Overnight bus rides; where to begin? Peru is a huge country, and since flying everywhere wasn’t an option on our budget, busing between cities became the most efficient and cost effective way of getting around. Rather than spending an entire day on a bus, taking a 10+ hour overnight bus gave us more days to actually explore.
And now, another excerpt from our favorite guest writer, Chris.
We embarked on our first of a few night buses. We did not know that to expect from our 10 hour long journey and let me tell you what: the bus did not disappoint. The seat options available reclined to 160 degrees which in our opinion was plenty for comfortable bus sleeping but boy were we wrong. Equipped with our face shields, double face masks, and movies downloaded for entertainment we found our seats and settled in.
Mike and Emily were seated behind us. It became immediately clear something was very wrong with my seat. Any weight put on the back it would continue to recline until I was crushing Mike’s legs behind me and laying in his lap. Then began the constant cycle of dozing off, crushing Mike, dragging the back of my chair into a vertical position, and then repeating the process. Thankfully the person in front of me was in a very similar situation as I so it was a lovey seat train of leg crushing. We arrived at like 4 am and walked up to our hostel exhausted and ready for sleep. All in all just a great time on the night bus!
We pulled into the bus station in Huarez at 4:30am and were absolutely exhausted. Overnight buses, despite their highly advertised reclining seats, are not ideal for sleeping. We groggily made our way a few blocks to our hostel, Aldo’s, where we met our host, Aldo. Despite it being super early in the morning Aldo hooked us up with one of the two rooms we booked for the following night immediately so we could try to get some sleep. Chris and Elizabeth were kind enough to let us stay in the room and did their best to make themselves comfortable at the end of the hall, making use of a single hammock and spreading couch cushions on the floor.
Later that morning we enjoyed a complimentary breakfast at the hostel of coffee and tea, bread, fruit, and cheese. We immediately realized how much the altitude was impacting us (10,000 feet above sea level) after having been in Lima (basically sea level), so we decided to take it slow that day and just explore and get some laundry done. We ate lunch at a small cafe, planned out our next few days, and took some time to walk through the local market. For dinner we stopped in a tiny local restaurant near the market and each ordered Lomo Saltado, a traditional Peruvian dish of stir-fried beef, tomatoes, onions, and french fries. Each of our meals came with soup and tea, and our check for the four of us came to a grand total of $6. Can’t beat the price.
The following morning we were up at 4:30 again, this time by choice, for an all day excursion to Laguna 69 in in the Andes mountains of Hauscarán National Park. Our transportation for the day would be a small passenger van, similar to Wilda, but with seats for 10. After about 2 hours or so of driving up the mountains (including snow as we gained elevation) using some pretty gnarly curvy roads, we stopped at a small family run restaurant atop one of the mountains for breakfast. We had bread, cheese, coffee, and coca tea and got back on the road. We kept climbing, driving onto narrower and rougher dirt roads, and stopped again at the Llanganuco Lakes for a quick photo op.
Around 9:30 am we arrived at the trail head and started the hike up to our primary destination for the day, Laguna 69. The trail is an 8.6 mile out and back to a lake with 2,700+ feet of elevation gain. The four of us typically fare pretty well on hikes, even those with intense vertical sections and altitude gain, but starting from such a high altitude really took its toll. We drank as much water as possible, kept the pace slow, and ate plenty of the free airport lounge snacks we snagged before our last flight. As we made our way to our final destination we were treated to countless gorgeous views of snow-capped mountains, lakes, and even some mountain cows!
Just after noon we crossed the final peak and finally saw Laguna 69, which was incredible. A huge alpine lake with beautiful turquoise water surround by mountains, snow, and rock on all sides.
Lunch by the lake was PB&J sandwiches, fresh mango from the market, and various snacks, which we we enjoyed while dipping our feet in the icy cold water. After taking some time to eat and to rest we began the return trip down the mountain. With the entire return trip being downhill we felt ourselves going much more quickly. As a result, we all began to feel a bit dehydrated and some of us more than others (me) felt down right crappy. We did all manage to make it back to the van without issue, but once we got back to the hostel we ate a quick dinner and passed out from exhaustion.
Feeling better the next day, we elected to go on a rock climbing excursion guided by our hostel host, Aldo. Some of us had been rock climbing indoors before, but never outside on actual rocks. We took a cab to the rock face which was situated just behind a small community and offered awesome views of Huarez. We ended up climbing in two different areas several times each and all managed to avoid embarrassing ourselves.
Here’s a time lapse video of Chris crushing the rock wall.
After another PB&J lunch at the base of the rock wall we walked back into town and turned in our equipment. Once back at the hostel we spent the afternoon showering and relaxing after an eventful and physically demanding couple of days. Later in the afternoon we went to a local clinic to get a quick Covid test which is required for most long bus trips in Peru. With negative tests in hand we then cooked a delicious and cost effective dinner of ramen noodles, and prepared ourselves for yet another overnight bus trip.