Giggling Between Topes

When I think of the time we have spent in the Tulum area of Mexico, after making our move from Vail, Colorado, five years ago, I can finally giggle about some of the topes (bumps in the road) we encounter along the way. Our first few years in the Riviera Maya were spent laboring over the legalities of buying property in a foreign country, and then came the blood, sweat, and tears we shed building our little oasis in the jungle, La Selva Mariposa. Now we are living the life we imagined in a beautiful tropical paradise surrounded by wonderful people from all over the world who come to share this space with us. I think it is time to share a few of the comical memories we have made.

One summer day, while bumping along a dirt road near Chemuyil, we encountered an American lady dressed in a bathing suit who was taking a stroll to the cenote cave further down the road. We stopped to say hi and then went on our way. An hour or so later we were driving back to the highway and saw this woman frantically shouting the name, Mattie, as she ran along the road. We stopped and in a desperate voice she announced, “I can’t find her, she ran off.” We invited her to jump in the car and offered to help her find her friend. She said, “I think she might have gone into the jungle.” We thought surely she was talking about her little girl, even though had not seen a child with her when we passed earlier. It turned out that she was talking about her little, fluffy dog, and sure enough we spotted her coming out of the jungle about one half- mile down the road. The woman impulsively opened the car door while we were still moving and jumped out, scooped up her little one and kept on walking.

A young man who visited our B&B with his girlfriend was fascinated at the stockpile of wood that my husband, Lou, kept behind his workshop. He marveled at the beams, the windows and the spiral staircase in the house as he followed Lou around when he was doing his daily rounds. He let us know that he was learning about construction and had always loved WOOD. He asked if Lou had a piece of wood that he could make a guitar out of, as he was also a musician and had left his guitar at home. He rummaged through the pile of discarded tzalam, chechen, cedar and katalox and proudly home with a piece of tropical wood that he could make a hammer handle out of.

We delighted in the fact that we could buy local fish fresh from the fisherman who kept their boats near Mar Caribe and decided we would meet them one day and buy a piece of fish for dinner. Along with a few restaurant owners, we waited on the shores of Tulum beach for the boats to pull in. To our amazement, they did not have a single piece of fish to sell. They had stopped along the coast, and the small hotels south of us had bought all their catch. The next best thing was to go to a local pescaria to buy a piece of boquenette. The gal at the counter said she did indeed have some in stock and did we want a whole fish or filet. We said filet and she immediately answered, “We don’t have any filets, ONLY the whole fish!”

A large fair had been setting up all week long near the Mayan Cultural Center in Tulum where my friend and I were greeting visitors at a exhibition of international nativity scenes that we were hosting. The exhibit closed and we headed over to the fair to enjoy some local culture. My friend was visiting from Alaska and had never seen a bull fight. A sign announcing the event was posted at the entrance of a large ring encircled by stands at the back of the fair grounds. This intrigued us. We paid the entrance fee and took our seats. The show began with a vaudeville style performance starring dwarfs attired in vibrant costumes. Next came the flamboyantly-dressed dwarf matadors, and to our surprise, the bulls were the miniature variety of cattle. After the show, we looked carefully at the sign and realized we had overlooked the word: enano, meaning midget or dwarf.

Dogs bring their owners such pleasure that only other dog owners can appreciate. We had an impromptu party at La Selva Mariposa to bring a few friends together who happened to be in Tulum at the same time. The guests were busy eating, drinking, and chatting with one another, when I glanced over at the pool and noticed that Zoie, one of our three dogs, had fallen in the pool. I looked closer and saw that she had a potato chip bag over her head. I rescued her by removing the bag and helping her out of the pool, and the comical incident was hardly noticed by the guests, who were engaged in conversation.

Our third dog, Rosie, wandered on our property after Hurricane Wilma and proceeded to spend another two months at the vet recuperating. We brought her home while Juan, the veterinarian, was in Mexico City taking care of business and having a biopsy done on her skin, a problem that did not seem to respond to any known treatment. Since Rosie had no pads on the bottom of her feet, it was painful and difficult for her to walk along the jungle paths that surround our property. I decided that baby socks were the answer! I bought several pair of pink baby socks to match her bright pink skin, and put them on her feet. I still giggle when I think of what the Mayan workers must have thought of the hairless pink dog prancing along in matching socks.

Speaking of pets, several of our workers found a large scorpion and made a leash for it out of a piece of sacate (grass from the palapa roof) and brought it to the pool area where we were entertaining friends. The guests were not pleased with the idea of teasing the scorpion, or perhaps it was the fact that there are actually scorpions in the jungle that upset them.

We welcomed a couple from Minneapolis who also had a B&B that was located near that city. They spent most of their 10 days at La Selva Mariposa writing a book about life at the Habberstad House (their B&B). She mentioned that she was also a stand-up comedian, and one night at dinner did one of her routines about the things that irritate a B&B owner. The funniest part was that the examples that would make most B&B owners roll in the aisles did not pertain to the operation of our little jungle B&B, which she realized mid-way through. In the skit, she mentioned that a pet peeve of B&B owners is when guests arrive early, and low and behold, they had arrived a few hours early themselves at La Selva Mariposa. No importa, we are very flexible and have learned that there is no real time clock in Mexico.

We had gotten used to the music from the loud speakers that the little pueblo school often turns on early in the morning during the week to wake all the families, which also act as an alarm clock for the children. However, when we were awakened at 6 am on a Sunday morning, Lou got on his bicycle and pedaled out to the road to find out what was happening. He discovered that the man who has a little store in the pueblo had slaughtered a pig and wanted to sell the meat pronto as he also had no refrigeration. This was his way of letting the people in his pueblo know something was happening at his shop, and there was some urgency to his message. Lou let the man know what he thought of his untimely advertising scheme and pedaled home. When he got back to La Selva Mariposa, he found out, thanks to all the waterfalls he has built on the property, that none of our sleeping guests heard the disturbance.

When Lou was driving down the Tulum- Coba road today, he saw that there was a fire in an area that was being cleared for a new building project. We have not had rain for months and we would all be in grave danger if a fire got out of hand. Lou went to the police station in Macario Gomez, our little town, to report the fire. The policeman dialed the fire department in Tulum and gave the phone to Lou. The fireman answered and Lou quickly told about the emergency and was put on hold for a few minutes. The fireman returned and Lou proceeded to relay the details of the fire once more. We never did hear a siren in the neighborhood. The next day we saw that the fire was still smoldering.

I still think that the story about the gecko that fell from the palapa roof into a plate of yogurt was the best of all. In fact, I decided to write a children’s book, Molly the Gecko Hunter, about our dogs and their adventures in the Mayan jungle that surrounds La Selva Mariposa. The book is scheduled to be released in fall gecko on plate

When we retired from our former life in Colorado, we vowed that we would try to find joy in all that we do. Sometimes, that is not easy and we often have to remind each other that we have made a choice to be here, and that we are in control of how we choose to spend each day. Photo sacbe to fountain

Mari Pintkowski and her husband Lou operate an elegant jungle B&B in Macario Gomez, 15 minutes from Tulum on the road to Coba. Read more of Mari’s stories on or on their web site .

Mari Pintkowski
Akumal Villas

Cabanas Tulum