Published: April 11th 2012April 11th 2012
Nine days at sea was to be followed by three days in Peru. Some people were doing extended tours to Machu Picchu or Galapagos but we were staying put. The ship docked in a suburb of the capital Lima call Callao. We had repeated warnings about the dangers of mugging and thieving but that applied more to Callao though the resort of Miraflores was where the ship was recommending everyone went to, this is a fairly affluent area of Lima but with the high fencing and electric fences around properties or gated entrances, you could guess that people took their security seriously. Miraflores was on the coast and was a good place for shopping with nice restaurants, we had learnt the word for guinea pig as we weren't keen on sampling what is one of their favourite dishes. Along with Peter and Hilary, we went to Miraflores and then took a taxi for a tour around Lima. Mauro was our driver with a bit of English but also had a guide book so as we came to a building, he would lean over to point out the building and Hilary read out the description! To do this, it did mean he
took his eyes off the road and hands off the wheel but the traffic was busy and it seemed to be every man for himself, big thick white stop lines across the road were completely disregarded. The main square was beautiful, Spanish colonial sort of architecture, Presidential Palace and Cathedral amongst others and all beautifully kept and spotlessly clean, we didn't see anybody smoking and therefore no cigarette butts.
After a decent cup of coffee, we went to the Presidential Palace for changing of the guard, the police were everywhere, streets were closed and god knows where all the traffic went as it was busy before. Anyway, today was a special day in Lima as far as the guard change was concerned, the band goose stepped on to the parade ground playing star wars theme music and it went on and on and on with not a lot happening. Having been more or less starved of shopping for a couple of weeks, Mauro dropped us off at the Inca Market which was full of all this eye catching, really colourful textile tourist stuff that all looks very appealing whilst here and when you get home you wonder
what the heck you will do with it all (beware of Sal and Col bearing gifts!). Peru is also known for silver so lots of lovely jewellery too.
The following day, we went into Miraflores again, returning with several carriers bags..... All for Col, shoes and polo shirts. Quite sad on board as it was change over day, around 300 passengers were flying back to UK and the same amount coming out to join the ship together with new lecturers and entertainers. We were still seeing new faces every day from Sydney so with a new influx, we would start again. Of course, this would mean new table guests for Benidorm Benny and our table watched with interest as 3 ladies and one gent were seated at the table, all appeared to be travelling on their own. One asked to be moved within about half an hour and another by the end of the meal. The following day the third lady didn't turn up and of course, as it was captains cocktail party and BB had already been to the first sitting party, he had to shovel his food down asap to get to the second sitting
at Fish Market in Ecuador
party and have some more ......... grrrrrrrrrrrr. This left one poor old boy sitting by himself, so we asked him to join us and it looks like he will stay, we will now be 6 on a 4 seater table - cosy! BB will be back on his own on a 6 seater table.
Last of 3 days in Peru so decided we would explore more of Lima. We got a taxi, driven by Jose this time and arranged a time and place for him to pick us up later as only certain taxis could enter the port. The journey through the suburbs was fascinating. Callao is very poor, the buildings are in a poor state and lots of men just hanging around on street corners. On the outskirts of Lima, on the side of the road, almost like a dirt track hard shoulder, was the car spares and repairs centre of Lima, 30 or 40 little shacks with all sorts of work going on, one shack selling nothing but wing mirrors and another lady selling the taxi sign to go on your car and by the looks of it, you could just buy one of these
and stick it on your bone shaker of a car though Jose had a very tidy car with no dents or scratches which certainly was a novelty here!
People were very friendly, an armed guard personally escorted us to the post office! Streets seemed to be dedicated to a commodity, if you wanted kitchen stuff you went to one street or if you wanted some shoes made you went elsewhere. One whole street had loads of tiny shops that were completely filled with ancient looking printing press. We noticed this long thin shop, fairly dark with 2 old boys sitting behind a counter, with racks of shelving with boxes that looked like they hasn't been opened in years. The few things on show were in dusty glass cabinets but were really nice leather items ranging from leather coats to bags to belts, 3 of which Col bought for a bargain price after a lot of bartering and holding up fingers. Col even managed to get his haircut in town.
The ship wasn't sailing until late evening so sail away music and dance was going on but we were up front, always amazed at how
gently the ship eases our of these ports, however it went a bit wrong on this occasion with hardly any space to manoeuvre, the captain and local pilot were shocked when we hit a derelict crane on the wharf! We were standing beneath the bridge and Sal said to the captain that we liked it here and didn't mind staying on and he replied you don't know how close we were to staying! Next morning on his broadcast he referred to it as kissing the structure and thanked the many people who had written poems regarding the incident - he enjoys a laugh.
2 days at sea followed and the water was so flat you didn't know we were moving. Earlier on through French Polynesia we had had a couple of rocking and rolling days with wind so strong you couldn't walk around the bow and also coming into Peru we had come through thick fog which is common for the area. It meant they had to sound the fog horn every two minutes from about 3am, that was fun!
