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Our first stop in the mythical Peru was the coastal Máncora, known for its party scene and sandy beaches. It was an unplanned stop; we thought we had had our fill of beach life while in Colombia but, clearly, no such thing exists.

Crossing over from Ecuador we had a long bus haul; first Baños to Cuenca, a quick eight-hour stopover to sleep, then we jumped back on the bus and hurtled at a breakneck pace directly for the Peruvian border. One last bus ride and we arrived in Mancora about 6 pm with the idea of spending the night at Misfits Hostel (having emailed our reservation). Upon our arrival, we were greeted by one of the rudest British persons we’ve met so far. We quickly jumped back in the tuk-tuk and ran away. Following the suggestion of our driver, we checked in at Swiss managed hotel right on the water called Hospedaje Grottino, where we were able to get a private cabaña with a shared bathroom for 35S/per person including breakfast.

After a rough two days on cramped buses, life on the beach was just what we needed. Mancora does not have the high temperatures characteristic of the Caribbean, but the warm sun and sand felt replenishing. The touristic part of the town is just the main street where most of the shops and restaurants are situated; at the time of our visit the boardwalk had suffered damage and was being repaired. Food, in general, was more expensive than we expected, but we were told that prices would drop as we went inland.

From Máncora you can hire a few activities; we decided on the whale watching tour that also included swimming with turtles. We went with the slightly more expensive tour, as it meant we would be on a yacht instead of a speedboat. To hire a tour, there are a plethora of tour companies along the main road operating out of small whole-in-the-wall shops. If you can manage to get a larger group together, you can usually drop the price down about ten soles, but for the most part, it’s difficult to bargain.

The whale watching was a magical experience; our day out on the high seas allowed us to see some of the largest and most graceful animals on earth. After a couple of hours of waiting expectantly for the gentle giants, we sailed into a port and anchored alongside a wooden pier.

We quickly shed our clothes, donned our swimsuits, and dove head first into the water. The local fishermen gut the fish right after they make a catch, and throw the innards of the pier to be reclaimed by the sea. Around the wooden pillars, just below the surface of the water, we saw about ten sea turtles meandering about, waiting for the occasional easy meal to rain down from the sky. Not giving two cares in the world about having humans around them, they let us bob near the service, watching them carene towards, swirling into one big mass of mottled green and brown, before angling away and becoming distinct again.

Seeing so many turtles up that close–plus witnessing the migrant whales–was the highlight of our times in Mancora. The rest of our stay, we relaxed, wrote, and checked out the delicious ethnic (if somewhat pricey) food Mancora had to offer. One of our favorites was Tao , an upscale asian blend, and Green Eggs and Ham, a delicious breakfast/lunch joint that served phenomenal milkshakes. But without a kitchen, Mancora started to take a toll on our budget, so after soaking up the sun for a few days we decided to head Inland toward the mountainous town of Huaraz.

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