24 Apr 2003, Lima
Really like Lima. Went down to the beach yesterday afternoon - the weather has been glorious, really hot and sunny. Unfortunately I've got a rucksack full of thermals!
This morning my hostel manager called on me to be a Spanish/English interpreter. Never thought that would happen - obviously it was a desperate situation.
I leave Lima tomorrow. Last night I went out for a couple of drinks in the bohemian district of Barranco. Made mistake of getting in an unlicenced taxi, purely because the driver was female and therefore presumably safe. As we drove the wrong way down a dual carriageway, I had cause to regret my decision. But I'm still alive to tell the tale.
23 Apr 2003, Lima
I've made it to Peru! A bit later than planned - our v dodgy little plane had 'hydraulic problems' in Miami, so we didn't touch down in Lima until 11pm last night.
The promised driver from my hostel didn't materialise, so I got a minibus into the city, through the shantytowns with their ramshackle buildings and home-made shop signs, then past the anonymous urban strips of nightclubs and casinos, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC and Blockbusters. Then into the well-manicured suburb of Miraflores, where the top hotels would rival anything in the US.
Funnily, the passengers for the swanky hotels got dropped off early on, and my $3 hostel seemed to be rather low down the pecking order. And I was absolutely pooped. So change of plan - we pulled up outside a really pretty little hostel in Miraflores to drop someone else off, and it looked so nice, I decided a bed RIGHT NOW was the top priority. Or maybe it was the prospect of my own room vs a night in a dormitory that swung my decision.
They didn't speak much (indeed, any) English at the hostel, but I muddled through, although I suspect my Spanish teacher would have been less than impressed.
It had been a long day, but I felt the need to chill out and write my diary for a little while, so I sat in the courtyard garden and cracked open the miniature bottle of Baileys that my sister had given me in my Peru survival kit at Christmas - obviously, what no intrepid explorer should be without. It was very much appreciated, especially as American Airlines now charge $5 for an alcoholic beverage, so it had been a very dry flight.
Have now checked in with the helpful guys at the South American Explorers Club, and started to explore the city. I've already been touched by how friendly and helpful everybody is to this very novice traveller. Weather good, natives friendly, off to a good start.
20 Apr 2003, Kew
Off to Peru in 2 days, and by the skin of my teeth, am just about ready. Huge flurry of activity last week - final jabs, bought dollars and travellers cheques, bought SPF35, learned how to use my new digital camera, all those things I'd intended to get sorted months ago, but never mind. Work expands (and hopefully contracts) to fill the time available. If only a similar concept applied to my kit and rucksack. That's my final challenge - to get everything into what is currently looking like an unfeasibly small backpack. And then manage to lift it.