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    Is This the Isthmus? Tour – Mexico Part 3

    Saturday, September 30, 2017
    Tulum Ruins, Mexico

    The Danza de los Voladores in Tulum, Mexico.
    The Danza de los Voladores in Tulum, Mexico.

    I got an early start today, but not quite early enough to avoid the tourist hordes at the Tulum Ruins. Getting there was really easy. I just hopped on a shuttle van, said “Ruinas, por favor” to the driver and disembarked a couple of miles north of town. I’ll have to admit, when I first got out, I couldn’t figure out which way to turn. So, I just asked a local, who pointed me in the right direction. Maybe a quarter mile down the road, I spotted a little tourist village boasting a bunch of souvenir shops, restaurants, etc. where I saw a tram take off. So, I walked over there to wait for the next one.

    The entrance to the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.
    The entrance to the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.

    Right there, I saw some guys in colorful costumes getting ready to put on a traditional performance called the Danza de los Voladores, or the Dance of the Flyers. One of them, a teenaged boy, was playing an instrument, so I shot a short video clip, zoomed in from far away. One of the other guys told him I was shooting video, which prompted the teenager to stop and demand that I give him money. Then an old man chimed in and said I had to pay $5.00.  I just deleted the video. The kid said something really rude like, “We’re not doing this for charity.” Wow. After more pressure, I just ended up giving him some change.

    The Cenote House at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.
    The Cenote House at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.

    A few minutes later, four of the guys climbed up a really tall poll, hooked up their lower legs to some long ropes, and hung upside down. Then a motor at the top started spinning, which caused the four guys to get hauled around the pole in a big circle in mid-air as they slowly descended to the ground. During all of this, a fifth man stood on top singing and beating a drum. Even though it was just a re-enactment of an ancient ceremony now staged for tourists, it was still a pretty awesome sight to see.

    The Temple of the Frescoes at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.
    The Temple of the Frescoes at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.

    “The Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers) is an ancient Mesoamerican ceremony / ritual still performed today, albeit in modified form, in isolated pockets in Mexico. It is believed to have originated with the Nahua, Huastec and Otomi peoples in central Mexico, and then spread throughout most of Mesoamerica. According to one myth, the ritual was created to ask the gods to end a severe drought.”–Wikipedia

    The back of El Castillo at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.
    The back of El Castillo at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.

    The tourist hordes converge upon the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.
    The tourist hordes converge upon the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.

    After the performance, the old man walked around with a tip jar. I told him I already gave the kid money even though I had deleted the video, but he said this tip was for the show. So, I gave them some more change. Only a few other people were really even paying attention. I saw two or three shooting photos and / or video. I wonder if the old guy chased them down?

    The beautiful cliffs and sea at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.
    The beautiful cliffs and sea at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.

    Right after that, the tram arrived. It was pretty funny-looking, consisting of colorful Mayan-patterned cars pulled by a locomotive that looked like something out of a Disney cartoon. In fact, everything about the place seemed like Disneyland–especially what with all of the souvenir shops and restaurants catering to the scads of tourists from all over the world. After a short ride of maybe a half mile, we got out of the tram and entered the ticket building, where I forked over the totally reasonable $5 entry fee.

    Mr. Iguana says hello at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.
    Mr. Iguana says hello at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.

    “Tulum is the site of a compact pre-Columbian Mayan walled city serving as a major port for Cobá. The ruins are situated on 12-meter (39 feet) tall cliffs along the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya; it was at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries and managed to survive about 70 years after the Spanish began occupying Mexico. Old World diseases brought by the Spanish settlers appear to have resulted in very high fatalities, disrupting the Mayan society and eventually causing the city to be abandoned. One of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites, Tulum is today a popular attraction for tourists.”–Wikipedia

    The beautiful cliffs and sea at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.
    The beautiful cliffs and sea at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.

    Following a short walk through the jungle, I came upon a stone wall shot through with a small tunnel that looked like it was designed for midgets. Ducking down and proceeding through, I emerged on the other side into the blinding daylight bathing the wide-open temple complex. In contrast to Tikal in Guatemala, the Tulum complex is quite small, and the buildings themselves are really basic and so badly eroded that not much of whatever carvings they ever had are still visible. Their main saving grace is their location right on a gorgeous cliff / beach interface.

    The beautiful cliffs and sea at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.
    The beautiful cliffs and sea at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.

    Also, unlike a full day that is required to visit Tikal, you could easily walk around and check out all of the Tulum ruins in an hour–and that’s just what I did. Well, okay, I did stop several times to stand at the top of those beautiful craggy cliffs and gaze down upon the white sand beach awash with awe-inspiring turquoise waters that shone so brightly in the late morning sun. Even the masses of tourists that overran the place couldn’t ruin the experience.

    The Disneyesque tram at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.
    The Disneyesque tram at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico.

    Standing right at the cliff’s edge, I was blissfully enveloped in a strong, cool and refreshing breeze that whipped in from the sea, providing a great relief to the stifling heat that blanketed all comers just a few feet back. The icing on the cake was the big iguanas that were roaming around, chomping on grass and laying in the sun. When I was done checking out the ruins, I walked a half mile south to Santa Fe Beach, which I heard was also an amazing sight to behold. But, as it turned out, it was completely littered with humans and boats, and nowhere near as attractive as the secluded beach up by the ruins. Access to the latter was blocked, which is a good thing. Otherwise, it too would be overwhelmed by the seething masses of humanity.

    This place looks like it could be a massive tiki palace, but unfortunately, it's not. It's just another generic bamboo restaurant in Tulum Pueblo, Mexico.
    This place looks like it could be a massive tiki palace, but unfortunately, it’s not. It’s just another generic bamboo restaurant in Tulum Pueblo, Mexico.

    Words and photos ©2017 Arcane Candy.

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