As the most visited country by tourists in South America with over 3 million a year, I was looking forward to seeing what peru had to offer. Its visited so much due to the history of the Inca civilisation that arrived in the 13th century and then destroyed by the Spanish some 100 years later. Most flock to its main attraction the ruins at Machu Picchu.
However I have many many miles to cover before I get there.
It’s incredible how much the landscape can change by driving a few hours. Leaving behind the luscious greens of Ecuador, I was now in the north of Peru, which was just sand, rock, pretty barren with not much life. Except for where the sea hugged the desolate coastline, there was clear signs of life in small little beach towns.
Mancora is well known for its partying, surfers and just damned good weather, I knew I was going to love it here. Getting off the bus, I get into my first tuk tuk in South America and head to my Eco Lodge I had booked as a treat, having been in dorms for a few weeks, I needed this.
The Eco Lodge was a few minutes outside the main drag of the town, in a quiet little residential street. I was greeted by the Oriane the manager and the hotel dog tofu. The Eco Hotel is quite small with only 5 rooms, set around a beautiful garden and pool. The pink the flowers against the turquoise of the water and blue sky was just magical.
The room was perfect, with a large bed and the softest white linen I have tucked myself into the whole trip. The white against the grey stone floor and wood panels walls gave a simple but chic look.
The breakfast was also magnificent, with a big bowl of fresh fruit and yogurt, freshly baked bread that was still warm, fresh coffee made the Italian way on the stove. Followed by some yummy homemade sweet pastries. The best breakfast yet, by far and well worth $40 a night.
I had been told about a couple of great restaurants that I must try, so I walked the short distance to the main street in Mancora, which is just filled either side with restaurants and shops. I reach the famous hostel Loki and opposite is the lovely restaurant Aqua.
I was lucky enough to find a table on the terrace outside, which was now full and bussling atmosphere. One of the highlights of Peru is Ceviche, and here would be my first opportunity to try it.
Ceviche In Coloumbia and Ecuador just isn’t the same, it more like soup.
The menu sounded delicious, there wasn’t one dish I wouldn’t have eaten. I was super excited not to have flattened chicken, with rice and potato, a main staple for lunch and dinner in South America.
The oyster Ceviche and seafood curry was absolutely divine. By far the best meal in South America. It did cost 45- 50sol £10 a dish, which to be honest is cheap for such high standard of food.
After the fantastically delicious dinner I returned to my large comfy bed and watched Netflix for the night. A much needed quiet night to my self.
As I mentioned earlier, Mancora is one of best places on the Pacific coast to surf and kite surf. Neither being something I have ever tried or thought of trying. But when in Peru…. and after all this trip is about trying new things.
Getting into wet suit for the first time, was something of an experience. I ended up more like a mermaid to begin with, until I managed to get both my legs in the correct holes. My instructor on the other hand was more than happy, as it gave him more time to toke on his joint. Thankfully it didn’t hinder his teaching ability.
After practicing how to get on the board on the beach, it was time to attempt to ride some waves. And these waves were not small. After being battered by six, and lots of tiring paddling back out to sea I finally managed to stand up and ride a wave. The sense of achievement and feeling was of pure delight. Again again I shout.
Sadly my hour was up, but I managed one more wave and surfed all the way into the beach. 50sol/£11 for one hour is a bargain. Kite surfing was more and takes the effort of 3 days to learn for $100, which im told is still cheap.
Tonight it was time to try La Sirena d’Juan with my newly found friend Gaby from Lima. Gaby is a vegan, yoga-Pilates teacher and a complete nutter and I loved hanging out with her. Sirenna is rated as the best restaurant in Northern Peru, and it did not disappoint, the Nikkei Tuna Ceviche and grilled fish was devine and the service was impeccable. I could have been in a top restaurant in London.
After two quiet nights, I decided to see what all the fuss is about and booked in to the Loki hostel for 2 nights. I had been warned about the constant partying till all hours, and it did not disappoint. With drinking games during the day and themed nights every night. I managed to get a large penis painted on my back with UV paint.
