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  • Writer's pictureGrace Rector

Peruvians were shocked a Californian Can't Surf

Updated: Nov 27, 2021

Though sad to say goodbye to my new friends at the hostel in the north of Chile, I had to keep my trip going. I left my hostel and my Uber driver, Ignacio, from another night took me to the bus terminal for free. He waited for me until the bus drove away which was so kind.

On the bus from Arica, Chile to Tacna, Peru I sat next to a nice Peruvian guy. We spoke about his family and my travels. He also helped me go through the customs process at the border.

I took a flight from Tacna to Lima and arrived exhausted… It was 2am in Chile so I felt dead. But I took a taxi from the airport to Mama’s Backpackers. I arrived and it was silent. It seems like no one was home. But then “mamá” came down and let me in. I went to my hostel room and had to crawl up the ladder as quietly as possible to the top bunk.

In the morning I went upstairs for a delicious breakfast but there were only two other travelers present and mamá was nowhere in sight. The travelers were quieter than most. After handling the basics of changing money and getting a SIM card I decided to change hostels because a place is only as good as the people in it, and I felt that this hostel wouldn’t help me find people.

I moved to the Pariwana hostel which was without a doubt the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in. After going up the stairs from the entrance I found a colorful reception with an antique fridge converted into a book exchange receptacle. The cleanliness was spectacular and the rooftop terrace was full of people and complete with board games and a ping pong table.

I spent the first afternoon settling in. Then I took myself to lunch at Nova, a restaurant nearby and it was amazing for the price. I got the “executive menu” for $6, which included unlimited chicha, fried chicken cutlet (milanesa) and pesto pasta. It was delicious!! 10/10 recommend.

Later on I went on the 3pm daily tour of Barraca, a nearby neighborhood with lots of street art and other attractions. The tour was informative but it was definitely not the best walking tour I’ve been on. A cool highlight was this bridge across which you are supposed to walk while holding your breath and making a wish related to love. I thought I was good at holding my breath, but 2/3 across the bridge I had to sprint because I’d run out of air and I wanted my wish to come true. Who knows if it will still come true?

That evening at the hostel, I met a bunch of cool and interesting people including but not limited to a Canadian guy, a Northern Irish guy, some girls from the Netherlands and Germany, and two American guys. Some of us went to dinner at Mamá Olla, a delicious restaurant across from the aforementioned restaurant. When in Peru you MUST try the following foods:

– Lomo Saltado (Jumping beef)

– Chicha (juice made of purple corn)

– Ceviche (fish cooked with the acid of lemon and lime)

– Pisco Sour (pisco is a regional alcohol that is mixed with lime juice and sugar to make this incredible cocktail)

That night my new friend told me she met a girl with Bosnian parents. After working in Bosnia this summer and loving it I was SO eager to meet a Bosnian. I found Alma, introduced myself, and asked if we could practice Bosnian together. I showed her my favorite Bosnian band and we just laughed for hours about my obsession with Bosnian since there are very few Americans that know anything about Bosnia and Herzegovina.

That night I watched Ping Pong tournaments and laughed at their intensity and focus.

It was a great night and I met so many people which was my goal for switching hostels. Accordingly, the following day I went on a city tour in the morning and met an amazing girl named Kim from the Netherlands. She was funny and quirky like me, so we got alone very well. The morning free walking tour was MUCH better than the Barraca tour, so I highly recommend it. Plus they give you pisco tasting at the end of the tour!!

We visited the presidential palace, various churches, and other historical landmarks. When the tour finished, Kim and I went to lunch at this restaurant where you received an appetizer, meal, drink, and desert for only $5 USD. Crazy! And GOOD!

Kim and I went back to the hostel for a good friendly game of Jenga and met some California dudes along the way. The game got intense and the tower kept reaching higher and when it swayed even if you grazed a block but we kept it going. My Canadian friend, Jack, joined us and we had a compete jenga squad. As jenga makes you hungry, we all headed out for a nutritious fast-food burger from a restaurant nearby for $3. With such a nutritious meal in our tummies we headed to the famous water shows of Lima!!!

It was basically a big park with technicolor fountains dispersed throughout. It was very beautiful and it was specially decorated for Christmas. I explored the other side of the park with the American guys for a while and we found this stunning rainbow fountain – perfect for pics!

We went back to the main fountain for the water show in which they projected videos on the water! It was brilliant and fun to watch.

After bonding the night before, Kim, Jon, and I went surfing!!! I thought I’d be good as I am from California, but my California blood did not help me, and it took me a significant amount of time before I could get up for an extended period of time. Our arms became exhausted and our noses and mouths were filled with salt water. But it was sooo fun! It’s so exhilarating when you do get up and going on a wave. Eventually they told us to go out to the shore, and conveniently I caught a wave all by myself and rode it to the shore!! They usually push you to send you off, but I caught it!! I was very proud of my little surfer self haha.

We went to lunch with some Peruvians at a hole in the wall restaurant and it was DELICIOUS. Then we drove around the city and arrived back at the hostel exhausted. After a short siesta, I met Kim and Jon on the roof and I gave a spanish lesson to Kim as she would be traveling for 4 months and wanted to improve her Spanish.

One does after a long day at the beach and Spanish class, we went on a bike ride along the coast as a squad! It was a blast and the weather was just perfect. Lima is fancy and has the bikes you can reserve on your phone for however long you would like. I haven’t biked in a while, so it felt good to get back into the rhythm of it. We went to la Lucha Sangucheria for dinner and it was amazing. I had the special pork belly sandwich and chica – the perfect meal. Finally after such a long day we all hit the sack for the night before my last day in Peru.

I spent my last day souvenir shopping with Jon and then going for a bike ride to see the sunset one last time. At night Jon and Alma and I went to dinner at Novo and it was delicious yet again!! Afterwards we went to a bar for Mundolingo – an international language exchange event. Alma and I met a Peruvian guy who spoke broken Bosnian. It was so funny watching Jon and Alma be surrounded by Peruvians eager to practice their English. I go to Mundolingo a lot so I’m used to the craziness.

A guy I connected with on Couchsurfing saw me at the bar and approached me. He ended up coming back to the hostel with us for karaoke night! The staff and us screamed the most cheesy songs possible and I lost my voice, but it was worth it.

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