Mancora, Peru: scuba diving, beach and relaxation

Two night buses in a row with some lack of sleep meant time to relax by the pool and beach in Mancora. The main purpose for my visit was to chill and Scuba Dive. There’s not much more than plenty of tourists, markets, street food and many places to drink something refreshing. Our hostel was a party place with a resort pool and sunbeds to lounge on with is totally what I needed for the next few days.

we had arrived in Mancora at around 6 in the morning, we took a tuk tuk to our hostel, which ended up being a lovely party resort with a pool and a place to relax. Just what we needed! As we couldn’t check in yet, we lounged in a hammock until the restaurants were open. Then we wandered along the beach to find something to eat, where we ordered breakfast We stayed here for a while watching the children in the café playing with toys and lying in a hammock with a coffee. After we checked in.

During the afternoon, we la[004016]id in the sun by the pool getting a tan, which I was in need of as I hadn’t had much sun while being in South America. We walked along the beach, eating fruit, then searched for a place to book a scuba diving trip for the following day. This was  one thing I wanted to do while I was here even though it wasn’t a popular destination to do this.

In the evening, we just relaxed, talked to people and had a drink before heading to bed. The hostel was a party hostel so there was loud music playing for most of the night. However, I was so exhausted that I just fell asleep with any problem.

The next day, we got up early to go to the scuba diving centre. Even though my friend didn’t scuba dive, she came for the boat ride and enjoyed some snorkelling. She was extremely scared of the water but overcome her fears with the help of the guides and managed to swim and admire the sea creatures.

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Along with the guide and one other guy, we assembled our equipment and jumped into the water. The first location was an abandoned tower with just the frames. We swam around, diving deeper and looking at octopus, sergent fish, sea lions, a brittle star and many more sea creatures. I tried to swim through several obstacles, which at first I was successful but then I panicked slightly, causing me to worry and breathe heavily. I managed to calm myself down under the water and carried on swimming. When our air was running out, we resurfaced and relaxed on the boat, which took us to our next location.

Again, we dived down but this time the visibility was so bad that I couldn’t see more than 10 cm in front on me so my dive master held my hand and guide me in the correct direction. There was nothing. We were only about 8m down, extremely close to the sandy ground. After a while, he gave and we all resurfaced to the top of the ocean, where our boat collected us. Then we tried again. This time the visibility was better and we swam around the bottom of the ocean looking at varies fish and coral: octopus, trumpet fish, puffer fish, angel fish, butterfly fish, high hat fish, panana pork fish, frog fish and a star fish. After about 30 minutes, we slowly came back up to breathe normal air. Our boat collected us and then we chilled while the boat took us back to shore. Near the shore, we saw and swam with several huge turtles and different birds.

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We carried our equipment back to the van and drove back to the dive centre. It was great fun diving around again even though the locations weren’t great. I still need to perfect my diving skills but I feel like I am getting better.

In the afternoon, we first went back to the hostel to have a shower, pack and check out. Then we tried to look for a shop selling bus tickets, where we ended up waiting in a café, drinking a coffee and I spoke with my sister on skype. Eventually, we found and open shop and purchased a ticket for that night. After, we laid by the pool in the hostel, drinking some cocktails and talking to some other travellers.

Early evening, we searched for some street food then went to the hostel to listening to other singing karaoke. It was a mixture of Spanish and English songs, which was fun. When it was time to leave, we got a tuk tuk to the bus shop. This time the bus was full of mainly gringos wanting to enter Ecuador. It was time to leave Peru. This is a beautiful country with so many things to offer and do, with delicious food and landscapes. It was definitely an amazing 3 weeks, where I met some incredible travellers and experienced so many things. I would have stayed here long but by this time, I had just found out my start date for my job in Colombia so I needed to get a move on and explore the next country: Ecuador.DCIM122GOPRO

On the bus, we drove to the border of Ecuador, which wasn’t too far but it was late at night so I was feeling sleepy. At the border, we lined up to be stamped out of Peru and into Ecuador. It was a really easy process with no hassle at all. Back on the bus, I slept until we reached Cuenca. We were originally going to stay here for the day then get another night bus to Banos but instead, as we were feeling exhausted, we decided just to get a day bus there. We quickly bought a ticket before the bus was leaving and took our seat. It dropped us off just outside of Banos, where we had to get another bus to the town. It was easy enough. Eventually, after 15 hours of travelling, we arrived in Banos, where we found our hostel and relaxed for a bit.

