The night bus from Talara to Huanchaco was another long 9 hours but worth it. I arrived in Trujillo early around 7am and there were taxis trying to get me to go with them. I thought maybe a collectivo would be best but the first taxi I asked told me it would take more than an hour and didn’t feel like dealing with that so made a deal and got a ride from him and arrived at my hostel in Huanchaco around 8am. The town of Trujillo was dirty and arriving in Huanchaco was the same, nothing special. My hostel was set up high on this cliff with a backpacker feel but very vacant, not many people out and about. Thankfully my room was ready so I was able to unpack and get organized and get some breakfast (which was on the top floor with a view of the ocean). I was contemplating if I wanted to surf (couldn't really tell if the waves were good) so I borrowed a bike from the hostel which was free and went to see how much it would cost to rent a board. I saw the conditions were okay but seemed a little strong and there wasn’t really a beach as the shore came right up to rocks and there were surfers next to the pier - not ideal. The girl I asked at the hostel with the surf rentals said the guys weren’t there who deal with the boards so I told her I would come back if I decided to go in the afternoon since it was mid-day. I then went to get another SIM card which was another struggle because of the language barrier and me not totally understanding the whole SIM recharging rules. I went back to the hostel and did some bus bookings and then just chilled because I was tired. I decided it wasn’t worth surfing so I went to get food for dinner at the market and ended up getting street food which was one of the best decisions because I tried picarones and papa rapela which I hadn’t tried before and they were both delicious! I enjoyed eating them while watching the “sunset” (clouds) and surfers - it was overcast most of the time there. It was pretty tough going from bright sunny beautiful weather to grey boring weather; and I was freezing. I ended up making the ramen soup I had brought with me since Panama City and then sat at the rooftop bar with a beer. I went to bed and then had to check out the next day, so I got breakfast again at the hostel. This girl from Holland was also there having breakfast and she decided to tag along with me on my way to the Chan Chan ruins. We took the local buses there and it was nice being with another person, got to know her as we walked through the ruins and it was a very neat experience seeing such an historical place. It was a lot smaller than I thought and we went to the museum which was mediocre (had many Inca era decor) and then this other site which was literally a waste of time with barely any ruins, but I got to see the famous naked dog or the hairless Peruvian national dog for the first time. We went back and I got ceviche at this one place I had read about and it was actually really good, had a nice spice to it and included some sweet potatoes - which I hadn't had with. it before. Afterwards we went back to the hostel and I was planning to leave that night but turned out my bus ticket read 9:30am not 9:30pm so I started to freak out. Thankfully I was able to go online to book another bus for the next night but I was pissed because I needed to get to Huarez (mountain town) to get used to the altitude for the hike I was planning to go on in two days (since I had to be in Lima to meet up with Lauren, my best friend from home on a particular date). Plus I did not want to stay in Huanchaco but there was literally nothing I could do. There was also this Canadian couple at the hostel that was actually going on the same night bus the next day so we planned to take a taxi to the bus station together. That night the girl from Holland and I sat at the rooftop bar and chatted with the bartender/volunteer from Colorado who had been traveling for years as well. Holland girl hadn’t been back home for 5 years and had been living in Australia and New Zealand so we chatted about all our traveling experiences and she gave me suggestions which was super helpful. The next day I had to re-check out and got breakfast and then went to this cafe to do some computer stuff but the Wifi sucked so had to go back to the hostel to do it and ended up booking a lot of things I needed to which felt good. Holland girl and I went to get pizza and then headed to the bus station (she decided to come along since her plans changed and had to head to Lima as well). The taxi driver was crazy yet again and we had to wait a little while to get on the bus but not too long. The night bus was super nice and they gave us a bag of food and some tea. I got some sleep but not a lot and was planning to hike the next morning so I really needed that sleep but there wasn’t anything I could do. Holland girl and I got a taxi to our hostel at 5:30am and it was locked. The bus was actually early and wasn’t expecting to get there until 6am. Thankfully this other guest opened the door for us as she was heading on a 4-day hike that morning. We went up and waited until the guy got to the reception which was around 6:15am. I had asked around to the people that were waking up to go on hikes how