Biking Westward From Tulum
By Mari Pintkowski
Let me be your guide and introduce you to the wonders that lie beyond the silky white sand and turquoise waters. If you are up for it, why not rent a bicycle in Tulum and follow me as we pedal westward along the newly paved and widened Coba road. The journey from Tulum to the first pueblo, Macario Gomez, is only a 20 km (12 mile) ride on flat terrain.
If you are not locked into your hotel reservations, I suggest that you go to one of the handy, inexpensive internet shops and type in laselvamariposa.com and make arrangements to stay for a couple of nights. Once you reach Macario Gomez you will be in the mood for lots of R&R and this oasis in the jungle is just the spot! All you need to pack is a swimsuit, sarong, and your tooth brush.
While on the computer type in: email@example.com and take a look at the new bikes for rent for only $5 for a 24 hour period. The bikes include: lock, basket, a map of the area, safety light and insurance. The shop is conveniently located in town just past Pool fruit store on Calle Satelite Sur. Before you set out on your journey, take a test ride to make sure the bike is adjusted to your height and comfort.
Now you are ready to embark along the “Mariposa Trial” / Coba Road. Pedal back to Highway 307 and turn left on the Coba Road at the traffic light. Stop at either Super San Francisco or Stop ‘n Go for a bottle of water and a snack and head inland toward Coba. Follow the colorful butterflies and keep your eyes open for sights along the way that invite you to discover nature, firsthand.
Let’s stop at The Grand Cenote (km 4) which is magnificent with its white sandy bottom, and turquoise waters hidden beneath an array of stalactites and stalagmites. Slip into your swimsuit in the changing room and slide into the cool waters surrounded by the jungle.
If the parking lot has more than a handful of cars or a van or bus venture further to explore the open-air Carwash Cenote or AkTunHa (km 8) on the left for an invigorating swim. The cost is ½ what you will pay at Grand Cenote. Here you may discover scuba divers ready to depart on an adventure below the surface where an underground cavern system links many cenotes in the area. Never attempt this trip without an experienced guide who has maps of what lies below.
It is easy to see why the ancient Mayans believed that cenotes were the portals to the underworld that were lined with offerings to the gods who resided there.
There are actually five cenotes on the road to Macario Gomez, so you may want to explore all of them! Cenotes are fresh water sink holes that opened up during the ice age when the underground rivers began to flow, causing the limestone surface to crack and reveal a treasure unique to this part of the world. Cenotes have a mystical feel that fades easily when there is a crowd splashing in the water. It is impossible not to feel a reverence for this exquisite work of nature, and for the clear stillness of the water.
If you need to replenish your supply of water or snacks, at km 5 there is a mini-market named Sn.Agustin situated in front of a rancho and tiny quaint chapel by the same name.
While cycling the next 5 km look for the subtle glimpses of culture that present themselves; perhaps you´ll see a few Mayan palaperos perched high on a tiny structure weaving new zacate or huano to make a palapa roof. Stop and say, “Buenos dias,” and ask if you can take their picture. They most always will say ¨si¨ with a big grin.
On the right you will pass Los Gatos Negros, a men´s club that is not currently open. Guess they are waiting for the boom to happen, or perhaps a new group of dancers to arrive? This is also near the location for the future gated community of losarboles.com.
A must stop at km 14.5 is Erik´s. There is no sign on the road, but when you see the elaborately painted VW bus and a sample of stone carvings you will know you are in the midst of a master artist. Erik often has apprentice sculptors working in the adjacent buildings on a Mayan monument that needless to say is not something you will be able to take with you on your bike. Erik and his family welcome visitors with open arms.
Instead of hovering over your handle bars on the next 8 km of your ride, open your eyes to what lies ahead for this area of Quintana Roo. There are many ¨For Sale/ Se Vende” signs advertising pieces of property that range from 10 x 50 square meters to 15 hectares. You very likely may see a bronze, bare-chested man emerge from the jungle carrying a bundle of neatly cut firewood that he will load on his 3-wheel bike parked nearby and pedal off to an invisible settlement. Let the swarms of brilliantly colored butterflies’ guide you as you pedal onward.
Before you reach the center of Macario Gomez, the first pueblo along the road, you will see mounds of green grass on the left side of the highway, along with shady vistas, colorful plants and a mixture of buildings including bathrooms (a few pesos to use). Stop and ask the gentle Mayan ladies if you can peek at the indigenous animals (monkeys, tejon, margay, jungle birds, etc.) tucked in the back yard in make-shift cages, waiting to be sold to hotels along the Riviera Maya. I suspect the tropical sun is flooding down on you and signaling that it is time to retreat to the jungle, but first the grumbling in your tummy tells you it is time for lunch. There are several small economical restaurants popping up in the village that offer a taste of local Yucatecan cuisine. Like everyone and everything in Mexico, life moves at a very slow pace and a business open one day can very easily be closed the next, only to reopen a month later.
After lunch head back to the tope or speed bump and glance to your right. Hidden behind a sheltering palm, there is a colorful yellow building with a green door that sports a large painting of a Mayan god. This is a perfect place to take a photo before you turn left and pedal along side the little white mini-market, Oasis, and go down an unpaved road 50 meters before turning right into La Selva Mariposa´s elegant jungle retreat. Follow the new road lined with lights until you reach the main house. Your hosts will greet you with one of their energetic dogs and show you to your room in a beautiful casita.
At this moment in time you will come to believe you are truly in paradise. After checking in, cool off in the pool and enjoy a natural massage under the cascading waterfall.
Day turns to night more slowly as spring approaches, and you lazily swing in the breeze on your porch beside the cenote plunge pool sipping a frosty margarita. You have chosen the perfect spot to watch this transition in the sky.
Meanwhile, you may be daydreaming about the pictures you have made in your mind of today’s journey, or perhaps you want to see more tomorrow.
After all there are two more pueblos just beyond Macario Gomez to explore, and the Coba ruins and the two nearby crystalline underground cenotes are only 25 km beyond La Selva Mariposa.
Dinner options drift into your thoughts just as your hosts arrive to tell you the menu for tonight’s al fresco offerings.
Instantly you realize that there is no better way to spend the evening than dining, and sharing stories under a sky whose constellations are beginning to resemble schools of fish caught and pulled together in the nets of celestial fishermen.
As you drift off to sleep, you note that even quiet moments can leave an indelible impression on your memory. You wonder if you will wake up thinking of your next vacation in Quintana Roo as a tantalizing mix of sea and jungle, sand and curling vines, lapping waves and flowing Mayan waterfalls. Whatever happens, the seed of a return trip is planted in your brain. See you next time.
To read more about living in the jungle near a small Mayan pueblo purchase Mari Pintkowski’s book, Embarking on the Mariposa Trail. The book is available at local stores: Mezzanine boutique, Mundo, Alma Libre, and Todotulum or buy Embarking on the Mariposa Trail now at amazon.com