We arrived in Lima after a twelve hour flight. I spent much of it standing at the rear of the aircraft staring out of the window fascinated by the size of the Atlantic Ocean. I was no less surprised by the size of the Amazon Rainforest which we flew over almost as soon as we arrived on the coast of South America. We did of course, manage to make the most of the air fare. I worked out the air hostess’ rotation patterns so as to be able to request the most amount of food and drink without becoming too bothersome to any particular individual. Tracy meanwhile, was in film heaven seated in the cabin further up the front.
It took a while to collect our bags and then we mozzied on through customs in a tired daze, towards the arrivals hall. We had booked a transfer through the Inkafrog hostel but the booking was made about three months ago and I hadn’t sent a reminder e-mail to let the Hostel know that we were still due to arrive. I thought there was a strong chance that nobody would be there to meet us. I had read that arrivals at Lima can be chaotic with many, sometimes illicit taxi drivers jostling to cagoule us into their cabs. We rounded the relative peace of the customs area and into the arrivals hall to meet a throng of dark ahired, dark eyed, Peruvian faces looking back at us most of them shouting “taxi taxi, Inglaisie, taxi”. Amazingly, through the mists of the I heard “Mr Raaaashwaaart” and there he was – Jose, our driver complete with a white board with our names on it.
It’s popular to bemoan the driving standards in foreign countries but it quickly became apparent that Peruvian driving has rules of its own. The vehicle exiting a junction seems to take priority over oncoming vehicles no matter how fast they are travelling or how large they are. It was disconcerting to sit in the offside front seat as Jose pulled out of a junction and I saw a lorry hurtling towards me from the right. I was a second away from shouting “stop!” or perhaps breaking out in tears, but somehow I maintained my composure and Jose, Tracy and I stole off towards the mean streets of downtown Lima.
Somewhere between the airport and the hostel Jose made the sign of the cross. That freaked me out but on enquiry, I was assured to learn that we had just passed Jose’s church and his gesture was a sign of respect rather than an attempt to ward off impending doom. We crashed on arrival at the Inkafrog Hostel. The hostel is great, clean functional and wired up. Breakfast consists of melon, fruit juice, scrambled eggs and coffee – good coffee.
We spent the first day orientating ourselves. We wandered through the City to the Pacific and back through City to the Artisan Market. There is a pier on the cost that wouldn’t look out of place in Brighton. At 2pm we watched England lose to Uruguay in the “Olde English Pub”. We were filmed by Peru TV filming as we watched the game. One day in, it seems that we are already pushing for national celebrity status.
Lima is a bit non de-script. The buildings are tired and there is not much of a feel to the place. The tired buildings are occasionally pervaded by an up market shopping mall that mostly tourists seem to visit. The other thing I have noticed is how labour intensive public services seem to be. Before leaving the UK I witnessed public services being stripped to the bare minimum and further cut backs seem perpetually predicted. Lima would give any public sector senior management team nightmares. We saw the Council’s garden maintenance section tending a small garden and there were at least 20 staff including an “A” framed ladder with a person on either side of it and another person holding on to it just in case! We saw another worker disinfecting derelict stone stairs – there was absolutely no point but I guess the guy has a job.
Today we are about to wander out into the City again. There are museums to see and Parque Kennedy’s fountains. At this stage we have been taking things easy. We were busy before we left the UK so we are making sure we recharge the batteries ahead of Saturday when we return to Jorge Chavez Airport to fly to Cusco with our tour group for the trek up the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
With love xxx