Our flight back to the mainland was a turbulent death trap most of which was caused by our coffee shakes. The flight operated like a bus where once at Guayaquil we disembarked with only half the passengers as the others stayed aboard for the next stop Quito. We got straight on a night bus to Tumbes Peru and against all advice crossed South America’s most dangerous boarder at night. We hopped off the bus at immigration where there was a power cut and we stood in the dark the only light the bored staffs phones illuminating their faces as they scrolled social media, until the systems rebooted. Finally we were cleared and got back on our bus and drove through a refugee camp with Venezuelans sleeping rough and in tents. The boarders all over South America have seemed overwhelmed with refugees. We swapped busses in Tumbes and boarded the only bus leaving at this time of night. A bus run by some very obviously coked up men. At least 5 of them were wedged in the cockpit chain smoking and aggressively chewing on god knows what! So 2am tired and pissed off we arrive in Mancora with nowhere to stay.
Mancora is the Peruvian equivalent to Palomino (Colombia) but minus the power cuts. It has a laid back hippy vibe that bubbles over in to a party town at night. The beaches are long stretches with only a scattering of bodies.
There are plenty of food options and we have tried the £2 set menus all over town. Whole bbq fish, Chinese inspired Peruvian classics and ice cream coffees to die for.
We’ve spent our days lazing on the beach soaking up the sun or covering ourselves in mud at the mud baths trying to calm the sunburn. This being the only time it is acceptable to roll in the mud sober.
We have leisurely nibbled our way around town enjoying the slow paced lifestyle after our jam packed Ecuadorean escapades. In the evening we have enjoyed a few beers or pisco sours watching the town come to life, but quickly sneak off to bed before our minds become hazy. Being the good girls our friends back home didn’t think existed.
Throughout our stay I have been discussing ideas with a local tattooist and tonight before our night bus my ideas shall come alive.
After fuck all sleep, scratching till I bled it was time to head to Buenaventura a place we have chosen to go, despite everybody’s advice and looks of shock when we mention it. But being off the beaten track it should be a bit of unspoiled paradise right? Wrong! On the bus there you watched the built up westernised city (we had only just been complaining about) crumble away replaced with tin roofed shacks and jungle abyss. After the pristine beaches and busy city’s we had become used to, this felt like something out of an apocalyptic film. In my mind I kept hearing the saying taught to me by the locals only yesterday “el que no oye consejos no llege a viejo”. A saying I could now see we had completely ignored. Entering the city didn’t seem much better, the buildings were made out of bricks but most were either derelict, burnt out or half built. The people don’t seem as friendly and their isn’t a backpack or hostel in sight.
Our hotel was a puzzle to the taxi driver who had never heard of it, even when we finally pulled up outside there was no telling this building was in-fact a hotel. The reception was a locked cage with a very unhelpful lady watching tv, barely looking up to acknowledge us. Now in our room safe but seriously itchy, sketched out and hungry, but not one bit reassured by the reception cage! We realised we can’t stay in the room forever as our bellies would never allow it and head out in search for food. We managed to find a nice part of town with kids playing outside and actual restaurants! So we grabbed some cheep food and booked a boat out of there for the very next morning, having survived one night we didn’t want to push our luck.
The next morning I had scratched so much my bites had joined with their neighbouring bites and created giant bites all over my body! I was so tormented I wanted to cut out each bite individually. As we head of to Ladrilleros tired and delirious from all the antihistamines and sleeping tablets, plus now soaked to the bone as the weather had decided now was the perfect time to rain down a shit storm on my already pretty miserable self.
We really started to wonder what we were doing in a place where there were no tourists and the only accommodation was overpriced and unappealing. So we ditched our bags and had a walk around the area, where the only streets were muddy tracks slowly turning to rivers with every moment that passed. The beach was beautiful but my current circumstances made me unappreciative and I only managed one positive comment on the view so as not to be a spoilt fun sponge. I am on holiday after all! Looking for a distraction from the itching and a break from the rain we stopped for lunch, where we received bland vegetables that we doused in soy sauce to try and coax out some flavour. Completely despairing I decided to call my mum because no matter how old or independent I think I am, the mere sigh of a cold or creepy crawly and I just want my mum. So now feeling slightly better we debated our options.
1. Stay here in this strange land that despite the rain gushing from the sky didn’t have enough water to wash our clothes and rid them of the bugs potentiality living in them.
2. Accept the loss of the tenner we had spent on travel and head back to civilisation and hope for some better luck in Popayan.
Easy choice! So we left with a bitter taste in our mouths and soaking bags on our backs. Fingers crossed for Popayan.
So the three hour bus journey was anything but and we arrived at Riosucio five hours later after a wheel change and then a chaotic change of bus altogether where two buses going in opposite directions swapped passengers and did a dodgy turn on a tight mountain road. So now on a considerably smaller bus, extremely squashed with people stand up spooning down the aisle, there were people hanging out the door with arms gripped through the windows. Buses here are so unpredictable, there are no real stops and people just hop on and off whenever they please with a wave of the hand or a shout to the driver. And there is ALWAYS room for one more.
Once in Riosucio we were bundled on the side of the road with locals who had all bought tents for the night as the local carnival had the town’s accommodation overwhelmed. In the dark and hungry, we were told all buses had stopped! We began seriously considering our street-sleeping strategy when we managed to flag down a bus going pass to the next city. So now with a glimmer of hope we board our posh empty minibus with reclining leather seats and plug sockets, feeling like we had finally made it! I asked the driver if he had eaten, which was me subtly hinting that I was starving. He pulled over and we ate some strange but enjoyable corn pizza-style fast food. Even with the stop we somehow managed to get to Peireira early. Now at a busy terminal and on a roll we took advantage of the busses and jumped straight on one to Cali. We arrived at 2am, disgruntled from a three hour journey that turned in to 12 hours of unplanned travelling. I found a card for a hostel in my bag that I must have picked up somewhere along the way. So with blind faith we headed to El Viajero, our new home! And definitely a party hostel as no one was in the dorm despite evidence of gringos scattered across the room. Flip flops and bags everywhere. We flopped on to bed and remained their until 8am when we knew breakfast would be being served.