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FRITZ TRAVEL JOURNAL DAY 2

Buenos días,

The first day of our time in Tulum was an unqualified success. Cosmic events that require more discussion than I am capable of in this space and terrestrial ones as well filled our hearts with joy. Lots of exercise in our room and on the beach, a jaunt into town, and great company in our post-prandial festivities got our stay at Zamas off to a wonderful start. The day started off rainy, then cloudy, and then, 20 minutes into our beach time, mostly sunny and warm. After a provisions run, we settled in for the evening at Zamas. At Maria's request, Dan had said that they would be offering lobster that evening and, served with garlic, it was terrific. Featured musical artist was Camilo Nu, a flamenco/jazz/groove jam band. As soon as we arrived at the restaurant we were greeted with a smile and a wave by our buddy, bass player Gabo Gonzalez. After dinner, drinks, and dancing we partied into the night with the band and new friends. Guitarist/band leader, Camilo, whom we had seen perform but never met turns out to be a sweetheart, in spite of his severe Mestizo countenance. The new pianist, Argentino Gabriel Palatchi, is a blazing talent and another total sweetheart. Crazy eastern Washington state gringa, Margo, Belgian Karin, and drummer Ramon completed the all-star party cast. After cigars, Flor de Caña Nicaraguan rum, and much laughter, we said good night about 12:15, which is very late in the wilds of Tulum.

We are relaxing now with our late a.m. cappuccino and contemplating another day, our 24th wedding anniversary, in our favorite spot. Life is good.

Much love,

Fritz

P.s. Chilango is what denizens of Mexico City are called. Our musical pals here are generally Chilango.

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FRITZ TRAVEL JOURNAL DAY 1

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Frtiz and his wife, Maria, have been coming to ZAMAS for years.  This year he copied us on his letters to loved ones and he agreed to let us reprint here for the inside scoop from a seasoned Tulum Traveler.  Muchísimas Gracias Fritz!

Hi all, During the process of preparing for a vacation a part of me always wonders if it's worth the trouble. The millions of little chores and the mighty schlep and all are a daunting proposition. But I'm here to tell ya: Sí, se vale la pena, and I knew it as soon as the Yucatan's scrub-jungle came into view through the airplane window.

We departed Walnut Creek at 3:00 Tuesday morn after pulling an all-nighter and rolled into Zamas at 6:00 p.m. local time (4:00 PST). A 13 hour trek but sí, vale la pena.  We had concerns that our favorite place might have lost some of its magic, but no worries, all good. The road and bike/pedestrian path are somewhat improved, Dan tells us there are hundreds of new hotel rooms in the area, but Zamas is just getting better. They have a little gelato stand, of all things. And the food is just as good as ever. Famished as we were upon arrival, we ordered guacamole to tide us over until dinner. Antonio, evening manager (one of the beautiful, moon-faced local Mayan staff), bought us strong Margaritas and we were soon ready to face unpacking, a little drunk and very sleep deprived. After bathing and a little nap we had dinner with owner Dan, got caught up on all the Zamas news, and enjoyed the evening's musical artist, Cooking John, a Minneapolis via Jersey white boy blues finger picker.  We split a pizza Margarita and a whole snapper al mojo de ajo. Unbelievably good. Dan tells us that he's the only restaurateur in the area still serving exclusively fresh fish. Oh yeah, se vale la pena.

zamas pizza

It's raining (mostly) softly this morning and I went to get coffee and toast for  breakfast in bed. Maria's reading Tony Boudain's Kitchen Confidential and it's time for me to back to the biography of Gabriel García Márquez. Let the chill-a-thon commence, I'm about worn out from my two-thumbs iPhone typing technique.

Much love and hasta pronto,

Fritz

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A Land of Contrast

In his travels, many an adventurer has called his newfound land a place of contrast. Beautiful rolling hills contrasted with the impoverished people who inhabit them. Or: disco clubs built among the ruins of ancient civilization. Here in Tulúm, we know we’re a land of contrast. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that Tulúm is not only a land of contrast, but it is also a place unlike any other.

My parents moved to Tulúm with all their earthly possessions and their two young children in 1993. Many of you may know the story. For those who don’t, I’ll cut to the chase. From the day my mom unpacked her microwave and discovered that our newly-purchased property had neither outlets nor electricity (let alone a weatherproof wall or flushing toilet), this American family was forever changed.

17 years later we are still changing and adapting, though we almost always can plug our cell phones into some slightly rusty outlet. Of course, our wind and solar energy still does not support microwaves. But I guess that’s the small sacrifice we have to make.

This blog is the illegitimate child of my mother’s growing interest in hip technology and this college student’s hopeful deseo to one day be a writer. Coming from someone who grew up naked with the boa constrictors and the possums, it’s quite impressive that I ever emerged from the jungle. Of course, we all grow up someday, no matter when and where we decide to do so.

And Tulúm has definitely been growing up. 25,000 inhabitants. A university. Just last year we became a municipio. Tulúm Pueblo can now officially be called Tulúm City if you like (it doesn’t quite roll right off the tip of my tongue, but then, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks). There’s to be an airport, a downtown, even a Costco. For some of us who ascribe to the rustic chic aesthetic that ruled Tulúm for the last 50 years, the thought of Tulúm transforming into any of its mature counterparts (Cancún, Hawai’i, and Costa Rica come to mind) is horrific. Fortunately for us, the threat of swine flu (we still have not had a reported case) and the death of the U.S. economy has slowed the destruction, ahem, progress, of this humble town.

Tulúm was a Mayan village—the rapid introduction of Coca-Cola and PlayStation has overwhelmed it. The desire for evolution and economic gain has pushed its people to exploit its natural resources—the vast pearly beaches and lush overgrown jungles. How do you tell someone who wants to sell her property to 7-Eleven so she can buy her son an iPhone that there’s a better way? It is difficult to explain that preserving the land and its creatures will yield more profit over time than selling to a big corporation today will. If you won the lottery, would you take the big payout right away or get your fortune in installments over the next 20 years?

There is, however, hope. Organizations like CESiaK and Taller Cero hold onto that hope. The former takes tourists on eco-friendly tours of the local wildlife preserve, while teaching them what they can do to maintain that virgin land. The latter provides the children of Tulúm with art lessons—and uses their talents to promote the protection of sea turtles and the concept of reducing, reusing, and recycling. Additionally, there are many members of the hotel association who would like to keep electricity, products marked made in china, and the Hilton Hotels chain, off the beach. In fighting for this we hope to keep the turtles, the fish, and yes, even some of the mosquitoes, around for centuries to come.

You don’t have to agree with me. There are many beautiful places on our vast earth that can offer you air conditioning and a view of the surf. But where else can you wake up to the sound of the ocean because the waves are lapping at your door? The price of paradise is conservation. And the ZAMAS family is dedicated to conservation, because we can’t bear to end this love affair with our Tulúm yet. For us, happiness is an encounter, an encounter with pure beauty. We hope you feel the same way.

Chelsea McGettigan