November Update: Penetrating Peru

Map of Peru

After a month in Ecuador, I was ready to take my relationship with South America to the next level and head south to Peru.

Sunny beaches and Peruvian cuisine were what I desired most and I jumped into both with reckless abandonment. A wicked sunburn and traveler’s diarrhea were the inevitable conclusion.

After moderating my sun and seafood intake, I was ready to travel deeper.

Here’s a quick recap of T2T in November…

Incredible Sunset at the beach in Huanchaco, Peru
Incredible Sunset at the beach in Huanchaco, Peru


  • I left Cuenca, Ecuador and headed south on a night bus through no-man’s land (aka the Peru-Ecuador border) via Tumbes, Peru*.
  • Arrived in Mancora, Peru around 6am and setup shop at the kick-ass Kokopelli hostel.
  • I spent 5 days at the beach in Mancora crushing ceviche and hanging with some interesting people. One of which was an ex-drug dealer from England who now travels around the world researching all-things marijuana while writing for a prevalent weed magazine. Talk about some ridiculous stories.
  • From Mancora, I cruised south to Trujillo and into Huanchaco to enjoy the beach and experience the largest pre-columbian city in South America, the impressive Chan Chan ruins.
  • On November 21st I grabbed another night bus heading south and made the 12-hour trek to Lima, Peru.
  • The rest of November was spent catching up on work, planning and exploring Lima.
  • I loved being back in a big city, especially with the energy of the holidays and have gotten pretty comfortable in Lima. I run and swim at the beach of Malecón in the morning, eat around the city in the afternoon and meet up with a few local friends I met the first few days.
  • I even went to my first Couchsurfing meet-up (party) at the end of November and had a blast. I will definitely be doing that more often.
Larcomar Mall in Miraflores getting into the Christmas Spirit - Lima, Peru
The Larcomar Mall in Miraflores getting into the Christmas Spirit - Lima, Peru


I mentioned the border crossing from Ecuador to Peru was in the middle of nowhere, but what I didn’t mention was how uncomfortable it is going through over-land customs during the twilight hours in South America.

The bus from Cuenca to Mancora first stopped around 1:30am, at small dark building setup along the highway with a walk-up window and no guards in sight.  With no markings or “official” anything, someone had to tell me we were at the Ecuadorian migration office (photo below). We waited 45 minutes for everyone on the bus to unload and get a pretty uncontested stamp.

We loaded back on the bus and drove another half hour until reaching stop two, which was darker and even sketchier than the first – the Peruvian customs office. The driver unloaded us quickly and guided us through the seedy building into a small, open room where a uniformed officer sat stamping passports.

Within minutes of lining up we heard a loud commotion coming from the main lobby where men setup money exchange tables. It sounded like a large fight had broke out, so without hesitation, I noticed an open door away from the noise and ducked inside with two Italian travelers.

We froze behind the door nervously and within moments our bus driver walked in and said, “it’s over, but let’s hurry through this”. We arouse from our bunker to see one exchange operator’s face full of blood and another man being detained by two guards.

As we rushed through the passport process our driver explained that 3 men ran in and robbed all the un-secured money at the exchange counters and the now-captured thug had blasted the bloodied man’s nose with something to loosen his grip on the cash.

Laughing apprehensively, the driver then confide to me that a few weeks ago a group of men robbed an entire bus at gun-point in the same area.

When I asked why there aren’t more police officials in the area if it’s so dangerous, he replied, “3 officers was all the bad guys can afford.”

Ecuador Peru Migration Office - Border Crossing from Ecuador to Peru
What the Ecuador migration office looked like during the day. I took no photos at night. Photo via

– Current Mission –

My current mission here in Peru is to learn to cook some traditional Peruvian dishes. Peruvian cuisine is renowned across Latin America and I’d like to see how it’s done. There are a ton of culinary schools in Lima, however most of them are multiple-month programs. This doesn’t work with my overall goal of getting to Bolivia to start volunteering by January so I have been searching for alternative options. As luck (aka planning) would have it, I’m joining a group of Peruvians at a friend’s house in Lima next week to do some home cooking. Hopefully I’ll pick up a few good recipes to bring back to the States.

Ceviche in Mancora, Peru
Ceviche. Delicious. In moderation.

What’s to come in December?

  • Leaving Lima after the cooking session and heading north.
  • Just an hour north actually, to a Hare Krishna village to spend a few days harnessing my Chi (I have no idea what to expect but Ayngelina told me to do it)
  • From the eco-village I will head south to Ika to do some sand boarding and visit Pisco, Peru.
  • Then on to Cusco and a little place called Machu Picchu, hopefully for Christmas!

Upcoming Posts:

  • NEW VIDEO: Life at the Monkey Rescue Center
  • Tainted Love in Cuenca, Ecuador
  • Top 10 Hottest Ecuadorian Women
  • The Justin Beiber of Chan Chan

My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!


  1. Yeah it was a little messed up but that’s the price you pay sometimes for enjoying night buses in South America. Like you, I hope this is the worst that will happen.

  2. I’ve been following your blog since you were in Argentina and I love to see all the places you’ve been! I studied abroad in Argentina and the first people I got to know were from Peru and some of the best restaurants were Peruvian too! I’ll be returning to Brazil in January for a few months and I hope to make it Machu Picchu but now I’m inspired to see more of the country from your blog!

    1. Wow, thanks Stefanie! I agree the people and food here in Peru have been exceptional! I can’t wait to visit Brazil too. All the best with your travels.

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