Sooooo, after getting the “state of emergency” flight on an army plane from Piura to Lima, arriving at midnight and heading for a nearby hostel to crash for the night, I woke up on my first morning in Lima feeling groggy and wiped out. I’d probably got about 7/8 hours sleep but it didn’t feel like enough and I was also drained emotionally – the events with my leg and then the events getting into Peru. Polly left the hostel at around 9:30am as she wanted to get a bus straight to Cuzco whereas I took my time showering, dressing and packing, my body feeling lethargic and heavy. I booked a hostel in Miraflores for 3 nights and, after locating it on google maps, decided to walk the 45 minutes there. I didn’t want to pay for a hostel and I didn’t know anything about the bus system – plus the owners of the hostel spoke no English and I was too exhausted to attempt to understand in a Spanish – and I am stubborn, so…
Apparently, despite having a solid traffic light system in place, Lima chooses to ignore it and instead employs police officers to incessantly blow whistles and wave their arms to lead and direct the traffic. I discovered this after stepping off the pavement at the signal of the green man to be pulled back by a local Peruvian man. The taxi drivers also like to both flash and beep at you repeatedly as they approach and then pass you by, assuming that you wouldn’t actively hail a taxi if you wanted one – perhaps you just need reminding of their existence, no??
I made it to my hostel – 335 Backpackers for 27 soles (£7) a night – just before midday where I was allowed to check in early and spent over an hour chatting to the guy on reception. I eventually head out at around 2pm and went straight to grab some food, still struggling with my options due to having to avoid certain foods but settling on an almuerzo of fish ceviche to start followed by a chicken fillet with an absurd amount of fried vegetable rice, accompanied with fresh apple juice, all for 11 soles (£3). I then decided to take a slow wander to pre-Inca ruins Huaca Pucllana, where I paid 12 soles (£3) for entry with an included tour in English.
They also offer night tours for 15 soles but I really can’t imagine you being able to see much or it being worth the additional cost. In truth, it was really interesting to hear about the structure of the ruins, designed to abstain earthquakes, and how parts had survived though so many years, but it isn’t much to actually look at. Still, it was an interesting way to spend an hour and get glimpses into life in Lima and understand more about the structure of their buildings, most of which are designed with flat roofs as they have very little rainfall in Lima.
I then decided to walk south to Larcomar, which is a shopping centre next to, but risen up from, the playas along the coast of Lima where you can catch a great sunset. The first time I set out from the hostel I had to turn back after 15 minutes as I realised I had left my locker with my valuables in it wide open. Then, halfway to the ocean, I decided to cross the road and pop into a Starbucks, craving some sort of comfort and familiarity from home – I left with a soya latte in hand and continued walking, realising 10 minutes later I had walked in the wrong direction, BACK on myself, having been confused as to the direction I was going in after crossing the street. Blimey, I wasn’t doing well for making it in time for sunset. Fortunately I made it to the boardwalk as the last rays were still piercing through, illuminating the clouds in a bright orange, and the city lights dotting the sea front as the sound of the waves roared in my eyes made the unnecessarily long walk worth it for me.
The following day was the day I could finally have my stitches out so I woke up at 7, had breakfast (if you can call it that – a bread roll with jam and solid butter) at my hostel before leaving just before 8am. I first went to nearby Delgado Clinic to be told it was a private clinic but they directed me to Hospital Essalud Angamos, a public hospital – there they told me they weren’t public but private after all, at which point I started crying as I just wanted the damn stitches out. They were kind and directed me on to Hospital Sisol Angamos, which was public. Hooray! When I arrived there I was told I had to first pay for a ticket for a consultation with the doctor, who would inspect my wound to then decide if they would remove the stitches (IF?!) and I then might have to pay for that. The woman I spoke to helped me purchase my ticket and then directed me upstairs to general surgery, where the nurse told me I had purchased the wrong ticket so I had to go back down to change it. Fortunately a Peruvian woman whom spoke English sensed my distress and helped communicate between the nurse and I, with the nurse eventually saying she would talk to the doctor for me.
Approximately an hour later I was called through and the lovely female doctor spoke wonderful English! Not that she should, but it was such a comfort and a relief when everything was feeling so alien and distressing – that is, until she mentioned me needing to purchase a scalpel, but following my look of horror she instead removed the stitches from my leg using scissors. She told me it is unusual to use sutures on a dog bite but my wound was very deep so that was why, and while it wasn’t infected and was doing well I still needed to be careful with it, especially because of it being placed so close to me knee. It just felt so good to have the stitches out I could have kissed her, and I left feeling relieved, sore and a bit emotional (story of my life).
Keen to actually get back into exploring rather than nursing my wound, I headed to Park Kennedy for 11am as the meeting point for the Free Walking Tour I had signed up for. There, Jonathan directed me to Barvarian bar where we signed in and were given a free tasting of a local pale ale. The tour was supposed to start at 11:15 but we didn’t leave until 11:45, walking to Estación Ricardo Palma where we paid 2.50 soles to take Line C to Estación Colmena to start our tour of downtown. We walked through Plaza San Martin, San Francisco Church and Plaza de Armas, as well as walking up to the bridge before you cross over Rimac River into Huerta Guinea with a mountain and favela looming behind, although he didn’t actually take us in.
