Peru: 13 July 2010
At this point in our travels, we’ve been land-locked for months and, being an ocean loving gal, I am craving water. We’ve also been at high altitude on and off for the better part of two months and it’s hard work. I know we’ll get there eventually but the thought of more mountains makes me on edge.
We’ve also had a record number of ridiculously early starts so I cherish the chance to catch up on sleep and a monster breakfast at Jack’s Cafe in Cusco.
We then board a bus for 22 hours to Lima.It’s amazing that after seven months of travelling, a 22 hour bus ride no longer fazes me. In fact, given that my ipod is loaded up with episodes of the latest Underbelly series, the driver hasn’t even finished pulling in before I’ve swooped into my seat, whipped my sleeping bag out and hit play.
We arrive in Lima at lunchtime the next day, dump our backpacks in a window-less dorm and wander off to meet Meg and Hunter. We spot them walking towards us, leap out from behind a car to surprise them and they laugh at our childish gag.
We have two hours together till their bus to Mancora on the coast of Peru. In those two hours we down an insane number of beers before waving them off dangerously close to the departure time of their bus. I secretly wish that we are going with them but am still kind of keen to see the places we’d tagged.
As Hunter leaves, he hands me his headband that I had been admiring. “I think this looks better on you, Kirst” he says and once again I’m reminded of how much I love these guys. They are the most generous people. Ever.
Annoyingly Geezer and I get stuck in Lima because buses are booked up for several days. So I make the most of some time off the road – blogging, emailing, tweeting and sending two boxes – 10 kg! – containing all our winter clothes, home. My pack is insanely light. Bliss!
Two days later we arrive in Huaraz. The bus takes us up a windy coast road, past amazing sand dunes before winding back inland and up towards the mountains. A quick dash in to the main square makes us realise that we probably won’t stay here too long. We don’t have enough time or the energy to trek the Cordillera Blanca in the incredible Peruvian Andes. All I can think about is beach and an email from Meg saying ‘Guys, get here quick. We’ve found paradise!’.
The next day, after another icy-cold shower, we board a bus to Chiclayo and make our way up to the Wilcacocha lookout. The view over the Andes is stunning.
Wandering through the laneways of Chiclayo, we find a place for lunch and are approached by a man selling Peruvian rugs. He is a kind old man, a gentle soul who talks to us for a while and attempts to sell us some rugs. Geezer gently refuses and the man smiles before walking off.
After lunch, we decide that the call of the ocean is too strong and board an overnight bus to Trujillo. Our bus arrives at 6am and I am completely dismayed at the sight before me. We madly flick through our guide book wondering if we have got off at the wrong town. Nope right town... Trujillo looks... well... dodgy, dirty and the men are overtly leery. I feel uncomfortable. And the next bus out to Mancora isn’t till the evening.
So we hightail it to a nearby beach village, Huanchaco, and rent a hostel room for the day to shower and sleep. We’re soon tempted out by the smell of freshly baked bread – a rarity in South America.
Thank god for Huanchaco. The weather is crap but the beach is glorious. A real surf beach. The water is freezing. I don’t care. I am up to my knees in a flash. Geezer looks at me like I’m mad.
We are walking back from the beach when a familiar face walks past. It's the local who had been trying to sell us rugs. He warmly shakes our hands and tells us that he has travelled overnight, as we have, because sales were too slow in Chiclayo. Let's face it... the rugs are pretty awful so Geezer slips him some money and he is so grateful that he prays to the sky. He is nearly weeping with joy. We reluctantly bid him goodbye.
I had started to feel guilty at being a bit over Peru. But reaching the ocean calms me and we find a wicked little cafe on the beach playing the Rolling Stones. We sink beers and watch the massive surf rolling in. I feel like I’m in heaven!
We board yet another overnight bus to Mancora and are kept awake all night by screaming babies, gringos with verbal diarrhoea and a dysfunctional toilet. I plug my ears and nose and pointlessly try to sleep.
It is pitch black when we arrive in Mancora at 5am. But Meg and Hunter have found the most incredible pad right on the beach. We walk into our room to find a balcony overlooking the ocean as the sun is rising. Something inside me sings. This *is* paradise.
Despite being on the road for seven months, when we reach Mancora, I feel for the first time that I’m on holiday.
I put my laptop away and completely relax.