After terror, increased fear-mongering and gloominess in Europe I felt it was high time for something completely different. So from an airport undergoing some serious refurbishment and with the dominating presence of the Dutch equivalent of the Royal Marshals, not doing an awful lot, but mainly looking terribly butch and important, I boarded a plane to the other side of the Atlantic. Upon touch down I imagined myself to be the Dark Fairy Rockstar and internally shouted with all my being “Helloooo Lima!”
After cleverly jumping the queue to deal with the formalities and waiting for what felt like an eternity for my luggage to do its round on the conveyer belt, I was awaited by a short guy with a little placard with my name on it who was to escort me to my hostel. The driver seemed very kind and talkative and a good starting point to engage my rusty castellano. The hostel is what appeared to be a fairly affluent part of the city. How affluent I was about the found out the next day, when I visited the local food hall. The place was rather pleasant on the eye, but Waitrose (-upmarket UK supermarket-) it ain’t. Yet, when I got to the till one could have thought I bought something rather fancy from Fortnum and Mason or Harrods. As I am a Londoner at heart and I have been missing my beloved Cairo ever since I left those good days at the African Med behind, I have a thing for massive cities. Although I felt myself immediately blending in nicely, I wasn’t quite catching the Lima vibe. So after two nights I headed for some beach chill in the North of the country. Despite having a very extensive coastline, there is only one place that is considered the beach resort of the country: Máncora (stress on ‘man’). Máncora is an 18 hour bus ride from the capital, not far from the Ecuadorian border. As an online booking for a fancy coach failed, I was at the mercy of the ‘economy’ class, as on the day those were the only tickets left and I already had made my booking in Máncora. So, off I went on a cheap bus with señor Juan, a lovely man with a bright mind, as my neighbour and ever so often people selling food jumped on the bus to flog their wares, so no reason to go hungry. Sliding along the coast with desert land to the east and the sea to the west, just outside of Lima the sand dunes are right at the road- if your car would break down there would be no room to park it!-and stand tall as mountains, giving you the idea that they could turn into an avalanche any time collapsing on the road and streaming into sea. After hours of mountains and desert, one hits a stretch of far lusher rain forest-like terrain, before the land becomes arid again and after more than 18 hours Máncora can be seen from the top of a hill.
Despite Máncora being the beach resort of the country it is nothing special at first sight. There is one strip of main road, which is the only road from and to town, with loads of shops, hostels, eateries and other random outlets. Then there is a short road leading to the malecόn, which translates as boulevard, but it really is not that all glam. Apparently it used to be quite fancy a few years ago, but within 6 months the sea had reclaimed the newly build construction. Although Máncora itself might not be that special at first sight, it does get under your skin and I find it really hard to leave this place. It might not be Máncora itself but the place I’m residing at. I’m staying at what is considered an eco lodge.
It is a beautifully set up garden with several huts predominately made from bamboo, wood and reed, with several lounge areas with hammocks, an outdoor kitchen and a pool if the 50 metres to the beach are really too far away.
As Máncora has decent swell there is plenty of surf action to be had and a lot of the fit, cute surfer dudes – only a few surfer chicks have been spotted- are rather pleasing on the eye. Right next door to my residence is a(nother) beach camp, marketed as a surf camp, where a Belgium chef makes the best omelettes, chips, juices and a whole bunch of other stuff, in town. Then there is the market, where you wouldn’t venture if no one told you about it, where one can get the juiciest mangoes and other fruit and vegs for far less exotic prices then in terror-obsessed Europe. I get up, go for a swim in the ocean, have breakfast, do some work, go for lunch, chill in a hammock and write some more, engage with travellers and foreigners, who got ‘stuck’ here and so the days go by. It’s the places that slowly get under your skin that are the most ‘dangerous’. I don’t know if I ever manage to leave this place, but in the meantime, the Dark Fairy chill and action is continuing.Seriously.
Naif Eco Lodge http://www.naifmancoraperu.com/