Although the final morning on Cozumel, the afternoon in Playa del Carmen, and the bike ride from Playa del Carmen to Tulum were uneventful, two people should go on record: Pedro and Marta.
Pedro and I met on Cozumel, where he was a worker in the tourist industry for 6 years, until 2002. After the 9-11 attack happened, the tourist industry, Pedro said, declined dramatically. He had worked in Cozumel for 6 years until 2002, and 7 July 2012 was his first day back on the island in 10 years. I asked him if it had changed a great deal. “Oh yes,” and he pointed to a grimy, weatherworn, derelict building, 10 stories tall and inhabited by pigeons, seagulls, and crows. “I used to live there.” Pedro had brought his family with him: a wife and three small children, one of whom was Pedro Jr., who was deeply interested in the iguanas — as I also was. Returning to an earlier insight, Pedro spoke excellent English, almost fluently, and — although he had never had formal schooling in English — apologized for his skills. I said his English was excellent, and that there was no need to apologize, and I asked him where he had learned to speak so well. He said he had learned the language through talking with tourists, and that was the extent of his education. Very impressive.
The second person, Marta, is the lady who managed and owned the hotel where I stayed on Playa del Carmen. She is a tiny little lady, about five feet tall, wiry, dark-haired, and about 50. She is one of those ladies who speaks Spanish at you with the rapidity of an auctioneer, who is a barrel of energy, yet who is warm enough to make you smile. She knew exactly what she wanted: practical, level-headed, she instructed me to turn off the lights and ceiling fan when I left the room, “These other people never turn them off! And my bill goes zooop!” and gestured that the bill goes right through the ceiling. A very sweet lady, she was one of those people who had me nodding acquiescence with everything she said, and I was near to taking out the trash and sweeping the floor, if only she had asked.
This morning was the ride to Tulum, a pueblo which boasts one of the most gorgeous beaches in the world and famous Mayan architecture. After the ride, I ate a lunch of pork, beef, rice, beans, guacamole, and tortillas, polishing it off with a diet coke with ice — and followed that with a 3 hour nap.