Trip to the most northern part of Peru, the small Tumbes and the surrounding areas, January 9th through the 21st. I traveled alone with two other exchange students, Savannah and Chelan.
*We were completely on our own for our food, transportation and even toilet paper. Though I'm used to budgeting my own money and cooking for myself, it was a first for my fellow travelers. In total we spent 322.50 soles for the 12 days on the food, split that by three that's 107.50 a piece which in dollars is 39.81. We felt accomplished at the end of the trip. Equally speaking though, this was the most independent trip that any of us have been on and we soaked it up!
*Zorritos is a beach town that is a hot spot, just a 25 minute hot and sticky bus ride away from Tumbes. We ended up going about three different times due to its picture postcard appearance: white sand, sunny skies, blue ocean, and handmade umbrellas made from palm leaves. This is the first beach that I've been to where the water was actually warm. During one of the visits, I managed to flirt with a hot surfer boy, all in Spanish of course.
*Puerto Pizzaro: A famous fishing spot, where a river deposits its fresh water right in front of the ocean to create a unique mixture of salt and fresh water. There are lots of islands, many of them were just compounds of sand but entirely covered in manglores, a famous plant in this region which are very branchy from the roots and end up looking like huge, lush, green bushes. We took a boat tour through the islands, stopped at a crocodile refugee camp then ate ceviche on a different island. This area was also famous for its diversity in birds.
*Moncora: one of the nicest beaches in all of Peru that always has many travelers from other parts of South America. We spent a night there in a cheap hostel, soaked up the hippie scene (there were more hippie travelers than Peruvians), shopped, went swimming for hours (also had fun on boogie boards, and near death experiences), got hippie braids in our hair, Chelan and I had 1am fun that included hanging out with Argentinian hippies around a campfire and listening to them play their instruments.
* Cabeza de vaca is an archeological site in Tumbes. We had permission to walk around by ourselves in the closed off area, and then a man gave us a tour of the many holes, and told us: it was a temple recently discovered in 2004 and as of now, they found a necklace in one of their holes and in another weapons like ninja stars. We observed red paint on some broken walls and walked by many lizzards. He let us climb down into the holes on fragile ladders, one hole was even a story deep!
On our way back to the center of Tumbes, a mototaxi full of teenage boys came whizzing around the corner and started pegging us with water balloons- it was quite a sight: 3 girls running around screaming and laughing, while people in their front yards laughed hysterically and the mototaxi went up and down the street chasing us! It came back 3 times! It was rather amusing.
This is a norm during the January and February months in all of Peru, it's called carnivales which basically permits anyone (mainly young boys, teenage boys or grown men) to throw water balloons at anyone passing by. I couldn't tell you how many times we were attacked by water balloons in Tumbes, don't worry, most of them missed us. We were special targets since we looked like "gringos"...
* We went camping at Cerros de Amotape after receiving government permission to camp. We borrowed a tent from the president of the town with less than a hundred people, but we didn't have any other camping gear... there were constant goats, pigs, chickens and donkeys that surrounded our tent. Unfortunately I can't say much about the hikes because I didn't go on any because I was sick- but it was a lush beautiful area with a brown river that passed through, home to many crocs.
* We got covered in mud at the Hervideros about half an hour from Tumbes, famous for its healing powers... it was just as much of an adventure to get to the mud baths as it was to be rolling around in the mud, slipping and slidding in and out of the various baths (shock and dismay: I slipped and hit the cobblestone pavement when I got out of one, good laughs). Our teenage mototaxi driver almost got us lost (it was out of the city in the middle of nowhere) and half way there he stopped and declared that he was almost out of gas.
* On our last night we made chocolate chip cookies (and extra cookie dough for us) as a thank you gift for letting us stay in their house, the little girls loved them. These girls were absolutely devastated that we had to leave as we were their excitement for the 12 days.
*Ecuador was only twenty minutes from where we were staying and we had permission to cross the boarder but not go far enough in that we would need our passports. We went to the small town that stretched out into both of the countries, Huaquillas, to walk around and look at the market. We ended up going to Ecuador twice because we got a little disoriented in the market and ended back up in Peru, so we went back to Ecuador! That's right, I went to Ecuador twice within an hour. We bought ice cream (with dollars, how weird!) and sat in their town plaza before returning to Peru.
*Lots of creepy men... many followed us a little bit and countless yelled at us. One even tried to give us a ride back to our city... but we made good encounters with others which made up for it, like a cute old man at a bread shop that we frequently visited. The harassment was worse in Tumbes than in Lima, I think it's because Tumbes doesn't receive as many white visitors.
* A twenty something year old tried to steal my friend's camera, it was scary. He must have seen her taking pictures earlier with it so got ahead of us and waited until we walked by (we appeared to be even weaker targets since we were in flip flops and summer dresses). She put her bag in a blue camera but was carrying that out in the open. To his surprise and our relief, he couldn't steal it and no one got hurt- at one point they ended up on the ground because Savannah (thata girl!) wouldn't let go of her camera. After he realized it was a lost battle, probably the moment when me and Chelan turned around to start hitting him and all of us were screaming, he got off the ground and ran into a near by mototaxi that was waiting for him.
*Savannah and I got food poisoning. My second big trip in Peru and both times I've gotten food poisoning... the food that made us waste a full day to illness: churros. Because deep fried dough covered in sugar wasn't bad enough...
*Directly after food poisoning, I got a cold. That's not really a surprise that I'd have a cold, now is it?