Departures, Panama City and Pisco Sour
5 AM Saturday, Monroe WI– I wake after 2 hours of anxious sleep. Stayed up later than expected trying to figure out my proof of onward travel situation. Ended up reluctantly buying a ticket to Ecuador for May 30. Was glad I had it when the Spirit agents gave me a hard time about my one-way ticket.
11 AM Saturday, Chicago- My 9:30 flight turned into an 11 AM flight. First tip off that Spirit Air is a `you get what you pay for´ kind of airline. Unformfortable flight, no leg room, perfectly erect seating.
5:00 ish? Saturday, Ft Lauderdale– Board connecting plane to Lima. Wait. Spirit announces that it has overbooked the flight by 24 fliers, or that we are too heavy for the plane/fuel, or some other lame excuse. They ask if anyone would be willing to catch the flight out of Panama the following day. They would provide accomodations and a free flight voucher. I´m too busy chatting with my interesting seat mates to notice.
After a few minutes and a low response, Spirit makes it 2 free flight vouchers anywhere they fly (US & Latin America). I shoot out of my seat, grab my pack and dash to the front.
So begins a very interesting start to my travels. From here, myself and the 23 others, wait for directions for Spirit. We learn we won´t depart for another couple hours, so we head to grab a beer in one of the airport bars. The hodge podge of travellers opting to fly out of Panama ranges from a church group heading to work in a Peruvian orphanage, to a Peruvian American heading to visit family, to a couple young people heading to work for non profits or tour agencies, to another traveller just embarking on his own one-year travel adventure. Brought together by the stupidity of an airline, we are all instant compadres.
Sometime between 3 and 4 AM, Sunday Hotel Aeropuerto: Panama City, Panama– Exhausted yet hopped up on travel-induced adrenaline we arrive at our GORGEOUS hotel. It becomes quickly clear this will be the fanciest hotel I stay in possibly for my entire trip. Apparently this is one (and the only?) area Spirit does not skimp on. Anticipating the 24 hour pool and jacuzzi a group of people went in on a bottle of duty free booze and sweet tea. We proceed to stay up until dawn hanging at the pool, drinking cocktails out of plastic cups. After an early and very tasty breakfast of fresh fruit and toast at the hotel we grab the airport shuttle.
9:30 AM Sunday, Airport in Panama– I am given the disapointing news that I was not scheduled to be on the same flight as my 23 other layed-over co-travellers. The Spirit agent had neglected to mention I was the only one who was supposed to be on the 9 am flight. My flight had already departed. Luckily the clerk was able to put me on the 6:30 pm flight.
10 AM Hotel Aeropuerto, again-Exhausted and bummed I have to leave my new companions, I catch the hotel shuttle back to the hotel. Because we had already checked out, I essentially squat at the pool for most of the afternoon. Though this sounds pleasant, the fact that I was running on 2 hours of quality sleep over the past 48 hours, and that the weather had turned cloudy and rainy, made the 4 hours I waited at the hotel an anxious mixture of trying and failing to nap on damp lounge chair; and trying and failing to find a place to safely charge my iPod. Boredom drives me to actually go to the airport 3.5 hours early. Hmmm. This was a bad idea too, as the Panama airport is nothing special. Too tired to read, iPodbattery too low to play with, I plopped on a bench and stared into space. When I finally board, I fall instantly asleep and stay that way for much of the nearly 4 hour flight.
11:15 PM Sunday, International Airport in Lima– I arrive, feeling half alive, but alive nonetheless. Disoriented, unable to get wifi on my iPod, I wander aimlessly until I find a white-haired Aussie grandma talking with a taxi driver. I decided to piggyback with her to Miraflores, figuring it be a good bet for finding a hostel at that time of night.
12 AM-I arrive in Miraflores, find a hotspot and check my email to find a message from my Panama layover friends that they are staying at Link Hostel in Miraflores. I find out I am a short walk away. I check in for the night. Sleep doesnt come until 1:30, and is interupted periodically by dorm mates wrestling with their backpacks and leaving throughout the early hours.
9 AM Monday, Link Hostel, Lima-I grab the free hostel breakfast of buns & jelly, instant coffee, as my friends trickle into the commons area. Three of them are staying at Link, and have no plans for the day. We reunite and devise a rough plan, to take off and explore the area by foot.
We head toward the beach. We stumble on Lovers Park, a lovely little park with mosiac benches and a brilliant sculpture looking down on a stunning view of the sea. The weather is a perfect 74 degrees and sunny. We stroll, chatting, snapping pictures and taking in the view. We decide to grab a cab to the Barranco Neighborhood to find a place to relax and eat.
Barranco is even cooler than I expected; with its Bohemian vibe , ecclectic Spanish buildings, and knarly old trees sprouting up from stone walkways- all with access to lovely views of the sea. We find a café promoting free pisco sours with meal. This place is pretty amazing: outdoor seating with a view. It turns out to be ridiculously expensive. We bitch about it but decide it was worth it for the food, experience and ambiance…and delicious drinks.
After the pisco cocktails our night turns into a fantastic blurr of Solo Saltado, Crystal (Peruvian brand of beer), bus rides, rum & cokes, drinks at a fancy seaside bar, pitchers of crystal & fantastic live music at a bohemian jazz club, chilling on our hostel rooftop, and passing out sometime in the early morning hours.
10 AM Tuesday morning, Link Hostel– Wake up covered in dust and dirt (from chilling on the flilthy dirty rooftop) with a depilitating hangover.
Together for one more outing, the 4 of us grab superb sandwiches and fresh fruit juice at a cafe near the park. After eating, myself and another catch a bus to downtown Lima, for some more rather aimless wandering, and snapping of pictures. We head back to the hostel, he leaves for Ica, myself and the remaining Panama-layover victim, spend the rest of the uploading pictures, answering emails, waiting for an early bed time.
All in my first 4 days on the road …