Published: June 19th 2012June 19th 2012 Day 247 Thursday 14th June
Goodbye Ecuador and the trusty cleaning lady who was right.
We have had such a nice time in Cuenca that we decided to stick around for another day. After breakfast we headed down town in search of a hairdresser or barber that could hack away at my thick growth. Found a tiny hairdresser down a back street where two women at once attacked my head. Traudy if you are reading this you can appreciate how after about 8 weeks how bad my hair had got and why you would need two women to cut it. There wasn’t a lot of finesse in their technique or any chit chat and they were finished in under 5 minutes, after having my head just about pulled from my neck. Would have much preferred Traudy’s professional touch but what do you expect when it only cost 2 dollars for my speedy cut.
After my haircut we walked down to the other end of town to a book exchange where we changed our book on Keith Richards for a book on the Incas. With the two important job of the day done we had another good look around town through the crafts store. At lunchtime we stopped at a
café and had a sandwich and possibly the best chocolate milk shake we have ever had. All morning we had copped a few light showers, but during lunch a more heavier rain started so when we had finished we wandered back to our room.
Late in the afternoon after the rain had stopped we headed downtown and had a couple of beers at a small café on the plaza and then picked up a small bag of sweets from one of the stalls that had been teasing us with their treats all week. We ended up having dinner at the restaurant attached to our hotel. As we may have said before we don’t tend to eat where we sleep but the restaurant looked pretty good and the place was always packed and so decided for our last night to give it a go. The meal ended up being really great and it was a nice way to finish our time in Cuenca. After our feed we retreated to our room and packed our bags in preparation for moving on tomorrow. Day 248 Friday 15th June
Up at 5.45 to get ourselves ready and was down
in the foyer at 6.20 waiting for our taxi. At the terminal we had to wait for 30 minutes for our bus that at least gave us the chance to pick up a bite to eat for breakfast, a fried cheese empanada, which was about the best thing we could find.
Our bus was of the usual Ecuadorian standard, which means it was a bit on the lower end of the bus spectrum. So far on our travels Ecuadorian buses have been the worst so far but we haven’t been to Bolivia yet. The Ecuadorian buses never have air conditioning (well at least we never got it) but the windows open, which is sometimes better except when the bus is going at 200km/hr. We used Pullman Sucre for this trip and as per usual the bus stopped repeatedly to pick up people or drop them off, but at least today everyone got a seat and we didn’t have them standing down the aisle.
The trip started by going up and down lush green mountains followed by a long steep descent down a dry dusty mountain to a river which flowed into a fairly flat coastal region filled with
Shelley contemplating life
endless banana plantations. At 12.15 after 5 hours of driving we were finally dropped off at the Ecuadorian Immigration office. We were kicked off the bus with our luggage and the conductor told us (in Spanish) for us to wait here for the next bus after we got our passports stamped, and then they took off. No dramas getting our passports stamped and then had to wait for our next bus which was with CIFA. We waited with an Argentinian woman who could speak to the locals to find out when or if the next bus was going to arrive. Everyone she spoke to seemed to have a different opinion including the police and officials who worked there but the one we trusted was the cleaning woman who was adamant that we should just wait and the bus would arrive. Sure enough after waiting about 45 minutes the bus turned up. When I went to put our bags in the luggage compartment in the belly of the bus I was startled to find a large live chicken in a string bag, a real “what the???” moment. Had trouble getting both our backpacks stored as I didn’t want to squash or
injure the chicken, which seemed rather distressed to be stuck in the hot belly of a bus.
We had expected the CIFA bus to be a step up in quality but sadly it was yet another rough nut bus, but the conductor thankfully gave us all the immigration forms to fill out for the Peruvian side. The bus had arrived near full and a lot of the passengers disembarked to get there exit stamps so we had to wait about 15 minutes before we got underway again. Strangely the Ecuadorian Immigration office is located a couple of kilometres out of the Ecuadorian border town of Huaquillas. This town sits right on the border where a bridge crosses over to the Peruvian town of Agua Verdes. Both towns merge into one and people freely cross between the two towns without any security checks. The area around the bridge is packed with stalls selling everything from sink plugs to pigs, and looks like a nightmare to cross on foot. The Peruvian immigration office is on the southern fringe of Agua Verdes and a big sign announces that this is the end of the free transit area, meaning going past this point
Our Hotel view
without an entry stamp would be a serious problem.
