Peru & Panama: 5/21 – 5/27

Huaraz >>> Lima >>> Panama City >>> Cruise Ship!

5/21 – Planning Day in Huaraz
5/22 – Snowfall and Avalanche at Pastoruri Glacier
5/23 – Hike Laguna 69
5/24 – Planning Day in Huaraz and night bus to Lima
5/25 – Explore the Miraflores district of Lima
5/26 – Flight to Panama City
5/27 – Board the Cruise for Portugal!

5/21
Planning Day in Huaraz
+ Needing a catch up/relaxation day, we were happy to not have any tours or long distance bus rides scheduled for today!
+ We woke up early for the free breakfast only to be disappointed it was only bread and cheese (and not even good cheese, a gross kind!). Then we hung out in the room for a few hours doing research until it was time to head out for lunch. We stopped at a random hole in the wall that offered cheap Peruvian tipico food and both ate for about 5 dollars total.
+ Then we wondered around town popping into various bus and tour companies asking about buses to Lima and finding out about all the different tours available. We ended up choosing a tour to Pastoruri glacier for the next day and waiting to book bus tickets until we knew for sure when we wanted to skip town.
+ Back at the hostel we did some more research and work before heading back out for dinner and drinks.
+ First we went to a brewery called 13 Bruhos. It was Huaraz’s first brewery and offered some decent craft beers, some were even infused with the Coca leaves that are so popular in the area to help combat altitude sickness. One funny thing about the Brewery is that the walls were filed with different pictures containing huge groups of naked people in outdoor settings. We have no idea where/how they gathered hundreds of people at a time to take these pictures and they were some of the most peculiar we’ve ever seen.
+ Right next door was a pizza restaurant called El Horno and we got 2 decent quality pies and another beer from next door to wash it down. The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful as we just messaged some people and discussed the plan for our remaining few days in South America before bed.

5/22
Snowfall and Avalanche at Pastoruri Glacier!
+ With no hotel staff to be found in the morning, we put together our own breakfast and scarfed it down before a guy from the tour company picked us up at our hostel.
+ The plan had been to check out of the hotel and move to a different one in town with cheaper rates. But not wanting to pack it all up and move only to do it again in a day or two, combined with the risk of having bad wifi when we had so much to do before the cruise made us decide to just stay put. We only had a few more days until our cruise and we were really looking forward to being in 1 room for 2 weeks since we were growing pretty weary of the frequent moving. We have really been trying to maximize our time here in South America and have been moving pretty quickly through Ecuador and Peru. It’s tiring moving this fast!
+ Our van ride out to the glacier took about 3 hours, with stops at a restaurant and then for some touristy photos with llamas along the way. Normally we’re good about avoiding paying anything at the tourist traps, but Liz couldn’t resist holding the cutest little 1 month old llama dressed up in clothes and even sporting a pair of sunglasses! We also took photos with 2 adult llamas that were also dressed up wearing funny hats and sunglasses. The best $2 we ever spent!
+ Finally we arrived at the parking lot for Pastoruri glacier located at 4800 meters and we had to hike about 45 minutes to the glacier located at 5000 meters. The altitude was definitely affecting everybody as even short and small uphill climbs left everyone gasping for breath. Most people were chewing on Coca leaves or sucking on Coca candy to help alleviate the light-headedness.
+ Just before we reached the glacier it actually started snowing! This was definitely a first for this trip and it made for a really cool experience to look out over the lake at the giant glaciers. It looked like we were in the Arctic. Or in our case being from Orlando, the Wild Arctic ride at Sea World!
+ We had really been looking forward to touching a glacier for a couple of months and this was supposed to be the tour to do so but sadly the glacier had been retreating very quickly (23% in 2015 alone). So not only did we have to walk farther to reach the glaciers’ edge than we would’ve had to a year ago, but they had it roped off since the glacier was melting fast enough to produce a little stream of water and large pieces could break off unexpectedly. We did however walk a little bit away from the big piece and along the lake’s edge were smaller pieces of ice that had floated over and Corey broke the rules to duck under the rope and touch the glacier and pose for a quick picture! I mean we did travel all this way after all, we deserved it!
+ While taking a few last photos of the impressive scenery, all the sudden across the lake a huge piece of the glacier broke off and, with the sound resembling thunder, crumbled down into the water. This caused a big wave which carried almost all the way across the lake to where we were standing. Truly an impressive display of nature! Although it is sad to think that in a year or two there might not even be a glacier left there for tourists to come see.
+ On the hike back we stopped and took pictures with these giant model dinosaurs they had placed near the path. It turns out back in only 2007 scientists discovered a bunch of dinosaur fossils there and they claimed the title of being the highest altitude dinosaur bones ever discovered!
+ On the ride back we stopped at the same restaurant area for some lunch. Liz and I had already eaten our leftover pizza from the day before so we weren’t hungry, but we were craving some ice cream! So we set off in a search through the small town to find some, ducking into every little store we saw. Sadly, the only place that had any was inside the gas station which was closed! If only we were back in Salinas where there were 4 ice cream shops in every block!
+ After arriving back in town around 5, we wanted to take a nap but we knew we had to go book our tour for the next day and buy the bus tickets too. So after changing we headed out and eventually decided on another first class overnight bus to Lima for 2 nights later. We also stopped by the same office as before and reserved 2 spots for a tour to the famous Laguna 69 the next day.
+ Now we were on our way to meet our new friends, Steph and Tom, from today’s tour for dinner at a place called Chili Heaven. It is run by a British expat and specializes in Indian/curry food (as opposed to chili). Before we arrived though we stopped to look at some of the women street vendors selling beanies. Corey wanted one with llamas but all the ones he liked were too small for his giant head. So we didn’t buy any and just went to dinner.
+ The restaurant smelled delicious and had lots of spicy options on the menu. Corey wanted to do the spicy food challenge they had, but decided it wasn’t worth it because even if you finished it, you didn’t get the meal for free (like you usually do, and it was expensive) and his stomach was probably still recovering from the burger in Ecuador. So he opted for spiciest regular curry they had and Liz got a mild one and they were both big and delicious!
+ After dinner we said goodbye to our friends, picked up a pizza to go for lunch the next day on the hike (the food of Champions!) and went back to the hostel. Then we spoke with family back home and went to sleep to ready ourselves for the early rise tomorrow!

