I’ve become so used to sleeping in moving vehicles I’m thinking of investing in a race car bed when I get home. After eight nights in the Galápagos on a boat, we decided to treat ourselves by taking an overnight bus trip to Mancora on the north west coast of Peru. However I use the term ‘overnight’ very, very loosely.
Officers at the station informed us the bus would arrive in Mancora at 5:30-ish in the morning. But unless in Spanish ‘ish’ translates to ‘subtract 2.5 hours’ I’ll have to assume they were lying, as we were woken by the attendant yelling “MANCORA” at 3:00am sharp. It was one of the few times I’ve ever wished a bus trip would go for longer so I could fit in a full eight hours of shut eye. Tired, groggy and a tad grumpy, we fumbled around with our Lonely Planet guide, jumped in a tuk tuk and asked the driver to take us to Loki Hostel, which he did, and which took all of about 30 seconds as it was only 27 meters down the road. (Peru obviously doesn’t face the problem of drivers refusing short fares – Melbourne taxis, take note.)
Loki feels more like a resort than a hostel, with balconies off every room, a pool and an awesome outdoor bar. It can be a bit loud as rooms are opposite the bar, but we never had any trouble sleeping on the nights (or night) we didn’t join in the festivities. The town itself is pretty unassuming – it’s just one road with a few shops and restaurants scattered along it. However one of the best meals we’ve had on our trip was at a little restaurant called La Sirena D’juan, which serves tasty melt-in-your-mouth tuna steaks. We kind of enjoyed the fact that there’s not that much to do in Mancora. It was a pretty awesome excuse to just laze by the pool. And running into Ollie and Kyle from our Panama boat trip was a pretty awesome excuse to have a few drinks. Not that we ever really need one.
After not venturing further than 50m from Loki for four days we were due for something a little more wholesome, so we headed south east to Huaráz, a city on the brink of the Cordillera Blanca Mountain Range. Our only option to get there was sitting on a hot, sweaty, beat-up old Etti bus for 14-hours to Casma, followed by another 3-hour local bus to Huaráz.
Most of the time, the best part of a bus trip is the view. Most of the time. But gazing out the window as we left Mancora, I saw: Barren land. Road. A gravestone. Another gravestone. White cross. Gravestone. Cliff. Cluster of gravestones. Cross. Memorial site. Gravestone. The only comforting factor was that there didn’t appear to be any mass graves big enough to account for an entire bus full of people. Needless to say, I’ve had better sleeps. Gravestone.
Once in Huaráz, we organised a day hike to Laguna 69 (cue sniggering) for the following day. With the company Galaxiam we booked transport to and from the trail start in Cebollapampa, but did the walk unguided. They said it should take about six hours. Usually, the “estimated time required” is based on the average speed of an 86 year-old woman with crutches. So when we found out the bus would only wait around for six hours, we figured we’d still have oodles of time for a picnic at the end.
The trail started at an altitude of 3900m with a 700m climb up to the lake. Now I’m no hiking expert, but I’m also no 86 year-old woman. The walk was mighty hard work (coming from sea level the day before probably didn’t help). Ben was getting irritated because I kept stopping to “take photos”, when really, I was just trying to take in some oxygen. Thankfully the walk is pretty picturesque (I mean, how else do you suppose they trick people into doing it), and the lake itself is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It was quite literally breathtaking. Or maybe that was just the hike.
After scoffing down our picnic and rushing back to the bus, we only just made it in time. Then of course, we had to sit there and wait for over an hour for a few slow pokes to return.