Mancora is Peru’s answer to Venice Beach and Ibiza. It’s a small beach town on the Pacific coast, where many people show up for a weekend, yet end up leaving many weeks after. Mancora is still a bit underdeveloped, but I think the rough edges add to its character. Tuk tuk drivers blare their horns in the street, vendors sell souvenirs from brightly coloured stalls and Spanish music pours of of various restaurants. It’s chaotic, but its a beautiful chaos.
Paulina, my Polish friend that I met in Ecuador, joined me for the 10+ hour overnight bus ride from Cuenca. The bus service that we used was Civa, and the ticket was only $15 USD. We crossed the border around 2 am. But while she got her stamp out of Ecuador, she didn’t remember to get her stamp into Peru! This oversight was discovered an hour or so later when the bus was stopped by police for a standard check. The officers boarded the bus and asked to see all passports. At 3 am, most people, including us, were fast asleep. With blurry eyes, we rummaged through our backpacks for our documents and handed them over for inspection. Mine were in order, but sadly, Paulina and two others had to get off the bus with the officers.
We had previously booked our accommodation at Loki Mancora, a wildly popular hostel, so she asked me to take her main pack to the hostel, while she took her daypack with her to God knows where. What a welcome to Peru! The rest of the drive was fairly uneventful. We passed by sand dunes and empty beaches, which were so starkly different to the mountainous landscapes of Ecuador. I finally arrived to the bus station around 4 am and after hauling the luggage off the bus, I flagged down a tuk tuk to take me to the hostel.
It was a quick four minute ride. If I didn’t have the extra backpack, it was a distance that could have easily been covered by foot. The most interesting part though, was the driver wanted $10 USD for the trip! I’m not sure if it it was because I was a lone female traveling the the middle of the night, but he had the balls to try to rip me off. I pretended as though I didn’t have exact change. I tried to give him the equivalent of $3 which was still too much. He had the heart to refuse, so I stopped caring.
I told him that I would ask reception to change a bigger bill, and I rapped the gate. The driver started to look nervous and agitated. However, I was bluffing. If I disappeared through the gates… You better believe that there was zero chance of me coming back and I think he realized this. Soon, a security guard appeared to let me in. At this point, the driver changed his mind, accepted my $3 and drove off. HA!
Despite this unfortunate start to my Peru travels, I checked into my room and settled in for what was left of the night. I had to pay a little extra for the early check in, but it wasn’t anything much. Hoping that Paulina would show up later in the day, I fell into a deep sleep. My journey had lasted over 12 hours, and that’s enough to knock anyone out cold. Backpacking is harder than most people give it credit for, but the highs make all the lows worth it!
My final night in Siem Reap was pretty awesome. I met a couple from Ireland and we went out on Pub Street for dinner, followed by a few drinks at Temple Bar. We ended up staying up until after 1am, and with a bus to catch early in the morning… we were possibly asking for trouble!
All was well however, and we met in the lobby at the arranged time, had breakfast and boarded the bus soon after. I was thrilled at having another chance to experience the views of the Cambodian countryside, and got annoyed all over again, at the many people who chose to sleep instead!
At some point during the ride, we realized something was off. This wasn’t the way we came! Apparently when we booked our bus tickets, we didn’t specify a tourist bus, so along the way our bus kept on picking up and letting off locals…bringing our journey to Phnom Penh at a royal elapsed time of 8 hours vs the expected 6! Uh oh…
After arriving, some time around 5:30pm, we hired a tuk tuk from the bus station to drop us off at our guesthouse. I checked in, paid the $10 and took a shower. Roughly 40 mins later, we were ready to hit the road for dinner. Needless to say, the food options at the stops along the bus path were far from tempting.
We walked a fair bit, until we got to Riverside where most of the nice restaurants were situated. After scanning a few of the outside menus, we settled on one which seemed diverse enough seeing that we had a vegetarian in our midst. Here’s a look at what I ate:
After dinner, I was beyond tired, so I turned in for the night. I had lots of plans for the following day and when you’re traveling, you need all the beauty sleep you can get!