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Published: June 29th 2010
Peace of Mind
I can be an Incorvet if I need to...
From the beginning I have received the same type of advice. Don’t do this. Don’t go there. Don’t walk at night. I feel imprisoned by factors beyond my control: my attire, skin complexion, and passport. There is a small part of me that wants to get mugged just to get it over with so I can get on with this trip.
“So, Ricardo, where do you want to go today, my love?” Marisa is the owner of the bed & breakfast that she insists I call my home while in Lima. If she were any more pleasant, I might have to smack her. In her early fifties with short, wavy salt and pepper hair, she has started this little operation from the ground up. It is uncommon enough to come across a woman as a small business owner, but for fun she has adopted a four-year-old girl. Marisa’s incessant energy intimidates, as does the sincere care she takes in pleasing her guests to a fault. She speaks at breakneck speed, unfamiliar with gears such as first, neutral, or park. I’d like to put her in a locked closet with Tía Ana just to see who would win.
I am in
That is what folks from Lima have to look forward to for weather until September...
Lima for a few more days, awaiting Rosalinda’s release for vacation. It is advisable to approach Lima in small chunks. Attempting to do too much is completely overwhelming. “I was thinking about going to the Salto del Fraile”, or Friar’s Leap. Maybe I should try to get a tax-“
Marisa ended my efforts to conceive a thought. No sooner had she cut me off she was on the phone arranging transport and my arrival at a restaurant on a promontory point on the far southern reaches of Lima’s urban fringe. I could overhear her on the phone, “I am sending you a guest. Uh-huh…When do the jumps start? Listen good, make sure nothing happens to him. How much? Perfect. Ciao!” She then turned to me from the other side of the reception desk after hanging up. “OK, Ricardo, it is done. The taxi will be here is fifteen minutes. Jumps start at one this afternoon. Whatever you do, do NOT” there we go again, “take a taxi back that the restaurant does not arrange for you. Clear?”
“Yes, mother” I replied submissively.
This taxi is not like the others. The driver is dressed smartly in a collared button-down shirt and
El Salto del Fraile
On the urban fringe of Lima...
pressed slacks. His hair is combed. He has shaven this morning. The windshield is not cracked and care was taken to clean the floors and upholstery. Below the steering wheel is a radio unit with a green LED display. The name of the passenger reads, “INCORVET”, close enough I suppose. Yet there is no given destination. Peace of mind is readily available in Lima for an extra dollar or two.
Soon after Barranco to the south, the real topography of the region starts to reveal itself. Lima is set among sharp, lifeless cliffs of serrated loose rock. As the taxi climbs one of the ridges, the churning Pacific comes into view on the right. As I look up, it is surprising that rockslides do not threaten the road more often. Brown pelicans and seagulls dive for fish a few yards offshore. In the distance, enshrouded in mist, small boats try to do the same with equipment not much more advanced than that available to the birds. A chilly breeze rips through the saturated air and whistles off the foreboding crags and rocky indentations. As the limeños say, it is the garúa that has settled in for the winter. For
Wouldn't want to get swept away...
the better part of the next two months, there will be no sun at all in Lima. Do not confuse this with an occasional burst of rays and possible midday glare. I mean nothing. Nada. Rather, Lima is mercilessly smothered by layers of low ashen clouds. They insulate a creeping, encroaching, and inescapable humidity. Imagine God squeezing a soppy kitchen sponge atop very compact but soiled cotton balls, but just not quite enough for the water to come through for a bit of rain. That’s Lima. According to Marisa, it’ll be like this until sometime in September.
The ocean side restaurant of El Salto del Fraile is deep in its winter hibernation, only to get up and cater to the infrequent guest. Today, it is me and a family of five that occupy the entire banquet facility. Its claim to fame is a reenactment of a legend that tells the tale of a young man who became a friar after his love was taken far away by her family. The short version goes that one day a boat passed by and he thought she was on board. As he viewed it from the shore through his spyglass, he perceived it
Look at Me!
I originally thought he was stretching, or perhaps praying before taking the plunge...
to be much closer (Duh!). He thought it was so close that he reached out to hug the target of his affection on the boat only to fall over the cliff into the sea, perishing in the process. Hence, the name of the cliff side region is El Salto del Fraile, or the Friar’s Leap. Don’t worry, while the story may not be so inspiring, the food at the lunch buffet isn’t half bad.
Fast forwarding to 2010, the restaurant has taken the legend one step further by arranging for a man to dress up as a friar and, get this, volunteering to cliff dive into the tumultuous surf from a height of more than forty feet. Believe what you’d like, it keeps them in business. There is no warning, no announcement. While racing between my seafood lunch of rice and squid, and the match between Argentina and Mexico, the diver appears in his drab brown hooded garb. Following a few gestures that could pass for stretches or perhaps to call attention to himself for the onlookers by the side of the road, he affixes a rope around his left ankle. With a wave to the crowd and ignoring the
Are You Serious?
It's a tough way to make a living...
deafening crash of the waves, he approaches the edge of the cliff. Without any further ceremony, he swan dives out of sight. I can see his splash lap against the cliff, but nothing less. Less than thirty seconds later, and thanks to being tethered, he climbs up the very same drop. Drenched but curiously smiling, he walks up to any of the visitors, poses for photos, and gladly accepts tips. I know it’s a way to make a living, but there have to be better options.
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