Delays and rain in Arequipa kept at bay my intentions to head north, and so spending extra time there allowed exploration of flooded streets, fine architecture in dismal weather, the smelly and vibrant Mercado San Camilo, glimpses at Santa Catalina (amongst others) mansions and monastery whilst waiting out airport reopening, loitering in the wet Plaza de Armas eating a packed lunch, and surfing the Net briefly for a measly 30c/ 15 minutes or 1 sole/ hour. It seldom rains here, let alone buckets down and fogs in an airport on the edge of the Atacama desert where the town and agriculture production are desperate for water.
Tired of the polluted and taxi clogged streets, I sought out a pool, in Cayman district that was cold and disorganized and worth missing. A fish out of water literally too. An upside was switching to nicer digs after 5 hours waiting out a cancelled flight, with better breakfast, called Casona Solar on Consuelar street.Highly recommended at the right price and run by a Dutch/ Peruvian team, in contrast to a slightly more economical and modest Hostel Bolivar. The hostel is an ex-gentlemans abode, complete with fading ceiling paintings, 2 patios, and at over
300 years old it was made best by the friendly, helpful and multilingual family staff patient with my limited Espanol. Best to have missed Lima perhaps? Second flight plans involved much to’ing and fro’ing with airport staff about is it or not open, and come 8pm and feeling the cold I nearly had to taxi out there alone and in darkness had it not been for their help in contacting Lima office and arranging a rescheduling for 2 more days time. Hoorah, some certainty!
And so the next few days were leisurely and actually felt like a holiday with informal chats with random folk, lazy breakfasts, sleep ins, jogs in the local park, aimless wandering and seeking out refuge in Santa Catalina monastery, a massage by a blind man (foolish of me to request a female, they cannot see you anyway?), more market bartering, more rubbish truck tune driving me nuts, more cramped streets walled by push-karts of junk sellers….5 days later was time to leave for the bright lights of the north and bypassing the Nazca and Paracas plans.
A day and night was spent in Lima, plenty of chance to get to grips with Peru’s great
metropolis I thought. Arriving at the airport was surprisingly modern, efficient and pushing pushy taxi touts aside, I selected the ‘iPeru’ recommended Taxi Green for a 45 sole one way trip to my Miraflores accommodation. That was a pint sized wardrobe in comparison with Arequipa, but well placed for taking metro to town in a speedy 15 minutes along a bus-tram way, and a 10 minute jog to the ‘beach’ best known as high cliffs above a 4 laned highway. The better beaches lie south I was told, but with heavy pollution and fog descending that evening and persisting the next day, a ‘bueno vista’ let alone ‘despajado vista’ (fine) it was not.
Taking in the token sites was the evening plan, and after 1 hour of loitering in the Centro Historico, gawping at the Government Palace, and being accosted for an interview by amateur movie makers in the Plaza Armas, I decided to split being a solo female and retire to Miraflores for fresh fish, salad and rice, home cooked. A late night later talking English with an American staff member, the 11th Feb went smoothly, and I made the airport and Quito in scheduled time for a
change. The small Quito airport, back at altitude, lay before a valley of green and relatively unpolluted looked an oasis after Lima. I quickly made friends with my baggage, a nice Ecuadorian female that helped arrange land transport etc, and before I knew it was arranging a bus to Otavalo.
Unbeknownst to me, it was that kind that picks up any and all stragglers (I guess 3USD bought this and 80USD buys a taxi ride here), and even though it was a recommended tourism bus, luggage stowage did not exist and so a cramped and nauseating but breathtaking trip ensued. Make shift seating with upturned buckets and singing highland locals completed the picture. Arriving to a darkened Otavalo I headed towards town, got into a cheap main-street hostel, and sought out a simple tea given my dodgy tummy. The next day was Saturday, the best market day of all and 2nd in the continent the LP guide said (if you believe all that is written, as the locals said not as famous as this?). Indeed it sprawled over 10 blocks or so, included any and all for sale, and had locals dressed to the nines in their highland regalia
which meant white shirts braided skirts plaits and bowler hats a million chooks held by scruff of neck dead...you get the idea, plus the hard sell. My modest purchase of a necklace took about 7 minutes including attempts to explain NZ's strict laws on bringing natural things back to our country. Thanks to a helpful bystanding biologist as luck had it.
Returning to Quito for arrival day of the final Gap tour, I learnt first hand why it is unsafe. In fact, lucky to get a bus in first place (it revved and sped off from Otavalo several metres without me and my luggage on board as tried to go to looo, without success!!) I arrived and then took a local one with this weird rampant angry guy who I think was wanting to sell something, and then a taxi during which personal questions about marital status, age and my safety wearing a skirt etc ensued. 5USd and another 3USD taxi later from supermarket, plus police with flak jackets and guns and isolated streets, I thought a quiet night would be best option before heading off to islands tomorrow.
Roll on Galapagos.
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