I practiced my Spanish with three youngsters aged fifteen, twelve and eleven. They were
bright and eager to speak with an old gringo from California.
The bus pulled into Tulum. I expected to be dropped off at the archeological site, not real-
izing that Tulum was also the name of the local town. I had to catch a taxi for the three-
mile ride to the ruins. The driver explained, however, that from Tulum's ruins, I could
catch a bus to Playa del Carmen or Cancun. And he said, "Take a colectivo ; they are more
frequent and less expensive."
The taxi dropped me off at the Tulum ruins, but from the entrance, it was still a hike. You
can walk or take the train, which is a tractor pulled double-car that transports 100 visitors
at a time.
Of all the Mayan temple sites I visited, Palenque, Uxmal, Edzna, Bonampak and Yax-
chilán, Tulum was by far the most overrun by tourists. Groups crowded the site. There
were more tourists in Tulum than stones in the major temple. The site is virtually roped
off to visitors. “See but don't climb,” is now the rule. This is also true of Palenque, Uxmal
and Chichen Itza. Pogo said it best, ages ago, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
Swimmers climbed down a wooden staircase to the gulf. Soft breakers stirred the
shoreline. The ocean offered refreshing relief from the heat and humidity. I read the bi-
lingual commentaries and was thankful I wasn't herded with a group. Europeans out-
numbered Americans. The afternoon sun was perfect for photos, but most pictures are
sprinkled with tourists.
Tulum is not a large site. One hour is sufficient to walk, read the legends, photograph and
even touch your toe into the sand of the Caribbean Sea.
I caught the tractor-train back to the center. Papantla men, Volantes (Flyers) performed the
high-climbing, swinging-rope ritual. One man stands atop a ninety-foot pole, four others,
representing the four cardinal points, perform a ritual, then drop backwards, upside-down,
feet attached to ropes and they unwind, circling the ground. The ritual is in reverence to
the rain god, and the performers are a metaphor for the falling rain.
I'm afraid of heights, but Volantes scurry up a ninety-foot pole and carry out an ancient
ritual. I had seen Volantes perform at the Aguascaliente Fair, but I did not know their his-
tory until now. Volantes are Tononac natives that perform a pre-Hispanic fertility rite just
outside the main gate.