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Published: April 28th 2011
Arriving off the bus in Machala it felt like a blowtorch to the lungs, the heat is overwhelming and there is not even a hint of a breeze, within minutes our clothes were drenched, we needed a hostel now! We decided to go back to the place we had been last time The hotel Simon Boliviar knowing it had kick ass AC, Checked in and gratefully dropped our bags.
It was still early so we decided to go for a wander, like any large town with little rain, few amenities and little in the way of public services the results are a dirty dangerous unkempt hovel of a place, We cautiously walked the pavements looking down instead of around us as the pavements were full of deep uncovered craters, now one sees this in lots of towns in Ecuador but man they are every few feet in Machala.
We got to the plaza which is very modern, surrounded mostly by banks and pharmacies, unlike most town squares here which are ornate and flanked by beautiful colonial building and churches, Machalas plaza had nothing of interest unless you're craving a KFC. Feeling an overwhelming urge to leave, we booked our tickets for
the border for early the next morning.
The border between Huacquillas and Tumbes (Ecuador-Peru) has an undesirable reputation of being the most dangerous border in the world, We have crossed it 4 times now and have never encountered a problem, Yes there are touts and hustlers and general ner-do-wells milling around pulling on your sleeves and generally trying to get your attention, Ignore them if you can, get your stamps and go on your way. At this point I must say we have deliberately avoided taking night buses across this border.
Next stop Mancora, it was like going home to see family, We booked into Kokopelli for the first night and met the crew we had partied with in Cuenca , Its a great place to meet people and has a lively bar to let your hair down in, We had already booked another place the following day called Casa Blanca so we moved the next morning. Catching up with old friends was great, Green eggs and ham is still serving the best breakfast in town and Jeff and Kika the owners as usual treated us like lords, spoiling us and making us feel like we had arrived
home. Barbara and Magda old friends from last year were also in town and the long rambling catchup was great, When you are on the road reuniting with old friends is all the more sweet.
Magda has a school in Mancora which educates children which would otherwise not receive one so we decided a sports day was in order. We showed up with the intention of playing simple games, sack races/egg and spoon, 3 legged races and relays, We had 40 kids and chaos ensued, I laughed so much as the kids tried to get a handle on these games but it was a great day and the teachers were grateful that we sent dirty but tired kids back to class.
Barbara was leaving soon so the whole crew went to her little paradise hideaway for a last lunch and of course a few cold beers, Santa Semana was that weekend so we decided to get out before the hoards of young revellers arrived, we said our good byes and headed to Chiclayo.
This city is 6 hours south of Mancora, A clean modern city we booked not a hostel called 3 amigos, it was lovely, the staff excellent
but I saw very little but the inside of my room as I came down with one of Latin Americas infamous bugs, I was confined to bed for 2 days. Chiclayo is famed for its ruins but mostly for the Museum in Sipan which houses an incredible cache of gold artifacts, I didn't make it but John took the 10 hour tour around the various sights which is recommended as the sites are as far as 40 kms away from the city, He used Moche tours and couldn't say anything but good things about them. Still ill, the following day he continued his exploring.
By day 3 the walls were closing in and I needed to get out for a little walk, It was Easter Sunday and the Plaza was crowded but I decided to check out the church, I didn't stay long as I received glares from various people, It was as I emerged from the church that I noticed a sign forbidding short skirts (mine wasn't that short, I saw shorter attire inside) The church dominates the square and looks beautiful from the outside but inside it is modern and I saw nothing of particular interest but at
least I had entered a church on Easter Sunday all be it in inappropriate choice of dress.
We had heard that the market had a witches market so we ventured that way, after all Christians and pagan religions have been stealing bits and pieces of each others faiths for centuries, A massive market bustling with pushy venders, live animals (though I doubt for long) we found the corner where the magic is said to happen, Cramped little stalls display all sorts of talismans many of which I had no clue as to what they were. Potions, snake skins, animal fetuses of unknown specie, voodoo dolls, skins, powders, concoctions, the smells were intoxicating and everywhere San Pedro, A cactus used in sacred ceremonies which can cause hallucinogenic effects but is also said to cure people of additions and evil possessions, we declined. The colours were amazing but unfortunately my camera has died a death and I miss it so.
Early the next morning we took another bus the 3 hours to Trujillo and a taxista to Haunchaco when we returned to the hostel we had stayed before, We were greeted like returning family by the owners and settled in.
The weather is glorious and man its good to be back.
Bus Vilcabamba to Machala $7 each
Machala to Mancora $22 (Cifa have a direct bus which wait for you as you get your stamps at immigration)
Hotel bolivar Machala $27 for a double (nothing fancy but great AC clean and secure)
Kokopelli backpackers dorm bed $12 (Dorm bed with a lockbox, and a simple breakfast)
Casa Blanca hostel Mancora $20 double with WC (great wifi, airy rooms and great staff)
El Dorado bus from Mancora to Chiclayo $13
Hostel amigos $20 double with WC (great little spot, very friendly staff, spotlessly clean and very secure)
1st class bus from Mancora to Trujillo $7.50
Hostel Oceano Haunchaco $10 for double with WC (best of the lot, spotless, cable tv, constant hot water, great owners, clean sheets towels and room cleaned daily and a beach view)
The name of this non profit school is called Robin hood Mancora and if you wish to donate to this very worthy cause the website is www.robinhoodproject.org.co.uk
We have met 3 people who have been shafted by dodgy taxi drivers in Arequipa/Trujillo and Chiclayo, We have also heard of numerous
other people who have had the same scary experience, basically you get into the taxi, they get you on a quiet street pull a gun and ask you to leave of course minus your belonging, other ways of doing it are that the driver will meet friends who will jump in the taxi with you, take you and your belongings to a secluded place, steal your things then to add insult to injury they will chauffeur you around ATM machines to clean out your account, We now call someone from our bus station, we ask the driver for his license, take the number of his taxi and registration plate and relate this info to our friend along with an ETA on the phone, If you don't have a phone it may be an idea to leave his details with a bus station guard or employee making sure the driver knows you are doing this. It's not full proof but it may make him think twice if his intentions were to rob you in the first place. Sorry to end on a sour note but this is happening and must be frightening as well as putting paid to your hard earned
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