From a comfortably hot BC Summer to a mildly cool Peruvian Winter…thank God I brought my down sweater jacket! This place doesn’t have heat and the kitchen and one of the sitting areas is open to the air. The other one isn’t, but the glass door does little to keep any heat in. My tablet’s weather widget says it’s 17 degrees, but I beg to differ. The sky is overcast, but luckily that’s supposed to change tomorrow. So, to warm up I’m perched on my top bunk in my sleeping bag facing a door decorated with approximately 300 CD’s. It’s a quaint place. My dorm is tiny…only two bunks and right now I’m the only one in here. It’s called “The Red Psycho Llama Eco Hostel”. On my way here I was trying not to read into why it would be called that. My mind latched on to the word psycho and I cringed a little. I thought maybe it was a party hostel and things got a little crazy sometimes, but no, that’s not it. It’s a pretty quiet place actually, or at least tonight it is. Signs are posted everywhere saying, “Reduce, Reuse, Redpsycho (Recycle)”. Ahh…now I get it. That also explains the door plastered with CD’s, the light shade made out of colourful plastic floppy disc covers and the chalk board made from an old computer monitor…clever. Not so scary anymore. What attracted me to this place originally was that it offered airport pick-up and it is located in the safer part of Lima. Some added bonuses are hot water, breakfast in the morning as well as friendly and helpful staff. It’s a little more expensive than I wanted to pay, but it was a better option than navigating myself around a South American mega-city at 11:00pm.
My day of travel was long. It began with a ferry ride from Victoria to the mainland, a bus ride to the train station and then a red-eye flight from Vancouver to Houston, Texas where I sat in every possible uncomfortably-contorted position in airport seating definitely not designed for tired travelers. I didn’t really sleep at all…just faded in and out of consciousness while TV’s blasted news reports and PA announcements reminded passengers not to leave their luggage unattended or take parcels from strangers on-board their flights. I sat like that, periodically getting up to wander aimlessly around the airport, for 10 hours. Ugh. The travel agent said this was the cheaper way to go and I agreed to it because the thought of hanging out in Texas sounded neat. Unfortunately the way my imagination works and the way the world really is doesn’t always mesh. My mind was picturing handsome Texan cowboys riding horses over a terracotta coloured dusty desert with pinnacles of rock jutting out of the ground and the sun setting in the west, but the reality was I was in an airport staring out at parked planes on a flat tarmac with some trees lining the horizon. Not so romantic.
Finally, the flight from Houston arrived in Lima at 10:15pm. Getting through immigration and collecting my pack went smoothly enough, but walking into airport arrivals was like stepping into an auction ring. I stopped, a little hesitant to continue on. The crowd of people, many of who were holding name signs, were held back by stanchions. As I moved my way forward the mass of people held their signs up higher, yelled out and craned their necks to get a better view of this wide-eyed, solo female backpacker who had just entered the ring. Scanning the sea of signs I quickly made my way to the exit, turned to look back and then took a deep breath. I didn’t see my name. Reluctant to go back into the middle of that intimidating space I moved through the crowd behind the stanchions trying to get a glimpse of the signs from the back. Still, I didn’t see my name. I had no other choice, but to put myself on display again. This time I gulped down my anxiety and slowly made my way around the perimeter of the ring. The sign holders yelled out to me repeating the names on their signs. I shook my head…no. Nowhere did I see my name. Great. What happened? Someone was supposed to pick me up, but they were nowhere to be seen.
At that point, for some reason, I smiled to myself…my first predicament. A surge of excitement flowed through my body as I realized I needed to pull my problem solving skills out of my pocket. After all isn’t this where adventure begins? When things don’t go as planned? My first thought was I had better check my emails. Maybe my ride was held up. Step one…find WIFI. Starbucks will do. No email from the hostel. Step two…find the address to the hostel. Got it. Step three…find a reputable taxi. Hmmm…I remember someone telling me to watch out for the taxi drivers around Lima. There have been tourist abductions in the past and I wasn’t planning on becoming one of the statistics. Several taxi drivers swarmed around me like wasps around a beer can as I made one last round of the inside of the ring. They must have been observing my several attempts to find my ride.
I chose Carlos, a ‘Green Taxi’ driver. Although he overcharged me at 60 sols ($23 CAD) for the 25 minute ride, I decided I would get my money’s worth out of him and asked him every question I could think of about what I could see and do in and around Lima. From sandboarding on desert dunes to tango at nearby nightclubs to witnessing pink dolphins jumping in the Amazon River I think there is a lot to do. Wow! He was very pleasant actually and his English was quite good. He has lived in Lima all his life. He likes to fish, but said that out of his friends he’s the only one who manages to catch piranha. I asked him if he ate them. He said, “No, they are very small.” He held out his finger and thumb together in a measurement of maybe three inches and laughed. At the end of my ride, I took his phone number in case I need to get around. Carlos seems trustworthy and kind, but next time I’m going to whittle him down in his prices. I found out today taxi drivers expect you to bargain with them, something I’m not used to doing back home…the meter amount is what you pay plus some for the tip. The taxis around here operate differently. They don’t have meters, so you have to set the price before you get in. No tips are expected either.
Today, was a day of recovery from my sleepless day of travel yesterday and the night before, so there isn’t really anything more to report or journal about. I just wandered through the neighbourhood to the supermarket and picked up some lunch and dinner items. I felt safe, however two guys from London I met today went into the historic centre of Lima and felt really unsafe. They received many unfriendly stares from locals and had an encounter with someone trying to spit on them from a balcony above. Mental note…don’t go to the historical centre of Lima by myself. Yikes!