Fear and Loathing in Mancora beach

Our story with Mancora is long enough to say we actually lived in this tiny city sited in the northern coast of Perú. 3 months, that´s the number, and actually a bit more than that. Is it so damn beautiful up there that a spell was put on us so strong that we couldn´t leave this magic wander under any circumstance? Nope, not at all. Mancora itself kind of sucks a bit. The main beach is packed with people, jet-skis going around zigzagging between swimmers, plenty of sellers, and all this combined in a not very big area where to put your towel.

So why on earth would we want to stay here for so long? Money, the answer is money. We were chasing the little green man. It´s not that at this stage of the trip our pockets were completely empty, but as my plans to extend the trip further are starting to have some impact in Kasia´s head, we would need some cash to make it happen. Perú, though, might not be the best country in South America to get good cash. Fun fact, the currency is a bit stronger than the Polish Zloty, I found this quite hilarious, Kasia not that much. Anyway, the point is that we were working 5 to 6 hours a day for 30-35 Soles, which is like 10$. Good thing were the tips that were like an extra salary and during the last month like 2 extra salaries, so pretty good but still, you get in a day what in Australia you’d get in an hour. Different standards.

But we didn´t arrive to Mancora with the idea to work. We came here to volunteer at a hostel for a couple of weeks, to be at the beach while we waited to fly to Spain to attend my brother´s wedding. The hostel was called Taroland, and the owner, Sato, was a great chilling to the bone guy with whom we got on well really good.

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We did some cleaning, painting, some little reparations to the place and we helped to build a little bar.

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When any shopping was needed, and Sato was feeling too lazy, which happened often, he just let me drive his bike around, which was a nice sweet deal.

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Another nice perk of this hostel were these two tiny tiny kittens that played around the place all day.

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Sato also let us borrow his bike to go to some sort of tourist attraction called Poza de Barro. The place was sold to us as a natural Jacuzzi under the stars. If you read this and you are in Mancora thinking about going to this place, cancel it immediately. It took quite a ride to get there, through a path with stones and sand, it was a great deal of fun to ride over there, but when we arrived we just started laughing. The so called Jacuzzi is a hole dug in the ground that looks like some sort of dumpster, or a water purifying station or anything but a tempting, romantic, relaxing site. It was so lost in the middle of nowhere, that if we had been murdered there nobody would have ever found our corps. The pics are dark and the quality is awful as we only had our phone with us.

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With such a positive attitude in our heads, we slowly started our way down and into the hole, joining a family that was already there. The fact that they were alive and their skin wasn´t falling apart was a great reassurance to myself.

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Once inside, the water is really warm. They say it´s full with minerals and apparently really healthy for the skin, but nobody gave us a proper explanation on why the water is warm and what minerals are present. The floor is muddy and soft. Half of the hole is not deep at all, with the water reaching only till your hips, but the other half was almost 2 meters deep. Some bubbles were coming up and Kasia´s excitement was compensated with my concern for our lives. It is true that the sky was pretty impressive with plenty of stars shining, but my mind was elsewhere, focused on not stepping one some dead body or being sucked by the hole. Thought I must say it was an amazing spot for star glazing. Luckily we came out alive and with a nice little story to tell.

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While volunteering at Sato´s, he also told us about a place called El Ñuro, that was a few miles south from Mancora, where you can see and swim with sea turtles. There´s an entry fee, not expensive but I can´t remember the amount. If we paid for it, it wasn´t expensive. The place it´s simply a dock where in a little area circled with inflatable circles they throw food to the turtles to come and swim next to the tourists that are in the water. You are not supposed to touch the turtles, but people are amazing and don´t give a crap about it, hugging them and trying to swim on their backs with them as if the poor animals were some sort of toy. Kasia was really into getting in the water with her favorite animal and so she jumped in. The water was freezing, but the excitement compensated it and she stayed there for almost half hour.

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After the turtle show we went to lay on the beach, and from there we could see a humpback whale jumping in the distance. The huge splash could easily be spotted, and immediately after, 2 boats left the dock packed with tourists heading towards the whale.

Back at the hostel, a couple of Chileans told us about their work in a restaurant where apparently they were making some nice cash to help them keep on travelling. They told us they´d be leaving soon and if we wanted they could talk to the owner to recommend us as their replacement. When we went to ask, they needed only a waiter, and simply asked Kasia to start the next day, fast and simple. We said then to just work a week and then we´d leave the place. But at the end of that week, the owner got rid of the kitchen assistant, so he asked me if I´d be interested to take the job. What I wanted to do was to waiter, I´ve never done it and I don´t know why but it´s a job I want to do at least once. The idea of learning how to cut veggies properly and to learn some nice new stuff from a french chef sounded pretty cool, so why not? We then decided we´d stay for the whole high season in Mancora, meaning till the end of February.

