Since the onset of the coronavirus, which had been raging through China, then Italy and eventually the U.S., I had been trying to choose a place where I wouldn’t mind being quarantined, for what could be, a very long period of time. The virus started to pick up steam while I was in Merida. Although the city itself was very nice, I didn’t want to get stuck in a large city, with hundreds of thousands of people. When I got to Valladolid, things were starting to close, people starting to use masks, and the threat beginning to feel real. They closed down the cenotes and stopped any public events and quite a few cities in Mexico were blocking entrance to outsiders.
One evening, I was chatting with my roomy, a full on hippie, with dreads… the works and he was telling me about his travels and how he had slept out in the open, with his hammock, in some of the places I had been looking at along Quintana Roo coast. He said that Tulum, where I was headed next, was nice, but not great. All of the beaches and access to the beaches were private and how challenging it was to camp there. He then went on to say that I would absolutely love Mahahual, a small fishing village not far from Tulum. He said that it was like Cancun or Playa del Carmen 20 or 30 years ago. I checked it out on the map and it looked very remote, which could definitely have its pros, but also many cons during an epidemic.
The next day, I made my final decision to go on to Tulum, check out the scene and go from there. I booked a ticket on the ADO bus for approximately MXN$150 (+/-$8) and a room at Hostal Chalupa, which was the closest to the beach and only around $8 for a dorm bed.
Tulum, Quintana Roo Mexico
I arrived at the ADO terminal in Tulum and had a nice hot walk down the main strip to Chalupa hostel. It was approximately a 20 minute walk from the terminal. The hostel was very nice and the beds were huge. They were doubles or queen sized bunks, which was great. There was also a small pool and decent sized, well equipped kitchen.
After unpacking and getting settled, I walked down to the beach, which took about an hour… in the hot sun. Just a bit longer than expected. When I got to the end of the road and wanted to hit the beach, unfortunately found that the beaches in front of me were blocked by hotels. I took a right and went further along and…. beach access continued to be private.
Finally, I reached a section, where I could actually see sand and the sea. I was more than just a little disappointed about the access issues and ended up walking another couple of kms, before deciding to head back.
My Secret Spot on the Beach!!
Over the next several days I rented a bike and would go down to the beach, sometimes with Gabby and Flavia, the Brazillian girls at the hostel, and just hang out for the day. I found a small hole in a fence, which led to an abandoned massage hut that ended up being my spot. It was absolutely beautiful with white sand as far as the eye could see, turquoise water and very…. very few people.
I ended up staying in Tulum for just over a week and actually made it to the Tulum ruins before they shut ‘er down, along with the other sites nearby. Rumors were flying and so much misinformation on the net about the virus that it was starting to get a bit confusing and somewhat worrying. They had already restricted beer sales, to no later than 5:00 pm….. can you believe it! 🙁
Some were saying that they would start to restrict movement between cities soon. It was a bit strange when, in the evenings, a long procession of police vehicles ran through town with their lights on and sirens blaring. We actually thought they were going to lock down the entire town at any point. It was time for me to decide where I wanted to spend the next few months.
One afternoon, I went down to the ADO bus terminal to check on tickets to Mahahual. They informed me that all buses to Mahahual had been canceled, due to the virus. This was a bit of a shock! My plans quashed… just like that. A bit confused and in full recalculate mode, I walked back to the hostel. On the way back, I saw a banner in front of a collectivo terminal that said “Mahahual, Bacalar, Chetumal,” so I stopped in to ask. They said “Yes, the collectivo goes every day at 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.” Wow…. second shock in less than 15 minutes. This one put a huge smile on my face and thus… back to the original plan! 🙂
That evening, I was chatting with friends at the hostel, who were also trying to figure out their next move. Everything was starting to lock down and almost all “Tourists” had left the city, and most of Mexico for that matter. One of the women, Kristen, was also interested in getting closer to the beach or… right on the beach…. if possible. The two Brazillian ladies decided to get an apartment and me and Kristen were heading to Mahahual.
The following morning, Kristen and I packed up our things and walked down to the collectivo. We arrived right at 10:00, but still had to wait for others to arrive. I don’t think they were too happy to take a couple of tourists a good two hours away, in a van that can hold a dozen. After about 20 minutes, we took off, with one other person. A very light load!
When we arrived at the crossroads, the driver pulled over and told us that we would have to look for our own transport from the main road to the beach, which was about 45 minutes away. He said that another collectivo from Chetumal would pass in the next 20 minutes…. or so. This didn’t sound quite right and we were just sitting an intersection out in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, as we were removing our bags from the collectivo, a bright yellow van coming from the other direction started to approach. The driver pointed and said that’s the one. He flagged them down, we transferred our bags across and jumped in. This one was full. Noone looked sick, so I didn’t feel that I needed to don the face mask (I’d bought a few of them in Valladolid before I left… just in case!).
We arrived in Mahahual just before noon. The driver was nice enough to drop us right in front of the Hostel / Hotel called the Blue Kaye. It was a very nice place, right on the beach. There were small cabanas and rooms facing the beach. The dorms were off in the back, dark cave-like little rooms, with no windows. The beds were very comfortable, but the cave effect was annoying. When we checked in, I asked about the gym and kitchen. We had been told on the phone that they didn’t exactly have a kitchen, but we could work something out. Well there was no kitchen and the gym had been closed, because “the virus spreads easily on steel!” Anyway, the facilities were nice and the beach was excellent. It was totally decked out with lounge chairs, swings, lots of palm trees, white sandy beaches and clear turquoise blue water.
We had a nice couple of days lounging on the beach, but it wouldn’t be possible to stay at a place that didn’t have a kitchen. Eating out every day is nice…. for a while, but the wallet couldn’t sustain that for long. We needed to find a new place to stay. We checked a couple of hostels, but only one stood out. The Maha Sand Hotel/Hostel hit all the right buttons, it was $8 per night, air conditioning in the dorm, beds were comfy, nice big kitchen and…. right on the beach. It was actually the only one with a kitchen, so the only one that would actually work for the long haul. There were a couple of small houses for rent in the Casitas, a small town just up the road about a kilometer from the beach, but they were a bit more expensive and then we’re back to the same issue of walking to the beach every day.
Well, we booked a dorm bed for a couple of nights to test it out. I settled in quite nicely, but Kristen immediately had issues with one of the guys involved in the hostel. Not sure what he actually does, but he’s always around. I thought he was friendly enough and didn’t have a problem with him. The next day we went out to buy some groceries and fresh vegies. It was so nice to cook my own food again and was also nice to find out that there was a tortilleria shop right next door, where they make fresh tortillas daily! All you need to do is go over in the morning, give them 5 pesos and they hand you a nice little stack! 🙂