Chapter 20: Sunny Mancora
Friday, July 9
I slept very lightly all the way to Piura as the roaring sound of a middle aged woman snoring in the seat behind me kept going for the entire journey. In Piura, the Eppo bus station was directly across the road from Ittsa. I only waited half an hour for the first bus of the day at 6.30. The door which separated the driver from his passengers kept swinging open. To be honest it was nicer to see the road ahead rather than the blocked off view on some of the buses in Peru. But it was obviously distracting the driver. He continually slammed it shut with his right elbow only for it to open again when the bus ran over a pothole or came to a sudden stop. It was a really hot, sunny morning. I took a moto taxi to the Point Hostel, situated on the far outskirts of little Mancora. The receptionist had room for me in a six-bed dormitory. A tag was attached to my left wrist. I thought of Lauren Flores in Cusco recounting her Mancora experience. She was held at knife point in broad daylight on the beach and had all her expensive camera equipment robbed. Having a wrist tag left me feeling a little bit vulnerable if I were to venture out anywhere. I first walked back into Mancora and enjoyed a breakfast in a cool little cafe. I drank my first fresh coffee for a month. The ham and cheese sandwich and vanilla cake were my first refreshments since the previous afternoon. Back at the Point I was quickly appreciating its pleasant location next to a stunning white sand beach. The sun was out but a hot, dusty wind kept picking up. There was a nice crowd in the hostel with laid back, more mature characters enjoying their cool beers and smokes. It wasn’t so pretentious. The guests seemed cool, relaxed and friendly. The upward inflection-free Point was rather expensive but one had to pay for its crown jewels, a fine swimming pool and awesome location. I met a young lady who was staying in the same dormitory. Her name was Kate and she came from Bristol. We swapped books. She gave me one by the Irish comedian Dara O’Briain called Tickling the English. I was feeling shattered by nightfall but I’d put my name down for an evening meal. A loud ‘dinner is served’ call came at 9.30. We were served beef saltado. I sat next to a nice Irish girl from Dublin called Alma. Everyone drifted off to do their own thing as the night progressed. A chilled out jazz sound filtered out from the bar late on and I fell into a deep sleep.
Saturday, July 10
My budgetary constraints and health concerns held me back from any party mood at the Point. However, we were free to choose and that’s another thing I liked about the place. It was a lovely morning. I checked out the beach cabins and then set off for a long three hour walk up the beach. The north part was very secluded but there was lots to see. Sand crabs scuttled in and out of their holes. Wisps of white cloud took the sting out of the sun as pelicans and seagulls dived into the warm sea. Apart from the sound of the choppy waves it was so quiet and it gave me time to reflect. However, ‘privado’ signs and the increasing solitude soon told me it was time to return to civilisation. My walk back brought me down to the stretch in front of Mancora. The main part of the beach was really packed with people. There were lots of sensory scenes. The drooping yellow sun on the horizon created an almost hushed silence. Everybody on the beach looked to the west as our bright star faded away for another day. I was enjoying Tickling the English, a good, intelligent laugh. My room was okay. The lockers were flimsy but the beds were big. My top one had enough room on it to lean my guitar against the wall. I noticed some basic tuition notes and a nice looking Spanish guitar on the far bottom bed. There was another player in the room. He was a guy from London. It would have been nice to speak to him but he was rarely seen about the place. When he did return later in the evening he also didn’t appear to be feeling very well. My impending exit from Peru prompted me to read up on Quito, Ecuador for a good hour before a shower and bedtime.
Sunday, July 11
One revelled in the anonymity and isolation, then craved for company or mixed both when the feeling was right. My sleeping pattern was alternating between long, restful nights and restless ones. The Saturday night music stopped at 2.30am. There was an enjoyable and positive addiction to noise in this great hostel to be honest and the people were fine. There was a big difference to Cusco. I think the surfer crowd made it a more laid back experience in Mancora. It was an easy place to mingle. However, with many weeks and long journeys ahead, I preferred to remain quite sensible. After breakfast I walked along the beach but a local guy approached and told me to turn back for my own safety. He smiled and explained the dangers for lone foreigners walking along the stretch of beach I’d been on the previous day. So, I went down to the main area in front of Mancora again. It was a beautiful morning as I reached the little harbour. A horse rider stopped to talk and gestured with his hands to his back and neck. He spotted my sun cream so I passed the tube up to him. The strong sunshine necessitated effective protection. I took lunch in the little Tumi Restaurant where a big television stood on the high counter. The World Cup Final was about to begin. More guests flocked in to cheer on the Spanish. The match turned into a very disappointing one. Most of the Dutch eleven received yellow cards for an annoying display of foul play and petulance. The fragmented match only improved when Iniesta strode into the penalty area to stroke in the winning goal. I was glad to see Spain clinch the World Cup. I rang Mam for a nice little chat. Back on the beach, with a bottle of water and a mid afternoon ice cream, I chatted with a lad from Southern Peru who was excited to be travelling up to Cartagena on Colombia’s north coast to see his long term girlfriend. There was a friendly atmosphere of Sunday smiles and laughter on the extremely civilised Mancora beach. Along the short coastline from Mancora up to The Point there were many exclusive looking holiday chalets to admire. As the high, almost equatorial, sun sank slowly in the western sky, everybody, including the hostel sloths, descended onto the beach to enjoy another golden glow of warmth! The hostel music clicked up a notch for another evening and I tucked into more of Dara O’Briain’s enjoyable book. I then practiced Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant before going to sleep.