Trujillo, Peru: a one-day stop-off

I didn’t know many people who had been to Trujillo but I had heard that there were some nice beaches and a place to relax. I didn’t have much time as I needed to move on but we managed to have a day here between two night buses. I have to say it’s not worth staying here as the beach is nothing special and the area is full of many tourists, surfing or chilling.

We arrived at Trujillo bus station about 5.30am, where we grabbed our bags and decided what to do for the day. We had a plan, where we would just have a day here before catching another overnight bus on the same day. We hadn’t heard massively good things about this town but we still wanted to explore.[007532]

In the bus station, we took advantage of the showers, which actually were the best ones I’ve had in South America so far as they were hot and powerful. I just didn’t want to get out of them. My friend and I took it in turns to have a shower and look after our bags. After, whilst sitting on the terminal floor, we prepared and ate breakfast of avocado rolls. We were truly hard-core backpackers, living the cheap traveller dream. It was just amusing with other looking at us in a peculiar way but we were laughing.

Then we looked for the luggage area and waited for the bus ticket offices to be opened. When they were, we found out that the bus to our next destination was leaving from a different terminal so we caught a taxi with our bags. Once we were there, we purchased our bus ticket for the evening and put our backpacks in storage.

Next we walked to the bus stop to get a bus to Huanchaco beach a little further out from the town but we were told that this was were the tourist hung out as it was a nicer beach area. On the bus, we were the only foreigners attracting a lot of attention and the bus bounced around along the road. We drove past the Chan Chan ancient ruin, which we thought we would go to but in the end, we didn’t. [001205]This is one place that many tourists go and it’s basically an archaeological site, which was the capital of the historical empire of the Chimor from 900 to 1470, when they were defeated and incorporated into the Inca Empire.

Once we hopped off the bus in Huanchaco, we went in search of a café to drink coffee and use their internet. By the beach, we found a little place sorting out different things, as well as speaking to my Mum. We were sat there for quite a few hours, definitely overstaying our welcome.

After, we strolled along the beach promenade, admiring the view. It was a sandy, golden beach but not the best I had seen in my life. Then we pondered for a while deciding what food we wanted (mainly it was me not being able to make a decision plus the added difficulty of being a vegetarian). In the end, we went to a restaurant for their set meal of ceviche, fish pieces and rice with an Inca Cola.

For the rest of the afternoon, we laid on the beach resting, drinking juice in another café and wandering around the area.

We had our bus to Mancora early evening, which became a stressful situation. Basically, we were on the bus back to the centre, where the bus station was and it took longer than planned. We could see time ticking away. [001204]We jumped off the bus, where we thought was the correct place and walked towards what we thought was the station from following Google Maps. However, unfortunately, we had located the wrong station on our phones so we were in the completely wrong place. With around 20 minutes before our bus was about to leave, we hopped in the nearest taxi to take us to the correct bus station. Our hearts were bounding with stress of the traffic and we were convinced we were going to miss our bus.

Just in time, we ran to get out luggage, checked it in, go through to the bus gate and go to the toilet before rushing onto our bus. There was literally no-one on our bus so we could spread ourselves out and relax. We had become a bit hyper with all the excitement and just started laying in different positions on the bus, which just made us giggle so much. We got given a meal and drink as well as a blanket for the night. Soon enough, I managed to find a comfortable position, where I dozed off for the night.

Huaraz, Peru: Hiking, Lagoon 69, tallest cacti and picturesque views

[004169]Huaraz is a small town north of the capital. I hadn’t heard about this place before travelling but so many people recommended it to me for hiking. If your willing to deal with the attitude, it is an magnificent place for hiking and seeing beautiful views.

A guy from the hostel picked me up from the bus terminal, then he drove to another bus terminal to wait for my friend to arrive. Her bus was later than expected so we waited for quite a while, whilst I chatted to the hostel guy. Soon enough, my friend’s bus strolled in and then we were taken to the hostel. We reserved a two bed room, which was decent enough but nothing special. The hostel was abandoned with basic interior. We wanted to pack our two days here so we searched for all the options. In the end, we opted to go to the glacier that day and the famous blue lagoon the next day.

