After a fun week of friends and family in Indiana, the time had finally come to leave the familiar and really start this adventure. First stop, Mexico. The flight from Indianapolis to Cancun was relatively uneventful, until it came time to descend from the clouds and get our first glimpse of Mexico.
I distinctly remember the overwhelming, oh shit feeling that came over me as I stared out the plane window at the dense green jungle that stretched as far as the eye could see. The feeling wasn’t quite fear, it was more the realisation that we were on our own from here in a foreign country, and despite having a fair idea of where we wanted to go and how to go about getting there, it was all up to us to make it happen.
(pic of jungle)
Our first goal upon disembarking at Cancun airport was to get the hell out of Cancun. We knew before we even boarded the plane that there was absolutely nothing of value that city could offer us. So we navigated the hoards of persistent taxi drivers and hustlers and got on a bus heading south towards Tulum.
Tulum is still pretty touristy but has more of a quiet, historical vibe compared to Cancun and Playa Del Carmen.
Getting to Tulum is kind of where our plans ended. We’d done a little research on a few hostels in Tulum before we arrived, but didn’t lock anything in as we wanted to get a feel for the place and take our time. We found a hostel on tripadvisor that we thought was a good price and location, so we found our way there and showed up on their doorstep only to be informed that they were flooded from the previous nights storm, and as a result had to empty out all of their downstairs rooms for cleaning and had nothing available. Wow Jasmine, great job on planning a trip to Central America in the wet season – day one and this is only the beginning of your problems.
Luckily they suggested we try a hostel a short walk down the highway that a few of their evictees had mentioned they were moving to, so we trudged on over there. After ringing the doorbell for five whole minutes a sweaty, shirtless man greeted us and showed us the dorm beds they had left for 80 pesos per night. They were……interesting, and the bathrooms were…….lockable at least. John and I exchanged a look of defeat and agreed to the beds, and proceeded to try and find a place for our backpacks that wasn’t wet or decorated with other peoples laptop chargers or plastic bags of dirty laundry.
Apart from the muddy floors, mosquitos, tarantulas, the german backpackers farts, squeaky mattresses and non existent showers, we were pleased to be given free use of some pushbikes to ride into town and get dinner to escape the fail of a first afternoon. We laughed at the situation over some watery tacos – this is what backpacking is all about, right?! I was happy as long as I didn’t have to share my bed with any tarantulas. We agreed to try the other hostel again in the morning and called it a night.
The next day started with a surprisingly decent little home cooked breakfast by the sweaty mans wife for a few extra pesos. We politely checked out and pretended to ignore their confused ‘you’re leaving already?’ looks, and trudged back up the highway to the treehouse hostel of our dreams, ‘Posada Los Mapaches‘, praying for a miracle.
When Chelo opened the door and greeted us with hugs I thought the actual lord had answered our prayers. There was one room left, she said, but we had to wait a couple of hours to get it cleaned out and ready. We didn’t care because this place was incredible and Chelo treated us like family from the second we stepped foot inside her property. We were baffled out how much this place had to offer for a mere few pesos more than the other!
Chelo, the matriarch of the family, cooks a beautiful, three course fresh breakfast every. single. morning. Think locally grown coffee, smoothies and platters made with fresh local fruit, yoghurt, cakes, biscuits and a hot meal. All included in your room rate, by the way.
For those travelling on a backpackers budget like us, this was a perfect way to spend less money on food. We would get SO FULL from breakfast that we didn’t need to eat again until the late afternoon.
Also included in your rate is a bike with a helmet and padlock, an informative chat about the amenities in the area and how to get around, and endless cuddles from the friendly cats and dogs that live on site.
Posada Los Mapaches was the perfect home base for exploring Tulum.
We spent the next week checking out all the town had to offer, which is mostly ancient Mayan ruins and gorgeous natural features like cenotes and caribbean beaches.
In my opinion, Tulum was a perfect buffer – a soft introduction to the Spanish language and culture with enough little familiarities to not feel like you’ve thrown yourself in too deep at the start of a two month trip.
Click on the links below to read more about the adventures we went on in Tulum!
Here is a video of our first couple of days in Tulum!