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Peru & Panama – 10 days
My trip to Peru and Panama was a 10 day trip so this is what I ended up packing overall for my trip. Below this first list, is how I reorganized my bags for the actual Inca Trail hiking days (4 days 3 nights).
I reorganized my bags accordingly for the Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu as anything in my daypack I am required to carry the entire hike and also whatever I pack in my duffel bag that the porter carries is only accessible at the end of each hiking day but must also fit in the weight restrictions.
For Machu Picchu
What I wore & what was packed in the duffel bag the porter carried.
-4 pants – waterproof-ish track pants, loose fitting pair of pants, 2 tights (one coldgear for sleeping in)
*in all honesty, to pack lighter, you could get away with 1-2 pairs of tights to wear for the entire hike as you won’t be showering and just change your underwear). Bring a pair of pants to wear for sleeping.
-2 long sleeve (1 to sleep in). We lucked out with weather so rain was minimal.
-2 tank tops
-2 sports bras
-5 socks – 4 for climbing, 1 for sleeping
-packable blanket (added this layer in my sleeping bag on the cold night)
-packable towel ( if you plan on showering or want an extra layer in your sleeping bag, this is good to have)
-little microfibre towel – when it got hot and I stripped down to just a tank top – the towel sat between the shoulder straps on my shoulders to give some extra padding
-gloves – only used when descending after dead woman’s pass and also at night trying to take star photos
Woke up once to check the time but otherwise, a good sleep.
Marlon and Eduardo were our tour guides today as we booked with Traviator city tour to take us to the Panama Canal – Miraflores Centre, Panama Bay and around the old Quarters of Casco Viejo.
Here are some facts about Panama:
-4 million people
-10-13 years ago Balboa / financial district was a landfill
-The financial district has over 80 different banks
-They use the Panama Canal for tourism and transportation.
-USA paid 40 million dollars to build the canal because the mosquitoes eliminated the French with yellow fever and other illness. French wanted to build a flat channel but USA wanted to build using a system of logs
-USA made 3 artificial lakes to maintain the water during rainy season
1904 1914 the USA built the canal (French were the first to try) USA used it to transfer supplies from West coast to East Coast as there were too many difficulties with bandits and other circumstances.
-No army but now only national police. If they need military support, they call the USA.
-Panama Canal created is own energy
-Workers were from all over including Caribbean side, China, Greece, Italy, French etc. They wanted workers who were acclimatized to the weather.
-Legal tender was USD as the workers came from all over the world and it was easier to use USD rather than Balboa. Now only coins are Balboa and USD is 1 for 1.
-The Panama canal was completed in June 2016 and it took 10 years to build it to allow access for bigger ships.
-There are 3 canals from Gatun to Miraflores. The larger Panama canal takes about 10-20 ships a day only during the day. The smaller one does 80 a day and runs 24 hours.
-Clayton base was for the USA military but once they left and since Panama doesn’t have an army, they turned it into an area for education and renamed it the City of knowledge.
-Until 1999, any citizens born in the USA confinement base area, were USA citizens and not Panamanian citizens.
They drove us over to Panama Bay passing by buildings like the Biomuseo building built with Frank Gehry design as well as the giant Panama sign. This whole area was manmade include the island we took a break on but it did give us stunning views of the cityline. The weather turned from hot and sunny to a treacherous rain storm and the view of the city looked completely different.
We drove over to the old quarters of Casco Viejo. You can definitely see the French and Spanish style within these quarters. We drove through and then were driven to what Eduardo calls the best view of the cityline at Quinto Centenario – Cinta Costera. From there, we decided we wanted to venture the old quarters by foot so we hopped out of the van and walked around. Eduardo told us that when we grab a taxi that it should be about $5USD to get us back to our hotel. The rain had let up a little so walking the streets was nicer. After arriving back to our hotel via taxi, we ordered an Uber and headed to the airport ($26USD). Then off we flew back home to end out 10 day adventure.