We had no time to do anything except pay before being collected by a minibus to take us on our day trip. My stomach was groaning with hungry and in need of food  soon. As we were picking up other, I hopped out the bus to buy some bread and biscuit to satisfy my hunger. On the bus were all Peruvians so we were the only gringos, which meant that all the information was in Spanish. My Spanish is improving but I still can’t understand all of it. However, a guy on the bus spoke some English so he translated for us, which was super kind.

After a couple of hours drive outside of Huaraz, we reaching the entrance point, where we had some problem because of the predicted weather. Initially, they weren’t going to let us in but after some convincing, they did. We drove through the windy roads in the valley of Carpa. Here, it looked spectacular as the area was surrounded with desert, feeling abandoned, with these peculiar plants called Puya de Raimondi grows. I think they come from the cactus plant, where they are really thin and tall with spikes growing out of the plant stem. We stopped for a couple of photos before hitting the road again to the Pastoruri Glacier. The road climbed the mountain to over 5000m, where the peaks were full of snow, looking so picturesque.[007495]

Lots of tourists like to visit this glacier as it’s a unique experience because they can walk at 5240m without having to do a massive trek. When we reached the carpark, the air felt so thin with my lungs exploding to breath. I knew that the walk wasn’t too far but I was certainly going to die with me breathing heavily and constantly feeling out of breath.

The path to the glacier was short and not too uphill, making it comfortable to walk. However, I decided to ride a horse part of the way as I wanted to try something different. A cowboy looking guy helped me on the horse, trotting along while he walked. It was awesome, bouncing along with the horse. It took us just over half way up the path, which I wasn’t expecting as I thought it would take me the whole way for the price. Nevermind! The path was narrow with rocks either side and a magnificent view of the snow-topped mountains.

What seemed like a long time, I reached the glacier, which was beautiful with ice walls surrounding the lake. My friend and I took several selfies as well as a guy taking photos of us with our cameras. However, in normal photograph mode, there were others in the background. I just don’t understand. If I take a picture of someone else, I try to make sure there are no other people in it but I find others don’t do this. Anyway, I took some snaps.[002668]

We weren’t here that long before we had to turn around and return back to the minibus for our ride back to the town. On the way back, we took a rest in a small café, where we ordered some food as we were feeling hungry. I had papa a la huancaina, which I’ve just fallen in love with. It taste so delicious with the potatoes, cheesy sauce and eggs. The rest of the journey was uneventful with me dozing off in the back of the bus. My friend thought it was quite impressive how quickly I could fall asleep on a rock, windy road, rocking us from side to side but as a traveller you have to be good at sleeping anywhere.

When we reached Huaraz, it was chucking it down with rain, leaving us not much option but do essential things into town before heading back to the hostel. We needed to get some food and make a packed lunch for the next day so we headed to the indoor market and  bakery.

For the rest of the evening, we cooked some dinner of a vegetable pasta and chilled in our room before heading to bed as we knew we had to get up early the next day.

The following day, we rose early from our beds, chucking some clothes on and grabbing our food for the day. I was so excited about my day ahead as I had been told amazing things about Laguna 69 and it sure didn’t disappoint. At around 5.30am, we were picked up from our hostels being the first ones to enter the bus. After collecting other travellers from different location, the bus was too full of foreigners. Unlike the day before, the bus wasn’t filled with locals but rather gringos, which meant our guide also explained everything in English. Success!

[001231]For the first part of the journey I just dozed until we started swinging through the windy roads along the cliff-edge and surrounded by mountains. On the way at the entrance point of  Huascaran National Park, we paid our admission fee and continued on. We stopped on the way at the blue lake, dismounting the bus and take varies shots of the spectacular view with the bright blue lake and the snow-topped mountains. We rode a little further to the start of the Laguna 69 trek, where the landscape was just stunning. We started by climbing downhill slightly through a forest and over a river.

Then the space just opened up with greenery, cows, open spaces with mountains in the background. The first 45 minutes or so takes you through the valley bottom where there are a few stream crossings on strategically placed rocks before reaching the first set of switchbacks. After, we started the uphill track through windy, stony paths. With the high altitude, I struggled. Me and altitude  just don’t go well together. I was determined to overcome this difficulty and continue the path.  However, the route was simple to follow.

