A Brief Encounter with Lima

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
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Trip End Ongoing


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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Our trip to Lima from Huancayo took place in a shared taxi, the bus was cheaper but we felt our lack of time was more of a issue. The journey was unremarkable in the beginning stages, but later on followed a winding canyon and a high mountain pass with striking scenery (when the persistent clouds finally cleared). We saw some mining towns and cities on the way, which due to trucks thundering through, pollution and the miserable cold weather seemed truly depressing places. Lots of truck-cleaning businesses lined the main highway and one of their forms of advertising was a high pressure jet of water shooting into the sky.

The descent into Lima was less picturesque, we were surrounded by thick pollution, appalling drivers and crumbling buildings, old and new. We found the capital instantly uninviting, but thought we would take a quick look at the old town before heading on a night-bus to Trujillo in the north.

We were dropped at a terminal called "Wanka", a common and (for us) amusing name which was used frequently in the previous city. We asked what it meant and were told it was the indigenous name for a huge lake which had existed millions of years previous below the region.

As soon as we got our bags out of the shared taxi, young guys started hanging around us and admiring the size of our backpacks! Our first taxi driver was quick to get us into another taxi to the next bus terminal for our journey north.

Our new taxi driver was keen to chat and he pointed out the old town of Lima as we raced by on a motorway, fearing for our lives due to the homicidal drivers there. We discovered that the fine for running a red light is $25 USD, but all the transit police can be easily bribed - EXCEPT for the female transit police of which there are more and more. He said they won`t accept bribes at all. When I told him I believed his country would be better off with more women in politics, he wasnŽt so certain...

Checking out bus options to travel north later that night, we didnŽt feel comfortable leaving our bags at the left luggage there. We met a friendly women from Trujillo (our destination) and took some advice from her on travel options. Heading into a Chinese restuarant (yes, again) we encountered friendly service from the owners who spoke less Spanish than we did and with an interesting accent.

Sitting in a booth opposite each other with our big backpacks next to the wall for safety, a small man came up and started looking at our menu on the table. We thought this was odd, pushed the menu towards him and said weŽd finished with it. At this stage, he gestured to EdŽs small backpack attached to his leg (under the table) and suggested Ed put it on a chair. He ever so helpfully pulled a chair over for this too, but of course Ed refused. This all happened within seconds, but we had time to notice another guy sitting close to me pretending to read a menu and one standing in at the doorway. Thieves, of course.

After Ed refused to move his backpack, they left immediately. We felt really annoyed that the three of them had tried to rob us and as I saw one of them pass the door looking in again, I pointed and scowled at him and he hurried off. The Chinese lady went to the table behind me to take the order and was pretty confused that the customer had disappeared. The poor thing must have thought she imagined him. We explained that they were ladrones (thieves) and had left in a hurry.

Going with our gut instinct, we finished our delicious, cheap and authentic Chinese food and decided to get the next bus to Trujillo, missing out Lima.

We had sort of stumbled off the tourist route onto the cheap, locals bus route. Buses cost about half as much, were half as long again and seemed to run fine. The best thing about them was that they left as soon as they were full - no opportunity to pay good money for a bus and be annoyed with it leaving late!

Having made good friends in Peru, we hope to return and the obvious entry point is Lima to fly into - so weŽll give it another chance in future.
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