5/23
Hike Laguna 69
+ Before the sun was even up, we groggily pulled ourselves out of bed and hurriedly ate our breakfast of bread and cheese before the tour guide showed up to escort us to the van.
+ Turns out we were the first ones on the van so we picked a comfy spot near the front and settled in as we stopped at more hostels and slowly filled the van with other gringos. Then we eventually passed out for our 2.5 hour ride up into the snow capped Cordillera Blanca mountains.
+ After a quick stop for breakfast at a local restaurant, the last half of the ride was on impressively bumpy dirt roads and made it impossible to sleep. But we eventually stopped at a curve in the road and the guide proclaimed that this was the beginning of our hike. Not knowing exactly how many kilometers lay ahead of us, we set off along the trail.
+ Turns out the hike was about 2.5 hours to Laguna 69 and was uphill most of the way. We did pass many beautiful waterfalls and gorgeous overlooks along the way to the 4600 meter (15091 foot) Laguna 69. It was a very stunning mint blue lake that was surrounded by glaciers and mountains and provided wonderful picture opportunities. Along the way the temperature slowly dropped and we ate our Coco-infused candy to help offset the altitude sickness.
+ At the lake we ate the pizza leftovers and admired the view until our fingers and limbs were too numb to stay any longer. So we said goodbye to the last glaciers we’d see in South America (and celebrated no more uphill climbs for a while!) and started our hike downhill back to the bus. We have odd hiking tendencies because, defying logic, we actually often take longer to hike down the mountain than we did to hike up (including breaks). We don’t know how it works but it’s the truth.
+ On the ride back to Huaraz, we passed a field of Peruvian lillies! These are Liz’s favorite flowers and one of the final items on our Peruvian bucket list (along with Peruvian hairless dogs, and glaciers. Only eating guinea pig was left!). Eventually we fell asleep again and woke up in the crowded market streets in Huaraz.
+ Despite being ok during the hike, Liz was feeling the effects of the drastic elevation changes and so we chose to spend the rest of the night relaxing in the room. She drank Coca tea while we did work online and showered and got ready for bed.

