Fake Money and Real Friends: Mancora, Peru
I nearly fell into the waves as he spun me around and around. The weather was perfect and the sand was golden in the moonlight. Our friends were gathered on the beach, or also playing in the ocean, and I couldn’t have wiped the giant smile off my face if I’d wanted to.
After visiting so many small, desolate, almost abandoned, beach towns along the Ecuadorian and Peruvian coastline, it was a great relief to finally arrive at one that had awesome people, a fun vibe and great weather. Mancora, Peru is a small surf/beach town, filled with the restaurants and souvenir shops that tourism perpetuates. It has a lot of hostels for the backpacker crowd, who flock to Mancora as part of their tour of Peru.
We rode into town and soon found La Posada, a quiet hostel off the main drag where we got two rooms with double beds and private bathrooms for 45 sols ($20) per room per night. Importantly, they had a big, secure garage where we could park the bikes.
Phil and Tom had been itching to go riding the sandy paths from the second they saw them. No sooner had we checked in then they were pulling all the weight off their bikes and lowering their tire pressure. Having Tom travel with us takes a lot of pressure off me. I don’t have to feel guilty for not wanting to ride offroad because Phil has a friend to go with him who is just as enthusiastic as he is.
Kelly and I decided to wander into town and explore while the boys went off playing on the bikes. We’d wandered down the beach and up and down the main drag, stopped for cheesecake and coffee, and were just on our way back when suddenly we saw Phil riding down the road. We waved and were pretty disappointed that he didn’t stop, until we realised he was towing a moto-truck!
I’ll let Phil tell you how he got into that situation:
Tom and I set out for a sandy ride into a small desert “canyon” that started right by our hostel. We ditched our boxes and extra gear to lighten the load, then set out in the midday sun.
The ride was also a long overdue farewell for my heavily worn chain and sprockets. No sense in replacing them right before a sandy ride.
12km into the ride, we came across a couple gents pushing their “moto-truck” through the desert. It was hot with intense sun, they had no food or water, and were a long way from home. But they did have a rope, so we gave it a go and tied up to my rear rack for a tow.
All went well, a couple challenging soft sand spots and first gear the whole way, but before too long we had ridden all the way out of the canyon and through town to their mechanic. That’s when the trouble started. It turned out they had no brakes at all, a point that had been missed in the translation (I understood their brakes just “weren’t great”). When I pulled off the road to stop, they shot past me. The rope came taut, and I got spun around and thrown to the ground. A quick grab of the rope dragged me along behind the moto-truck, and prevented the disaster of having my bike dragged over top of me. Tom thought the whole crash looked quite spectacular. No good deed goes unpunished…
Several locals who witnessed the crash came over to help out. The only broken item that really mattered was my shifter. It was bent in to the point of not being able to, well, shift. Several of the men tried to “help” with a pry bar of one sort or another, insisting that they could have it straightened out right quick. At first I was polite: “no, thanks, I think it would be better to take it off first, etc”. I really didnÂ´t want to torque too much on my shift lever rod. It has had a lot of use in its life! This post from ADV rider really stood out in my mind at the time. “Nobody cares about your bike as much as you do”. If they break something, well, “they were only trying to help”. But you are stuck with a hard-to-replace-part.
In the end I had to get quite firm, physically stopping one guy from “helping”. Thanks, but no thanks. After that everyone was much more actually helpful and found me whatever tools they could, lending a hand when needed AND wanted. Everyone was really friendly. After a few minutes of futility I quit trying to bend the lever and just rode back to the hostel in first gear. It had been a waste of time really as I had a spare lever waiting for me in my pannier.
Back to Jayne:
Luckily Phil was okay after the moto-truck with no brakes incident (which Kelly and I didn’t see). He and Tom came stumbling back in to the hostel covered in dust with giant smiles on their faces.