The bus stopped here so everyone could get stamped in and the conductor came out to make sure everyone got through. We had expected a full on interrogation at this crossing and a full blown hassle but it couldn’t be further from the truth. We hadn’t actually fully completed the forms as a couple of questions were not clear cut for our situation, but the guy didn’t bother looking at it and in fact the customs form regarding what we were bringing/ not bringing into the country wasn’t even collected. Everyone was back on the bus and underway within 30 minutes.
The terrain on the Peruvian side quickly went from lowland farms and banana plantations to scrubby desert. The towns we passed through were small and dusty and always had an area on the fringes that looked like shanty towns, filled with flimsy small shacks. Around 4pm after driving for two hour we arrived at yet another border control. The bus had to line up for 30 minutes behind several other buses before we got our turn at being inspected. While security guys just peered into the luggage storage
(I didn’t see a single bag being removed or inspected), all us passengers had to disembark and parade through an office. Everyone had to have their hand luggage inspected, but not thoroughly pulled apart, before we were back on the bus and underway again. The most time was taken up by people buying food at the adjoining café, and the cynic in me wondered if this was the real reason for our stop. 30 minutes past this point and we were at our destination town of Mancora.
Mancora used to be a sleepy fishing village on the Northern coast of Peru but these days it is filled with sun loving tourists drawn to its shores by sun and surf. We had looked at staying at one of the many Hostels that line the beach but all were generally described as “party hostels” and we were feeling a bit partied out and opted for a quieter place about a kilometre out of town. Of course being a tourist town we were quickly set upon by touts as soon as we got off the bus, all of them wanting to drag us off to their hotels. Had to push through a
Friends hanging out - pelican with a blue footed boobie
scrum of them to get our bags off and discovered that the chook had gone and our bags were dripping wet and stank and we soon realised that what they had been sitting in was chicken piss. Probably the biggest annoyance with travelling by bus in South America is how backpacks are treated. We have noticed how hard suitcases are always carefully stored and placed in the better compartments whilst our backpacks and others are always just thrown on board or squashed into the tinniest of spaces. On this trip like others the bags were put at the rear of the bus and came out wet and covered in dust. We were both so angry at our piss soaked bags but before we could complain or say anything the conductor ran for his life, jumped back on the bus and was gone.
We managed to spot a taxi driver who wasn’t interested in taking us to his hotel and negotiated a ride for 5 Sol ($2), could have probably got it cheaper but we were happy to pay it. We are staying at the Hotelier Arte y Cocina which is a small 3 storey hotel, with its own pool
Fishing boats being repaired
right on the beach. Our room is on the second floor and has a view right across the Pacific Ocean. The place is costing us a bit more than what we wanted to pay but we figured we don’t get many opportunities to have a place on a beach in South America and thought we should grab the chance. The hotel has its own restaurant and decided for tonight we would stay and have a feed here. Although expensive it was a good choice as the food is sensational. Got to meet the owner and his nephew who are nice and the staff are all friendly and helpful, so all round it appears to be a good choice. The only downside was that there was a power outage on our arrival and took over two hours to kick back in, but that is just a general problem of this whole area. Day 249 Saturday 16th June
There is nothing better than going to sleep and waking to the sound of the ocean. The breakfast on the terrace overlooking the beach was small, simple and not really up to the standards of what we are paying but
it was okay. After our feed we decided to walk south along the beach and take in the area. It was a great walk and it felt good to be paddling along the edge of the surf. The only bad point of our walk was about a kilometre from our hotel when we came across the bodies of two large sea lions. Back in early April over 3000 dead dolphins washed ashore in this region, followed by 1200 pelicans a couple of week later. No clear explanation has been given to these mass deaths but some attribute the dolphin deaths to seismic charges being done off the coast by oil companies in search of new oil fields. Although they do confess to setting off large charges they maintain that they could not kill such large numbers of dolphins. I believe the dolphins may have died from the seismic charges, but that wouldn’t have killed the pelicans. Thought maybe fisherman are killing off what they see as competition to their trade, but it would be highly difficult to kill such large numbers. Seeing the dead sea lions made us wonder if the deaths are continuing, but with the large number of
The restaurants on the main beach
fishing boats in this area these two seals may have well been killed in nets.