After the first steep path, it end with an open lake that led to another huge open space of grass and a river. At this point, I was feeling great again until the next set of uphill paths winding around the mountain. I took regular breaks with my friend to catch our breath before continue. I have never felt a struggle like this. Whilst huffing and puffing up those switchbacks, you can’t fail to be wowed by the stunning scenery all around. There are incredible views of snow-capped peaks, and huge contrasts in the colour and texture of the landscape as you get higher in elevation.IMG_1871

Eventually we reached the Laguna 69, which was just breath-taking which is literally hugged by snowy mountain peaks, jagged rocks and trickling waterfalls some 4,600 metres above sea level. We relaxed by the laguna taking in the view, talking to some other, taking photos and eating lunch. We were here for some time before deciding to return back to the start. Just as we were about to leave, our guide gave us some coca tea, which helps with altitude sickness. We started walking back, where we bumped into the guy who translated for us the day before. We continued along the path the way we came with ease as we were hiking downwards.

On the way back, we took a break at the other lake, chatting to two people who were also resting. While walking the rest of the road, the sky decided to open, pouring rain. I placed my waterproof on, so that I wouldn’t get as wet but I was soaked once the rain stopped. Slipping and sliding down the paths, talking to two Brazilians, we eventually made it to the start mid-afternoon. We waited here for a while for the rest of the group. Back on the bus, we were given some more coca tea before travelling the long journey back to Huaraz, where I slept most of the way.

Once we had dropped other people off, we ended in the main plaza, where we disembarked. We walked around town, going to the market and buying some food including a maracuya (passion fruit) cheesecake as well I bought a hoody to replace my stolen one.

Back at the hostel, the landlady was a little mad with us because we wanted to reheat our dinner and hang around before getting a taxi to the bus station for an overnight bus. However, we did it anyway and at the designated time, my friend and I hopped on our bus, taking us to Trujillo. Nothing much happened on the road except me sleeping.

Lima, Peru: walking tour, light show, pisco sours and ceviche

Lima is the capital of Peru, with the hustle and bustle of people in a huge built up city. It was way more modern and advanced than I expected, with the normal traffic jams and pollution in the air. It’s a beautiful city full of history and architecture, offering lively markets,  coastal beaches as well as a good place to have a fun night out and hit the bars or clubs or even sing your hearts out at karaoke.

When we arrived at the bus terminal in Lima, we catch a taxi to our hostel, which end up being a funny ride. First the taxi driver didn’t know where he was going, the he realised he had no petrol and the he a bit of road rage. Peruvian drivers!

By the time we got to the hostel, it was late so we just checked in, chilled and planned the next day before going to sleep as we were tired.[006863]

In the morning, we woke up quite early to have a shower and eat complimentary breakfast of fruit, bread, juice and tea. The American girl and I left the hostel, walking in the hot sun to the meeting point of the free walking tour. As you may have guess, I do enjoy a walking tour when I first arrive in a city. It just gets you familiar with their surrounds, you are able to pick the guides brain about the place like recommendation as well as meeting new people. The meeting point was at 11.00am at Kennedy park in Miraflores. We were then guided to a craft beer bar, where we should have been given a beer, but unfortunately the taps weren’t cold so they didn’t want to serve it to us.

When the guide was ready, we had to introduce ourselves to the of about 10 of us from all around the world. Then we followed the guide to the tram station to take it to the historical centre. We started in the main plaza where there was a cathedral, the Houses of Parliament and the city hall. It was beautiful. Here, we watched the changing  of the guards, where they marched in front of the Houses of Parliament doing a slight dance.

Our guide took us around the area explaining the history of Lima, Peru and the indigenous people as well as showing us different buildings. He was extremely lively, knowledgeable and spoke English well. As part of the tour, we tasted some coffee, tasted ‘Papa a la Huancaina’ (a tradition dish of potato, egg and cheese sauce) and sampled some chocolate products in a chocolate museum.

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At the end of the tour, we stopped in a market with a small pisco sours stall. Sitting on stalls, we all tasted different flavoured pisco sours. My favourite was Maracuya (similar to passion fruit).

Afterward, we were debating what to do as some people were going to explore and others wanted to eat. In the end, the guide took us back to Miraflores, where three of us decided to grab a bite to eat. We ordered the meal of the day, where they didn’t understand the concept of vegetarian so I ended up picking around the food. After, we wandered back to the hostel to chill for the rest of the afternoon as well as taking my dirty washing to the launderette.

