So I’m pretty sure we were witness to some sort of illegal smuggling on our bus from Mancora to Guayaquil across the border in Ecuador. The bus stopped to allow customs officers to carry out an inspection which was not overly strange as this had happened on many buses throughout South America however on this occasion, the officer looked under the seat of the lady opposite us, who had a large bag full of what “appeared” to be packaged clothing items. This probably wouldn’t have bothered us too much if we hadn’t looked under our own seat and seen that there was a similar bag stuffed beneath us! Continue reading
Our first swim in the ocean on our South American trip so far – FINALLY! Another overnight bus trip had left us slightly weary but unlike on other occasions, we didn’t have any colonial cities to explore, museums to visit or lookouts to climb to – this time all we had to do was relax on the beach!We arrived in Mancora and more specifically Loki del Mar, our hostel for the next few days. Loki hostels have a reputation in South America as the “party hostels” and their hostel in Mancora certainly lived up to its name. We were shown to our room upon check-in only to find smashed beer bottles everywhere, beds unmade and a horrific mound of toilet paper in the bathroom. This was followed by a quick “woops, sorry perhaps your room isn’t actually ready yet”! We kicked back on the beach as well as Loki’s fabulous pool and bar area. Come night, we drank at the hostel as well as the local beach bars which are far from classy establishments but a bit of fun all the same. After a couple sleepless nights at Loki though we were ready for something a little more relaxed and headed further down the beach where we had our own beach bungalow. This place was fantastic and for what you were getting – fantastically cheap as well! We swam, walked along the beach and enjoyed some more incredibly fresh ceviche – if you are a lover of seafood, the Peruvian coast has you sorted!A few more days relaxing and it was time to say goodbye to Mancora as well as Peru. We lied in the hammocks outside our bungalow and watched the sun go down one last time.
We didn’t really know what to expect from Lima – many of the backpackers that we encountered in Southern Peru had not seemed overly enthused. For us however, it was a refreshing change from the various colonial cities we had been visiting as the touristic Miraflores district was quite modern and westernised in comparison. Not only that, it was the first time in 4 months that we had seen the ocean which was very exciting after being inland since almost the start of our trip!We walked down to the cliff face where we were surrounded by views of the ocean while enjoying the park areas and sculptures along the esplanade. We passed the Parque de Amor, or Love Park where a large sculpture of a couple making out certainly gets your attention!Our time in Lima was also made a lot more enjoyable by our Peruvian sisters Grace and Paz who we had met in Chile where they were also traveling. On our first night they picked us up and took us to dinner at Panchita, ran by one of Peru’s most celebrated chefs. With no real idea of what dishes to order we left it in their hands as they ordered a selection of Peruvian delicacies for us to try. The first of these delicacies was cow heart which I can’t say sounded overly appetising but we both really enjoyed. Prominent other features of their cuisine include potatoes (Peru has close to 4000 different types of potatoes!!!!) and of course ceviche, yet this was to be saved for another day! After dinner the girls drove us along the waterfront and down to the Barranco District, a very modern and buzzing area of Lima full of restaurants and bars. We went to Ayahuasca, a huge mansion-turned-bar, well, multiple bars in fact with each room almost feeling like a different venue – definitely worth a look if you are ever in Lima.With our second day we caught the bus to downtown Lima where we set off to explore the historical centre. We hopped off the bus a little too early which then saw us walk in about four different directions on the advice of various locals before we eventually arrived at the Plaza de Armas, Lima’s main square. Waiting patiently for our arrival were Andy & Laura, a couple from the UK who we had last seen in Argentina. It was fantastic having the opportunity to catch up with them once again and we chatted about we had been up to over breakfast before continuing to explore.The large, old buildings surrounding the square were still in great condition and we walked around admiring each of them before stopping for some lunch. On recommendation from the girls we sat at Tanta where we enjoyed Pisco Sours (Peru is famous for Pisco) and I finally had some ceviche which was wonderfully fresh!We continued on, visiting the Convento de San Francisco, a 17th century church with catacombs below containing up to an estimated 70,000 burials. There is something exceptionally creepy about walking underground through rooms containing actual human skulls and other bones. The bones line the hallways, placed in various piles and in some instances arranged in different circular patterns – super creepy. I didn’t take any photos as you weren’t allowed to inside the church (plus it would have felt a little weird anyway) but I have included one just so you can understand what I am talking about!Finishing our time in Lima, we met up with Grace and Paz once more and they took us to Embarcadero41, a restaurant down on the water for one last gastronomic treat before our bus departure. We once again left it with the girls to order some food and once again, we were not disappointed! It was so refreshing to be trying new local food but also food of such a high quality after many substandard meals throughout our South American adventure. Ceviche, grilled seafood, more Pisco Sours, desserts – perhaps the people that hadn’t enjoyed Lima didn’t really like to eat! The girls drove us to the bus station and we said our goodbyes – until next time Peruvian sisters, thanks again for the good times!