Sunday, August 24, 2014

Peru I - Lying Low in Lima

Rooftop garden in Lima
I felt a bit down in Lima. Maybe it was driving in at night through acres of rundown dwellings. Or maybe  it had something to do with coming down from the heights of Quito back to sea level. Either way, it was an enormous flat city of eight and a half million people and seemed to have a permanent haze.  Miraflores where the hostel was, was pleasant enough, being one of the better areas. It had parks, lots of banks, upmarket shops and loads of restaurants where well dressed people ate and drank. I just felt kind of lost and I felt that way in the hostel too.
The hostel was three stories with a grand staircase, rabbitwarren -like corridors and the best hostel bed I ever slept in, but the drinking games in the rooftop bar which were supposed to bring people together, just seemed trivial and stupid and I felt no connection to anyone. Most people seemed more connected to their ipads and iphones. Maybe it was just me - more mature now  (I hoped), more introspective and with less need to be the life of the party. Oh well, I thought, I'll just take a look at Machu Picchu and then I'll go home.

It was a chance to improve my Spanish. They do speak a slightly different Spanish here. For example, Chelas instead of Cervesa for beer, not comer but several other words like combate (were they having me on?), tirer and jamear for "to eat." They also have three different words for hangover, depending upon severity. Picado is for tipsy, Mamado is for hammered but happy drunk, and Huasca* means totally wasted or messy drunk. Some of these words may be Quechua or Aymara. By the way, if I have been writing drivel lately it's because after struggling with Spanish for the last couple of months I now seem to be having trouble with  Ingles.

I spent the day walking around endless craft markets looking for some small thing for the little girls but after seeing too much of everything - knitwear, cashmere, bags, leather goods, ceramics, jewellery and silver plate, it all started  to look the same and I came away empty-handed.

One of hundreds of very similar craft shops
Acres of silver plate - 
the conquistadors would have a field day if they came back today
At night I looked in the restaurants with much the same result. Spaghetti or hamburgers were the main offerings in the cheaper ones - standard fare for hostellers, and the ones which looked more interesting were too expensive.There didn't seem to be much point in travelling halfway round the world to eat what I could have at home, so I eventually ordered a casserole in wine sauce which came with a pile of rice and mashed potato and not a  vegetable in sight. I capitulated the next day and had chicken (bland, cheap and it came with salad) at MacDonald's, who like Burger King were there in full strength. I did better the next day, discovering a packed Chinese Vegetarian restaurant just beyond the main tourist beat. I also discovered the menu al Dia which was a three course meal with bottomless fruit juice for about $4.  During the day I walked the clifftop path  along the water's edge, booked a 24 hour luxury bus - one where the seats go all the way back and they serve little meals just like on the airlines, to Cusco and had a yellow fever shot because an Australian backpacker warned me that if I didn't have one I may not get back into Australia or would probably have to go into quarantine when I came home.
Pizza Street - yes, it's a whole street of pizza shops
The yellow fever shot may have been my undoing. Certainly the luxury bus was completely wasted. I literally threw up for twenty four hours and laying down made it worse. Just the sight of the meals had me reaching for my plastic bag as did the smell of the toilets, though  I ended up having to take up residence near them on the bottom step. I don't even remember how I got to the hostel. Not the best 24 hours of my life.

* I suppose it's significant that the Inca leader who was defeated by his half -brother was called Huascar

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