the Laguna 69 hike was and there was this one guy that sounded like he was an intense hiker from America. I knew we needed to leave for the hike ASAP so I was on a mission and asked the hostel receptionist to get a taxi for us as soon as possible. We both checked in, went to the market to get food and coca leaves (for altitude sickness since this was high elevation) and left by 7:30am. Things were going right and then the taxi driver had to stop and change cars and then change tires which kept delaying the trip and I was getting really annoyed. I didn’t want to run out of time, and we got to the starting point of the hike around 10:30am. We were both pretty tired and the road to get there was windy and bumpy so we couldn't really sleep on the 3 hour drive unfortunately. As we began to head out on the trail, I didn’t feel any altitude sickness at first but Hanna did. We had to stop a few times because of it and the many flies nearby were bothering her and then I started to feel the altitude about 30 minutes into the hike. I kept chewing the coca leaves and we both had taken an altitude sickness pill so was hoping that would all help. Our legs felt like jello and didn’t have much energy but I was determined! Holland girl was thinking about stopping halfway and waiting for me and I said that was okay so I kept going. I was really not feeling well at certain points, lacking energy, out of breath and having to take many breaks, but I just keep telling myself "I can do this." Two-thirds of the way up I thought I was almost there but I wasn’t as close as I thought which was the worst feeling. I started seeing other hikers come down and kept asking how far and probably shouldn’t have because that didn’t help my motivation when I thought it would. My body just felt weak and it was the breathing that was the hardest to get through. The views and my determination were the only things that kept me going. The final stretch was the hardest part of any hike I’ve ever had to deal with. It was mostly because of the altitude, but also probably because I was by myself and didn’t have a lot of motivation backing me up, besides me wanting to see the lake at the top. All of a sudden groups started to come down and it was really hard to hike up with all these people coming down. I had to take more breaks and it took longer but I was right on track for the 3 hour average hike up. I finally got to the top and seeing the sparkling blue water was the best feeling. I was so happy to get there but felt so sick. There were only like 5 people around so I was happy it wasn’t crowded. I got a few pictures and then it was just me and this one man left. Turns out he’s from Uruguay and has been traveling for a year with his caravan and is heading up to Alaska (divorced with no kids, still working remotely a couple days of the week and 60 years old). He was a really nice guy and we started talking about the hospitality industry and our jobs. Then this one guy from Minnesota from the US Peace Corps came up and we chatted a bit and then he headed down after like 5 minutes. The Uruguay guy and I eventually started to make our way down at 2:30pm which was when they said we should head down by to beat dusk. And 10 minutes down we ran into Holland girl who was coming up. I was so happy she made it! We waited for her to see the laguna and then the 3 of us headed back down together. It took us about 2 hours to get down. The three of us shared traveling stories and where we wanted to go and then started talking about America and Trump and then thankfully switched topics. Thankfully the taxi driver was still there and we gave Uruguay guy a ride to his caravan. It was the best feeling to sit down in that taxi and close my eyes - my body felt like it had just taken a beating. I was hungry but too tired to eat.
When we were about 30 minutes from the town of Huaraz, the taxi car broke down. The driver said it was an electrical problem but both Holland girl and I knew that didn’t really mean anything so we got very annoyed. He said another taxi would come in 20 minutes so we waited patiently. The other taxi that came actually brought gas so turns out the taxi driver didn’t put enough gas in the car in the beginning when I had given him 50 soles he only put in 30 - who does that? So then we went to the gas station after that and he asked for the rest of the 180 soles that it would have costed, but I wasn’t going to pay the full amount seeing as though he delayed our trip by about 45 minutes already (from the morning too). We gave him the rest of the money to equal 130 soles total which I thought was fair but then when we got back to the hostel the other driver had asked for 50 more to equal the total 180 soles. We had to talk to the hostel to make them understand why we wouldn’t pay the full amount and all in all we paid 150 soles which was whatever (we didn’t feel like arguing anymore). After all that fuss, a long day, a hot shower felt like a million bucks, I was so happy to feel hot and clean. I was going to get chips at the market but nothing was open and it was disgusting on the streets so I just went to bed. Woke up early to catch my 9:30am bus to Lima to meet my best friend from high school, Lauren!