I tore myself away from Huaraz on the morning bus having said hasta luego again to Mary: destination Lima. I’d chosen to take a day bus rather than wait for the night bus for a few reasons: I hadn’t yet taken a day bus in Peru so felt like I hadn’t really seen the country and how the landscape changes, rather I’d just seen ‘some places’; the scenery on that trip is supposed to be amazing; I didn’t want another sleepless night; and this way I could spend almost 24 hours in Lima, as Daniel had convinced me to spend time there and provided me with a different perspective on it from all the travellers I’d talked to!
A friendly older lady from Lima was sat next to me, and it’s a shame I couldn’t understand more of what she was saying! There was just one other gringa on the bus. The first part of the journey took me again past more of those snow-capped mountains that I love so much, the Cordillera Blanca and then the Cordillera Huayhuash. The latter mountain range is where the Touching the Void incident happened.
After that the road arrives at the top of a deep valley, with steep rugged rocks and switchback after switchback to descend steadily out of the highlands, to a lunch stop in a town in the south of the Chavín province. Eventually there is less and less vegetation which finally converts to desert – literally just huge sand dunes with nothing growing and very few settlements, south along the panamericana for miles. The long sun-baked straight highway is almost empty, except for occasional trucks and long-distance buses. Cars were a rare sight indeed! On the right hand side sometimes the road hugs the pacific ocean and then the coast bends away again. These were some views to my left:
On the approach to Lima, late in the afternoon, there’s a peninsula with some high-rise buildings and to start with I thought wow, Lima is small! Then I realised that was just a town on the outskirts… Lima is BIG!!
The bus took me past just a few of the colonial style buildings near the old centre, and immediately I saw that there is a more attractive side to it than just the big dirty city that people had implied. It helped that I had been speaking to someone who has such passion for his city, so I was carrying that thought with me!
After dropping off my stuff at the hostel I took a shorter taxi ride to Larcomar in Miraflores, a very modern shopping centre overlooking the dark ocean with magnificent views along the lit-up Lima coastline. I bought my cinema ticket and settled in with popcorn (not sweet – disappointing) to watch Sigo Siendo, a very interesting beautiful Peruvian film about the indigenous communities in Peru… mostly in Quechua with Spanish subtitles! (Which was actually easier to follow than the Spanish speaking!)
The next morning I had a few precious hours before getting back to the bus station the other side of the city, and I wanted to walk down from my hostel to see the beach:
Then I wanted to see some of the attractive Barranco neighbourhood, and some of its ‘residents’ (condors), and tried to find MATE, the Mario Testino museum showing traditional costumes… but that wasn’t open early enough so I had to miss out.
The other recommendation I had was to go to the MALI gallery, back near the bus station, so I took the long taxi ride back that way, dropped off my bags at the bus station, grabbed some lunch (chicken tasted a bit dodgy so I didn’t eat any more… repercussions to follow!), and tried to find the gallery. By the time I worked out that it was just the other side of the park, and how to get into/across said park, I would’ve only had about 20 minutes in the exhibition… so I missed out on that too! Ah well, it was still a very pleasant morning indeed, even though I STILL felt a little ill with cold and cough, c’est la vie.
The sun was shining the whole time I was there (though admittedly there was clearly smog around) and I felt quite uplifted. So all in all I think I saw some very pleasant sides of Lima, and I think its bad rep is a little undeserved!
In front of me I had a 22 hour bus ride to Cuzco for an appointment with Machu Picchu, which started with my hand to my mouth, feeling like I had to find a bathroom quickly before getting on the bus…