02.05.2014 - 08.07.2014
H and I were excited to be leaving Cuzco and making our way to the coast, we were on such a high. We were waiting in reception for a person from the tour (the 4 days tour stopping at a few places on the way to Lima we were about to begin) when I spotted this daypack in the lost property box which H had spotted almost 10 days earlier and kept an eye on as her bag was ripping around the zips. We have stayed at a few places where there are boxes of lost items you can take, with courtesy of leaving something behind. We had left a really good sleeping bag. So I grabbed it for her, she slung it over her shoulder and we carried on waiting, laughing and jumping around dancing like idiots celebrating being on the move again. We got picked up, got a taxi to the bus and while in the taxi H was checking out the bag and one of the zippers was broken which was the issue with hers anyway so we just left it in the taxi. We were sitting waiting to leave when one of the tour guides got on and came up to us and told us he had been told we had stolen a bag before leaving the hostel. We were baffled and when he asked if that was true strongly denied it, not even THINKING properly just panicking we were being accused of theft…it turns out it was NOT in fact the lost property box (a cardboard box next to the front door) but the box where the door man keeps his belongings and it was HIS bag OMG which is why it had been there for 10 days hahah NOT 10 days without being removed but obviously while he was on duty it would be there and that is when we would see it. AGH I am cringing just thinking about all of this. The bag felt empty because it only had his wallet in it. We tried to explain this, but in so much shock and mortified at the situation said so many things that looking back we can completely see how we would look guilty (such as when I gave her the bag I was then dancing around hyperactive).
Anyway, we left with the bus while trying to sort things out with the tour leader, getting phone calls back and forth seeing if maybe the taxi driver would hand it in but BAH this is PERU! The WORST 24 hours of my life I think as we then didn’t really want to mix in with other people on the bus thinking they would all think we were crims, then we were told the police would be meeting us the next night when we arrived at our next desitnation. I thought for sure we were going to be in an episode of Banged up Abroad…we were a mess! After a night on the bus with NO sleep the next afternoon we managed to work out with them that we would give the tour guide money to cover the security guards costs of replacing his ID`s etc so she could take it to him on her return to Cuzco. Thankfully he accepted. Life as a duo - strike 1.
What a mess, so our 4 day tour which was supposed to be a mini Contiki style break did not quite work out this way. We stopped at the Nazca lines to see them from a viewing point…this was ok but you would have to do the flight to really get a good look at them, we could only see part of a couple as were not high up. The lines date back to 400BC, carved only 4-5cm deep into the earth but have remained because of the lack of rain in the area. They are thought to have been a way of communicating with the Gods. Pretty amazing they have lasted all this time. Then we arrived in Huacachina – minus the police – the only desert oasis in South America. We had a day by the pool and then in the afternoon went sand boarding and dune buggying which was SOOOOO much fun. One of those times you are having so much fun you laugh uncontrollably. The scenery here of the dunes as far as the eye can see was spectacular, not to mention the colours changing throughout the afternoon and then at sunset when the orange becomes red and then somehow purple.
We then went to Paracas on the coast, filling up on ceviche and then going out on a boat to see sea lions and penguins….hmmm…since we had already seen them in a reeeally nice environment this wasn’t the best as the rock islands they are on here are where Guano – the poo of this type of bird – is harvested here every 8 years so it absolutely STINKS. I have a strong stomach but I was even gagging. Heading further towards Lima we stopped at a hacienda (an estate) where there are loads of underground tunnels used to smuggle slaves from Africa without paying taxes in the 17th Century. Very interesting hearing about this one, starting from a few slaves to thousands and the tunnels join several estates in the area, stretching over many kilometres as they were also used to hide from the common pirate invasions.
We arrived in Lima in the night, dodging through the traffic in one of the most dangerous cities in the world to drive in - you feel it even more in a taxi! Here, most public transport is illegal and the cities poorest people sit on a goldmine as the property prices soar and the people living in the shanty towns covering the hills (with the views) legally own the property after 10 years due to Peru`s laws so it is untouchable to developers. Nice huh. We arrived on the 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo, a big Mexican holiday which H loves to celebrate) and we were lucky when we wandered down the street from the hostel and found a small Mexican restaurant run by a Mexican man…thought we would have a Corona and go to bed, next thing he is bringing out rounds of tequila shots, big sombreros and getting us to be in a bunch of photos with him and then his staff. We woke to look through our phones at photos of us in the hostel bar with some more Mexicans, with more sombreros on and drawn on moustaches...one of THOSE nights. We didn’t do too much in Lima, had good food which is what it is mostly known for, I met up with my Peruvian friend who I worked with in QLD, got my roots coloured, walked through fancy shopping centres gazing longingly into the windows, that's about it.