With some of the others from the walking tour, we had planned to meet up that evening for a light show.  Once we had got ready, we scurried to the tram station to meet up with some of the other, where we caught it to the stadium. It was now starting to get dark.

Close by, we bought a ticket at a cheap price to enter the huge garden. Inside were many fountains, which were beautiful. Then we watched the light show, where lights were reflected in to the fountains, creating different patterns and pictures with music blaring out. It was awesome with the water spurting out at different paces creating amazing images. The day we were there, they had a special pisco sours party, where there were many stall selling all sorts of pisco sours. Many of the stall owners were giving us sample of different types. We took advantage of this and had tasters from every stall, making us feel a little tipsy. We were the only foreigners there, which meant we were the centre of attention. There was a band playing a variety of music with people dancing around. Of course, we bought some glasses of Piscos and some snacks. It was so much fun being there, with us dancing with lots of the people and having our photos taken.

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After, we took the tram back to Mirafloras to enjoy a night out. Here, there were many bars and restaurants, where initially we entered a karaoke place but left when we realised it was dead. We sat in a bar drinking and playing drinking games. We continued the night in a club, where, again, we were the only foreigners, and just danced the night away, getting back to our hotel at the early hours of the morning.

The following day, we leisurely got up and ate breakfast. I had to sort a few things out as I was leaving Lima that evening and my friend was returning to the US as her travels had ended. At lunchtime, we walked to a recommend ceviche restaurant we had found on the internet, not too far from our hostel. The cevicheia  was a small place, packed with customers, where we had to take a number and wait to be seated. We started talking to another guy from India, who ended up joining us for lunch. We ordered ceviche with mixed fish and yuka chips. Ceviche is a traditional dish in Peru, which I wanted to try even though I had given up fish at Christmas. It’s a mixed of fish, raw onions and tomatoes with chillies coated in lime juice. It was delicious and definitely something to taste if you are in Peru.

After, we bid our farewells to the guy and walked towards the coast. The landscape on top of the cliff was great with views of the sea. There were people paragliding around the area making it look picturesque. We wandered around the parks here and relaxed on the pebble beach, chatting and people watching with people swimming in the ocean. We made friends with a little girl here too.

[007586]Then, we strolled back to the hostel, where I tried to collect my washing on the way but it wasn’t quite ready yet. I returned at the time they said but when they gave it to me, I knew that there were a few things were missing as it wasn’t heavy enough. I tried to explain this to them, where we were debating through Google translate for an hour with no conclusions as they ‘couldn’t find’ my hoodie or a few t-shirts. As I had already paid before realising, they wouldn’t give me my money back or pay for the cost of the missing items. In the end, I had to leave because I need to get ready for my night bus. Conclusion: another lost hoodie in 2 weeks.

Back at the hostel, I packed my backpack and said goodbye to my friend before hopping into a taxi, which took me to the bus terminal. I checked in and waited here, eating some food before boarding my bus to take me to Huaraz, where I had planned to meet girl from Australia, who I met on the walking tour.   The journey was pretty standard, falling asleep for most of the journey and arriving around 6 in the morning.

Ica and Huacachina: Sand buggying and a wine tour

[007256]Ica is a small town with not too much to do. Most people either go her to see the Oasis dessert, wine tour or see the Nazca lines. I absolutely loved the two options I took and would totally recommend both of these to others.

I arrived in Ica around 8am, where I was the only one who got off the bus. As per usually, taxi and tuk tuk drivers started pestering me to give me lift. Once I had collected my bag off the bus and composed myself, I took one of the tuk tuks to my hostel.

At the hostel, they were super welcoming and friendly, checking me in, showing me my room and explaining the different activities to do. There were a few things that other travellers had recommended me to do in Ica: one being the sand buggies in Huacchina and the other being the wine tour close by.

They let me take advantage of their breakfast buffet even though I had just arrived. It was a decent brekkie with cereal, fruit, bread, fried veggies, egg, tea and juices. Here I met a girl from the US, where we automatically clicked, and just chatted like we had known each other for ages.

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He had been teaching English in Chile and decided to travel a little before heading home. Also, I bumped into the German girl, who I met in Arequipa. Together we decided to do the sand buggies and sand boarding that afternoon.

