I arrived at the Lima bus terminal 20 minutes before departure, purchased my ticket and dropped my big backpack off in the office with all the other luggage that goes underneath. Not realizing I was the last one on the bus (there was another line that I was in that I thought was the line to my bus, but was mistaken), the bus started to leave and the whole time I was trying to look to make sure they had put my backpack in the bottom, but I didn’t see it. I tried knocking on the door to the driver section as the bus was trying to get out of the parking lot and no one would answer, there was no way for me to get in touch with anyone in charge of the bus to stop the bus. I was freaking out because I hadn't seen them put my backpack in the back and there were multiple buses going to Lima so I could see them getting mixed up with mine. Finally someone answered after I constantly knocked on the door, trying to explain in Spanish that I wanted to stop and check to make sure my backpack was in the back. He asked to see my ticket and said that since I had the bag ticket with it that it should be there, so I just had to trust faith. We stopped to get lunch at this nice restaurant halfway there (about an 8 hour bus ride) and I ordered "arroz verde con pollo"...it was delicious! And tried the famous bubble gum soda pop called Inka Cola (super sugary). I asked if I could check for my bag again and I wasn't able to so just had to let it go again.
Finally I arrived to Lima around 7pm (2 hours late) from traffic and such, and thankfully my bag was there. I met a girl on the bus from Switzerland and we split an Uber to our hotels in Miraflores (best part of Lima in my opinion). The hotel I picked was very fancy and it felt absolutely amazing to be in a hotel as opposed to a hostel for the first time in like 2 months. I turned on the TV and Jimmy Fallon was on with the Fab 5 - it felt weird but also amazing at the same time because I felt like I was back in civilization for the first time in a while. I went down to get dinner in the hotel restaurant with a piano man and it was very relaxing, and then did some research while waiting for Lauren to arrive. She arrived around 11pm and we went to get food/drinks at this tiki bar across the street, which had some yummy cocktails - the bartender gave us a shot as we were walking out and then we tried going to bed around 1am so we wouldn't be too tired for the next day. It felt so great seeing Lauren for the first time in a long time and being with someone from home/my teenage years brought warmth inside that I will never forget (thanks Lauren ;-)). We woke up in time for breakfast and then got ready to go explore Barranco (the hippie part of Lima). It was really fun walking around with many graffiti-colored walls, winding steps, and tons of vines and flowers surrounding buildings. We stopped to see Servulo Gutierrez's art in one of the shops and then walked around the main parts of town as well as did some shopping and then stopped to get ceviche at a rooftop restaurant with a spectacular view of the ocean. It was a perfect half day being on our own - I made sure to have Lauren try different fruits and we went to the Modern Museum which was one of the first I had been to in South America. We took an Uber to make the 3pm Miraflores free walking tour and got ice cream while waiting. The tour lasted about 3 hours and it was fantastic service, seeing the many sites of Lima - Kennedy Park (with cats), Chocolate Museum, Inka Markets, Love Park, and Mall along the coast. It was time for dinner when we finished and we scrambled to find a Peruvian chicken restaurant but took a while to finally find a place - Pardos Chicken--it was perfect but the sauces weren't as tasty as expected. We were exhausted so we went back to the area of our hotel, got a cocktail at this retro wine bar and discussed politics with the bartender from Venezuela. We had to be up in the morning for the day tour to Paracas (Ballestas Islands) and Huacachina Sand Dunes so we went to bed around midnight, woke up around 5am. The bus picked us up around 5:45am and we were off on the tour. Unfortunately the island boat tour got cancelled because of "weather conditions" but it was most likely because of the PanAmerican games that were going on. So instead, we sat outside at this restaurant on the beach with the sun hitting us next to these two Swiss guys who were also taking the tour. The four of us discussed the many political and lifestyle differences between our two countries over a few beers and it was a nice relaxing time. We got back on the bus, Peru hop, and were off to Huacachina (dessert oasis) where we quickly ordered some more food and wine at this restaurant overlooking the lake in the middle of this dessert. Once it was time to board the dune buggy after getting separated into groups, we were able to snag the front seat and then the crazy ride began. All of a sudden our buggy stopped working and so we all got out to take more pictures and then went down the hilly dunes with the body boards which were super fun! I had a blast and then we headed back, grabbed another cocktail and pizza to go. It was the best having that pesto pizza, but we almost missed the bus and at first weren't able to sit next to each other until I talked my way with this one guy so that Lauren and I could sit next to each other. We arrived back to the hotel by midnight and then packed up because we had to make our flight the next morning to Cusco. All in all, Huacachina oasis was absolutely a cool experience, although very disorganized and annoying to deal with timing/waiting on the guides, etc., but it was worth it in the end!