It was bittersweet saying goodbye to the fam…it was the end of a great vacation time, but the beginning of a new adventure for us in the next town of Tulum. Mexico has one main bus system that runs through the whole country called ADO. The tickets from city to city are pretty cheap – we pre-booked our 2 pm departure from Playa del Carmen to Tulum on the BusBud website (because the ADO website doesn’t work and we don’t have a Mexican credit card). We arrived downtown early to get lunch and spend the last couple hours people watching with Wade and Deanne until their bus took off to the airport at the same time.
We were at the bus terminal by 1:40 – as we heard various things about the bus schedule either arrive late/early and they depart late/early. So we figured 20 minutes early would be good. The Idt’s got on their bus to the airport, while we waited for ours and waited and asked the bus platform guy twice about our bus and it was always “the next bus”. We waited and waited until Todd was waved over to the lineup to talk to the ticket people. Where they said the bus already came and went. To get us on the next bus, they charged us another 2 pesos each, printed out our tickets and were good to go on the 3:30 departure. Let me just throw in a few comments on the bus terminal:
- its a sweatlodge – ick we were sticky
- unless you are going to the airport, ALL announcements to all locations are in Spanish BUT not all announcements to all other locations are actually announced. One would assume that based on the location of this particular ADO station (called Tourist terminal) that announcements would be made in more than one language (but no, no don’t assume that smart concept!)
- Also, we read about how long the ticket lines were, and you can potentially miss the bus you want to take, due to the lineup, which is one of the reasons we had bought them online.
- When you buy tickets online, it doesn’t include the actual “bus” number (which would have been helpful). When you get the tickets from the ticket lineup, it gives you the “bus” number (this is how you know your bus has arrived!)
All lessons learned…..So we waited another hour for the next Tulum bus…and waited…and waited. Here we go again…Todd asked the platform guy and he said “the next bus”….3:30 came and went….it was 3:40-ish when a bus pulled up with the same number as on our ticket! Ya-hoo….we are going to get to Tulum! We got on, away we went down the highway.
Arriving in Tulum an hour later than planned. Not sure why, but we decided to walk the 1.4 km from the bus terminal to our new house…and let google maps decide which way was best. Normally I’m good to walk anywhere, BUT when we both have a VERY heavy roller carryon suitcase, VERY heavy backpacks and an extra insulated shopping bag, walking was probably not the best choice when google told us to turn right (off the pavement) and down a gravel/mud road with protruding bedrock (in our sandals) – which seemed like it went on for miles! NEVER again will we walk from ADO to our house (not sure why we did this, we had already decided last time that taxi or Uber is the only way….) Regardless, arriving at the new house around 5, meant we had to drop and go to the grocery store to get some basics before dark – using the bikes that came with the rental.
I was pretty excited about getting bikes with our rental – it meant we had a bit of a larger area to explore …… BUT have you ridden a bike in Mexico before? Here are a few things to know: ALL the bikes were old, rusty, not really working, had no gears, only one had a basket and the brakes were sketchy. Hmm no problem we can still do this….until we got on the road that had no shoulder or sidewalk and was apparently a major construction route that was VERY VERY busy. It was only 100 feet til we turned left onto the gravel/mud/protruding bedrock road to get to the Chedraui grocery store!. WTF did we just get ourselves into! We were both tired, hungry, thirsty, sweaty (you get the picture) Its basically a live version of the game Frogger…! Halfway to the grocery store we stopped and realized that “everyone else” is riding bikes and doing the same thing, so what are we worried about – in a week from now, it will be old hat and we will be laughing at ourselves for freaking out, about riding a bike! Were able to make it to the store and back completely unscathed…time for a shower and some food before we crash!
A smarter way to get to the store is to walk and take a taxi back – we did this the next day, which made the most sense! On the taxi ride back home we drove through the night food cart market, so this is where we ended up eating almost every night for dinner!
It didn’t take us long to realize that the new house isn’t the best location, but you don’t know the exact location when booking online. Since we are on a major single lane thoroughfare, and the windows are single pane, the daytime noise is VERY loud and its from 6 am – 10 pm – so much construction traffic. Here is a tour: https://youtu.be/M9XjoOP3zkE This area of Tulum is exploding with construction (we assume due to the new high speed train line coming to the Yucatan peninsula – scheduled to open from Cancun to Tulum by end of 2023). Anyway, we packed a backpack with beach stuff and headed out on bikes down this crazy single lane road directly to the beach – 5 km. Todd noticed that no one else was riding their bikes down this road except us – so obviously there is another way to get there. Regardless, we made it unscathed and had a great time on the beach. Its beautiful – here’s a quick video: https://youtu.be/GgRs78htWfc
We did find the right bike route to get us home, that was way less stressful. Check it out here https://youtu.be/q3OsVPsPPIc
This tourist town is definitely a good place to see extreme wealth and poverty at the same time. Although what is poverty to us, may not actually be poverty to the local Mexicans of this area. It’s a different kind of touristy here – we are surprised at the number of Europeans (lots of French, Italian and German accents heard on the beach and sidewalks). There are also a lot of YEN / Hippie kind of tourists or maybe they actually all live in the area…not sure – quite a few yoga retreats, Zen companies and people walking around in loose white clothing (like from the 70’s)….its a different mix when they all get thrown in with the locals in a perceived poverty area…and then when the Europeans are basically walking down the street and shopping in grocery stores almost naked…this is not respectful to anyone let alone the local families.
The biggest highlight of our day here (aside from the weather, and beach) was usually going for a walk for dinner to the night food cart market for some el Pastor taco’s off the spit – Saturday nights are really hopping! All the food carts (Taco and dessert – churros, fried banana, sweet filled crepes) line the town Centro, while organized sports teams take turns playing in the only field (volleyball, soccer and basketball). Its quite a site. Every night starting around 5 pm until late everything opens up – all the local shops open, all the barber shops chairs are full, all the street hawkers come out and sell their wares for a few hours when everyone comes to the town Centro to socialize and eat.
Our general comments on Tulum are that the beaches are gorgeous – kind of hard to access though as the beach clubs and resorts have most of the accesses. The nightly taco stand night market was awesome! Otherwise we found Tulum very dirty (the most garbage we’ve seen anywhere in Mexico), very loud (not just our location, but construction was EVERYWHERE). We intended to shop local and support small shops but the couple times we did, they gouge tourist so hard – its at least 3 times the price of the grocery store! We spent a week in this area – and we were both ready to move on and see a new area and new things (maybe have some peace and quiet from this noisy place!). Our transportation method on Thursday is the ADO bus – lets hope we make it!