South America: Days 1 & 2

Well, it finally arrived after waiting months but the run up to the trip wasn’t as peaceful or exciting as previous trips.  The main reasons being one, it was a group tour in the main so needed less planning and two, I’d agreed to go back to work for the same client on my return so there was lots of handover and less looking forward to the new start like in previous trips.

I stayed in Gatwick the night before just to make it nice and easy on the day of the flight. The 12.5 hour flight was ok actually apart from the last hour and half where I started to climb the walls a bit.  I watched Finding Dory and The Boss which helped, and a shed load of Narcos which was particularly cool as I was flying over Bogota (or so the BA live map told me).  I had a vegan in front of me, she didn’t bother me at all but she had special meals and special requirements and I could just imagine her typing away paragraphs upon paragraphs on the special dietary requirements, harping on about her spiritual calling or some shit like that.  Personally, I would have just given her the food packaging to lick with no food inside.  I should say at this point I have no issue with vegans (just in case I know any or they happen to be on the group tour when it starts), but I’d be lying.

I had a bit of a panic pre-flight as I say somebody with same backpack as me and after Jenners reminded me of the near escape in Thailand with some clown walking off with mine, I was so close to the front of the conveyor belt I think people thought I was operating the machine.

The other worry was some of the tales of woe going from airport in Lima. Apparently there are often robberies on the taxis as they transport people into the nicer areas. Also every site tells you only to go in Government approved taxis, I did, and I saw no issues at all getting to Miraflores, Lima where I was staying.  The place looked great at night, traffic and drivers seemed mental (later confirmed).

I got in late so it was straight to bed, so technically this is day 1,2 and 3 but if you’re going to pull me up on that, you’re almost certainly a Vegan.

The next morning, the hotel provided breakfast (some funky bread and a blended fruit) and I was up and out early morning.  I went for a stroll around Miraflores beach which looked great but the beach was more rocky than Barbados style.  Clearly it was epic for surfers because they were plastered all over the coast.  It was pretty cloudy at that time in the morning but I was soon to realise Lima is generally cloudy until 1-2pm where the sun pokes through and the Lima people shit themselves.  They have like newspapers out and everything for the sun just poking through, however, I realised why when I toasted on day 1 (and apparently this place is number 1 in world for those sunspot things).

After my stroll and convincing the surfer schools I’d be no good at it, I popped into the Lacomar shopping centre on top of the Miraflores cliff.  It was all modern stuff there but the shopping centre was my new go to point for everything really, get back there and I know where I am going.

I then got a bus into the centre of Lima and I met the hero of the trip so far. Granted, he’s not quite the hero level of my Japanese saint who rescued me from certain death when lost in Miyakojima, but he did pay for me to get into the bus station given the machine was out of order so couldn’t get myself a travel card. The guy was a US embassy worker in a Peru and had done service in Afghanistan.  After explaining the wide variety of “pussy” available in Lima he then told me the areas to be careful of as a tourist.  Most importantly, his kind donation of around 50p for the bus did not go unnoticed and if he ever stumbles onto this site, he’ll be buzzing he got a mention.

After walking around Plaza Sant Martin, I headed to Plaza Des Armas and the palace to watch the changing of the guard. This involved the guards band playing music and the ceremony to change guard personnel.  It had the pomp of the British version but maybe not the class.  Imagine our trooping of the colour but with fused with the can can and big band week on the X factor.  It was really good to watch though and the high kicks by the guard looked brutal.

I stumbled upon a free walking tour of downtown Lima and got myself on that and met some cool people.  We saw some amazing stuff like the San Francisco Cathedral and the amazing monastery of Santa Domingo. In here were the tombs of three saints but the building was pretty spectacular.

The walking tour was brill to be fair and we stopped and snapped up some enchilada and churrito which are dirt cheap and amazing for lunch/snack.  The town centre was absolutely buzzing because of Peru Argentina that night and the big screen was up in the Plaza De Armas ready to transform the square into some huge party later. Everybody was honking horns and sellers were selling shirts, wigs and all sorts.

The final thing on the walking tour was to learn about and sample the local alcohol Pisco (43%) and how the classic Pisco Sour cocktail is made.  We sampled three different shots and I have to be honest, he was telling us how to savour the grape etc but I was just thinking it tasted of pure alcohol.  They did say though that if just drink Pisco all night would be no hangover but if mixed, you’d feel like you wanted to die.