I only went an won a third night free… the guys seemed to find it funny.
The hostel it self is pretty impressive and more like the whitewashed apartments and pool you find in Spain. The rooms were pretty big, although had little defence against the loud music. However hot Ben my fellow dormie more than made up for it.
One of the highlights of travelling is meeting other travellers, all be it they tend to always be younger than me, either on a gap year or just finished school. Few are like me on a career break. I certainly haven’t found travelling to be a lonely experience, quite the opposite. Travelling alone forces you to chat to people and you know me, I never shy away from getting involved.
I have talked about bumping into the same people along the way before and how great it is. While sat by the pool, its only Toby who I met in Santa Marta and last saw in Minca Colombia that walks up to me. He is with a couple Ben and Jess who I first met in my second week in Medellín when paragliding. They happened to be staying at the same hostel. Was good to catch up and have some beers.
Bumping into the same people gives a new place a sense of familiarity. Like on my first day in Mancora walking along the beach I bumped into the two Germans I met in Baños. The ones with the flat tyre and their tops off. I invited them to party a Loki that evening.
Staying a Loki was a lot of fun, and I met so many lovely people that were staying or working their as Volunteers. Like Yaniv the Israeli or Erik and Malte from Sweden. The Threeamigos Becky, Tom and Dave from Nottingham travelling together were all so much fun and great people to spend time with.
Staying at Loki isn’t for everyone, and if a party hostel isn’t for you, then I recommend you stay somewhere like The Point and take advantage of the Loki facilities by being a day guest.
After three heavy nights of partying, where one night didn’t I get back until 3pm it was time to leave Mancora and make my way towards Lima via Huanchaco. A ten hour bus journey South.
There were a few of us leaving at the same time, and all heading the same way. While some opted for the cheaper bus at 65sol/£15. I opted for the more luxury option on Cruz del Sol at 95sol/£22. I had seat number four, right at the front, right side and slept so well. Maybe it was the zop and not the seat 😂
The same cant be said for the guys that got the cheaper bus. It took them 14 hours, due to it breaking down for three hours in the middle of nowhere, the toilet not working and producing an odour similar to that of the guys sat near them. Sometimes it makes sense to pay the extra £5 for some luxury… even when on a budget.
The bus arrives in Trujillo, the third biggest city in Peru and not terribly attractive, so most gringos head thirty minutes in a taxi to the Huanchaco on the coast. Again another fantastic place for surfing.
I arrived at the Frogs Chillhouse hostel and find Keno and Esteban the Germans making breakfast. Now this wasn’t a coincidence this time. We had agreed we would meet here and spend a few days.
The hostel is perfect for budget travellers, it was clean, two great roof terraces with a fantastic view of the sea and the daily sunset. The fully equipped kitchen was good for cooking all meals and saving some money.
Which after Mancora I desperately needed to do…
Huanchaco’s highlights are the surf and its pier, and it only being a fifteen minute bus journey from Chan Chan. An archeological site over 20skm with ten palaces and temples that date back to pre Inca times of the Chimú civilisation and the largest city in the Americas 600 years ago.
First found in 1960, the city of Chan Chan has been slowly rediscovered and restored. With the largest of the ten palaces being excavated to showcase how the Chimú people would have lived 600 years ago.
Walking around and listing to our guide – the cutest old Peruvian lady you just wanted to put in your bag and take home she was so small – I was fascinated at what I was told. How they worshipped the moon and the sea, and understood the connection between the moon and tides. Sadly the Chimú civilaization was completely destroyed by the Incas as the Inca’s were by the Spanish 200 years later.
The entry was only 30sol/£6 and the guide was an extra 50so/£11 for a group of five. Well worth the extra money. The entry ticket also gains you entrance to the sun, moon and dragon temples a short taxi or bus ride away. Sadly I didn’t have time to visit them, but heard from Ana and Lana it was worth it.
It was time again to think about making the rest of the nine hour journey to Lima. Keno and Esteban were heading the same way but via Huaraz. A trip I had to decline, as I cant do everything – as much as I would like to. We would see each other in Lima.