What was strange, for me, was that we walked around but I didn’t really feel as though we “saw” anything, it seeming to me that our tour guide, Jonathan, was more interested in telling us stories than us actually taking in the sites – don’t get me wrong, stories are great when they inform you about the area or the history but so many of them felt self-indulgent, stories about his travels and his life that often had very little to do with the Plaza we were in or the information we needed. He spoke so much, so fast, that I would switch off and then miss the stuff he told us that was actually relevant and interesting – the colours used in the flag and why, how if a woman was raped she was not allowed to have an abortion, and so on.
It was a shame and he would stop to talk in such random spots that I honestly don’t feel I saw a lot of downtown. The highlights were the free tastings we received – of arabica coffee (at a coffee house where I bought a Baileys Frappe now that I could drink alcohol again), papa a la huancaina and Pisco – but the places we went to were offering free tastings anyway so it had nothing to do with the tour. Also, we were told it would last 2.5 hours so I was expecting it to be finished by 2pm, but we didn’t end until 3:25pm when Jonathan rather crudely walked round to each of us with a clear plastic box in his hand for tips, telling us not to “insult him with coins” and telling us about decency. I was not impressed.
Two of the other attendees (Dan and Jordan) and I decided to go back across the bridge and walk through part of Huerta Guinea. A lot of locals did look at us or stare but the cobbled streets and yellow buildings seemed quite quaint. But when we reached the end of the through road, punctuated with a run-down church, in the space of 2 minutes we had a handful of different locals – passers by, shop owners and the police – all tell us not to continue as it wasn’t safe. I have never before experienced such a definitive line – a distinctive point – between a safe and dangerous area where so many people in such a short space of time have warned me against going further. It was bizarre and kind of mysterious – it didn’t seem like anything crazy was going on just across the road and part of me wanted to just touch the other side with the tip of my foot, just to see.
As we made our way back we had to take a diversion as the central roads were being closed for some local festival and on our diversion we stumbled across a food market inside a square, a long table lining one side that had various hot dishes on offer. After perusing the options you go up to a central counter to pay for the dish you went before taking your receipt to the stall in question. Finally, after over a week of temptation, I got to try cuy (guinea pig). It cost more than in Ecuador and you didn’t see, to get as much (I received a quarter of a guinea pig and a fair amount was fat) but it was absolutely delicious – a combination of duck and pig, it had a lovely sweet taste to the succulent meat. I will be having more if I can get my hands on it!
We walked to Ricardo Palma bus station and paid 2.50 soles each (having to add it to a local woman’s bus card as we didn’t have one between us) to go back, with me deciding to hop off at Estación Estadio Nacional as the guy from my hostel had recommended the Parque de la Reserva for its show between 6 and 7, for me to get there and find it was temporarily closed. So I walked to AV Arequipa and caught the 301 bus for 1.50 soles back to Miraflores, where I picked up some chocolate and enjoyed an evening of indulging in the joys I had been forbidden in the past 8 days; my first day of freedom and I’d managed to have alcohol, mayonnaise, cuy, fried food (empanada) and chocolate. My bowels suffered the following morning, clearly not being able to cope with the overload of rubbish food after days of abstinence.
The following morning – my last in Lima – I caught the 301 bus to Barranco where I sat and had a delicious latte in the sunshine, in the courtyard of a coffee “shop” converted from a train carriage. I walked loads the day before and the tape from the gauze covering my wound kept on unsticking from my leg, so I had to take it slowly today, feeling frustrated at not being able to move and explore as I wished.
I wandered around this cute neighbourhood for a while, taking in some of the street graffiti, before walking alongside the coast back towards the bus station to get back to Miraflores. I would have liked to spend more time in Barranco had I had the time and hadn’t felt so physically exhausted.
I hoped to grab a filling lunch before my 3:30pm bus to Arequipa but apparently a lot of things shut down on Sundays in Lima so, hot and tired, I scoffed biscuits and fruit before packing my bags and saying goodbye to the super friendly hostel staff. I walked to AV Arequipa where I caught the 301 bus to Javier Prado street, where I then caught a taxi for 5 soles (£1.50) to the Movil bus terminal – there is no central bus terminal in Lima, instead you book your ticket with a particular bus company (I did mine online and Movil was the cheapest at 49 soles, or £12.50) before selecting the terminal belonging to them that is closest to you.
So, at 3:30pm I hopped on my 17 hour overnight bus to Arequipa, being sat next to a Peruvian girl (Brenda) from Arequipa whom I chatted with, laughed with and watched the sunset with, getting by on our joint basic knowledge of the others’ language and bonding over our mutual hunger and love of eating (all day, every day).