We woke up at 445AM and had breakfast in the hotel (included) before catching a bus up to Machu Picchu. It takes about 30 minutes to get up there. We booked ourselves to do the Machu Picchu mountain hike that opens at 7AM. You need to show the permit as well as your passport to climb. You enter and sign in with your time. This is important because just a month or 2 prior to our climb, a German man had climbed Huayana Mountain (where you need to climb on your bum and hands at certain points) and he decided to do a jump photo and fell to his death. Back to Machu Picchu Mountain hike – so many steps and so steep at points. I would think at this point, after 4 days of climbing, this would be rather easy but I digress.
The beginning was very similar to our normal Inca trail hike but then it got really steep at points on the side of a cliff. The first flat stop showed us only clouds where Machu Picchu was located. As time went by and the higher we trekked, the clouds started to dissipate and we could see more below us getting glimpse of Machu Picchu and the mountains.
The Ranger had told us this hike would take about an hour to do each way – so much heavy breathing coming from me.
Just like previous days, you climb and think that that next pass is the end but then you turn the corner to find more steps spiralling upwards. Even without walking sticks Sofia is still a powerhouse leading the pack. Patrick joined shortly after with Ronan right behind.
After the landing with the giant rock and the small passageway, there are about 3 more spiral sets of steps which are steep before you make it to your final destination. I made it up to have my heads in the clouds but within minutes, the clouds shifted to expose the beauty that lies below surrounding Machu Picchu.
We stayed up there for a while and I would say about 20 minutes after we arrived, our group of 7 (Gayaanan stayed below) were all together at the top. Sofia, Ronan and myself were about to leave as Karen and Chi made it up but Andrew insisted I stay but not really saying much. Then Andrew also insisted Sofia and Ronan stay as well and that’s when it clicked in that something special was going to happen.
Karen was too busy taking photos and Chi was extremely nervous. He wanted to do it right at the corner where you have the best view of Machu Picchu but if was too crowded. He then typed in his phone that he wanted everyone minus myself to leave as it made him even more anxious so down they went. I lingered around taking photos and whatnot trying to entice Karen into walking over to certain areas but none were to her liking.
It finally got to a point where I was taking photos of them like I normally do then taking solo ones of Karen. Chi told her to turn around so I could get a shot of her from behind looking out at Machu Picchu and then that’s when it happened. Chi got down on one knee and Karen turned around then did a double take and Chi swung his arm out with a ring in his hand and stuttered asking her to marry him. A delayed reaction said it all and now Machu Picchu and this Peru trip hold a special meaning to Chi and Karen. Check out their story.
Once that happened, I packed up my camera and descended. I went backwards down the first 2 sets of stairs then it got a little bit better going down as the steps weren’t as steep and short. I bombed it down and made it out the gate just minutes after the rest had gotten down. We wandered a bit of Machu Picchu before heading back down in the bus. When we returned to Aguas Caliente, it started to rain. Grabbed food from Orquidea Grill but rushed them as we needed to catch our train. I got the ceviche 40 sol – it was tasty but a little too vingery for my liking.
After lunch, went back to the hotel to grab our things and to the train station we went. The train station is located within the market place up the stairs. Karen booked the Vistadome train for us which includes a little entertainment and snack as we ride for an hour back to Ollantaytambo.
From Ollantaytambo, we got picked up by the shuttle to take us all back to Cuzco. We arrived at the main square and we’re delivered our luggage to the van. We packed our luggage in the van then Sofia and Ronan got dropped off at their hotel then Karen, Chi and myself got dropped off at the airport before the boys got dropped off. The Cuzco airport is very simple and security check was the easiest with no line and right through we went. Our flight was with Latam to Lima for 2 hours. We booked a car with the same driver as our first day – George but this time we stayed in the nicer part of town Miraflores.
Girasoles Hotel (Ernesto Diez Canseco 696, Miraflores, Peru) with a triple bed room for $80USD. By the time we checked in, it was already 1030PM so we decided to order in for dinner. Chifa aka Chinese closed at 1030PM so we ordered Pardo’s Chicken instead. We got fries and Peruvian roasted whole chicken and ate with our hands on the bed. Chi and Karen’s engagement dinner.
