Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mancora & Chachapoyas - Perú

Fell asleep on the bus in Ecuador, woke up in Peru at 5:30 a.m. Immediately grabbed a bus to Mancora, the most famous beach of Peru; surrounded by desert and shacks, the playa itself is like a little holiday oasis filled with sunbathers, kite surfers, music, bars and restaurants. Living in Southeast Asia completely spoiled me in many ways, and one of them is now having an impossibly high standard of what a “good beach” is. Mancora itself doesn’t really stand out in any way, except the fact that it is in the right place at the right time. The weather is always sunny and warm, and when you have to spend hundreds of hours in buses to get through South America, it’s refreshing to have a place to stop off for a swim, a fresh ceviche (or other equally as tasty seafoods) and a few dozen grande beers.

I can sum up my time there in words and pictures instead of full stories:
Up early because of sun and warmth – work off hangover by the pool – around 12:30 walk the 20 minutes down the beach into town with whoever’s around that wants to go for lunch – take a 7 Soles (about $2.25) menu which includes juice, ceviche and a main dish – if no beer was involved in lunch, go for ice cream - walk back down the beach and continue hanging by the pool – shower – beer – sunset – beer. Repeat.
Made lots of new friends, had lots of fun. Like Cassie (AUS) said best, it’s like Groundhog’s Day in Mancora.

ear piercing by Gino

That being said, after 5 days her and I headed out into the “real Peru” and made our way to Chachapoyas, in the north central part of the country. Oh, just 20 hours later we arrived, no big deal. Lots of transit, but the draw to the city is of cultural importance so it was worth it in the end. Hopped off our final bus, checked into a cheap place (Hotel Kuelap, S15/each, about $5) and grabbed a quick breakfast then back into a collectivo to head to the famous sarcophagus just a couple of hours away. Had to catch a taxi for the final stretch on horribly bumpy dirt roads, and by then it had started to rain a bit. We weren’t in Mancora anymore, apparently! After a steep walk down hill in the mud we had the highest hopes for these ancient sarcophagi made of clay and set into a mountain side – only to be sorely disappointed. They were so far away that they just seemed like figurines towering above us, and all we could do was laugh at what we’d come so far for. And then walk back up that steep, muddy hill in the rain. Lovely!

We deserved the beers we consumed that night at dinner, but not the hangover we felt at 7 a.m. the next day. Sometimes life isn’t fair I guess. But you gotta keep on keepin on, so we headed for a full day of touring the massive, ancient ruins of Kuelap, a couple of hours outside of Chachapoyas. Kuelap was a fortress at one point in history, and the ruins are older and bigger then Macchu Picchu, but not nearly as famous as they are not as intact or as aestetically pleasing.

Day 3 in Chachapoyas we headed to Gocta, one of the tallest waterfalls in the world (although it is two waterfalls, so not recognized as such because it is not technically continuous). We knew it would be a 5 hour hike uphill on the way there (about 11.5k each way), but we didn’t realize that it would be scorching hot by mid-day and we’d be burning under the heat of the day. Silly us. We made it to the first town after 5.5k, checked in and took a break for some fruit and water, already pretty exhausted. We were told we had a ride back into town with another groups van in an hour, so we went as far as we could and turned around to catch that collectivo back. After waiting an hour we were told 30 minutes more. After 30 minutes we were told 30 minutes more. After 30 minutes… you can guess. We were in a press for time at that point as we had a night bus to catch, so we accepted the ride with the military, who so graciously moved from the cab of the truck to the back so we could have seats. Lovely men, they were making music in the back to entertain us on the ride as well. Glad we got to see this impressive waterfall – in the middle of the jungle it seemed so powerful and mighty. Two thumbs up for Chachapoyas!


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