Unfortunately the incident left me shaken up a bit and only added to the throbbing muscle pain in my back.
After realizing how far the main pyramid was from the entrance and being quite sick of the steady rain, we opted to pay a rickshaw to whisk us the 1.5km each way. For 65 pesos roundtrip, the fare seemed to be reasonable and the driver was enthusiastic. (He had to be, pedaling around a family of three down wet dirt tracks!) Upon arriving at the pyramid, we were surprised at just how tall it was and thus how dangerous it would be to climb in the now even heavier rain. After waiting a couple of minutes for the water to slow down, all three of us started the climb. About ¼ of the way up, I stopped Shawn Reece and let him know that he wasn’t going any further. The slippery limestone steps were just too dangerous for him to continue. Jasmine also decided at this point to stop climbing, leaving me as the lone soldier to carry on the mission of getting to the top.
As I continued to ascend my fear of heights couple with my shakiness from the earlier fall both started to get the best of me. I did finally reach the top with sweat dripping like a faucet from my forehead. After standing up, I quickly got vertigo (quite common for me) and had to sit down. After taking a couple of minutes to catch my breath and calm down, I stood up and was rewarded with a spectacular view of the area. From the top, Jasmine and Shawn Reece were just small specs below and before long I started to think about the climb down.
For a moment at the top, I considered staying there indefinitely, setting up shop in the inside of the temple. I knew if going up was hard, that descending would be even scarier for me. I waited for about twenty minutes until one of the other five brave souls started to climb down before I found the courage to follow. After just a few steps I realized that my fears were justified and the climb down was proving to be much more difficult. Having to walk down backwards, my big feet often were bigger then the steps and didn’t grip the slippery limestone very well. At times, the only thing that saved me was a death grip that I had on the rope. I do not remember ever being as afraid as I was in those moments. Jasmine kept screaming at me to hurry up because we had a bus to catch back to Tulum, but no part of my body was willing to move fast. Of course, I eventually made it down and we caught our bus to Tulum without many problems.
The second part of our day was supposed to be spent at the world famous beach side ruins at Tulum. Unfortunately, the rain storm got worse before it improved and the whole fiasco in Coba left us exhausted. We decided to put off seeing the Tulum ruins until Tuesday, but once again mother nature intervened and we were forced to move on to Chetumal without seeing them. While we really were looking forward to seeing Tulum, I was glad that we chose to visit the frightening pyramid in Coba.
Chetumal is the capital of the state of Quintana Roo where both Cancun and Playa Del Carmen are located. The city itself is large and very typical of other capital cities that we have seen in Mexico. After arriving, we got a hotel and booked our bus ticket back to Guatemala before killing some time in a local shopping mall. Chetumal seemed to be a pleasant city, but we spent most of our time in the hotel resting before our eight hour bus trip to Flores, Guatemala on Wednesday.
In all, we spent around three weeks in Mexico. During this time, we were able to visit some of the best Mayan ruins, experience plenty of local culture and even enjoy a couple of beach side resorts. Looking back on it, we seemed to get a well rounded view of this little corner of Mexico and enjoyed it a lot. Coming from Guatemala we quickly noticed that Mexico is clearly a more developed nation. While we were a little sad to leave, the idea of getting back to Guatemala was also exciting, although we weren’t looking forward to the long bus trip back.
The Coomer Family