5/24
Planning Day in Huaraz and Night Bus to Lima
+ We chose to skip breakfast this morning and sleep in instead, our first time in a while. The hostel was nice enough to give us a late check out so we ended up hanging out in the room until almost 6pm doing work on the tablets and preparing for our upcoming cruise. We keep an ongoing check list of things to do and had some important items to take care of before being at sea for 2 weeks.
+ When we checked out, we left our bags at reception and headed towards a restaurant we were told had good Cuy, aka guinea pig. Considered a Peruvian delicacy, we were both anxious and hesitant to try this new food because they serve it to you in it’s entirety – face and all. That, and Liz grew up with her brother having a pet guinea pig. So this hit especially close to home for her.
+ While we got to check the uniquely foreign food off of our must-try list, we were not impressed. What little meat it contained was chewy and reminded us of a mix between chicken and fish. And the skin was gross too. Definitely don’t feel the need to ever eat it again.
+ The last stop we had to make before leaving Huaraz was to visit the Sierra Andina brewery. Although Corey had tried a few of their beers in other places, he hadn’t tried a few special ones they only had at their headquarters. Plus draft beer always tastes better than bottles. They also offered some delicious dessert drinks which Liz was happy to see and she enjoyed a delicious chocolatey coffee drink while Corey had his imperial ale.
+ With about an hour and a half left until it was time to head to the bus station, we relaxed back at Universal Hostel and used their awesome wifi until we said goodbye and toted our backpacks over to the bus station. We were taking our last overnight bus in South America and it was with a company called Z-Buss. It would be a relatively short 8 hour trip to Lima and we would be exiting the Andean highlands and returning to the Pacific Coast.
+ While not the nicest bus we’ve ever been on, we still had first class seats that reclined almost flat and we were able to get some decent rest on the ride.

5/25
Explore the Miraflores district of Lima
+ Arriving about an hour earlier than expected, we got off the bus and stood there with our bags while the bus employees and taxi drivers all talked to each other, unsure what was going on. Eventually we, along with 4 other people, got back on the bus and it took us a little further south to another bus terminal. So I guess they determined enough people had to keep going to justify running the bus to the next stop. Odd.
+ After about 10 more minutes on the bus, we jumped off and found a taxi to take us to our hostel, Kokopelli Lima, and got to see some interesting spots in Lima along the way.
+ At Kokopelli we were too early to check in so we put our bags in storage and hung out upstairs on their rooftop patio using wifi and even ate some free breakfast too! After a few hours of being productive we were able to move into our dorm room and put our stuff in there. This was our first dorm room since the coast of Ecuador and would be our last until we reached Portugal.
+ We headed out for lunch and walked by many different restaurants and shops, including brand names we hadn’t seen in a while, such as Starbucks, McDonald’s and Subway! We chose a unique looking local place and had some Peruvian food along with different sauces which was really good. (Lomo Saltado is one of Liz’s favorites! It’s basically like beef stir fry and very tasty!)
+ Afterwards we strolled along through the streets and visited the movie theater and a clothing store before finding the true gem of the city: A Cat Park! This was literally a big park in the middle of the bustling city full of hundreds of free roaming cats that were lounging around on the grass, in the flower beds, and even curled up on people’s laps! We were secretly in heaven! (We both miss Tumbles sooooo much) Liz had read online that these cats are fed and cared for as well as spayed and neutered. That’s great! No wonder they all hang around!
+ We wandered around for about 20 minutes looking at all the different looking cats and reminisced on how much we missed Tumbles. We agreed Tumbles was still the best and cutest cat we’d ever seen!
+ Back at the hostel we did work for a few more hours since we still had stuff to do before the cruise. Then we headed over to the restaurant right next to our hostel to meet up with friends who we had first hung out with on the Quilotoa Loop, Natalie and Michael!
+ They’ve been traveling a lot longer than us on their current trip (over a year already!) and it isn’t even their first long-term RTW adventure! While talking at the restaurant we tried the typical Pisco Sour drink that you’re supposed to have while in Peru, and it was pretty good! Kind of like a Margarita but a little different and definitely really sour!
+ Although the plan had been to have a couple drinks, then grab dinner and go see a movie at the movie theater, that plan was quickly abandoned in favor of hanging out longer with Nat and Michael. We had a great time swapping traveling stories and after many more drinks, we finally left and walked with them over to a restaurant they liked. At this point we were pretty tipsy and we don’t really remember what we ate, but we think it was good! Finally around 1 am we headed back to the hostel and went to sleep in our dorm.

