I woke up with one thing on my mind: surfing. I had wanted to surf in Lima ever since our first day here, and had never gotten the chance. It was nice to have something to look forward to the entire trip, otherwise it might have been a bit sad to return to the city after our days of adventures in the Andes and in the jungle.
The place we were staying at, although it was technically a hostel, had a ton of great amenities. We went downstairs to sit down at the table and the chefs in the kitchen brought us out our own personalized breakfasts. They were able to make me an avocado toast, which gave me just enough energy for a morning of surfing. After breakfast, we started to venture down to the beach. This was quite a walk, maybe about 30 minutes through the city and then we had to walk down a few hundred steps to get to the water. The city of Lima is built on top of a cliff, so even though it is right on the water, it is still maybe between 100 and 200 feet above sea level.
After 3 or 4 attempts, I was finally able to get my wetsuit on properly. First I had it inside out, then backwards, then backwards and inside out, and finally I got it the right way. I bravely charged into the cool white waters of the Pacific with my surfboard in hand. The beach is incredibly rocky, and the waves crash right at the beach so you have to get the timing right before you enter the water. Somewhere in the twisting, foaming surf, I felt at home. This was one of my favorite places to be. It wasn’t just about standing up on the board and riding a nice wave, but also about just being out in the water. Unfortunately, our trip to Peru wasn’t a swimming trip, and this was really my one chance to swim in the Ocean but it felt incredible! The foggy air, the chilly water and the powerful waves and currents hitting me from both directions. I could feel the adrenaline rushing, and I positioned myself to get my first ride. I started to paddle hard and then all of a sudden, I felt the wave breaking on my feet and the waved lunged me forward with a sudden burst of speed. After getting my balance, I started to stand up and really began to enjoy a nice easy ride towards the beach.
The surfing here was amazing. I had only been surfing two other times prior to this, both in Hawaii. I had to learn how to balance and turn quickly to avoid all of the exposed reefs, but here there was none of that. It was just me and the ocean. After a few successful rides, I tried tackling a larger wave with bad results. I came in a little bit to late and the wave hit me from the side. Instinctively, I hugged my board in close and the wave sent me into 4 consecutive barrel rolls. Eventually I let go of the board and the struggle was soon over. I know this is a beginner mistake, but I am glad I learned it the hard way.
After my longest ride yet, I decided to call it a day. We were pretty pressed for time so I only gave myself an hour to surf, but I probably could’ve stayed there all day if I didn’t have a plane to catch. This was a really good deal. For about $10 you got a wetsuit and a surfboard for the entire day. The guy even got me a towel to dry off after I was done. That was a classy move.
The owner of the hostel let me use one of their showers when I got back, and we got a great recommendation for a lunch spot. Pan de la Chola is the top rated sandwich spot in Miraflores and it did not disappoint. The food here was incredible! I ordered one of their sandwiches without cheese and it was great. We also got two green smoothies to go and they gave us our own mason jars. We ended up giving them to the owner of the hostel and he said he could find a use for them.
We hopped into a taxi and drove to the airport to begin our next adventure in Panama. This cab driver was even more aggressive than the one from the first day, and he rarely took his foot of the gas. That was one of the few times in the car where I actually felt the need to hold onto one of those handles on the ceiling. Once we got to the airport, we decided to use some of our leftover Soles to purchase some overpriced chocolate to bring home. I would definitely recommend you not get your chocolate at the airport, because it will cost 3-5 times as much. Personally, I didn’t want to take any risk of it melting on the way home so I waited until the last possible minute.
We boarded the plane and said goodbye to the amazing country we had spent the last 2 weeks in. We were not going home just yet however. We still had a long layover in Panama. This would be both of our first times in Panama, and we had no idea what to expect.
Once we got through the rigorous background checks and stepped out into the hot Panamanian air, we were quickly mobbed by dozens of taxi drivers trying to take us to our hotel. We found one that gave us a good rate and we began the half hour drive from the airport to downtown Panama City. My first reaction was that this place looked so similar to the United States. Compared to what we had been used to, it felt like we had already arrived home. The highways and buildings looked just about the same as they do in the U.S, and although few people spoke English, it felt like a very familiar city to us, almost like Miami or Jacksonville. Because it was dark when we arrived, we couldn’t see much other than the plethora of skyscrapers that made up the Panama City skyline. You could tell that there was a lot of money in this city because of all the casinos and penthouses in a lot of the skyscrapers.
We pulled up to our hotel, a Best Western Panama Zen hotel. This was really fancy for us after staying in hostels and airbnbs for the past 2 weeks. We had a lot of fun playing with the complimentary soaps and the amazing shower. As much as I like to rough it when I travel, I have to admit it was great to relax in a nice hotel after backpacking around Peru for so long. We had so many things we wanted to do in our short time in Panama City, we had to get to bed early to prepare for our busy day!