Writing you from the last left of our trip and the third installment of our series 'Engagement Honeymoon in Peru', this installment is called 'Mancora Beach Getaway' .
After a stopover in the not-so-pleasant Machala, we continued on back over the border into Peru - and it might sound like sarcasm but I swear its not - I had missed Peru. My time in Ecuador was marred with parasites and I know it was too rushed to make a proper judgement, so I will make an improper judgement: I like Peru much more than Ecuador. Other than being a little pricey, Ecuador came off as very American-wanna-be (tons of 'American Clothing' stores, using US currency, etc) and Peru has an undeniable character that her Ecuadorian brother has lost is his search for the American dream. The way the combi operators scream their destination in a specific sign-song tone that is unique to each location just warms my heart and probably always will.
We continued south to Mancora - a well known beach town and vacation spot for Peruvians in the summer, which made us hesitant but we thought it would be worth checking out during the winter off season.
We got off the combi at a random spot, wandered toward the beach and found outselves knocking on the gates of our next vacation hideaway spot. 'Naif' is one of the most beautiful places we have been and we made it our home for as long as our gracious host would allow us to stay on our much bargained low price (that is, until the holiday five days later when she knew she could get a higher price).
Our room with private bath was on the second floor with a narrow but very real view of the ocean and overlooking the naif area, which included a hammock area, music listening living room corner and an open-air, sand-floor kitchen/dining room. We were one block from the beach and another block from the main concentrations of restaurants, internet cafes and craft vendors. We spent the next four days going to the beach to read, swim, crochet and make sand sculptures (can you guess which one of us did which of the last two?), reading, and searching out the vegi options or making our own food. Mancora is a really cool little town that boasts its share of juggling beach hippies, surfer
dudes and high end tourists but no one has any problems getting along - whether this is due to herbal influences or the calming effects of the ocean, I can't be sure.
The day before we had to leave Naif, we wandered the town for a place to stay aftward - focusing on a place with camping options because they are cheaper and tents are fun. We found an out-of-the-way place that offered us a very good deal for a tent space and access to a bathroom, shower and kitchen. The next day we packed our things, sad to leave Naif, but excited to camp. Our sunburns (did I say sunburn? I meant nice, even tan) made it hard to carry packs so we hired a mototaxi to help more our stuff to the campgrounds. We set up the tent and I wandered over to put our food in the kitchen.... only to discover the kitchen was a room, a table, a nonfunctioning sink and a construction zone. I asked for the kitchen, in case I am in the wrong place and someone tells me 'two hours more, then it will be ready' and then he looked at the
yogurt in my hand and said 'there is no refridgerator'. I put the bags down and went to use the bathroom to find a person building it, he said 'just a minute, soon it will be ready'. Our red flags were up but we had already set up camp and, since it was a holiday weekend, finding last minute accomdations would be hard. We decided to look for another place to reserve for the next night and find ways to entertain outselves indoors away from the sun for a day. We ended up with a reservation at an undecorated but nice place in a very central location. We went back to the tent to pick up some things and a woman we hadn´t seen before comes over to ask us for payment, which would have been 20 Soles (less than $7). I calmly explained (all in spanish) that we had be promised a bathroom and kitchen for that price and there was neither, so we would not pay 20. We had an exchange but it was mostly calm - she was angry mostly at her husband for making this deal and promising what they couldn't offer. We offered her 10
Soles and she didn't like it but she agreed to take it, because I wasn't offering anything more and she knew they were in the wrong. Afterwards we did some shopping, some internetting, lots of eating and ended up in the main square watching some hippies juggle before walking back to our tent for the night.
The next morning we moved our stuff to the new place in between sitting in the sun and surfing... well, trying to surf. I went back to Naif and rented a surfboard they had for a cheap price. I have never actually surfed before but I have boogy boarded like its nobody´s business and I wanted to try it. I took out a longboard, which was really fun because it makes riding the waves a whole lot easier - I actually caught a few, wiped out a few times and spent lots of time floating on the ocean. I hadn´t yet tried standing, I was just getting a feel for catching the waves - when one of the owners of Naif waves me down and tells me that they forgot that the board was already promised to someone, who teaches classes with it.
So they gave me a much smaller board with more fins and promised it was easier. It wasn´t really easier but I gave it a try anyway - standing up would be much harder because the smaller board just sinks unlike the long board. After a while I decided to return the board and come back the next day for the longboard. Cynthia (the owner of Naif) felt bad and didn´t charge me anything for the rental - which was super nice of her.
I should include how we got lunch because it was a great moment. We were sitting on the beach thinking about lunch and a woman walked up to us holding a huge wicker basket, with a sign on it. The signed listed 6 items that she was selling, which included no less than 4 vegetarian options - unheard of in Peru. I had the cheese, tomato and basil sandwich, sara had the spinach and cheese pastry and we both shared chocolate bread. Yes, chocolate bread on the beach - without getting up from the beach. And all three items for 10 soles, which is rougly $3. It was an incredible lunch and yet another reason
why we love Mancora.
The rest of those days blur together - we ended up decided to try to get a market on the way back south to Lima, so we could finish up the rest of our gift lists (don´t get too excited - gifts for ourselves, mostly). So we only stay on night at the new place, every though we liked it, and boarded a noon bus to Piura, a big city 4 hours south of Mancora. We said goodbye the beaches, the restaurants, the craft stands, the juggling hippies, book exchanges, awesome shells and Naif - and started the last journey of our trip.
Visiting the market, which was just outside of Piura and on Saturday mornings, was a bit of logistical challenge because the ride to Lima was 15 hours and we needed to get there with enough time to get to the airport and catch our flight - not to mention leave time for the bus to breakdown, as this happens in Peru. We got lucky and found a Flores bus (the company that broke down last time) that would leave Piura at 3pm on Saturday (giving usenough time to shop) and then
arrive in Lima at 6am (or, if it broke down for 3 hours, at 9am) and we still make the airport by 10am for our 2pm flight. We booked the bus tickets for the next day, found a hostel and went to see what Piura had to offer. Which, incidentally, wasn´t much - we found internet, a chinese food place for dinner and I decided to get a haircut. Don't worry, my 2 month beard is still very much intact but I needed a haircut and I knew it would be a lot more in the US. The haircut was quick, very good - though it makes my beard look even longer - and cheap. How cheap? 7 soles - about $2.
The next day we woke up early, found breakfast and took a taxi to Catacaos to see the craft market that lonely planet calls 'northern peru´s best market' (thats from memory - I actually lost the lonely planet about a week ago, oops). Anyway, either my memory is wrong or lonely planet is - the market was okay but far from the best we've seen and calling it the best of northern peru would certainly be an
insult to the region. We found some crafts but the market was small and most booths had more or less the same thing. After wandering around the same street a few times, we decided to head back to Piura and relax. And this is how I ended up with enough time to write this blog post.
Now we board the overnight bus to Lima, we may try to squeeze in a visit to a craft market in Lima if we can, and then board the flight home. Or, to Panama City, then change planes and then board the flight home - which sounds less dramatic.
Look forward to one or maybe two more blog posts - a themed post that I have written about halfway and the possibility of a guest blogger - if she decided to do write a blog on the theme of her choosing.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!
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