Peru & Panama last half
We took our time to get up then downstairs for breakfast. We walked over to the nearest grocery store – metro to purchase some snacks to bring home. The Miraflores area is higher end city as oppose to the main area of Lima and has beautiful architecture. I absolutely love the doors and colours that exist here.
Next stop was Manolo (Av. Larco 608, Miraflores – Lima – Perú ) for a Dulce de Leche churro 5 sol. Our plan for this morning was to take the free walking tour but when we arrived at the square, we met with the tour guide but he wanted to wait until 11AM for more people. We needed to make our way to the airport for 2PM so we decided to explore on our own
We ended up walking down to the waterfront area (Circuito de Playas) that was above the beach line. With palm trees and the look of the area, it reminded me of California and Hawaii with a tropical feel. This is where all the fitness buffs come out especially runners and bikers. You can look down where the highway is and also the beach where surfers were ripping the waves.
We walked to the El Parque del Amor also known as the Love Park then to the lighthouse before taking an uber 45 minutes to the main square of Plaza Armas and walked around to see the beautiful area which was pedestrian only. We made it to the main square and watched a bit of the changing of guards. This is one of the countries I’ve seen with an abundance of female officers whether it be policia or traffic control.
We rushed back to our hotel as we asked for late check out for 1PM. Grabbed an uber and headed for the airport. Before going past the gate we stopped and had McDonald’s. We got the fried chicken but it wasn’t impressive. It tasted like KFC chicken. 20.50sol. Through security and had about 50 sol left so I bought small bottles of pisco and alfajores cookies.
We threw our stuff down and walked down the street to the right to Rey – 24 hour grocery store. There are so many products that are produced from the states that it wasn’t that fun to explore what different snacks from what we have back home. The currency in Panama is USD as legal tender. The lines to checkout were quite long even at 1030PM but I bought a bunch of items and it only cost me $12USD.
Since we arrived late, we went next door to Niko’s 24 hour restaurant that had sandwich deals and I think further down the line, some hot Panamanian dishes. I got the BLT with fries for $5.25USD. It took 20-25 minutes to get our food making it after 11PM when we ate. They asked me my name for the bill but not for Karen so when we looked at the receipts, they put her name as China and mine said my name. I guess I’m too dark they don’t now what I am unlike Karen who is pale lol.
We went back to the hotel and showered and it was such an amazing shower. Chi and myself bought Panama beer so we drank that and watched American TV game shows. Panama beer isn’t quite my taste of beer.
This trip to Peru has been in talks for years with a certain group of people and it finally happened about 3-4 years after our original discussions because a flight deal popped up on www.nextdeparture.ca to Lima, Peru (with stopover in Panama) for only $417 CDN roundtrip including taxes with COPA Airlines. Within a 2 hour span of sharing this deal with my friends, initially 2 plus myself booked the flight egging on others to come join.
I am usually one of the main people to do the organizing and research for my trips but this one all goes to Karen with some help from Chi. My schedule got really busy and I wasn’t able to provide my organizing skills to this trip but Karen is a 1 woman team and does a stunning job of it including her signature little booklet she makes with everything including tips, timing for buses, train, taxis to dinner reservations and other bookings.
After the initial booking, we were able to add on my brother Andrew and then Karen’s friend’s Sofia & Ronan from SF and slowly after that, Andrew’s friends Gayaanan and Partrick joined us making it a 8 person trip with the priority of time focused on the inca trail hike to Machu Picchu. We chose the 4 day 3 night hike in late November and luckily the weather was absolutely perfectly timed for us. I travelled with Karen & Chi the entire time as the rest split off after the Inca Trail trek on other adventures.
FLY – YYZ->PAN->LIM
-Parque de la Reserva – Water show
-Sleep Lima – 1900 Backpackers
FLY – LIM->CUS
-Inca Trail Briefing – Alpaca Expeditions
-Lunch – Chicha
-Taxi to Urubamba
-Sleep Urubamba – Amaru Valle Hotel
-Maras Salt Mine
-Dinner – El Albergue
-Sleep – Ollantaytambo – Kamma Guesthouse
-Alpaca Expedition – 4 Day 3 Night Hike – Inca Trail to Machu Picchu