Friday, 21 March 2014

Lima Ain't So Bad

I have been in Peru for less than 24 hours. Or rather, just Lima. For less than 24 hours. But I feel this gives me the right to make some snap decisions about the country and publish them. First impressions count, right? 

Firstly, I judged Lima too harshly. It does have a bad reputation for crime and being a bit dirty and boring. (Yay for Lima). But the area I'm staying in, near the Historic Centre, is actually very nice. It doesn't have the excitement of Rio, or the beauty of Buenos Aires, but it has charm. Just across from my hostel there's a wide park with European-style lampposts, a large art museum in a beautiful old building, and a row of street vendors selling everything from corn on the cob to churros. Lima is also famous for its food, so I'm going to take a wander over to the river later and see what I can rustle up. It's also the second driest capital city in the world, after Cairo. 

So here are some other observations from today: 

Summer is drawing to a close here, but it's still not as hot as I expected it to be. I'm now further north than Rio, where it was boiling hot. The sun is intense, but it's only hitting about 27 degrees. I'm sure the Amazon will be a different story though. 

Lima  is not as cheap as you want it to be. 

A lot of people look Peruvian. As in, the Quechua look - dark skin, dark, wiry hair, relatively flat noses. Don't quote me on this, but I've heard about 45% of Peru's population have close blood links with the indigenous population of the country. 

The fashion is generally quite chavvy. It's like Peru is aiming to be a nation of Miami gangsters and Hildas from Ugly Betty. 

Tess Daly's twin is on TV here. 

Every city I've been to in South America has the same street names. They're either named after dates, countries, cities or people. The amount of Venezuelas I've walked down is insane. 

People seem to think car horns are respirators. Give it a rest, people! 

Avril Lavigne is still alive, apparently. 

The green man at pedestrian crossings actually runs. Amazing. 

Evidently it's acceptable to put a small woman in a metal box on stilts in the middle of a busy road intersection, and give her a yellow flag and a whistle to direct traffic. That's what London's doing wrong! 

But all sarcasm aside, I think Lima's a perfectly fine city. Just choose where you stay, and go, carefully. I've made it my base for the first week of my Peruvian travels, as I fly out to Iquitos (the Amazon city) tomorrow, and return on Tuesday. Then I fly to Cusco (the closest city to Machu Picchu) on Thursday morning. Originally I was intending to take the bus to Cusco, but after reading up on the journey I decided against it. Lonely Planet warned not to take overnight journeys, as bus robberies can occur. With a 21-hour bus trip, night time is kind of unavoidable. It also said that landslides due to rain at this time of year (rainy season in the Andes lasts until March/ April) can cause fatal accidents. And flying was only £17 more. I think my decision was made for me. The only downside of flying is the enhanced altitude sickness. Going by bus is still bad, but at least it's a gradual climb. I'm going to go from 0 to 3,400 metres in an hour and ten minutes. Pass me the coca leaves! 

Hopefully I'll have more of a chance to explore Lima next week, but to be honest I'm not in Peru for its capital city. There's a lot of excitement coming up in the next few weeks! 

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