I set off to meet Kimi the lady who I had met on the cliffs earlier that day. With all the scare stories crowding into my mind about accepting invitations from strangers, I nervously waited for her, but I needn’t have worried about going into her house as she turned out to be the loveliest lady and ever so interesting. Her family are Japanese and despite being born and brought up in Peru she now lives in Japan although she is currently back in Peru for a long visit. We chatted about a wide variety of things, compared cultures and we ate together but a little later in the evening we walked to the supermarket where Kimi gave me a lesson about the different fruits and vegetables and foods which were on offer. I thought that I was quite knowledgeable about the fruit and veg in the world, but goodness; despite being quite widely travelled, South America has a lot of weird and wonderful stuff which I have never encountered before.
Kimi was incredibly generous and treated me to some fantastic ice creams so that I could sample the flavours. I would be unable to describe the taste to you, but both delicious. Sitting in the restaurant inside the supermarket which was incongruously named Wong’s we snaffled down our ice cream and chatted away nineteen to the dozen, before parting and I returned to my dorm in the hostel.
getting my specs mended
the dancing fountain
the water tunnel
the highest jet of water
the calm before the carnage
The following morning I managed to break the arm off my glasses but some wild sign language to a lady sat at a stall in the street worked and resulted in her pulling out a little stool and mending them for me in the gutter – all for the astronomical cost of fifty pence before treating myself to an hour’s open-top bus tour around the Miraflores district. That was slightly bizarre as the majority of the commentary was about the various parks and the shopping centre but it was quite nice to see the wider area. I think that the travelling finally caught up with me so for the rest of the day I lazed around on the hostel roof terrace, until that evening when I joined in with a trip to the Water Fountain Park in Lima. A convoy of taxis took us to a large park which contained half a dozen fountains. But these were not ordinary fountains. They danced! Music played and coloured lights and lasers flashed around the jets of water which spurted in different directions and shot up at different heights. Pictures were projected onto what is the widest fountain in South America as if on a cinema screen whilst the highest fountain in South America was floodlit and had a backdrop of Roman walkways and had hoards of people strolling around its perimeter. The water feature which began the hysterical laughter of the evening consisted of hundreds of arching jets which formed a tunnel through which people could run or walk. Some of the lads from the hostel soon discovered that by touching the jets they could divert the water and drench us as we ran through the middle. Then all hell broke loose at the next water feature. This was a large area with jets shooting up in the air from the floor in formation. People were hopping around between the jets and working their way to the centre behind the walls of water which shot up around them. And then the boys got in. They quickly got to the centre and stood there laughing when the jets suddenly changed direction and fired at forty five degree angles blasting them. One of them tripped over, landing in what he thought was a safe space when he got blasted from underneath and then there was carnage as they all pushed and pulled each other into the jets. I hadn’t laughed so much since setting out on my adventure but it wasn’t so funny when four of us had to squoosh soggily together in the back of the taxi.
On my final day in Lima I met up with Kimi and we got the bus into Lima city centre. I had expected that we would visit the usual tourist haunts but thanks to Kimi I had a far more adventurous time. She took me to China Town and showed me the streets which had been her playground, her old school and apartment and the area where her family restaurant had been. Together we explored the markets and back streets and ate in a little backstreet Chinese cafe. Returning early to the hostel I unpacked and repacked my entire backpack in the hostel lobby ready for my onward coach journey. I ate a dish called El aji de gallina – shredded chicken in a spicy pepper sauce and at nine thirty I took a cab to the Cruz del Sur coach station.
I had paid over the odds for the best bus – again I took heed of the horror stories about bandits and breakdowns on the night buses, but it was an extra eight pounds well spent. It was a double-decker bus with comfortable leather seats which reclined almost horizontal, we had a snack delivered similar to an airplane, TVs set into the seatbacks in front and a hostess service (a young lad who didn’t speak a word of English but kept the rest of the passengers amused when he attempted to explain things to me). The journey was long and we bounced along but it wasn’t too bad at all and at least we had no stops and the luggage was secure.
Arriving nearly two hours late into Trujillo which is ten hours north of Lima on the coach I located my luggage, ran the gauntlet of taxi drivers, choosing one who didn’t look too much like a rogue and set off to find what would be my home for the next three months
The plane landed in the fog that is so peculiar to Lima.
Carmen who was sat next to me on the plane explained that for up to nine months of the year Lima huddles under this grey blanket which is know as the garua fog.
Forming over the region it swirls around casting a surprisingly white glare over everything, cooling things down, but strangely, it is not damp. Lima is the second driest capital city after Cairo. I suppose a more accurate description would be to compare it to a thin veil of VERY low white cloud, without the grey damp water vapour that we would usually associate with fog.
By lunchtime, the fog had lifted, the sun had come out and the Peruvians swarmed into the parks and open spaces, sitting out until long after dark. The following morning, there was no fog and as the dawn broke on my second day in Lima with rays of golden sunshine streaming in around my curtains I decided to hit the beach.
tennis club spills down the hill
I had had a very good night’s sleep, considering that I had been sleeping in a mixed dorm in the hostel and after a lazy breakfast I walked through Kennedy Park and down to the cliffs. The parks with their flowers and trees are immaculately manicured and the tennis club spills down the cliff walk. Whilst I was admiring the view a lady asked whether I would take her photograph which of course I did. Striking up a conversation she invited me to call on her for supper whilst in Lima. Later on, whilst trying to find my way down the cliffs to the beach I chanced upon her again and she repeated her earlier invitation, inviting me to dine with her that evening. I continued my walk and sat on the pebbly beach for a while, with its backdrop of surf shacks and camper vans, pinching myself and grinning as I finally realised that I was in Latin America. After nearly two years of planning, I had finally made it.
sunset over the Pacific
I went down to the cliffs to watch the sunset that evening and was totally overwhelmed by it all. Not only was I in Latin America I was south of the equator and watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean
sunset over Miraflores
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.
a rather low ticket booth
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.