Im sitting alone in the back of a white van. There’s a rush of isolation – no, panic – running right through me. It’s pitch black outside, no car lights around, no glimpses of landscape, but I can sense we’re travelling fast – maybe 100km or so. My driver is a Mexican man, maybe in his 30’s with short, straight, black hair. The kind you pretty much expect every cartoon Mexican man to have, minus the cartoon moustache. His skin’s tanned and he’s dressed standard for a guy you expect to meet hanging round an airport; a light weight, short sleeved, shirt, paired with blue shorts and jandels.
The only communication I’ve had with him is outside the terminal maybe half an hour ago, when I looked him in the eyes and gave a small nod acknowledging that I am the person whose name is on the sign he is holding. I have no idea if he speaks English.
It’s long after midnight local time, and I’ve been travelling for more than 30 hours already. I can hardly keep my eyes open in the back of the van, and have been dreaming of eating something since my last flight. Surely it won’t be long now.
I’m acutely aware of my situation. Is the driver linked to my card being skimmed a few days ago? Am I even travelling in the direction of my accommodation? Is he planning to take me somewhere else? How long would it be before someone noticed I was missing? I’m wondering if I’ll forever be known as the idiot traveller, stupid enough to think it a good idea to go to Mexico alone, then willingly get in the back of a van with a stranger. Idiot.
Straining to keep my eyes open, I fix them out the window to the darkness, scanning for any directional road signs that might become reflected in headlights; a sign Im on the right track. It’s been 90 minutes since leaving Cancun, surely Tulum can’t be far away?
We pull slowly into a narrow dirt alley and I can see the van headlights against a white, clay building exterior. Alert, I peer round trying to make sense of the destination. The driver turns to me in the back and we look square in each others eyes now for the second time since meeting. This time he announces in fluent English, “here you go”. Relief. I’ve made it safely to Utopia.
Utopia is an old scuba diving centre converted into yoga retreat accommodation, in Tulum, Mexico. I’d heard about it from a friend the year before and It sounded right up my alley, so almost immediately I booked it. What was in front of me lived up to expectation.
Think rustic beach bungalow with less thatch, and more clay. Each room a totally unique vibe about it, and the most wonderful part of the whole accommodation is that the centre of the structure is completely open to the sky; no roof.
Mornings’ are for yoga of 90 minutes with pretty much a bronzed goddess who can bend in all kinds of ways I find myself seething in jealousy at. Afterward, breakfast of authentic Mexican under the pristine, cloudless, dark blue sky, with the sun beating down. Visiting Tulum for the yoga is superseded by the cuisine. Which is superseded by the people.
Flour soft tortillas- super thin and light weight- in which fresh vegetables go, for breakfast. But the best part; the black sauce. God only knows what the black sauce is but I can say it’s pretty much the best sauce that ever stood on this planet. Just a pin drop is apparently enough in terms of hot scale. In my opinion, drizzle this baby all over everything and it will instantly taste better.
Day time is for cruising around the dirt paths of Tulum in the heat, smiling ear to ear, stopping in at boutiques of gloriously made clothing, or finding a Cenote to explore. Cenotes are what Tulum is perhaps better known for. They’re underwater caves that can go for miles. Some give an opportunity to snorkel with turtles and colourful sea life, others are a maze of rock and crevice. And for those lazy days where beach life is thug life, laze on the white sand, or in a hammock, and dip in the tepid ocean to cool off from time to time.
Evening yoga leans more toward meditation. Something I am struggling with. I find myself asking myself why myself is asking myself what myself is thinking about myself thinking. Perhaps the bronzed goddess is doing this on purpose- there must be something wrong with her after all?
On the sand about 300 metres from Utopia is a beach taco shack that I find myself drawn to every night. Literally, every night. There’s a DJ in the corner, there are margarita glasses bigger than my head for the equivalent of maybe AUD$4, there’s 3 cute Mexican men working their charm on the bar and the spliffs they’re happy to pass around, and it’s the spot where my new German and crazy American friends claim a seat at the bar with me to discuss the diversity of our Worlds.
Tulum’s the place you go to meet interesting travellers, and more interesting locals. For margaritas the size of your head, and to aspire for bending like that of a bronzed goddess. You’ll go to ask questions of yourself in your meditation about meditating on meditation. And it may, like me, surprise you to be a place where even if you’re alone in the back of a mini van, speeding into darkness, with a stranger, you’ll arrive safe exactly where you want to be.