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To sum it up, the owner was an incredible drug addict and alcoholic, and with that came the swinging moods, from exhilarating smiles and good humor to anger and frustration because of the tiniest little things.

A side note here is required. Drugs in Peru are extremely cheap compared to Europe. Here, a gram of cocaine costs 10-15 soles (around 4$). Taking into account that the same amount in Europe costs 20-30 euros, well, you get the idea. And the same happens with weed. What this does is attract a lot of tourists that come to Mancora to get high as a kite. The back room of the kitchen was a freaking haven for the French friends of the owner, who went there every now and then to get a fix. It was pretty easy to find couple of people preparing a line while going back to catch some kitchen stuff.

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When I realized about this, I also realized how much Kasia knew about drugs. The first time I mentioned the addiction of the owner and the easily spotted cocaine in his veins, she was stunned and to get to know the price of the drug she asked me: so how much is half kilo? I burst into tears. Half kilo?? Damn, you wanna start hard girl!

So the days at work could be really good or really bad. Soon enough we learnt to simply ignore the guy when he had a bad trip. We simply did our thing. Me, cold and side dishes and Kasia handled the saloon and the drinks. He was a French guy married to a Peruvian woman. The part of their relation that we were able to see was based on mutual screaming and insulting, day after day, always, no gaps in the chain. It was easy to see that the guy was in a better mood when his wife wasn’t around. The woman was all right, she talked to us as if we were kind of retarded, but over all and compared to her husband she was a lovely creature.

Besides these two elements, there was a third character in our daily work story. Carolina, the other waitress/kitchen assistant with whom we both worked many times. I don´t mean any bad, neither want I to be a presumptuous prick, but this girl was a really, really, really freaking stupid person. First signs popped up when I told her I was from Catalonia, a Catalan guy. She stopped, looked at me and asked me if we were the guys from “the Islamist”. The guys from the Islamist, right, well not to my knowledge was my answer. Many, many, many times a situation happened where Mary, the wife of the owner, who was the chef during the mornings, told Carolina that we should do this or that thing, like we should put the potatoes in water somewhere to save time and space or any idea. After a minute or two, Carolina would come to the kitchen and say: Hey Mary, you know what we should do? We should put the potatoes in water there to save time and space. Mary and I would just look at each other and move on as if nothing happened. I can´t remember all the brilliant moments she brought to our lives, but considering that she was also pretty selfish and always looking only after herself and not helping out to clean any time the owner would leave the place, we didn´t feel that bad about laughing our asses out with her material.

As I mentioned, Mancora has a pretty ugly beach, but nearby you can find really nice spots to fully enjoy the last beaches with warm water thanks to the El Niño current, as going south Humboldt comes into place and temperatures start dropping.

These places include Lobitos, Punta sal, Pozitas, Vichayto and Playa del Amor.

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To go to Lobitos you need to take a bus to Talara and there grab a combi that takes you to the beach.The main attribute about the place is that there´s nothing, it´s a kind of empty little spot, not even a city, with a long white sand beach. The thing is that it gets extremely windy in there, and the water the day we went was freezing. These combo made us stay there for merely 40 minutes before we started heading back. But we didn´t leave without a surprise. Walking south we came across these little fellas:

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These are called “percebes”, and in Spain, especially in the northern-west coast these are really famous, and expensive too. So to me, these rocks held a little fortune.

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Another nice spot near Mancora where you´d better catch a ride to get there is called Punta Sal. Combis leave from Mancora direction there every 15 minutes. Again, wind was very present the day we went, but the water here was warm and nice. There was almost nobody, if it hadn´t been for the wind, that place would have remained in our minds as a great beach.

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Finally, there are few spots you can walk to from Mancora, or catch a moto taxi to get you there. Pocitas and Vichayto you can find them by simply walking south from Mancora beach, and to get to Playa del Amor you have to do the same but heading north. Now these are not separated sites, it´s the same beach, just that at some point each of them start and end. But the difference with Mancora beach is huge. Much much less people and buildings around, the beach gets wider, palms appear and the views are just amazing.

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On top of that, during this time we also watched our first Superbowl game, heard from a customer about a way to make 1,000 euros a month by writing in a porn chat under different aliases (you know when somebody says that behind that incredibly hot picture of an 18 year old blonde there´s a 60 years old woman? Well it´s 55, but damn right you are pal!), saw whole families packed in one bike (mum, dad, little kid and a baby, nobody using a helmet of course), spent our first winter at the beach, saw endless people coming out of a taxi, were offered to buy cocaine and weed a billion times, plenty of them when there was a cop less than a meter away, and so many other little things that made our every day life in Mancora quite special.

So much we say about every place we’ve visited so far that we’d love to come back and visit it once again, but here, well here we may have found the exception to our rule, 3 months in Mancora seem to us to be good enough for a life time.

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