Published: May 10th 2009May 10th 2009
When we took our overnight bus down to Lima we were anticipating many things. It was our first taste at couchsurfing, would our host be nice, would we all get on and would we be able to understand a single thing he said.
Things did not get off to a fantastic start as we rolled into the Flores office in central Lima at 10.30 am, with a view of meeting our host at 11. Things seemed doomed as we both realised that neither of us had a clue what he looked like, but surely being 2 tourists sat in a small bus terminal in one of Lima´s least salubrius areas, he would find us. As the time ticked on towards mid-day and having refused at least 20 offers of Taxis from the relentless mob of drivers, we decided to check the internet and give him a call. Our Spanish is getting stronger by the day but talking on a public phone on a busy, loud and dusty street corner near the un-desirables of Lima was not on my list of things to do that day. As it turned out we got hold of him just as he was heading home
after what he tought was being abandoned by his couchsurfers. As he had told us not to leave the terminal at any cost we had waited patiently not knowing that Flores has another terminal ten yards down the road where our host and guide Israel had in fact been waiting since just before 11 am so as not to be late. ( Ahora Ingles as he told us later)
Embarassed we got into a taxi and made slightly stilted conversation until we arrived at his home, this was not a dream start. Once we had got to his district and he had showed us into our accomodation which was in fact his uncle´s hostal round the corner from his own house, we began to relax. As it turns out he is a firm fan of the couchsurfing idea, but has just started up his own business and currently lives in his parents house, however, his uncle allows him to have his couchsurfers stay in his hostal for free. Not bad considering we thought we´d be in our sleeping bags on a floor somewhere.
He took us out for some lunch and the conversations started to flow. It turned
out he had taken a 3 day holiday from his job just so he could show us around Lima, which we were very flattered by, proving again how much people are willing to go out of their way for complete strangers. That afternoon he took us to the Historic central district of Lima where we bore witness to some incredible architecture and wealth that the city has. In the evening he took us to a German bar where I had my first draft beer in 5 months and after that to a hilarious football themed bar where Maradonna, Pele and Ronaldhino sit at the tables with the drinkers, bizarre but kind of cool. Israel then looked on as I went round and had my picture taken with every player, and in one very embarassing moment one of the bar staff got up from their dinner to help me pose with Zidane.
Day 2 and Israel took us to a deserted beach, which although was not post card perfect was pleasant to wander up and down with no-one around and being near the coast in such an enormous city was a very strange sensation. In the afternoon we witnessed the
size and vastness of the city as well as the poverty that lurks there on the outskirts as we took a bus journey across town to the more wealthy and touristy Miraflores. This journey took 2 hours through the insanity of Limas traffic system. Now, in our time in this part of the world, we have become accustomed to the slightly looser rules that Latin Americans have towards the Highway Code, but Lima was something completely different. Cars, buses, lorries, and men on makeshift motor bike/ vegetable carriers all vie for the same bit of road and indicating is never used, merely moving into the lane you so desire as quickly as you can is enough here.
On our way through the insanity we saw just how much poverty there was in Lima. Israel had told us that many Peruvians flock to Lima in the hope of greater economic prosperity, however, in reality many end up living in houses that they themselves construct, in the dusty mountains that surround the city.
The more afluent arears of Miraflores are where all the hostals are located and the tourists are able to avoid the spectacle of this poverty while they
dine at any number of chain restaurants you may find in Europe or the U.S. Israel even told us that in such a large cosmopolitan city as Lima it was very unusual for the people to see ´Gringos´ travelling on the public transport system. But is was a good experience to see all the sellers of sweets, food and drinks who as we have seen so many times in other countries, jump on and off the buses hoping to make a bit of cash off their sales.
Day 3 and Israel introduced us to some of the local dishes of Lima aswell as some of his friends as we stayed closer to home, with no-one fancying a 4 hour round trip on a bus just to be overcharged for the drinks. We have eaten many a good Cerviche in Peru so far but the tiny place round the corner from his house has got to be the best yet. We had an enormous plate of Cerviche, which included white fish, Shrimp, Octopus, Prawns and Squid. We also had an equally huge plate of Chicharron ( same fish but deep fried Tempura style) and with the added luxuries of Mussels
and Oysters too. This feast for 3 including drinks cost less than 10 pounds, a joke.......surely.
In the eveing time once again we were treated to a culinery delights and some more local dishes. For dinner we had Anticucho which consists of fried Cows intestines and Heart with a corn on the cob and some spuds, not for the faint hearted but delicious nonetheless, and for desert a cake ( or postre) known as 3 milks, which can only be described as sponge cake with cream on top and oozing with condensed milk ( we had about 6 portions in 2 days!!)
On our final day we hung around the hostal as we were waiting for a night bus out of the city. Israel rang up many companies and found us the best price and a bus station in a not too grim area ( harder than you may have thought ), and even went so far as to organize a taxi at a ´locals´ rate so we wouldn´t get ripped off with all our bags.
So concluded our first Couch surfing experience, and our first time in a truly busy, hot, dirty, grimey, but fun South
American Capital City.
Thanks to Israel we couldn´t have done it without you!!!!!