Central Lima

Having partially recovered from a bout of man-flu, I decided it was time to explore a bit further afield and I set off for the centre of Lima. I chose to use the relatively modern bus link, known as the Metropolitano, a fast bendy-bus service with dedicated lanes. Although I had to stand for the entire journey, both ways (about 20 minutes in each direction), it was well worth it. It is only a limited service at the moment, although I have read that there are plans to extend it. It is so organised compared to the rest of the local buses and colectivos.

I arrived in central Lima at an appropriately named Estacion Central, a below ground facility in which there are numerous shops and a few eateries. If you have been following my blog, you will know that I have spent some time searching for socks, without too much success and almost wearing out a pair of shoes in the process.

Well, as sod’s law dictates, the very first shop I saw as I entered the concourse was IMG_0109[1], a shop dedicated to nothing but socks. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Onwards and upwards, emerging from the bus station into the daylight, my first view was of this imposing structure,DSCN0543 The Palace of Justice.

I walked on for about five minutes until I came to a busy intersection. I was watching the countdown on the traffic light which tells you how much time you have  before the lights change, when, with just two seconds before the lights would change from red to green in favour of pedestrians, a car came speeding through with it’s horn blaring continuously. Like many of the drivers here, he was too impatient to wait and hurtled recklessly through the crossroads, heading straight toward a young woman who had started to cross the road.

There followed a squeal of rubber on tarmac as he tried to brake, then a sickening thud as the car struck the woman. She was thrown into the air and bounced off the windscreen before landing on the hard surface of the road. The people nearby appeared stunned at first as the poor woman lay in the road. They then started to gather round her, either to protect her or just out of curiosity. The traffic however, was just as unforgiving as before as the drivers tried to squeeze through the reduced width of the road.

The emergency services took an age to arrive, which is not surprising as the motorists are as unwilling to give way to them as they are to pedestrians. The police arrived first, making some attempts to control the situation and prepare for the arrival of the ambulance. I spoke to a police officer and told him that I had witnessed the incident. He directed me to another officer, who, when I repeated that I was a witness, said, “no hay problema” and walked away leaving me stunned with disbelief.

There clearly was a problem, a young woman was lying injured in the road, struck down by a maniac who was a menace to the public, pedestrians and drivers alike. It baffled me as to why the police would not want statements from everyone who witnessed the event. More interest and dedication was shown by the street vendors who quickly descended on the gathering crowd, selling all kinds of sweets and snacks. Now there’s food for thought.

I started to walk on, my mood somewhat soured by what I had seen. Then it started to rain, so I restricted my tour to the exploration of a couple of shopping centres and making mental notes of landmarks for when I return, probably at the weekend or early next week.

Huaca Pucllana

Huaca Pucllana

Yesterday, I visited Huaca Pucllana, the site of a preIncan pyramid/temple which has lain undisturbed for centuries cunningly disguised as a hill. It is still being excavated, which you can see, is painstakingly slow.

DSCN0527 The bricks are made of mud so they were obviously confident of there not being much rainfall. The design and construction make it resistant to earthquakes. DSCN0523The people that lived in the area cultivated the land and had a healthy diet of Coca ?????????????????????????????????which was supplemented  by ????????????????. This has been superseded in modern times by….DSCN0469 .

I am not sure which is the faster food as I have never tried catching a guinea pig.

Joking aside, for anyone coming to Lima, Huaca Pucllana is well worth the visit. All visitors are escorted round the site by knowledgeable guides, including English speakers.

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Settling In

I have moved into a penthouse suite near to the hotel in which I was previously staying. When I say penthouse, I mean it is perched on the flat roof of a house. And when I say suite, I mean it is sweet, well sort of. It is basic to say the least but has a bed, use  of all the usual facilities and comes with a tv and wifi. Not only that, it costs just US$300 a month, which is not bad for accommodation in Miraflores.

I have mentioned previously, how friendly the local people are, so I was not surprised when, as I was walking back to my hotel after dinner the other night, whilst waiting to cross the road, a young woman politely smiled and said hello. I responded in kind, as I am keen to exploit every opportunity to practice Spanish, and we struck up a conversation.

We crossed the road and continued walking and talking until, after a few minutes she asked, “would you like a massage?”.

“No thank you”, I replied.

“Something else then?” she asked.

“Thank you for your offer but no”, I said.

“Don’t you think I am pretty?” she asked.

“Well of course I do.”,  I responded. And she was.

Her hand then moved towards my nether regions, “muy grande!” she exclaimed as she accidentally touched the spectacles case that was in my pocket.

At this point I became more insistent, finally managing to get her to understand that I was not interested and she switched her attention to a passing hombre.

I can’t help wondering what would have happened if the situation had been reversed and I had been trying to grab someone by the spectacles or similar. A night in the cells at least, probably.

The sequel to this is that the following day, I was in Kennedy Park in Miraflores, where free wifi is available. I was chatting with my daughter back in England, when a man came and sat nearby. He said hello and I replied. He started to talk about the park and the wifi, during which time I was still chatting to my daughter but not wanting to offend, I was responding to him.

He then asked, ” would you like a massage?”.

” No I would not!!”, I replied as assertively as I could.

“I am looking for a good time,” he said to me. In English this time.

“Well you won’t bloody well get one from me!”, I said, thinking, “If he tries to touch my spectacles case, there is going to be trouble”. But he just got up from the bench and walked away. What annoyed me most was that he switched to English, thinking I had not understood him. I understood only to well but I still enjoy the friendly open outlook of the people here.

Fountain in parque Kennedy in Miraflores/Lima,...

