Mexico (dogs of Tulum)
Like many snowbirds my dad weathers the Canadian winter on the Yucatan Peninsula In Mexico. Most fatso tourists would recognize this as being the region of that includes Cancun. Thank sweet fuck my dad doesn't like Cancun or I'd never visit him and my winter tan would suck. As it turns out ol pops is pretty hip and prefers the ragged charm of Tulum, a city about three hours South West from Cancun along highway 307. The town is obviously still trying to catch up with American tourism and thus still has a strong dose of pre-America-tourism Mexican charm. Flea bitten dogs rummage through garbage and homes are still built with rope and chainsaws. But the city now has a young, artsy, hip scene of people coming to avoid the Playa del Carmen edge and the Cancun pamper.
The 307 runs right through Tulum and thus both sides of the highway act as the downtown core. Usually this works out pretty fine as traffic is minimal at night when people are pin-balling back and forth across the road, barfing up mescal. I must say, despite my hesitations to go hang out in southeastern Mexico during spring break. the old man sure knows how to live; how to really muck it up with the locals. Tulum is that super mellow part of touristy Mexico where you can have an authentic good time without feeling like you are unnecessarily exploiting someone.
My dad's apartment was a tiny bachelor on the upper floor an open concept apartment complex. It was a few blocks off Tulum's main drag. It would have been an excellent place to live if it weren't for a few...minor...drawbacks. Such as the chainsaw and bamboo construction project going on directly behind them. Or if there wasn’t road construction…in the stage of using a concrete saw…going on directly in front of the apartment. Besides those two things, and the unwavering humidity in my dad's tiny fucking-apartment, it would have been an excellent place to stay. All the same my dad and I had a great cruzy time doing mellow bike tours of the town; afternoon starts to everything of course. Despite our best efforts to sleep past noon every day, we still took in a lot of sights and scenes: beaches, Mayan ruins, cenotes, wild monkeys, wild family and wild Mayan street party's that don't kick off until 1am and literally blast dance music into your window until the sun comes up. In the morning after the street party night I was able to brighten the mood by pointing out that the road work and construction had ceased.
I frequently find the most enjoyable time I spend in a place, is the time I spend staring at random art work scribbled under windows or next to doors. Maybe I'm just attracted to walls and colours. Either way, Tulum could have it's own urban tour scene. Every piece of infrastructure looks like it has it's own evolving history of maintenance and design. Every doorway has an intention and every window has heard a story.
We spent a day walking through a giant chunk of nature reserve at Punta Laguna. I insisted to my, occasionally, thrifty father, that it was necessary to hire a tour guide. My experiences have ALWAYS been that if you are about to embark into a foreign piece of wilderness, regardless of where or what you are doing, if you have the option for a guide, it is so worth it. You save time not getting lost, you are afforded, at least marginal amounts of local knowledge and almost always are happy you had a tour guide. Exploring with an experienced guide is basically like having a wilderness butler. They pretty much have to take care of you the whole time. If I had wanted to, like really made a fuss about it, I guarantee I could have convinced our tour guide to get me a bottle of tequila and a pack of smokes. As it stands I basically let him take our hands through this gnarly thick jungle. While he tracked monkeys I walked around like a dickhead snapping pictures of every invertebrate that moved. Sweet shit though when you finally see a monkey in the wild it is an absolutely mesmerizing experience. I would have followed those gangly armed batards into war if they had let me. Instead I just stood there with my head cranked back watching them dance on the canopy.
I definitely took home a couple bags of dried peppers. Chipotles and some other one’s, can't remember what kind. My suitcase still smells likes a spice trader’s underwear drawer. The lesson I took away from Tulum and my time with my dad is that if you get too fucking worried about the things you can't control, like road construction or "the Gringro tax" then you may end up worrying right over all the other stuff. Like cheap, fresh, RIPE avocadoes, everywhere, right around the corner…or a rooster that hangs out in a jazz bar, or how happy and well fed all those "mangy flea bitten" dogs seem to be. Tulum, like any developing place in the world, has a lot of baggage, but the thing about baggage is that you only have to carry it while you are travelling. When you sit down, the weight disappears. Unless of course you sit down on a shitty fucking ant hill right in-front of your bus stop and while you are waiting for your bus to the airport, you start getting ferociously bit by hundreds of PIECE-OF-SHIT fire ants. In that case I recommend emptying a bottle of Gatorade on the ant hill and them smashing it repeatedly with your expensive Patagonia suitcase. You won’t do much to the ants but you will at least look like a sweaty gringro maniac when you get on the bus.