We knew Lima was big by how long it took us to get from the outskirts to the bus station near downtown. We failed to book anything in advance, which worked out well for us in Trujillo, but in Lima this led to us driving around through narrow, crowded streets near the main plaza for over half an hour, checking one hotel after another. Most were too expensive. Many had no space. One had a decent room, but no wifi. By the time we finally found something, we were really hungry, but we still had about two hours before we could check in. We were lucky to be given a different room to store our stuff, and then we went for food. We were too hungry to spend tons of time searching, so sanduches y jugos it was.
After breakfast we walked down to the plaza de armas, which is what they tend to call the main square in every city. It was large and full of people. We checked out the river, hoping there would be a nice spot to sit near it where it wouldn't be as hot but when we saw the river, we changed our minds.
We ended up sitting under a tree in some grass, glad to be off our feet. We had no luggage, but even when we are out for the day, we carrya day pack with our waters, rain coats, etc., and one of us has to carry Lila, who is some forty pounds these days.
I didn’t have any big plans for Lima. The hotel gave us some fliers with info about the historic stuff, of which there was the usual. Churches and museums, mostly. Laura wasn’t feeling well, and with such a hot day, nobody wanted to go walk around the city with me to explore. This was actually okay with me, as I can cover ground a whole lot faster alone. The girls, naturally, just wanted to watch a movie. We let them and I set out alone.
I had a map with all the historic buildings marked out, and I went all around the historic downtown, taking tons of pictures. I walked for some time, eventually making my way out of the historic area and into some other part of town that was teeming with people, market stalls, and men hauling huge loads on hand trucks. I was pressed on all sides by the crush of humanity, and all around were people calling out their wares and shouting to each other in greeting. It felt like stepping into another century.
I can't even remember how many times, on this trip, I've overheard people talking about Trump, in both Spanish and English, and almost entirely by non Americans (by which I mean USA.) I am glad to be away from all the drama, even though it follows me here, even. I was eating breakfast with the girls on inauguration day, and there he was. Having heard Paul Craig Roberts' prediction that big T will be assassinated, I couldn't help but watch a bit, wondering if maybe it would happen on live TV. I recalled the final scene of Joshua, Son of None. But no. I had a good laugh when I saw the following headline, and I had to snap a picture of it. El Diablo himself!
That evening we wanted to find some wood fired pizza and visit the fountain gardens, which were supposed to be really neat. We took a cab out to where the pizza place was supposed to be, only to get stuck in evening traffic. It took us close to an hour to go twelve kilometers, and then we found that the restaurant wasn’t even there. It turns out there are two streets with the same name, each in different burghs of Lima. We ended up, once again, driving around in what was to become a very expensive cab ride, looking for something suitable. We eventually got out and walked around some more, the girls getting quite upset. We eventually found some good food at a place that appeared to be run by hippies. Organic food with vegan options, and tons of raw deserts, in which we indulged. Then it was off to the fountain gardens.
This was indeed an amazing place. The fountains were all lit up with colorful lights, many of which changed in neat patterns. It was a huge park, and it took us quite a bit of time to walk all the way around and see all the different fountains. Early on we spotted a small electric train (not on tracks) to drive the kids around, and since Lila loves trains, I got the girls tickets and sent them on a ride.
Some of the fountains were massive, with plumes of colorful water shooting fifty to sixty feet in the air, and one of them was probably a hundred yards long, with several tall plumes in a line. Some were spinning up jets in neat patterns, and others were set to synchronize with music.
It was a cool place, but the evening turned ugly when we refused to let the girls go into the fountains that people were playing in. The night was quite cool, and we had no backup clothes. Getting everyone to walk back the long distance we’d crossed to see the whole park was quite an ordeal.
The next day in Lima was not so good. Laura was sick, still sick, and she didn’t even come with us when we went out for breakfast, having no appetite. We lounged around the hotel after a late breakfast, and eventually I took the girls out to go check out a market, with only the promise of buying some fruit and juice to motivate them. We walked around a large market area, only to find ourselves with little appetite, probably owing to the strange smells. There were tons of bird carcasses hanging from the stalls of vendors, which probably did not help. The juice I ended up buying us had no sugar, and the girls didn’t want to drink theirs. Not wanting to waste it, I drank mine and half of theirs, which left me feeling overly stuffed.
That evening I was determined to get us to the wood fired pizza place, and we took another cab out, though later this time, to avoid the traffic. We went to the correct burgh this time and actually found our restaurant on the first try, a first since Vilcabamba. The food was good, but Laura was still not well, and she barely ate, complaining that nothing she could eat would stay with her long.
She was really not looking forward to the extremely long bus ride between Lima and Cusco. The drive time on Google maps (which is less than the time it takes buses to travel) was listed as 23 hours. The buses in Peru have bathrooms, at least, but only with urinals. In Laura’s condition, this was problematic.
So against my parsimonious proclivities, Laura talked me into getting us a flight. We found tickets at a decent price, but multiplied by five…it took a bite out of our funds. Still, it was nice to take the easy way over the mountains, and the journey was about an hour, twenty three times faster than riding the bus.
Personally, I am glad to have visited Lima, as I love to check out the different places around the world, and I love exploring urban areas with my camera. But I can see why the others didn’t care for it much. Our hotel was really noisy, being right by the main square and the room was so hot that we had to keep the windows open all night. It was really hot, loud, and stuffy.
We thought Quito was a big city, at 3.5 million. Lima has a population of 12 million, and it feels like it too.
Driving around Lima in cabs was crazy. The drivers are as reckless as I have ever seen, plowing right into moving traffic with the certainty that others will give way. Horns are honking incessantly, to the point where you don’t even know where they are coming from. Stop signs and traffic lights are ignored, and pedestrians walk right out into traffic when they want to cross roads. Cabs barely slow down for them, and I was sure we were about to be in a wreck numerous times, though they always managed to stop just in time.
Finding restaurants, as I’ve said, was always a chore. We walked around for over an hour on the second day looking for lunch place after the place I’d found online turned out not to exist. And Laura being sick didn’t help the situation. We figured we would just put another movie on for the girls on the second night, but the internet went out at the hotel for after the first day, and we didn’t get back online until Cusco.
Cusco, at least, held some exciting prospects. The capital of the old Inca Empire, it is surrounded by ancient sites and ruins, and is right in the vicinity of Machu Picchu. Plus, we were flying there, which lifted everybody’s spirits a little. So with one last crazy and intense cab ride to the airport, we bid Lima adieu and good riddance.