There was a table outside a tienda on the main street. We adopted it as our own, and throughout the rest of our stay you could usually find at least one of us sitting outside in the sun with a $1.20 beer in hand. This table was the place to meet people. Everyone in town walked by eventually.
We met a lovely Canadian lady called Pat, who walked by and stopped to chat every day. She spends time every year in Mancora.
An Argentinian guy on a V-strom named Julian pulled into town and Phil ran after him and told him about our hostel with great parking. He moved in to the room next door to us. We told him to meet us at our table once he was checked in. That evening he took Kelly and I out to dinner in a very nice restaurant. Kelly had decided that she wanted to treat herself, and I am always up for a fancy meal. Phil and Tom were sure that it would be too little food for too much money, and so weren’t interested in eating there. We were thrilled when Julian said he would join us.
The restaurant was more popular than we expected, and we had to make a reservation for 9pm. A cocktail on the beach killed the time until dinner, and then we enjoyed a wonderful meal, with great conversation and an excellent bottle of wine. So excellent that later Kelly and I were sure that we’d shared a dessert, but to this day cannot remember what it was.
Julian was only on a short trip up to Colombia and back down to Buenos Aires (in a month!!) and insisted on paying for our dinner. What a gentleman.
Kelly, Tom, Georgia and I later ate one of the worst meals I’ve ever been served (in fact the spaghetti alfredo I ordered was inedible, as was most of the other food served) so we really had mixed luck with food in Mancora.
Phil and Tom were sitting at our tienda table when Tom’s Australian friend Georgia, who he’d met a couple of times along his travels, randomly walked by. It turned out she was staying at Kokopelli, one of the party hostels. She and Tom were glued at the hip for the rest of our time in Mancora. The next evening Kelly and I had been out for dinner and were wondering where the boys had got to. We were walking outside of Kokopelli when we heard the unmistakable sound of Phil’s booming voice through the wall.
We went in and found Phil, Georgia and Tom at the bar. We started hanging out there all the time because it had a poolside bar, and was a lot more lively than our quiet hostel around the corner. This, in fact, is a great tip. Book into a cheap, quiet hostel where you can go relax and sleep well, and then go party in the more expensive, happening hostels when the mood takes you.
Kelly was tired from our big night the night before and so Phil took her home. The rest of us took advantage of the many happy hour specials and got talking to the other people in the bar. Darren from Canada, George from England, two sisters who were working behind the bar and a few locals all joined our party.
We discovered that the volunteer bartenders were not allowed to accept 100 sol notes. This was because of the large number of fake notes around. Tom fell foul of this trend when he was given a fake 50. He didn’t realise until he tried to spend it and it was too late. He later used it to bribe a security guard, so all wasn’t lost.
It didn’t help that the bank machine in Mancora gave me 200 sol notes. After we left Mancora, I used one to pay for gas and was given a fake 100 as change. I also didn’t realise it was fake until I later tried to spend it. Very frustrating!
When the bar closed, we headed for the beach, where there were bars pumping music and lots of people. On the way we bought a bottle of rum and some plastic glasses. We all started dancing on the beach, not worried that the tide was coming in and we were getting very wet. I found myself waltzing in the waves with Darren, and then with another English guy called Joe, who was later singing opera for us all. It was a really fun night, that ended at dawn with me, Tom, Darren and Georgia all passing out in our room.
At about noon there was a knock on the door. It was the lady who owned the hostel. She had realised that there were four people in a room meant for two. She was yelling at me in Spanish, saying we’d have to pay extra. I sleepily said â€œsi, siâ€ and closed the door.
That evening we discovered a wonderful restaurant in Mancora that ticked all the boxes. It was cheap, it was delicious, and it was near the beach. If ever in Mancora, I recommend you eat here. I had the BBQ swordfish, it was delicious.
Mancora was great fun, but there are only so many days of partying and drinking cheap beer all day we could take. Kelly really wanted to get to Matchu Picchu before she had to go back to Canada, and so after three nights of partying and new friends, we packed ourselves up and kept heading South.