Fountain in parque Kennedy in Miraflores/Lima, Peru. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Walk in The Park

Yesterday, I went in search of a gym. I thought I had asked the right questions. DSCN0454

While I was there I saw a giant teenage mutant ninja turtle……….DSCN0457

….which transformed into a paraglider. Albeit, a tentative one, who, after a few  tries………  DSCN0464

DSCN0462 ….which saw him land further and further back, looked at the wind sock and decided….     DSCN0455 ……perhaps this was not the right day for it. DSCN0458

On a brighter note, he could come back later, as the park area is well illuminated at night.DSCN0461

Discovery

This is my “adventure of a lifetime” or “voyage of discovery”. I know it is not exactly, to boldly go where no Pedro has gone before, but nevertheless, the sort of journey that requires a certain amount of planning and preparation.

Having left home in a hurry, once the doctors had given me the thumbs up, the planning and preparation descended into chaos.

I had to drop my car off en route and get a taxi to the train station. I was a bit tight for time and in my haste, I managed to overlook one small bag which contained items that were essential to my completing the journey as planned. Plus, my Ipod Touch (which is a very efficient communication device), was still connected to my car stereo.

I realised that my Ipod was missing as soon as I got on the train and by the time I reached Gatwick, I had decided to bite the bullet and buy a replacement. Sorted. Except, it was not long after I checked into my hotel in Lima that I discovered I had left another vital piece of equipment behind. What good is a laptop without a power lead and adaptor? Only as good as the last charge it received, is the answer. Not good at all.

There is an upside to this, as I had to locate a computer store, explain the problem and get it rectified, speaking only in Spanish. None of my previous experience of Spanish had included technical issues to do with computing, so I thought I was facing a somewhat daunting challenge. Not so. All went remarkably smoothly in locating a large building – CompuPalace – which was absolutely full of small retail outlets and repairs and servicing workshops.

The first place I tried did not sell power cables but was able to direct me to a workshop that did. I explained  the problem and they had me sorted in a few minutes. The only problem came when they asked me to fill in my details on a form. There seems to be a complicated tax system here requiring delicate itemisation of purchases regarding what is going to whom and where, although I am by no means certain of it.

Where the form required me to write my name, I wrote, of course, Pete Cable. Well, as it happens, in Spanish, just as in English, a power lead is “un cable”. There followed a discussion as to how I had, or from my point of view, had not, cocked up the paperwork. The matter only being resolved when I realised my Spanish was not yet good enough to make them understand what a mere glimpse of my passport would. Smiles all round and I departed feeling much relieved.

On my way back to my hotel, I visited several enclosed markets, devoted exclusively to Inca products. I made some small purchases but made the traders work hard for their money as the language practice was invaluable. It is true that immersion is the best way to improve your skill in a foreign language, however, I decided to keep walking when I saw the Turkish Baths.

Getting There

The journey from Gatwick to Lima was in 2 legs. The first leg, Gatwick  to Madrid was on time, which meant I should have had a 3 hour wait in Barajas airport. This became more than 4 hours, with no information or explanation being given for the delay. As it was late at night, very few of the shops and eateries were open, which added to the frustration.

Madrid to Lima was the longer leg of the journey, so I upgraded to a seat with longer leg room. I found myself in the company of a family with 2 small children.  My heart sank, filled with dread for the 11 hour flight.

My fears were unfounded as the children, aged about 3 and 6, were delightful ( it is doubtful that I have ever used the words “delightful children” before). I was seated next to their father, Luis, a pharmacist from Lima, who spoke quite good English ( better than my Spanish) and between naps and meals, we chatted in Spanglish. It helped pass the time and I had no other way of entertaining myself as I had contrived to leave my in-flight entertainment, such as Ipod, books etc., in my car. I later discovered that I had left behind many other things.

The flight arrived in Lima just over 2 hours later than scheduled. We hit the ground jogging in true “Flintstone’s Airline” style. One hour was due to the delay in Madrid, the other was due to the fact that the flight information gave an incorrect arrival time. It then took me an hour or so to collect my bag (not quite the last one to be put on the carousel), clear customs and immigration and emerge into the arrivals area where meetings and greetings were taking place. I was very happy to see my name neatly printed on card being held up by my personal meeter and greeter. He had been patiently waiting for 3 hours for my arrival.

We quickly got acquainted and went off to stow the luggage in the car and start the journey to the hotel. It must have been at this point that my driver, Carlos, changed to his alter-ego. I am fully aware of the personality changes that take place when people get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle ( myself very much included) but I did not expect the journey I was about to experience.

As we were exiting the car park, another vehicle was trying to enter, which led to a serious altercation between the two drivers as both insisted they had the right of way. Neither wanted to back down and I was surprised that they did not come to blows over it. At this point I realised that I should have my camera on. I began filming what was approximately an hour of a strange mixture of terror and elation. It was similar to the feeling you might have on a roller coaster but without the comfort factor that it had been tried and tested and declared safe.

Carlos informed me that the chaos could be attributed to the fact it was rush hour. Having been a pedestrian in Lima for 2 days now, I am not convinced. The sound of horns is almost constant. They announce that a vehicle is coming through and you had better move out of the way. The white lines and other road markings serve only as decoration, no one seems to heed their real significance. There are warnings painted on the road that in 4 out of every 5 deaths that occur in traffic accidents, the victims are pedestrians.

Carlos was an extraordinary driver whose skills have been acquired through years of experience. Sadly, the same cannot be said about my newly acquired “skill” as a cameraman and I will be very lucky if there is any footage worthy of publication here. I have not reviewed it thoroughly yet, so there is still some hope. Also, I hope I learn from my mistakes.

From what I have observed in a very short time, the urgency these people have behind the wheel of a car, does not go with them when they exit their vehicles. In that short time, I have  already had many conversations with local citizens and found them to be friendly, helpful and extremely welcoming. I hope it continues…

Expat