I headed to the stadium to see if I could swing a ticket for the sold out game but no luck.  Most of the locals said for me to go and watch it in a bar anyway so I took their advice.

Before the game though, I headed to a famous fish restaurant to try Ceviche. I got a free Pisco Sour (which is shot of Pisco, lemon juice, sugar and egg white) and I tried the octopus for starter (everybody raved about it on tripadvisor).  I love most fish but never liked octopus but thought would try it anyway.  Unfortunately, it beat me after first bite, I just can’t deal with texture and those little round sucker things, even though this was flat slices.  No thank you.  The fish ceviche was amazing though as was the random fruit and chocolate dessert.  I have no idea what fruit it was but that’s how they roll here, different fruit blended each morning in the hotel, no idea what they are, smell of arse but taste nice.

I watched the majority of the football at the sports bar but they were mental so watched the rest at home, was cream crackered and a bit toasted from the hidden sun, so it was time for bed.

It was the same drill on day 2, up early, breakfast (bread and an arse smelling but nice tasting blended fruit) then out for a wander.

This time I headed first for Huaca Pullana which is an ancient Inca ruins site right in the heart of the city which is odd.  The site and story is pretty incredible to be fair and even though the city of Lima has been entirely rebuilt 3/4 times due to earthquake, war or fire, the site here has remained for over 1500 years.  Obviously the daddy of ruins is the Machu Picchu which I’m trekking to on the group tour but to be in the city and amongst that was cool.

There were some cool people on that free guide too.  There was an old bird from Washington who I was hoping would be widowed or something (opportunity for green card) but she introduced me to her husband and family. I’d informed her of my love for Ice Hockey and swiftly told her I hated Alex Ovechkin but she looked confused, I was going to tell her he’s like the Teddy Sheringham of hockey for me,but given she was from Washington and didn’t know Ovechkin, I was pretty sure she wouldn’t have a scooby who Teddy Sheringham was.

After that I headed to the street where all the markets were on with Inca arts and crafts on.  I knew this would be a dangerous trio because I’d want everything and I literally have no space in either bag yet.  It proved to be as tough as expected and I always worry that I will not find my weird and wonderful piece in the next place but I won’t be able to return. Still, the attraction to one thing wasn’t too overwhelming so I’m hoping I will forget the bits I did want.

I took the short walk to two of the main parks in Miraflores, park Kennedy and Park Central.  By the way traffic here is mental, makes Thailand look safe.  They ignore green lights, Zebra crosssings are pointless and they never (and don’t have to stop) for pedestrians.  They are crazy on the horns constantly, but I did still use the Zebra crossings as despite always being ignored, they still seemed to be the place where playing chicken was the least risky place of becoming roadkill.

In the park I stumbled upon some traditional Peruvian dancing competition which was class, they were in full traditional dress and had to do some special clap while they were dancing.  I always say the best things about trips are when you stumble upon things unplanned.

I wanted to do the 6 mile boardwalk across the cliff overlooking the coast and midway I decided to paraglide tandem off the cliff.  So glad I did it and they videod it so I’ll check out the sd card when back.  It was such a good way to see the view and coast though. After it I plodded on with the huge coast boardwalk before heading to the walking tour of the cultural art district of Barranco,

The group had to grab a proper local bus to Barranco and that was an experience, it only cost 20p though fair play.  There were a couple of British women with our group which was good, they were both cool people so it was a good laugh. Barranco is proper cool too with a,aging art on the walls and steeped in history.  We crossed the bridge of sighs holding our breath as the tradition goes and I tried some local dessert like a rice pudding and jelly, they described it as ‘party in your mouth’ but I would describe it more as a ‘quiet gathering of friends’, it was boring and it ended up in the bin.

After the tour, and 11 hours walking so far, I headed to the Parque de reserve for the magic fountain lights show which was very impressive.  A bit like Barca fountains but with a light show in the water with moving images etc.

I feel really bad but after all that walking and only two days here, I gave in and opted for a TGIF Fridays burger, because I couldn’t cope with another cold meal. I won’t give in so easily again but it was amazing to have some hot food.

After 12 hours walking, I am now back, aching and ready for bed.  Plan tomorrow is to go and see Sant Cristobal and then I am going to have to start chilling prior to group tour as I think I’d have ticked most off and need to rest the feet a bit given the 4 day Inca Trek isn’t far away.