We really weren't doing much on the photography side of things and decided to
get up for sunrise, guess what the day we choose to drag ourselves out of our nice comfy beds,it was heavy cloud so we saw zilch though we were rewarded with a few dolphins. Wildlife and sealife had been scarce up to now with the exception of several shoals of flying fish and they really do fly! Since leaving Peru, we were starting to see dolphins, porpoise and tuna which can be quite big.
The new entertainers were very good a couple of girls who put on a stunning show playing violins, a very good singer and a comedienne / magician, she had a great show not the best magic but the way she did it was so funny, picking on some right ones in the audience. They have themed nights, tropical, rock and roll and tonight was western, up to you as a passenger if you want to dress up but the ships show company put on an excellent show as they have done on several previous occasions, they have some top notch singers and the dancers are so good, spot on routines, full of energy with some great costumes, we really enjoyed it. Benidorm Benny actually joined in the spirit of the evening and must have been shopping (or thieving) as he only seems to have about 3 sets of cloths and this was new, black shirt and waistcoat, black leather cowboy hat and dark glasses, did he look ridiculous eating his dinner by himself in his shades or what! Col came up with a great new name, instead of Wyatt Earp, he is Right Twerp!
Next stop is Ecuador and the port of Manta, again we had several warnings regarding safety and the port was a no go area because of security, particularly with one of their main exports being tuna, huge nets of them being unloaded into waiting trucks, so we were transferred from ship to port gates. Col is under strict orders not to be his lovely friendly self and get tangled up with people, but Sal and her big mouth got us tangled up with a couple, let's call them Beryl and Cyril. The only tour to interest us was a ride on a chiva which was a sort of truck come bus but the fun thing is that there would be a band on top of the chiva! Looked great but expensive so we had decided to do our own thing and go to Montecristi which was where the chivas were going and the place where Panama hats come from. We watched the chivas leave with the band playing on top only spoilt by their hi viz jackets, which must have been there little bit of health and safety. Cyril and Beryl wanted to share a cab but we quickly realised they were very nervous and what we thought was a great tour, they felt very uncomfortable about..... If you are reading this Hilary and Peter, we blame you for leaving us!
Our driver, Juan didn't speak a word of English but the mafia like controller of the cabs was available by phone if we had any questions..... Cyril rang constantly, for instance, can you tell me the name of this town? How the hell could he know where we were. When they had had enough of one of our stops after about 5 minutes, they hunted us down and said they wanted to go........ We ignored them and got on with what was a great 4 hour tour, we drove all along the beach where the fish market was with large black frigate birds flying overhead, lots of very friendly people waving (i think we have done more waving on this holiday than in the last 40 years) we then drove through the market, we couldn't believe we were going to be able to get through but slowly he did, you could buy most things and lots of fruit stalls. It was packed with people. Common form of transport here and in Peru is a bicycle without the front wheel but a big tray on the front for carrying goods with 2 wheels supporting the tray, much of the fruit was sold from this. We set off along the sea front for a while and then turned inland and he drove through a couple of smallish towns, taking us round some of the back streets so you could see how people lived, which generally seemed to be in poverty but it was interesting. Montecristi is a small place but has a beautiful cathedral at the top of the hill dominating the town.
This is the home of the Panama hat, apparently Theodore Roosevelt bought one of these hats whilst visiting the construction of the panama canal and it took the name. Quality varies considerably as does price, a top quality hat would take 8 months to make and costs about $300, which is nothing if you break down to an hourly rate, we saw them being made, very laborious. We enjoyed our time in Manta and Montecristi despite Cyril and Beryl who unintentionally made it quite funny for us in the end ...... very odd, particularly Beryl.
On leaving port the ship had to turn around several times to reset its magnetic compasses, we have to wave our i phones in a figure of 8 to do the same, slightly easier eh?
We have a lovely cabin stewardess called Inthira, she is from Thailand and absolutely lovely, she is also the Captains cabin stewardess so only the best for us. She tends to speak to Sal all the time calling her Marm and generally doesn't take any notice of Col. This morning we had popped back to our cabin for something and Sal went to the loo and she came in looking for Sal and Col said ...... Marm is in the bathroom, not sure if he will bow at the same time :-)
Today is Easter Sunday and at breakfast, everything was decorated for Easter, the best being a water melon sculpted to look like Bugs Bunny. The chef was giving out Easter eggs to everyone. Each evening Inthira turns our bed down, and delivers the following days Daily Times which is the events going on and puts a chocolate on our pillow, tonight it was a choc bunny. Best of all we saw a lot of dolphins today and also a couple of pilot whales.
The following day we crossed the equator and it poured with rain all day! It appears to be tradition on a cruise ship that they have a crossing the equator ceremony, which generally involves the captain and various officers and other staff having to answer their 'crimes' and being slung in the swimming pool, because of the rain it was held inside and they had to kiss the fish, a huge tuna! It was all very silly but very well done and funny. The captains crimes were mostly to do with his crash in Peru and he was really put through it, the Chief engineer had to answer why his uniform was sparkly white instead of grease monkey black, the shop manager was accused of selling tat and the ship photographer of intruding all the time.
Thanks for all the emails and comments on the blog, we really enjoy reading them and keeping in touch with everybody as it is very easy to be ensconced in our little bubble here. Internet connections are not always great in the middle of the ocean, so please forgive us for not responding but we love receiving.