It was a hairy ride from Piura to Mancora through desert mountains, but the driver drove like a champ with booze, cigarettes and drag-racing not distracting him from his job. We were stopped twice by military police, but it's a dangerous place near the border of Peru and Ecuador.
Mancora really stank - literally. There's a semi-nice part of town, but down where I stayed an open sewer ran down one side of the street and I had to hold my nose and leap over it every time I left the hostel. A half block down an expat from Germany was running a vegetarian restaurant, but she wasn't doing too much business when I was there, but oh, she LOVED the frigging place! It always gets me how some people just oooh and aah about shitty places. They can't bear to admit that they've made a HUGE mistake after they've put their life savings into their dream restaurant that's located beside an open sewer that runs the shit right by their front door. Which came first, the sewer or the restaurant? Perhaps she did love it, but I found the gushing hard to believe.
It was Christmas Eve and I was hanging around the small cafe in my hostel while teenaged dude behind the desk made phone calls and ran in and out the door talking to his friends who were smoking cigarettes in the street. I guessed he was missing a party, or a relative's gathering, or some celebration. I bought beer across the street at a gas station then suggested to him that I oversee the hostel and he go out and 'have fun for God's sake! Who the heck works on Christmas Eve?' The hostel manager had left that afternoon to be with his family in Piura and 'who the hell's gonna know anyway? I won't say anything.' It obviously didn't take much to convince his butt because within seconds he was handing me the keys and scooting out with two of his friends. 'Keep the door locked,' he said. After he was gone the first thing I did was to reach up and switch off the infernal goddamned television set that blasted out morning til night. Peace! At last!
I found it quite funny - here I was babysitting the place and I had just arrived that morning and he didn't know me from diddly and I could be bad straight through, but it was worth the risk to him so he could visit friends and family on Christmas Eve and worth it to me just so I could turn off the television. I shrugged my shoulders, locked the door, shooed off the few stragglers that knocked at the windows, watched all the passers-by on the street and drank my beer and scribbled in my notebook, but it wasn't too long before there wasn't a dog left scratching his arse on the street. I wished myself a merry Christmas, turned off the lights and fell into a very deep sleep without dreams in my tiny bed at the end of the hall. Thus passed another Christmas Eve.
The next morning I was hungover so I went for a big American breakfast, plus coffee, at an empty seaside restaurant. I was alone on the beach but before I could start feeling sorry for myself a little bird showed up to share my breakfast and remind me of how happy I was just to be in South America.
To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world. – Freya Stark