Monday, July 12
The noise and blaring music banged on until nearly 4am. A lively young woman implored the rest of her fellow party animals to let go “as it’s our last night here, let’s be even louder!” One couldn’t help but laugh and be left resigned to another bedtime of barely any sleep. I found The Point to be rapturous but also unpretentious. My room-mate from Lima wasn’t happy though when he surfaced a few hours later. He was working at the hostel and the early morning noise made him extremely angry. He was determined to tackle the issue with the hostel managers, a group of English lads. Before then he went off for a spell of sea fishing. I later saw him on the beach casting away his line and lingering temper into the lively sea as the cormorants circled overhead. I reflected that there were party people who wanted more and more and those others who just wanted to recline. It only became a fractious affair if there wasn’t any compromise. My 40 litre backpack was already bursting at the seams. My large white towel, bought in Mendoza, just couldn’t be fitted in any longer so the Florida girl working at the hostel reception desk kindly let me exchange it for a smaller one. While packing up I chatted away with Kate, remarking about her seemingly good grasp of Spanish. Kate had lived in Spain for 15 years and was a really fluent speaker. I took some pictures of the lovely looking swimming pool and then walked for a while along the beach, drinking lots of water as the blistering sun beat down on another increasingly hot day. My skin was reddening but my Villeneuve Bloqueador ran out. There were the usual fine looking bodies on the beach but also too many plastic and broken glass bottles. I enjoyed a fruit juice at the Lonely Planet-recommended Jugeria Mi Janett, then returned to the hostel to say farewell and collect my bag and guitar. I promised to tell my friends about the place. There were many who would fall in love with its location, a little haven, perhaps a paradise, and, despite the heat and latitude, there wasn’t much of a problem with mosquitoes which can create havoc just a few dozen miles inland or up the coast in Tumbes. With my bags and guitar, I squeezed into the back-seat of a moto and quickly arrived at the bus booking office where an Australian lad called Simon stood stuck to the spot with his huge surfboard. He suddenly lost his temper with the receptionist who sorted out the transport tickets for Cifa, a bus company with direct routes into Ecuador. I’d bought an overnight ticket to Guayaquil and had hours to spare. So, I left my luggage in the office to spend an afternoon and evening around Mancora. Before heading off I stayed for a while with Simon to help him calm down and compose himself. Simon’s lack of Spanish seemed to work against him. His bus was already three hours late though. While the receptionist nonchalantly chatted away on the phone, Simon exploded into a vitriol of homophobic invective. The rather camp and friendly fellow had really wound him up. I soon gathered an explanation that the due bus had been held up at the notorious Aguas Verdes border crossing, where stops and checks took an age. On either side there were guards who tried their luck for a few dollars more despite the crossing being free of charge. The bus arrived 20 minutes later and a visibly relieved Simon retrieved his surfboard without having to resort to bashing it over the receptionist’s bonce. A rather less dramatic sunset signalled my final farewell to Mancora’s beach where the town dogs rested and panted away for another evening’s cool air. After a roast chicken tea I spent a fair bit of time at an internet cafe. The Cifa bus, due to arrive at 11pm, finally appeared at 12.30am. The motionless and unresponsive receptionist remained at his desk to subdue any concerned and tired looking passengers sitting around in his little office. The bus eventually crawled out of Mancora’s tight little dusty streets which were still swarming with motos. We were travelling up to Tumbes. I was sat at the front with some Dutch lads, including Ezra, who recounted his time in Mancora, telling me about being held up at gunpoint on one of the back streets. Despite its idyllic location and endless sunshine, Mancora has a threatening undercurrent of danger.