We crossed into Peru on an overnight bus, roads thick with fog in the headlights and an hour and a half queue at the border at four in the morning. Half asleep, half wired with lack of sleep, we arrive into Mancora, Peru’s northern beach town, at six in the morning. The town is still asleep, shutters down and roads empty apart from the buzz of tuktuk drivers who accost us as soon as we step off the bus. We grab our bags and escape them, walking down a sandy alleyway towards the sea. The sun is coming up and a surf school is just setting out its boards on the sand.
We’re staying out of town so we take a tuktuk along the sandy coast road with the ocean on our right and the wind blowing at our faces. Twenty minutes later and we’ve reached the beach bungalows that will be our home for the next couple of days. We can hear the Pacific Ocean, a constant roar in the back of your ear, reminding you constantly that it’s there.
The next morning I do yoga on the decking of our bungalow and a hummingbird flies to the flowers right in front of me. We spend the morning sunbathing, reading in the bright light, bouncing in the strong sea currents. There is a big sea lion in the water, swimming close to the shore and we run along the beach alongside it. That afternoon we walk the hour and a half along the beach towards the town, chatting and looking at the fancy hotels and private houses that reach down to the beach. We’re sad to see bodies of sea lions on the shore and go close to the first one to take a look; it’s been shot, which local fishermen do to protect the fish stocks. It’s a horrible sight.
When we reach Mancora town, it’s busy with people on the sand and there’s music playing from the beach bars. We bump into some travellers we met in Mindo and Quito and chat to them, then get some tinnies to drink on the beach, watch the sunset and soak up the atmosphere. An Argentinian guy selling coconut and oat sweets comes along and it turns out he is a City fan and we chat to him about the environment and the dead animals.
That night is fun: happy hour cocktails and a big fish stew. Mancora is cool but feels touristy and I’m definitely glad we’re staying out of town at a really chilled stretch of quiet beach. I realise all of a sudden that it’s the 1st October and feel a long way from home and autumnal photos that my friends are posting on instagram.
The next morning we’re up early to go whalewatching and head to Los Organos, the next town south. As we stand on the quay waiting for the boat, there are big wild turtles swimming beneath us in the green water, coming up for breath with heads like beautiful prehistoric creatures. Out on the boat the captain is quick to find three humpback whales – a mother, her calf and an escort (an aunt or maybe a grandmother that supports the mother on the journey) – and we watch the repeat of their dorsal fins through the water and are close enough to hear their blowholes. The whales travel from Costa Rica to Antarctica and are in Peru for the breeding season, close to shore so that the mother can teach the little baby to swim in the shallows where the current less strong. Afterwards, the captain turns the boat to a different part of the ocean to find a pod of hundreds of dolphins playing around us and leaping out of the water, and then a huge flock of seabirds which circle then dive en mass into the sea to hunt for fish. I’m feeling a bit seasick by this point as the water is rough so I’m a bit glad when we head back to land. On the way back we pass an abandoned oil rig covered in pelicans and sea lions, and it makes me so sad to think of the ones that have already been killed. I never excepted to see so many creatures, and especially such endangered animals like the turtle, so it felt like such an honour and a very special trip.
On our last day we relax on the beach for one last time then have some lunch by the sea; we decide to try ceviche, the Peruvian speciality, raw fish marinated in lime and chilli and served with corn and sweet potato. It’s absolutely delicious. Just before we head off we see a whale from the shore, breaching right out of the water, and we stand for ages with the owners of our hostel watching it play in the ocean – again, such a privilege. Later, while we’re waiting for our bus, we have some beers on the side of the road and the bar owner’s little son comes and sits with us, fascinated by the card game and giggling as he pulls all the cards to his chest. His hair is damp and smells of apple shampoo – such a cutie!