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Published: September 22nd 2010
And now I have finally arrived in Peru, as always, completely behind schedule. My last weeks in Ecuador were decadent, a little lonely and fascinating. After a couple of days lazing in Canoa, I headed south to Puerto Lopez, and it was on this bus ride that I became convinced that the men on the coast are very very different from the men in the mountains. On this one short ride, I was propositioned twice. Once by a sweaty eighteen year old who asked outright if i would kiss him on the lips! After a firm refusal a second boy replaced the first, and from nowhere produced a long stemmed pink rose for me. It was a little overwhelming. The men in the town as well are very forward and spend most of their days leering, whistling or hissing (the latter two i firmly refuse to acknowledge) at you from the side of the road, their shops, the beach or the back of motorbikes. It never felt threatening, but was a little annoying after a while.
But Puerta Lopez itself was a lovely little beach town with a wide practically empty beach. Here I did a day tour out to see las ballenas, the whales! At this time it's whale season and we caught a boat accross the undulating waters in search of them. Trying to ignore an overwhelming nausea (perhaps i am not meant for a life at sea) i concentrated on trying to spot them. After a little while I was convinced i had paid $20 for nothing, when suddenly a mummy and baby whale arched lazily out of the foaming water! They spent about the next 40 minutes swimming and playing around our boat, sometimes coming with about 5 metres of us. They were elegant and regal and absolutely stunning. After they finally said goodbye, we bravely leapt into the water with snorkels and flapped around for awhile looking at lots of colourful little fish.
At this point I was a little sick of the touristy towns and went in search for somewhere a little more isolated. I knew I had found it as the bus driver looked at me like I was crazy when I asked to go to Las Tunas. But there he dropped me, and with curious chickens and gobsmacked locals watching me go by I wandered through the rain trying to find somewhere to stay. The first night I stayed in the only hostel in the town, a little pokey dive in the community halls, but with a big verandah looking right out onto the surging ocean. There was only one place open for dinner and they looked very very surprised when I emerged out of the darkness! But they turned on the music for me and gave me a giant feast of fish in peanut sauce. That night the waves were so close that their booming and rolling kept me awake!
The next day I stumbled across a little isolated tropical paradise about 10 mins walk away from town. It had little wooden cabañas, perched in a jungly rambling garden, with a swimming pool, hammocks and big couches in front of cable tv. Although it was completely out of my budget I had been feeling a little isolated in that tiny dark room so decided to treat myself! The beds were big and the pillows were soft and there was one other person there who spoke English. Conversation!
The two days I stayed in Las Tunas were slow, delightful and amazing. the beach is long and misty and completely deserted. For all the time i spent on the beach I saw about 5 locals all up, who weren't really interested in me or the beach! I couldn't believe that no-one had discovered this isolated paradise; where the champagne foam of the ocean clinks over the jade and amber coloured pebbles on the beach, where your ONLY company is a friendly dog and where the waves toss you to and fro like a play thing. It wasn't warm on the beach, but the water was the perfect balance between warm and refreshing.
The next stop was in Montañita, somewhat of a change from Las Tunas. It is busy and noisy and the streets are lined with people selling ceviche or barefoot Argentinian bohemians playing drums and selling jewelry. This beach is crowded with surfers and vendors and restaurants. Because it was the weekend I couldn't find a good hostel, after turning down a man who said if I shared his bed it was free (!), i found a tiny little cave, that smelt decidedly like a sewer and didn't have a window, but had a hole smashed out of the concrete. That night I befriended a local name Floyd and spoke Spanish the entire night! A great local band played a reggae and blues set in a bar with sand for floor and we danced until late. The next night, feeling a little lonely and needy for conversation, an Ecuadorian woman on holidays befriended me and, horrified that I was on my own, insisted that I join her and her two girlfriends for dinner and dancing! They too couldn't speak English, but with a few beers it seemed ridiculously easy to communicate! It was alot of fun and their generosity and friendliness rejuvenated me. The days were spent wandering the markets, reading my book on the beach and indulging in things like carrot cake and chai tea!
From Montañita it was to Guayaquil to meet my friend Adam who I would cross into Peru with! Guayquil is big, hot, noisy and overwhelming. After a long bus ride I found it all too much and spent the night in my room eating Chifa (south american chinese food) and watching cable tv. The city has some hidden charms though, mostly found in the giant beautiful parks plonked right among the traffic and smog. One park is inhabited by over 100 iguanas that wander lazily on the paths and sleep in the tree branches. A strange sight to see in such a bustling city. Adam joined me soon and we took a night bus to Peru, having been told that at night the border crossing is much easier as they just want to get rid of you and go back to sleep.
Everything went off without a hitch, the only scary part being on the Ecuadorian side when a giant goose that had inexplicably taken up residence outside the immigration office came running right for me hooting and poking its neck out! On the Peruvian side a random man grabbed our forms off us, read them and then demanded US$1 each for the service. We handed it over without a word.
We arrived in Mancora at 2:30am and flopped into the first cheap hostel we could find. This one had gaudy bright pink rooms with a giant Mona Lisa print. We stayed here for longer than we intended because we kept sleeping through the checkout time! But eventually we moved across the road to PK's hostel which is only 15 sols and is literally on the beach. Now I fall asleep and wake up every day to the sound of the waves lapping the shore. We walk down one little ladder and we are on the sand. Our days are spent eating juicy oranges and reading our books in the sun and going for dips in the cold but beautiful water. There is a lovely vibe, lots of seafood and lots of friendly locals here. One day a huge family having lunch in the same restaurant as us started dancing to some music and then suddenly had us both up dancing with them and shouting 'Viva Inglaterra' (where Adam's from) and laughing hysterically. Then they insisted on taking photos with us with every single family member on every available camera or phone. We couldn't stop grinning and laughing. There is a great party scene here, they love dancing, laughing and having long chats, as do I. Tonight we leave this lovely warm, delightful place with a little hesitation; this is probably the last warm place I'm going to be until I come home!
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