Hanging out down here, I’ve met many different types of foreigners:
Type A: Those taking a short break from their lives in their home countries, and want an interesting place to get drunk
Type B: The hippies, looking to get further down to earth and live off the land. This is an interesting type.
Type C: The pelucones, who come down here to say they did, and do little more than observe the country from the window of an expensive hotel or restaurant
Type D: The naïve, hopeful, a little ignorant and bright-eyed traveler seeing the world for one of the first times, trying to take it in stride. I’d classify myself among this group.
Type E: The seasoned traveler, spending days in some places, weeks in others, going wherever he or she wants and feeling at home in each place.
Dario is type E, and when I first met him, he began telling me about how he’s been hitchhiking and busing his north from Concepcion, Chile with nothing more than two outfits, a tent, and a violin. In order to fund his now 8 months of travel, he plays his violin in the city center of whatever exotic or by now, not so exotic, city he finds himself in. As a violin professor at Concepcion University, Dario has a lot of freedom to take time off and travel as he wants. While usually taking the summers off (December–March) to travel around Patagonia in both Argentina and Chile, he decided this time to go north and see where the world took him. When we met he was 24 years old, and we celebrated his 25th birthday the other day exploring, and of course getting very lost, in Cotopaxi National Park, as we attempted and partly succeeded in summitting Rumiñahui Volcano. I say partially, because only my friend Miro and I were able to summit, having lost Dario and another friend in the path. That’s a story for later. Dario and I were hanging out at my apartment in Cuenca in mid June, and I was sitting utterly intrigued by his plans, or rather lack there of, and freedom. To me it seemed to take so much courage, and sounded like one of the most incredible ways one could spend a summer, much less a year. Just think of the adventure, and the stories! I had to do it, and after a moment of deliberation, decided to. Dario and I talked about it all the time, and he showed me all the sights in the south I should see. At this time, I was thinking of buying a motorcycle in Quito and heading south Che Guevara style to Tierra del Fuego and north again, along one of these two routes:
Obviously, that plan didn’t happen. After a few weeks of searching for a reasonably priced, powerful enough motorcycle I realized that this plan would have to be put off for a later date when I had deeper pockets, stronger Spanish, and the ability to ride a motorcycle. That last factor should have been more important that it was at the time. A few days after giving up the search, I headed to the coast to see whales, blue footed boobies, small towns, make new friends and find out if all the talk about Montanita is valid. It is. Don’t worry, I took tons of picture. If you want to see them, just ask the guy who stole my phone in Medellin. I’m sure he saved them all.
Re-reading where I left off in Puerto Lopez just under two months ago speaks volumes. Maybe the change reflected in the writings is more noticeable to me than others because I lived it, or maybe it’s the opposite. Either way, I notice a pretty big change between the man writing this now and the man who started this blog three months ago. James told me to “prepare for a life changing experience” right before I left, and while I didn’t doubt him, I didn’t totally understand what that change would be. The last three months–specifically the last month and a half–has been the most challenging, incredible, eye-opening, exciting, exhausting, and unbelievable experience of my life. And I don’t even consider my trip to be that radical or crazy. Rather benign, really, when I compare it to some of the other stories I’ve heard down here. My time on the Ecuadorian coast was really laid back, and generally revolved around sitting in a hammock and doing nothing on the beach hanging out with foreigners. Not exactly what I was looking for when I set off, but it was a nice way to start.
Things began to change, though, when I started the journey to Lima. On the 8 hour bus ride to Mancora–my first of many of its kind–I sat next to this guy from Piura, Peru (northern Peru, near the border), and was able to practice my Spanish for a few hours as I learned about the fishing industry, which Ronald was a consultant for. I taught a bit of English that he could use when working with his almost exclusively Japanese customers, too (who knew?). Once I got into Mancora at 4:00 in the morning, I stepped off the bus and was immediately swarmed by 15 or so moto-taxistas, all wanting business. Even in a party town, 4:00 isn’t a very busy time for them. For 1 sol, about 42 cents, my hopped into the carriage hitched to the halved motorcycle and told the taxi driver to take me to the nicest, cheapest place he knew of. 5 minutes later, I was introduced to his friend, the owner, at a beach side hostel where I would be falling asleep to sounds of the ocean. And for only 15 soles per night, or about 7 dollars. There really wasn’t anybody staying there, except for the two people who I was sharing the 15 bed dorm with: a German and a Peruvian, also from Piura, who took the weekend off of work in Mancora to unwind after his Spanish girlfriend moved back to Malaga to get surgery after being shot in the leg in a mugging in Piura. He was very evidently still upset, which probably goes a small way to explain this weekends events, such as the ritzy cocaine party at the end of the blue tunnel in the middle of a slum.
Every night in Mancora there are huge parties on the beach, with all the clubs blasting their music at competing tones beach side. These clubs are packed to a point where they’re overflowing to the beach; there’s barely enough room to even attempt to salsa, although they make it happen somehow. Each of these clubs shut down their music and close their doors at 3:00 AM, leaving everybody disgruntled and feeling cheated out of a dance. Since everybody lives with their families, I can understand why they want to keep dancing (although there is a reason hostels rent out by the hour here…). In order to fix this problem, there is generally an after party/club starting at around 3:30 AM. In my one and only experience, it happened to be in an enclosed field in the middle of a slum. After leaving the beach, I hopped in a moto-taxi with my new friends, told the driver the destination, and putted off to the rumba. I was a bit confused upon arriving, since I didn’t see anybody, was surrounded by very small tin, one bedroom houses, and could only faintly hear the thump of reggaetone, although after a few seconds a Peruvian guy beckoned me his way, and instructed me on where to go. After walking single file down this neon blue lit tin hallway, we arrived at the party: huge, beautifully green grass field, bamboo canopy, two bars with American and European drinks, and a state of the art DJ/sound system. Oh, and I should mention the giant pen in the middle that held turkeys, ducks and chickens, and the people discreetly snorting lines of cocaine off of its fence. I felt like the place was stolen from the set of Clockwork Orange. For the entire party Anis and I, Anis being the German, passed a bottle of Pilsen back and forth, both pretending to take sips because it was absolutely terrible. Peru has some fantastic food, but their beer is just terrible. Stick to your strengths.
Now, I actually know nothing about Peruvian food because I spent the majority of my time in Lima vomiting. Violently.
More to come tomorrow.