Arriving in Lima, I was still mourning the loss of my beloved travel pants- stain resistant, quick dry, and they made my bum look good, goddamn magical pants! Sigh. On the bright side, at least the sun was making a rare appearance in the perennially foggy city (weather pun!). I stayed at a place called the Red Psycho Llama Hostel in Miraflores, on the recommendation of my Aussie friend Lucy; treating myself to a private room, blissfully bedbug free. I spent a full day and night in Lima, checking out a few corners I missed in my previous visit. The colonial center of the city is really quite beautiful, but my most lingering memory of the day was the group of nuns I came across while wandering near the main plaza. They had set up an impromptu concert on a street corner, complete with guitars and amps, to raise money for a Namibian charity. Those ladies could rock!
Against my better judgement I caught a night bus to Trujillo, with the intention of checking out the surfing suburb of Huanchaco; another night bus, another lost item. This time it was my mom’s IPod I had borrowed with all the podcasts I had been saving for rainy days. All those Radiolab episodes gone to some bus cleaner who won’t even be able to appreciate them because they’re in English. Not to mention it was my mom’s IPod (sorry Mom!!!). I was never built to function immediately upon becoming conscious. I have made a new rule that I will no longer take night buses unless absolutely necessary as I am quickly running out of possessions.
September is firmly in the shoulder season for surfing in Peru so Huanchaco was practically deserted. I had already had some time to mellow out in Lima so I continued north after only a single night, in search of a little more excitement. On the local bus to the main station in Trujillo traffic got pretty heavy and as we pulled up to a light, a second bus came swerving into our lane and seriously sideswiped us. I was sitting on the side of the impact and glass shattered out of the back window immediately behind me. I shouted and dived rather dramatically into the main aisle. Nobody else on the bus even blinked an eye- I guess this is a fairly normal occurrence for the locals? I sheepishly climbed back into my chair and stuck my head out of one of the broken windows to survey the damage. Other than some broken glass and a new dent to go along with the bus’s previous collection, the mechanicals seemed no worse for wear. The bus pulled over to the curb and everyone silently filed off. Unnerved by the calmness of my fellow passengers, I quickly flagged down a taxi and rode the rest of the way to the terminal taking deep breaths, trying to calm my pulse a little. Well I said I wanted some excitement, didn’t I? I boarded my bus to Mancora without further incident, but it took a while for me to relax after that.
Loki Hostel is a chain of budget accommodations found in various locations throughout South America. Last time I was in La Paz, I stayed at a similar place called Wild Rovers. This is not the type of place you go to have a meaningful cultural experience. At 31, I feel like I am on the ragged edge of the target demographic, so I figured, now or never. I arrived in Mancora, a fishing village turned beach destination with a decent surf break and more beach bars than you can count. Unlike the Mexican Riviera, this place still has a bit of a casual, unforced feel to it. There are still some locals who actually fish for a living and though there are the persistent touts hassling you when you get off the bus, it doesn’t have that desperate, frantic tone you may find in more developed beach spots. This might just be the laid back, Peruvian mentality, though. The hostel is what can only be described as a backpacker resort. There is a central pool and hammocks and a huge bar with attached restaurant, and of course everything you buy can be put on your tab. I even ran into my friend James, who I hadn’t seen since Cuzco. He was working behind the bar in exchange for room and board. My first night involved blue curaco slushies, whiskey and beer pong. There may also have been a round of strip Jenga? Luckily I’m very good at Jenga.
The next day I was feeling every day of my 31 years, while the 20-year-old Argentinians were doing laps of the pool. I promised to do Karaoke with James that night, but he was forced to rock out to Hotel California all by himself, poor sod. The day-long hangover convinced me that I might actually be to old for this shit (or maybe I just shouldn’t mix whiskey and blue booze slushies…). If you are not partying, there is not really much to do in Mancora so I pulled up stakes after three nights of torturing my liver. My secondary motivation was that I had this crazy idea that I might try to make it to the equator in Ecuador for the equinox. Nerdy as it sounds, I thought it might be cool to have one foot in spring and one foot in autumn. This would mean a marathon run through the country, skipping much of the highlands to get to Quito in time. After five weeks in Peru, I decided I had seen enough highlands to suit me for a while, so I said goodbye to Peru and crossed the border that day.