Our first destination in Peru was the northern beach town of Máncora. (Our presence here was a bit of the tail wagging the dog – we chose to travel overland through and out of Ecuador largely in order to avoid Ecuador’s $200/person tax on flights departing the country. By busing from Cuenca to Máncora, then flying domestically from Máncora to Lima, we saved several hundred dollars and diversified our overall experience of Peru.)
First, a few hopefully helpful notes on our trip: We entered Peru via the Aguas Verdes land border crossing near Huaquillas, Ecuador. Aguas Verdes has had a rough reputation in past, but Ecuador and Peru opened a pair of jointly operated facilities in 2016 and things have apparently dramatically improved. At any rate, we found the border crossing to be safe, easy, and smooth. There was also a sizeable group of Venezuelan refugees seeking asylum at the border crossing, as well as some UN-provided food/shelter/water aid – a brief but fascinating look at the human side of that humanitarian challenge.
The journey from Cuenca to Máncora, by the way, can be achieved in either of two ways:
- The easy/simple option: one-seat night bus (about $30/person) – depart Cuenca around 9 or 10 pm, cross border after midnight, re-board same bus, arrive in Máncora around 3 am. Easy – but didn’t work with our schedule, and also, why on earth would you want to arrive somewhere around 3 am?? Seems like this would be a lot more appealing if it departed Cuenca at midnight and arrived in Máncora at 6 am. Anyway, a couple of companies offer this trip, so you can go to the Terminal Terrestre in Cuenca and buy tickets (best done in advance as they sometimes sell out).
- The more complicated/more flexible/cheaper option (about $20/person) – take a bus from Cuenca to Huaquillas in the morning ($7/person; departures about every half hour, from the Terminal Terrestre in Cuenca), get off at the roundabout just before Huaquillas, take a taxi from there to the border crossing ($5 or less), complete the border crossing, take an authorized taxi to Tumbes (fare fixed at $10; you can easily find other folks with whom to share a taxi), then take a bus or colectivo to Máncora (could be as little as $5/person but might be more because Tumbes has no central departure point so things are confusing and gouging is easier).
The bus ride out of Cuenca is amazing, by the way – you descend out of the Andes by way of gorgeous, desolate river canyons and then wind through banana fields on the coast.
OK, enough travel logistics. We found ourselves in Máncora, a beach town and kind of a party spot, but fortunately our hostel was distant enough from the dance scene that we got excellent sleep. How much is there ever to say about beach towns? So I’m just going to present three photos and comment on each of them.
Here we are the first evening, happy on the lovely beach. The beach was indeed lovely – we spent much of the following day reading/napping/swimming, punctuated by a lunchtime walk to Jasusi, a great ceviche restaurant well off the beaten path. (No photos of ceviche because it was a phone-free day, also quite a treat.)
Here is the back side of an atrocious billboard right on the main drag that should never, ever have been authorized or built. (The other side has a Corona ad.) This, along with the fact that Peruvian cities have no centralized bus terminals, and the fact that just feet from the wealthy, touristy strip of Máncora you encounter dirt roads, stray dogs, and open sewage, led us to believe that much of Peru lacks any kind of land use or infrastructure planning. It feels like a free-for-all, and one that could be substantially improved if someone, anyone, had the authority to say No to the worst elements (like this billboard).
Here’s a derpy dog we saw in one of the restaurants we visited for fresh pasta and pisco cocktails. No social commentary here, I just think this is hilarious.