The minivan stopped as traffic came to a standstill, now adding to the snake of various vehicles making their way out of town. It’s never a good sign when your driver gets out and starts to have a chat with someone on the road. You know you’ll be awhile. There is only one road to Máncora from Zorritos, and being only an hour away made a nice getaway for us TEFL Zorritos students.
Máncora is a surfing town. Popular with locals and tourists for its clean breaks and great weather, it reminds me of the vibe in Mount Maunganui before they built the beachfront high rises. Any town that draws in tourists also means tourist pricing. We didn’t stay overnight to party, but I have heard of cocktails at 30 soles, which can be price of dinner for two.
We paid 12 soles each (NZ$5.40) to the woman sitting in the hole-in-the-wall “agency” for mini-vans and buses. The price is 10-12 soles for a seat on what is essentially a people mover. You can also flag down the mini-vans that travel up and down the Pan-American highway daily, but this was our first time and we needed five seats.
The foam-wrapped reinforcing bars above my head, complete with black cable ties, made for interesting decor. Having seen how some of the Peruvians drive, it didn’t really surprise me. We had cumbia and reggaeton music blasting on the stereo, both genres that are very popular in this part of the world. I sat between two men, with Amelia, Jess and Kassie in front of me, and Oliver (the only guy in our course) behind me to keep an eye on us all.
Rain is rare in this part of Peru, so the landscape is a vast contrast to the lush green of New Zealand. The geography is often mountainous, but with little vegetation, what essentially are giant mounds of dirt look like chillised sculptures. Lack of rain and vegetation also made the exposed earth highly prone to erosion damage, which I saw plenty of in Zorritos.
Our minivan stopped on a side street on Máncora’s main road. We didn’t know how close the beach was from there, but we figured it had to be walking distance so we didn’t mind. We had ended up on the far end of the beach and away from the main shops, a blessing in disguise. It was quieter and meant we had a reprieve from the restaurant “agents” who gets a cut if they can bring in customers.
I decided that it would be easier to take photos on my own while the others worked on their tan, it gave me a chance to explore on my own and let’s face it, I blended in as a local. This meant that for the most part, I was left alone.
Tourist places like this one creates a mini-economy - up and down the beach I saw quad bikes, horses, and various vendors. There were also abandoned buildings in varying degrees of disrepair showing glimpses of tables and couches - surfers creating their own beachfront real estate. How much would that view go for back home? There may be a lot of poverty in Peru, yet it’s not hard to come across places like this - a diamond in the rough. Some people see a building with no walls, others just see the ocean view. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Oh yeah, Oliver played football on the beach with some of the locals - he did pretty well, although the Latin flare did see him take a couple of tumbles and ended up with a scratch on his chest. Us girls all came to the conclusion that he was in need of some bro-time.
Early afternoon with food on the brain, we made our way to the main part of the beach and braced ourselves for the “swarm”. I was used to it having lived in the Philippines, it’s just a fact of life here. As I stood amused while the others tried to negotiate their way through the gauntlet of menu wielding servers, I smiled at an older woman standing in from of Wayki Restaurant. She calmly told me that they had a menu for 15 soles, which included a starter and a main. The place was quiet and clean, so we headed in, following a happy server we had met earlier in the “swarm”.
For my starter, I had Ceviche, which was refreshing on a hot day. Our mains came before we finished, and to be honest, I was pretty happy with my choice - the Chaufa de Pescado. “Chaufa” is Chinese-style fried rice with a Peruvian twist, mine was served with pieces of crumbed fish. Living in the northern-coast affords me the luxury of endless fresh seafood.
As we slowly made our way through one of the side streets looking for small souvenirs, I spotted a sign for Cremolada. Cremolada is essentially a fresh fruit slushy - which is refreshing on a hot day. I decided to treat the others to ice cream and cremoladas, which were about 5 soles each (NZ$2.25). A great way to celebrate surviving our first week together on the course.
El Nuro is where you can swim with the giant turtles and it’s less than 30 minutes from Máncora. I definitely want to come back for that. Máncora was a fun day out - the weather was great and it was nice to see another part of Peru. Life here is a different pace, and some things we take for granted back home will take longer, but you know what, I choose my battles. That’s the key to getting the most out of travel - don’t let the delays frustrate you, it just means you have more time to enjoy the view!
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.