Being overseas and away from friends and family is hard. It’s especially hard at Christmas time. One of the only times that I really struggled with homesickness on my 15-month trip was during the two Christmases that coincided with my trip.
The first I was lucky enough to spend with my aunt, uncle and cousins in the United Kingdom. So, I was overseas but I was still spending it with family in a traditional Christmas setting. For my second Christmas abroad, I was a lot more isolated, travelling through South America, specifically Peru.
I think most travellers find Christmases away hard, but Christmas hits me extra hard simply due to the importance that my family places on the holiday. My mum is so obsessed with Christmas that the inside of our house looks like the inside of a Christmas shop. My Nan is equally, if not more obsessed. I swear she has a special bank account that she smuggles money into just to cover the 50 gifts she buys for everyone and the feast fit for 100 people she puts on.
So naturally, not only do I feel sad about being away from home but I also get slightly guilt tripped by my family for not being there for Christmas. I don’t even want to think about my mum’s reaction when I told her I’d be spending yet another Christmas away this year in Asia.
So, I suddenly found myself backpacking across South America with no strict Christmas plans. I was facing Christmas alone, with no connections from family and friends. I was determined to find some place where I could celebrate Christmas in a way even remotely like back home.
Loki Mancora Hostel proved to be the perfect place to celebrate Christmas.
Loki Mancora Hostel
Mancora is a small beach town located in Northern Peru, just over the Ecuadorian-Peruvian border. There isn’t much else to do there except for surf and hang out on the beautiful beach, but nevertheless it is a firm stop on the backpacking ‘Gringo’ trail. And a large reason why people stop here is to spend some time at the famous Loki Mancora Hostel.
The Loki Hostels are a chain of party hostels that operate across South America. You can stay at Loki Lima, Loki Cusco, Loki La Paz, Loki Salta and of course Loki Mancora. I can’t speak from experience because I only stayed at the one in Mancora, but apparently, Loki Mancora is the best of the lot.
I’m not surprised- Loki Mancora is essentially a resort made for backpackers. The three-storey white building, complete with balconies, was purposely made to be a hostel. As such the beds are completely built into the rooms, complete even with lockers up by the top bunks. It was so nice to not have to worry about creaky beds shaking in the middle of the night!
But the highlight of the hostel isn’t the rooms but the facilities. The hub of social life is the pool where people spend most of their day sunbaking, swimming, drinking, catching up on some sleep from the night before, making new friends or playing water volleyball in the pool. There are sun loungers, hammocks and even huge beds in which to rest.
Right by the pool is the bar and restaurant area. This is usually where we started our days- with some breakfast and a breakfast beer. The restaurant is fantastic and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you find yourself in Mancora, do yourself a favour and order the tuna steak. I basically lived off it during my five days at Loki.
The bar has three happy hours a day, which is signalled by them playing Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Swede. At which point everyone immediately stops what they are doing and starts clapping along and singing to ‘Ooga Chaka, Ooga Chaka’. After a couple of days, it starts to feel like you are part of a cult, a Loki cult. Even with eating most my meals at the hostel, and drinking all day everyday my bill after five days came to less than $250, including my four nights of accommodation. The trick is to take advantage of all the happy hour specials! Especially the two for one slushies which are ridiculously strong while also being delicious.
But the greatest thing about Loki is the people you meet. The social atmosphere and the organised activities both during the day and night means it is incredibly easy to make friends. And because there isn’t much else to do except go to the beach or sit by the pool and drink, you end up spending most of your day and nights with them. The friends I made at Loki in the five days over Christmas were some of the greatest friends I met in all my travels.
Christmas at Loki Mancora
Loki Mancora had a whole range of activities organised for Christmas. Even in the days leading up to Christmas we had Christmas themed events and parties. But the proper Christmas celebrations started with a huge party on Christmas Eve and a countdown to Christmas day at midnight. At midnight everyone stumbled around, already half drunk, giving new friends hugs and wishing each other a Merry Christmas. I never want a hangover to ruin my Christmas lunch so I’ve never been brave enough to go out on Christmas Eve before.
But Christmas Eve was as big as any other night at Loki Hostel. Once again, we partied until the hostel bar closed at 2am before heading off to the beach bars to kick on. Once again, I stumbled home at some time around 6am. Some of my friends didn’t sleep at all, and when I tried to use the pool bathroom at 9am in the morning because the bathroom in my room was out of action, I promptly got ordered to grab a beer and my bathing suit and head for the pool.
By the time, Christmas lunch got served at 2.30pm, most people were well in the Christmas spirit and on the way to full blown drunk. I was smart enough to watch my drinking, I really didn’t want to ruin Christmas dinner. And I’m glad I did.
Around 50 of us, all decked out in our matching Loki Christmas t-shirts, sat down for a lunch complete with complimentary wine for a Christmas toast. Lunch consisted of all the Christmas favourites including roast turkey, Christmas ham, pigs in blankets and roast vegetables. It was almost as delicious as what I would have gotten at home!
Of course, come the end of the meal, we had full reign to jump straight back into the Loki Party. And once again I stumbled home into bed well after the sun had risen, after having a celebratory Christmas skinny dip at the beach.
The crazy Christmas I spent at Loki Mancora was not how I typically spend Christmas. But I still had an amazing time celebrating the day with a bunch of fellow backpackers. At least if I can’t have my family at Christmas, I had a Loki Family!