For the rest of the morning, we chilled in comfy section of hostel, location on the third floor outside. We popped into the shop to some crackers and avocado as a snack.

Early afternoon, a group of us was picked up from the hostel to be taken to Huacchina, which was about a 20 minute drive. It was a tiny town with a lake, the sand dunes, several restaurants and hotels. As part of the deal we took, we were taken there early so we could walk around the lake,  and swim in the pool. However, instead, we relaxed by the pool just chatting to each other.

When it was time, we walked to the meeting point to start our buggie adventure. I had no idea what to expect. I knew it was going to be fun jumping over the sand dunes but I didn’t realise how extreme it would be. We literally hopped into the air at great heights, bouncing like frogs, twisting and turning, climbing up the steep mounts of sand and dropping down the other side leaving my stomach at the top. If we hadn’t had seatbelts on, we would have all been bashing our heads against the buggie and tumbling out. We were still jolting and hitting different parts of our bodies against the side of the vehicle.[005137]

After being thrown around the buggie for a while, we stopped to appreciate the incredible view of the sand dunes and start sandboarding. I say sandboarding but in reality, we laid on the board and slid down the sand dunes; there was no standing involved. At first, I was slightly scared. Obviously, I didn’t want to ride the board incorrectly and fall off. The first mount was short and not too steep but we tried it more and more on longer and steep sand mountain. It was just so much fun, speeding down the hill. Unfortunately, on one of the last goes at sandboarding, the German girl took off a little too early, meaning that she thought she would crash into me so she swerved, fell off the board and rolling down the hill. She had twisted her ankle as she rolled causing her to find it difficult to walk. Luckily, even though she was hurt, there wasn’t anything broken. I thought this meant this was the last of our time on the sand dunes but instead the driver carried on throwing us around the buggie driving speedily over the sand dunes. I did feel sorry for the girl ad couldn’t enjoy it anymore. However, overall it was an incredible afternoon, full of adrenaline and new experiences. I would totally recommend anyone in the area to do this activity.

Feeling overwhelmed with excitement, we finally back at the start point, where we were taken back to our hostel. During the evening, four of us girls went out to have dinner at a restaurant, where I had a special dish just made for me as I was vegetarian: pesto, cheese and vegetable pasta. It was huge and tasted amazing. Back at the hostel, the US girl and I plus two dutch guys, had a couple of drinks at the bar and played pool before heading to bed.

The following day, I tried to have a little lie in but others in my dorm didn’t feel the same and started making noise pretty early, being slightly inconsiderate. I just laid awake in bed before getting ready for the day and going upstairs for the complimentary breakfast.[004013]

Once I had a shower and packed my bag, I waited with the others for our pick up for the wine tour. Myself and the American girl with a few others went to the first winery at around 11am so nice and early to start tasting alcohol. The first place was a old looking, traditional, wooden like shed with barrels and some random objects in it. An older Peruvian guy explained the different red wines, talking about the years and taste. We tried several of these as well as pisco (a traditional Peruvian shot).

Next we were drive to the second winery not too far away, where they talked about the process and showed us where it is usually made. It was extremely hot here with the sun blazing. It was interesting to find out about this. The place was more modern with several restaurants around. After we sat down and tried some more wine and piscos. They all had different tastes.

After, we went to the last vineyard, riding through the fields, where grapes were grown. It was a huge, beautiful area, which looked extremely modern and expensive. We decided to take the tour in Spanish as we would have had to wait a long time for an English tour guide. First they talked about the history of the place and showed us the vineyards. We then watched a video explaining the different wine. After, we were taken around the winery, where we were shown the machinery used to make the different wines and told about the process. It was a huge complex and mind-blowing. They also showed us the packaging area and the old, traditional equipment they used to use. Again, we  tried different wines including white wine this time and, of course, some piscos. By the end, I was feeling a little tipsy. When we were finished, we drove back to the hostel.

The American girl and I grabbed some snacks and then got a tuk tuk to the bus terminal. After purchasing a ticket, we hopped on the bus, which was luxury and started our journey towards the capital, Lima. The bus was so plush with individual  screens for movies and we were given snacks for the ride as well as the seat being comfy. I kind of wished the journey was longer to take advantage of these. The time went so quick as I watched a few films.

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