12.09.2013 - 15.09.2013 16 °C
Trip to cell block.
We arrived to Lima airport at 1am, to a chaotic arrivals hall where we searched for our names amongst hundreds of others, and we were swiftly taken into our overpriced airport-hostel transfer (non english speaking driver, unmarked black Mercedes, luxurious but slightly paranoia inducing) and after passing through some very sketchy neighbourhoods we arrived to our first South American hostel, Family Backpackers in the Miraflores district. Dying for a bottle of water after the flight and knowing we couldn't drink the tap water for the foreseeable future, we were gutted to find out the hostel did not have any for its guests. There was no kettle either, so twenty minutes later, with two steaming mugs of boiled pan water in hand we were shown to our room, or on first impressions, a prison cell on the roof. Out of the top floor of the hostel, up a flight of stairs, then a wooden ladder, scrambled onto the top of the building, (a joy with our backpacks) and into quite a large room, displaying two single beds with about a foot difference in height, and a single lightbulb hanging. The door bolted closed and a solitary square window of about 20cm was our only outlook into the Lima rooftops. After a 16 hour flight we wanted to at least connect to wifi, no chance. But we were so tired that we made do, and would sort out a room change in the morning, sharing a single bed in the chilly spring weather.
Lima rooftops, door to our cell, new favourite drink (perhaps was won over by the packaging)
When I woke up, I was a bit angry mainly because of the logistics of showering from our cell, and the fact it was so dark in there, so wrote a list in Spanish of reasons why we wanted a room change. This was my practised speech:
"La otres habitaciones dobles son más bonitas! Nuestra habitacion non puede ser el mismo precio! Sin lampera! Sin espejo! Non hay baño cera del habitacion! No hay wifi! Las camas son de different alturas! Queremos cambiar habitación, pronto."
Well, it didn't go to plan, and I probably forgot all the important words and we had to stay in roof cell for another night as there was no room in the main hostel. Plus the dude on reception was one of the many we encountered who clearly hates tourists, and definitely pretended not to understand my woes, as he infuriatingly strummed his guitar. Thanks Lonely Planet 'top pick'.
The nicer owner did eventually move us into a proper double the day after, he said most people like the privacy of the roof top... Ok mate! I said I'd prefer to have the option to go to the toilet in the night, tar.
In our time in Lima there was a huge food festival on called Mistura, (had write ups in UK press) it was the size of a music festival, thousands of pushy people packed into tent after tent, serving traditional Peruvian fare, street food, and many other Latin American gastronomic delicacies. It was quite overwhelming. There were some important names in the culinary world cooking and speaking there, its definitely the biggest food-fest in South America and seemed to be a huge deal. Sprawled across the cliff edges overlooking the highly polluted beach and ocean, mouth watering smells followed by insane queues made us laugh - we'd witnessed Peruvians who couldn't sit for a second in traffic yet waited happily for hours in line for a meat slab. My food of choice was a Chicharrón - heaps of pork rib meat stuffed in a soft roll with crispy crackling and sweet potato slices, and we did queue for 1.5 hours for it, no exaggeration. I've never queued that long for anything but it was worth it, the best thing I'd eaten in a long time. We set about finding Micheal a vegetarian option, but it was hard, as anything that looked meat free wasn't. But eventually we stumbled across a veggie stall, and he picked an amazing cheesy potato pie and peppers stuffed with spinach and cheese. Funnily enough that queue didn't take half as long as mine had! It was good food though. Huge flags with little cartoons showed each tent's offerings, palo world featured enormous traditional bbq, grilling whole goats at a time, plus underground ovens pouring smoke over the floodlit crowds, nestled amongst pisco world (the longest queues) dulce de leche stands (SA is obsessed with this stuff) bizarrely a lot of Asian food, anticuchos (kebabs of speared beef heart) ceviche (marinated raw fish/seafood) chocolate world, bread world, dessert world, beer world, china world, and cuy (guinea pig) world which we couldn't figure out for ages and Michael though it was a sweet corn with eyes.
Highlights of our time in Lima:
- Visiting our first inca ruins
- Nightlife around cool Barranco area, with pretty suspension bridge, fairy lights and gardens
- Pisco sours, cheese tequeños with fresh palta guacamole in an old train carriage
- Parque Kennedy heaving with cats hiding in the flowers, and old couples dancing to Latin music in the square
- Mistura food festival
- Coastal views from the shopping centre carved out of a cliff
- Seeing indigenous women spinning yarn to make colourful scarves
- Not seeing the sun
- Prison cell
- Dirty polluted city
- Being ripped off by taxis
- Insane bouts of PDAs from young Peruvian couples
Lima is sadly foggy 95% of the time, and was a funny introduction to our South American trip. We'd heard lots of stories about crime, but generally we felt safeish, although we clearly stuck out like a sore thumb in many areas, local children stopped to stare at us, and didn't seem particularly friendly. Good to get settled as backpackers but we were happy to move on. Next stop, Cusco, on a (well researched) Cruz Del Sur premier bus for 24 hours to land of Machu Picchu, Sacred Inca Valley, very high altitudes and hopefully a nicer hostel, hooray!