Because it was getting towards high tide it became increasingly difficult getting around some of the rocky points and so after walking for 90 minutes we headed back to the hotel. Got back there and then decided to head north and onto the town of Mancora. It took about 40 minutes to get us to the centre of town. The main beach was packed with swimmers, surfers, kite surfers and a jet ski that was dangerously tearing along the shore amongst all the others. Had a good walk around town checking out all the shops as well as getting some cash out before stopping at a restaurant for lunch. The price of food in town really wasn’t that much cheaper than where we are staying so that at least made us feel better about what we are paying.
After our feed we walked back up the beach to our hotel and spent the afternoon paddling in the hotel pool. For dinner we stayed at the hotel restaurant and had a great Tuna dish whilst watching the sunset over the Pacific…it’s a tough life.
Well everything was going well till late at night when Shelley got a good dose of the trots and vomiting, we are not sure what caused it, but it had her running to the toilet all night. Then in the middle of the night the water was turned off which made the situation a lot worse and disgusting. Day 250 Sunday 17th June
Poor Shelley was a little worse for wear in the morning and so we took it easy for the day, which really isn’t a hard thing to do in this corner of the world. With our own balcony with hammock overlooking the sea, this is a nice place to chill. The only downside was of course that Shelley wasn’t feeling too good and we are annoyed that once again one of us has come down with a bug. Can’t believe we have been travelling for 8 months without much drama and now we have been both hit with a nasty bug in within a couple of weeks of each other…I guess we were due.
Decided to stay an extra day and when I spoke to Javier the owner he said he would give us an extra night for half price so we may stay for an extra 2 nights. Shelley was feeling a bit better by dinner and could eat again so things are looking up. Day 251 Monday 18th June
Shelley was feeling heaps better today so after breakfast we headed down the beach and into town again. Besides just being a lovely walk and wanting to have a look around the place we needed to get cash out. Javier promised us a further good discount if we paid cash and we soon realised why because there was no cash to be got in Mancora. There are 6 ATM’s in town, 1 will not accept foreign cards and the remainder were out of cash. We just wandered from one to the other with all the other tourists in town trying fruitlessly to get cash, and in a final frustrating effort lined up in the town’s only bank to be told I couldn’t make a withdrawal over the counter, aaarrrrggghhhh. We were so lucky that we had withdrawn money two days ago otherwise we would really be up the creek without a paddle.
Mancora town isn’t exactly the nicest place to be staying, the shops aren’t very exciting and the restaurants are as dodgy as they come, in fact we would prefer eating off a street vendor in India. To cap off the entire picture, there are areas in this town that are on the nose, and it is a bad blend of several things, a sewerage system that is breaking down, it being a fishing village and finally that it is a messy party town for young international travellers……get the picture/smell. We have copped worse in India, but some corners of this town are really rank. Sort of get the feeling that the rampant expansion of the resorts here are having a huge impact on the infrastructure of the town and it really isn’t copping at all.
After having a small bite to eat at a beachside restaurant that seemed a bit better than most we got a rickshaw back to the hotel which was a great choice, being outside of town. The staff here are so friendly and helpful, the room is beautiful as is the outlook and it will be really hard to leave.
I (Shelley) am fighting fit again and we had a nice meal at the hotel restaurant of course overlooking the water.