5/26
Flight to Panama City
+ Woke up feeling a little dizzy still from our big night the day before and spent the morning getting food and water into our stomachs to get back to normal.
+ After checking out we put our bags in storage again and went to grab lunch. Needing something quick we decided on McDonald’s and although it wasn’t quite as good as back home, they had some unique garlic hot sauces and it still hit the spot.
+ Then it was back to the cat park to take some pictures and take in all the cuteness we could before it was time to leave. Afterwards we raced back to the hostel, hopped in an Uber and headed towards the airport.
+ During the 45 minute drive, we passed by the coast and got some cool views of the giant cliffs and surfers in the very cold looking water.
+ For being a giant city, the airport was rather small and we got to our gate with more than an hour and a half to spare. Unfortunately this airport didn’t offer free wifi like others did so we just did what we could to kill time before departure. With only about 6 Peruvian Soles (equal to about about 2 US dollars) left, we wanted to buy something before leaving to use the money up. But everything at the little airport shops were extremely expensive and we couldn’t even afford a soda! So we bought the smallest little chocolate candy we could and figured it was better than literally throwing our money away.
+ Finally we boarded the plane and headed off. Although we were excited to be heading off on our upcoming cruise in 2 days, we were also sad to be leaving Peru and South America. There were still places we wanted to see and we vowed to return again soon to start our trip in Lima and head south.
+ One thing we noticed about Lima was that it was very gray. All of it. The sky, the ocean, buildings, etc. Not once did we see the sun during our short 34 hour stay. Even as the plane took off we had practically no view through the dense fog.
+ The plane ride took about 4 hours and we did get served a nice dinner (or predinner snack to Corey) of a hot sloppy Joe sandwich and a free beer too! When we landed and finally made it through customs, we were greeted by the driver from Mamallena hostel holding a sign with Liz’s name on it. That feeling of being a celebrity never gets old!
+ We dropped our bags at Mamallena hostel and then caught an Uber to the restaurant Corey’s been looking forward to most (for about a month): Buffalo Wild Wings! They call it B-Dubs here and it just opened recently and features a whole video game station as well as the usual 100+ tv’s and delicious wing sauces. We didn’t know about it when we were here last time so we’re glad we had a second opportunity to visit Panama City.
+ Exhausted from our travel day already, we unfortunately still had a lot of last minute things to do before the cruise. So we both stayed up really late (Corey until almost 3 am) before finally passing out.

5/27
Board the Cruise for Portugal!
+ At 9 am we finally forced ourselves to get out of bed and finish the remaining tasks on our agenda. Today was the day we boarded the cruise!
+ First it was an Uber to Mail Boxes Etc. to pick up a package from Liz’s mom and print/sign/scan a few things, then an Uber to the bus terminal. Then we had to catch a bus about an hour and a half north to Colon, where we then hailed a taxi the remaining few blocks to the cruise port.
+ Running on a few bad hours of sleep for the past 4 nights and with a time crunch (and everything taking longer than expected travel-wise today) we were stressed out about possibly missing the boarding time for the cruise.
+ Luckily we made it to the port on time and after dropping off our bags, ended up waiting on benches and in line for about 2 hours until we could board anyway.
+ When we finally got on the ship we walked around exploring what would be our home for the next 2 weeks. That meant 2 weeks of not constantly packing and unpacking our bags, not figuring out bus schedules, not researching hostels, not deciding when/where to go eat everyday, not climbing mountains or sleeping on dirty buses, none of that! We were very excited and had been looking forward to this relaxing break for a while and it would serve as the perfect time to switch between Latin American travel and Europe.
+ At one of the bars, we browsed through the list of available drinks and while it was disappointing to only see 1 type of beer offered for free, we were happy to find many different types of mixed drinks, coffee, tea, and even name brand sodas available for free, unlimited consumption! So we grabbed some Pina Coladas and kept exploring the boat.
+ We did have to pause our good times to go to the lifeboat safety thing, but figured that was probably an important thing to do.
+ After eating some pizza and empanadas, we returned to the room and found our bags waiting for us. Liz decided to shower while Corey went to the Sudoku challenge event they were having. Unfortunately he didn’t have time to complete the puzzles before he left to go get Liz and go to the show in the ballroom they were having.
+ The show was entertaining and afterwards we headed to the fancy dining room for our scheduled dining time. We were scheduled for the 2nd seating at 9:15! We were worried this might be too late and we would be starving every night, but it worked out just fine!
+ The dinner was really good and we were both (especially Corey) looking forward to ordering whatever we wanted, including 2 or 3 different main courses, appetizers, or desserts! We would surely gain back a large portion of all the weight we’d lost over the past few months!
+ In the evening we had a few more drinks at a few new areas like the casino and sports room as we started to memorize our way around the ship. Then we went to sleep to prepare for our excursion day in Cartegena tomorrow!

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