Six weeks, countless bus rides, twelve cities, countless almuerzos, two border crossings and one slightly overpriced plane ticket change fee later, i made it to Peru!
i am writing this from the beloved backpacker/surfer haven of Mancora, pretty much as far north in Peru as you can get without falling over and hitting your head on the border. three days here and I’m ready to get the hell out. as far as i can tell, people either love this place or hate it- similar to the opinions i heard on Ecuador’s transient beach party town, Montañita (which i ended up staying in for over a week!).
both of them are well known for their surf and party culture, and both have a heavy influx of travelers from within south america as well as international backpackers. both boast a wide array of different lodging options at all different price ranges, as well as a ton of drinking/dining options (both local and international). the beach in each location is not necessarily anything to write home about- a strip of sand and surf, lined by bars and restaurants, and the nightlife is pretty standard- cheap drinks, loud music.
so why did i love Montañita so much, and am bored stiff in Mancora?
lets get one thing straight here- neither one offers much in the way of cultural events, history or architecture.
the main reason i stayed in Montañita so long is based on the fact that i LOVED where i was staying. my days in were spent on the beach, in a hammock, or awkwardly trying to surf on waves much bigger than my skill level can handle. nights were generally a combination of cooking, eating, watching movies and relaxing with my hostel buddies (kiwi hostel, i miss you guys!). we had a pretty varied group staying there- most of whom had either stayed at the hostel before, knew the owner, or somehow stumbled upon the location by a stroke of luck (like me!). for a town known for its level of partying, i did surprisingly very little drinking in my 8 days there- only one ‘real’ night out.
in mancora, the actual town and nightlife aren’t a whole lot different. the beach may be slightly nicer, the food options a little more varied, and the marijuana smoking slightly more subdued, but the part thats missing for me is the family atmosphere i found in kiwi hostel. i am staying at kokopelli beachpackers– a smaller, slightly mellow version of the infamous loki hostels . the vibe is a little bit of a forced party- activities are planned every day, and most of the other guests are there to get their drink and tan on. it was definitely fun, but i am ready to move on.
montanita: 1 mancora: 0
I’ve been thinking about this for a while- as travelers, what is it that makes us love one destination and feel just so-so about another? Quito, for example, had amazing historical sights, but it was just ‘eh’ for me as a whole experience. Cuenca, on the other hand, was one of my favorite cities so far on any of my travels- and although it has beautiful churches, they aren’t nearly as grandiose as some of the architecture we saw in Quito.
for me, it is the balance between sights, people, and experiences that can make or break a place. Mancora has really been so-so in all of these respects, but ask the guy who showed up here six months ago and hasn’t left yet and I’m sure he will disagree with me. this part of what makes travel so fascinating- whether you travel alone or with friends, loved ones or newfound buddies, each experience is so profoundly personal.
anyways, off to Trujillo tonight, then heading off to do some trekking in Huaraz!