The cab which I shared with Mia and her lovely nine year old son Nicholas crawled along under the majestic cliffs upon which Miraflores is balanced, delayed in the horrendous early morning traffic. On our slow journey from the airport I looked up at the towering cliffs wondering how on earth they could support the sky scrapers which were lined up along their edge – they looked remarkably fragile, as if they were made up of just sand and loose stones and would crumble at any minute. The many signs directing people upwards in case of a tsunami were also a little disconcerting. At the speed the traffic was moving we would all be fish-food if a giant wave were to strike.
There were no normal cabs available so I shared my ride from the airport with a lady who lives in Cusco and her son who is Argentinean. The cab driver was unable to negotiate the road works around my hostel and just as I was wondering how on earth I was going to cross the fenced off area, a workman noticed my plight and came to let me and another bemused backpacker through the cordon. I was quick to learn that Health and Safety is not an issue here and I was soon dodging steam rollers and tractors as I exited the hostel.
As we wandered in, I introduced myself to Julien who was it turned out, French and off on his own mini adventure. After leaving our bags in the secure area, we decided to pair up for some of the day and set off, first to find a travel agent so that Julien could book his flight out to Cusco the following day, and then to negotiate the super bus system that links the middle-class affluent area of Miraflores to the centre and old town Lima. I have to say a quick thank you to friends back home for their recommendation to stay in this area. It is certainly the best area in Lima and my hostel is possibly in the very best location, although I have yet to see anybody who is any more than just half my age.
But who cares about that ‘cos I am having a ball and one day, possibly very soon, most of this lot will have to go back to work and get down to the daily grind.
Anyhow, me and Julien paid for our bus card in the machine at Ricardo Palma station which we preloaded with some dosh and we set off. Or after several false starts we set off once we had established which direction we should be travelling in. The bus system bore a strong resemblance to the tram system in Istabul – apart from the blooming obvious difference between buses and trams. The stations were almost identical, set in the central reservations of the road system and the buses sped along the main thoroughfare alongside but unhindered by the snarled up traffic We exited at Jiron de la Union and wandered up to Plaza Mayor where we treated ourselves to a S30 ticket for entrance to the Archbishops house and the Cathedral with its crypts. I know that the Peruvian people are small but this cash booth window really was taking the piss, lol.
The changing of the guard was in full swing in front of the Presidential Palace as we wandered up to the Monastery of St Francisco and the Parque de la Muralia. From the park we had an amazing view of the favela at Rimac with its sherbet pink and yellow houses shimmering in the heat haze (the fog had burnt off and the sun was now out), disguising the poverty which must be rife and the crime which oozes from the district. We wandered down to Plaza Bolivar and from there, back to the station and the hostel to officially check in and find our respective rooms. A very welcome hot shower revived me after the long journey and the sight-seeing, and then I went up onto the roof terrace for a beer. The Pariwana Hostel is another great find. For me, the location is everything and this one did not disappoint. Fronting a busy roundabout is in a nice area at the tip of a long park – Kennedy Park which is full of flowers, immaculately kept grass and benches. There is a relaxing roof terrace at the hostel with sun-loungers and ping-pong, a lively bar area and kitchen with free teas, coffee and breakfast. Music thumps away most of the day giving the whole place a laid back, party atmosphere and the pungent smell of a certain sort of tobacco drifts lazily around.
Supper was a muffin thingy on the street followed by a visit to the local artisan market on a where I bought myself a little silver thumb ring to replace my Turkish ring which I believed to have lost somewhere on the way to London whilst wrestling with my luggage. (it was subsequently found)
I returned and sat at the bar ready for an earlyish night when I discovered that I was to sleep in a room with four blokes. I thought that there were to be a couple of girls in there too but they had checked out. God; I hope that I don’t keep the guys awake all night with my snoring. Three are Brazilian and for some bizarre reason keep forgetting to shut the room to the door which opens directly onto my bed but they do put the toilet lid down after them. I guess it is all a trade-off when you are travelling alongside such an eclectic mix of people.
The next morning after some very weird dreams (did I really sit up in bed and ask one of the Brazilians whether the fire alarm was going off?), I had just taken my shower and a fifth and final guy was shown into the room – to occupy the bunk above. What comfort zone? It has been well and truly blown away.