We then went up the coast to Mancora to continue our flourishing careers as bartenders at another hostel. We had 10 days there first to chill out on the beach. Mancora is a bit of a crappy town, loads of tuk tuks, beach bums and crime. It was basically built around the growing backpacker population passing through but is also sadly one of those places where many people do not appreciate the business this has brought and people are pretty hostile towards travelers. Basically, if you go out at night with any belongings, you will most likely not come home with them. If you are a male you may get bashed. Nice place. Luckily there is not much reason to leave – besides the all you can eat sushi – as the hostel is really nice, with a resort style pool and you can access the beach from here. So 2 months of sunbaking around the pool, lying on the beach – only when with other people otherwise you cannot get a moment to yourself to relax, taking up the free yoga on offer at the hostel (ok, once) and telling the surf instructors `tomorrow` every day. We originally thought we would try to fly under the radar at work so maybe the bar manager would forget to put us on the roster but when a couple of weeks in he was telling us we were his sisters and he would do anything for family we realized we had failed. Some of the rules in our introduction info sheets were A) Always wear footwear and a shirt - unless no shirt is a part of your costume, B) Your discount is for you, don’t take the pi%s and only use it for yourself. Exceptions: if you are trying to pick up a lovely lady of man. Our farewell speech from the newer bar manager was `To H and N, you are not the best workers, but you are good people`. Anyway it was a fun couple of months, good way to extend the trip and live on the cheap. I am a terrible bartender it is true and my Spanish continued to get worse.
Mancora is So dodgy. I got a tuk tuk one day to the medical centre to get my ear flushed out (oh the glamorous life) as I had been slightly deaf for about a month. In the end all the nurses in the centre had surrounded the lady doing it to see what would come out haha it was fun in a weird way. But the tuk tuk drivers ask you three questions. 1) Cocaine? 2) Marijuana? 3) Ok then, where to? as if THAT is a strange request. We went up to the lighthouse to watch the sunset one afternoon and a couple of Peruvian girls that we worked with left to return to town 20 minutes after us and got held up at gunpoint and robbed. The late night burger man down the road, although making absolutely amazing burgers, we later found out is also the big drug king pin in town. And then the fake money ahhh.
H and I went to the local market instead of the tourist shops one day to buy these really nice think cool pants our friend had bought. The ladies in the shop were really nice, H had been there before, and we paid her with a 100 sole note which she checked and nodded then put away and gave us our change. We carried on looking around the shops and 15 minutes late she came and found us and in Spanish was holding the note up and telling us it was fake. I knew straight away it was not my note as it was too new looking, plus we had been taught how to check notes at work and I knew all mine were fine and also I watch a LOT of tv and have seen this on Scam City (thanks Discovery channel). So I just kept saying no no no it is not mine in Spanglish and we started hurrying off. We have also been told not to mess with locals here mind you. We started walking faster as she followed us so we could get back to the main road and away from this back street, I kept yelling NO, telling her it was not mine. She mentioned the policia and by now my Spanish was out the door and I was just yelling `FINE, GO TO THE POLICE: F OFF!!!` and then tried my Spanish and asked `Entiende el scamo? I DO!`…so I from time to time try to add an `o `onto any word to make it Spanish, sometimes it works, in this case scamo is not Spanish for scam haha. Also unfortunately we had to walk by a police station to get back to the hostel and she zipped in there and as we turned a corner to try running to the beach we turned and saw she had an officer so stopped, he took me in and H went to the hostel to get help. You would think this was good, the police could help. Not in Peru and especially not in Mancora. The police chief came into the little room and he was the worlds` biggest … well I will leave out the rude words. They kept trying to get me to answer questions in Spanish, nudging me in the way of yes no matter how many times I told them I don’t understand Spanish and would not answer anything in Spanish. Then he went through my handbag and everything in it, looked through my money (luckily we had gone to go to the ATM before the market and there were some dodgy people hanging around so we didn’t stop), then he opened my phone and tried unlocking it – this was my breaking point and in my bad Spanish I was asking what he was looking for and that there was nothing in there he would need. Next it was my travel journals as I was also out to write an email and he was flicking through that so I had to slam that closed and tell him enough was enough. So he was never going to be on our side. H eventually came back with G, our Italian friend who would be `Bad Lawyer` and O, a Peruvian friend who would be `nice lawyer`. They both immediately looked at the note and laughed, saying that ANY person let alone Peruvian would know that was fake without sunlight – her excuse for not noticing straight away. In the end, the chiefs only defence that it must have been my note was that its folds matched how you may fold a note to fit my wallet. The woman from the store wanted to go to court which we were fine with until told they would remove our passports and we couldn’t leave the country until it was final. So we went with the call the embassy threat until H twigged and got out the change the woman had given us and the folds matched the 100 sole note, which meant that it could have been her note also. That cow got up, snatched the pants and said don’t worry about giving her the rest of the money back and left. So we won but also lost the pants and 60 soles, about $20. We were so glad to be leaving as O was worried about the whole `messing with the locals` thing and we were just starting to hate Peru thanks to the experiences we had there.
Really sadly it was at this time that beautiful Nanna passed away. H and I had a mini-ceremony one sunset on the beach, having picked flowers from all over this desert town to send off into the ocean. She will be soooooo missed. It's always hard to be around loved ones at times like these but luckily had a beautiful photo of Nanna and some cards.
We really met some amazing people during our time here, as throughout the entire trip. So lucky that we can travel the world and meet like-minded people, sad to say goodbye to the ones we may never see again but exciting to plan future reunions with others. We had a little family here at the hostel, I absolutely loved it.
We JUST made it onto our bus to Ecuador, thanks to the hostel tradition of getting people really drunk when they are meant to leave. Not that we needed any help as we spent the whole day at the bar enjoying our last slushies. We were a little nervous after all the stories we had heard about the border crossings and bus robberies but it was all worth it in the end.