Bolivia and Peru had given us a pretty tough few weeks. A tight schedule, lots of sight sight seeing, and, of course, Machu Picchu, had pushed us to our absolute limits both physically and emotionally (Lauren still wakes up screaming). Our bones ached and we yearned for somewhere to chill out for a few days, relax and collect ourselves before entering Columbia – it’s a hard life travelling the world..
We figured a nice sandy beach and 30 degree Peruvian sunshine should do the trick. Mancora ticked all of those boxes. Located around 50 miles from the Columbian border, Mancora is a small surfer’s town in the far North of Peru. It’s famous for it’s laid back, hipster/backpacker vibe, it’s long white sandy beaches and of course.. it’s huge surf. Having read reviews and looked at some pictures we were sold.
We booked ourselves into a basic but incredibly picturesque hostel located slap bang on the beach, around a 10 minute walk from the town centre. Upon arriving it was clear that this was just what we needed. The beach was perfect.. sandy, long and quiet. The hostel itself was also incredibly laid back and consisted of a bar and 4 multicoloured wooden huts with roofs made of palm tree leaves. There was also the customary bongo playing travellers sat outside with the same ‘strange smell’ that we had experienced at the Mango Chill hostel in Iguazu emanating from their vicinity. I think you get the idea of the type of place Mancora is.
So following our early morning arrival we spent the day relaxing on the beach and taking the occasional dip in the unbelievably warm but raging waters of the Pacific. The waves were massive and we both got clattered on several occasions. Great fun.
When the blazing sunshine became too much we would chill out in the shaded hostel bar and gaze out over the white sandy beach out to the horizon. It was here that we met Nick, a fellow Mancunian travelling solo through South America. He was a top bloke with a great sense of humour – we got on well from the outset. That evening the 3 of us sat on the beach and enjoyed a few cold beers, sharing stories and watching the sun go down. The peace was only broken by the sporadic emergence of tunnelling crabs that live in the sand and pop up right next to you when you least expect it.
Crabs aside, we were in paradise.
The next day followed much of the same pattern with the addition of us exploring the local town a little more. We enjoyed lunch on the beach before hunting down the local supermarket where we stocked up on the ingredients that I would use to attempt to make a quinoa salad.. a local favourite. Following this we wandered back down the beach to our hostel. On the way I booked myself a surf lesson for the following day – something that I have been keen to try since coming to South America. The remainder of the day was spent lounging on the beach, reading our books and soaking in the rays.. pure bliss.
That evening I made a quinoa salad which was a massive success. A simple but really tasty and refreshing meal. Just call me Heston BlumenWhitehead. Afterwards we all sat in the bar enjoying a few cold ones, during which time I managed to convince Nick to join me for my surfing lesson the following day. We hit the sack around 1 am.
Our lesson began with us both being shown the basics on the beach before receiving our own 1 on 1 tutors for the next 2 hours in the sea – all for around £8!! After failing miserably on my first few attempts and receiving a few laughs of encouragement from onlookers the beach, I began to get the hang of it. In reality the hardest thing was concentrating on my own board and not falling off in laughter in seeing nick get wiped out time after time by some of the biggest waves I’ve ever seen. All in all, it was a great laugh and a fantastic experience.
It quickly became clear that without the instructor there to hold me in position, tell me when to paddle and when to stand up (looking back,he pretty much did everything), it was a completely different ball game. I got wiped out again and again and again. This actually get pretty scary in huge waves with a massive surf board attached to my leg. On the one occasion I actually caught a wave that hurtled me like a bullet towards a group of terrified children swimming in the shallows who, with no control whatsoever, I managed to avoid by a matter of inches.
Lauren, who was watching the whole time, thought I was pretty pathetic and demanded a go, ignoring my words of warning. Initially I was pretty impressed.. Lauren, who is usually very cautious and risk averse, got on the board and paddled with confidence and purpose out to the deeper water where the biggest waves were breaking. She was composed, balanced and in full control of the board. She looked like a natural. She turned the board, got in position, and with a steely look of determination in her eye… got clattered straight over her head by an absolute monster of a wave. For at least 5 seconds all I saw was an occasional glimpse of the board followed by Lauren’s flailing limbs before her head popped up. Her look of confidence was replaced by a look a pure terror and shouts of ‘TIM I DON’T LIKE IT ANYMORE, GET IT OFF ME’. I swam out to meet her where we both battled huge breaking waves while trying simultaneously to get the board off Lauren’s ankle. Eventually we were successful and returned onto shore, tails between our legs. That was enough surfing for one day…
Our remaining time in Mancora was spent relaxing on the beach and gawping at the more experienced surfers who somehow managed to ride the massive waves with incredibly ease, grace and stability.
Overall, Mancora was exactly what we needed and more. It was relaxing and peaceful but at the same time it kept us entertained in the evenings and was the setting in which we met some of the nicest people on our travels so far. Its a setting that, if it were at home, would be crowded beyond belief with sunbathing pensioners, screaming kids, ice cream vans, amusement arcades, piers etc.. here, however, there were times that we felt like the only ones on the beach. Near death surfing experiences aside, it was pure perfection.