When I went to the Yucatan a few weeks ago, I was reminded of a trip I made there with my friend, Jeff, in the late eighties, when the “Mayan Riviera,” as it’s now called, was still wild. Tulum is one of the few places I’ve been that’s actually been improved by development (the coast at Folkestone, England is another). Back then, a walk along the beach meant navigating piles of seaweed and plastic garbage thrown overboard by boats. Now the numerous but modest eco-lodges that line the beach (“eco-lodge” is short for “electricity and water that goes randomly on and off”) keep the white sand sparkling clean. Jeff and I stayed near Playa del Carmen at a resort called El Capitan Lafitte, now Petite Lafitte but, I hear, much the same (a good thing). One day as we were going out for a walk, our neighbors in the next cabana told us that the Federales were out looking for marijuana smugglers and we might find some bales washed up on the beach. Oh sure, I thought, they tell that to all the tourists, but then a mile or so down the beach we came across, in all its majestic glory, the biggest, most water-logged bale of weed you’d ever hope to see—which, if we’d been of a more enterprising bent, could have supported us for a good long time. Did we smoke any? I’ll never tell.
Jeff wrote today that he’s been back to Playa del Carmen about four times since, and once took a trip all the way down the coast to Xcalak, almost to Belize. He said he didn’t find any weed washed up, but did see this Federale helicopter flying overhead at dawn, looking for some.
Photo: Jeffrey Rubin