Oliver had a date with a Peruvian woman, and I had a date with steak. Máncora is only an hour away and makes for a nice weekend getaway. Yet, the trip over can take a lot more - that’s because we planned to take the public minivans to save money. Let me explain, in rural Peru, this is the cheapest way to travel, but there are no timetables. It costs 10-12 soles one way (NZ$5.40), which is the same price as a local’s lunch menu. Is it safe? Yes, and because of the language barrier, most people just leave us alone. Just smile, and if you don’t understand say politely,
“No hablo español.”
Are there alternative transport options? Definitely, but you will pay a lot more - like the taxi driver that wanted 80 soles ($36). I haven’t been on the buses, but I do know they get stopped for longer at the “checkpoint” between Zorritos and Máncora. The minivans get stopped too, though because they have less luggage, generally they don’t stop for long? What are they looking for? Anything illegal I guess, these buses often cross the borders so maybe it’s their equivalent of local customs agents...Peruvian style.
We made it to Máncora around 1pm and I was starving! If you’re a budget-conscious traveller like me and find yourself in any tourist spots in Peru, make sure to check out the restaurants in the side streets. Last time we went to Máncora, the menu was 15 soles (Wayki did have bigger portions than this one). This time Oliver and I found one for 10 soles, and this place was two minutes from the beach. The portions were slightly smaller (lunch is the main meal of the day), but with rice and papas fritas, it kept me full until later that evening.
Oliver and I did our own thing after lunch - I decided to chill on the beach while he went on his date. Máncora looks different at high tide, with much of the shoreline swallowed by the water. I couldn’t even walk along the beach to where we were last time - now the concrete structures made sense!
While on the beach, I even managed to complete a tourism survey in my broken Spanish. It reassured me that my Spanish is slowly improving. Around 3pm I made my way to our hostel for the night, Casa Máncora. It was a recommendation from one of our course trainers, Yola. She was right, Luis, the owner, not only spoke great English, he was also a really nice guy.
After a shower and extended siesta, I met some of the other hostel guests. One woman from the Netherlands had been in Mancora for two weeks - Luis asked her if she could take me to watch the sunset up at the lighthouse...see what a nice guy!
The golden hour coats everything in rose-tinted optimism - although the beauty in Northern Peru’s dusty landscape is anything but conventional. In more developed countries, our paved roads masks the irreversible impact we have made in nature, here, my dusty shoes are unwanted souvenirs from day-to-day living.
Up at the lighthouse we ran into Oliver and his date. She was lovely, and I did my best to have a conversation with her in Spanish. From the time we made it up the lighthouse, we had about thirty minutes to enjoy the last of the natural light. Sunsets come quickly here, almost unexpectedly, like being caught out in a sun shower.
Oliver and I eventually caught up around 9pm at the hostel - I also brought back the last three pizza slices. Can’t waste a great pizza! We ended up talking to the Argentinian couple until late. The boyfriend lay in the hammock at first, though I could tell he was listening as he would look over at us when something caught his interest. His girlfriend had been in PR and Communications for a theatre company in Buenos Aires, and we found out later he was an AV Technician. It made sense that her speaking skills were more advanced as she was the more extroverted of the two.
I wanted to head back to Zorritos before midday, so we made sure to check out before 9am. Relying on unscheduled public transport adds to travelling time, which is something to be aware off in rural Peru. There’s a laid-back vibe to Máncora that resonates with me, maybe I’m finally beginning to understand how my friend Tamizan feels when she is out in the water, waiting to catch a wave. Eyes to the horizon until you see the wave coming towards you - it’s about timing. How much do you need to paddle to stay ahead of the break? Who is around you and are they eyeing up the same wave? Be in the moment because no two experiences are ever the same - learn to embrace the stillness and when you have to paddle hard. That is the flow of life, you don’t need to catch every wave, but when you do, enjoy it and make memories from all that you do.
Ronna Grace Funtelar is a thirtyish storyteller, creative, writer and slam poet currently travelling in Peru. She is a hobby hiker, photography and sunrise enthusiast with a passion for mindfully helping others live beyond their comfort zone.
Basically, a shorty who knows her life purpose.