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Published: April 12th 2018
I booked a downtown free walking tour for Tuesday morning in Lima – there seem to be lots advertised, but with very mixed reviews. This guy had the best and, despite being late (the traffic in Lima might be even worse than Bogota) it was really interesting. We took a Metropolitano bus to the downtown area – this the same ‘bus in its own lane’ thing that Bogota has (the Transmillenio), but actually has a MUCH simpler map and actual place names for stations. Things I noticed on the walking tour: There is absolutely no independent thought allowed when crossing roads. Cars 100% have priority – they have pedestrian countdowns which start at 99, and then it gets to 1 and you prepare to walk but they rollover into another 99. Which sort of defeats the point of a countdown, surely?. They eat a lot of organs in Lima – skewered beef hearts are popular, and there was endless amounts of tripe hanging in the food market. Lima is very distinctively a colonial city – it was the centre of the Spanish viceroyalty of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile. When you’re downtown, it’s like walking through a Spanish city (particularly in
the unseasonably warm weather – this is supposed to be the start of their winter, but it was averaging 22 degrees). However, many of the main buildings have had to be reconstructed several times after earthquakes – 8 in total. Hence, you will see somewhat mismatching brickwork, and nobody is allowed to work or live in the higher rise floors of the colonial buildings in the main square. I’m getting used to impressive main squares in South American cities now, and this didn’t disappoint.
The afternoon I spent relaxing – the walk had been 3.5 hours, and I had a posh meal to prepare for in the evening. I had booked at Central (am indebted to Hannah for the tip), currently the number 5 restaurant in the world. There are in fact two restaurants in Lima in the top 10, which shows its amazing foodie culture. If you like that type of thing, and haven’t seen it, check out Chef’s Table on Netflix to see an episode about Central and it’s truly innovative Chef Virgilio Martinez. I can now testify to the fact that he does incredible things with food you never thought you would have a chance to
eat. 17 courses (I was pretty full by course 8, but obviously tried everything) each containing ingredients grown at different altitudes in Peru. It included ingredients of cactus (180m), lake algae (1200m), sea urchin (0m), as well as a bacteria called cushuro which was in the best dessert I’ve ever eaten (which also contained chaco clay - yes, an edible and medicinal clay - from 2750m in the Andes). The tv show explains everything – how he has labs to understand these types of ingredients, but how anyone could have married these with all the other flavours together is genius if you ask me. He opened a restaurant (called Lima) in London – it’s not the same, because he likes to use British products more there, but he has brought some of the Peruvian ingredients too. Best all of he, his wife and his sister were all in the kitchen at one point (there is a big glass panel so you watch the kitchen the whole time) so I got to be a proper fan girl. I was invited into the kitchen for a photo with the team – which was a great touch in itself - but by then
he had disappeared.
Wednesday morning I was still stuffed, but wanted to check out Barranco – supposedly the ‘hipster’ area of Lima. Mainly for the Mario Testino museum and to see the street art. I took the Metropolitano (still easy!) and found myself in a really pretty square – the main difference between here and where I was staying in Miraflores district, was low rise buildings and more colonial architecture. Something in between Envigado and Cartagena. I could definitely spend more time here, and would probably prefer to stay here if I returned to the city. The Testino museum was great for fans of a) photography and b) celebrities. Apart from the fact that I almost inadvertently joined some kids who were doing an art class there (because I couldn’t find the way to the second floor), it was definitely worth a visit. They have the Princess Diana collection, naturally, but also an interesting display of his photos of native Peruvians in traditional dress.
I found a great place for lunch – a cheap and cheerful traditional place where the locals ate. I had my last Peruvian meal of ceviche and chicken with rice.
Then came a calamity of events getting to Bogota. Had I written this last night, it would have been much more ranty, but please watch for high levels of sarcasm. My taxi arrived around 3pm at the airport, despite being hit by a police car on the way, and I found the queue for VivaColombia (remember that name), along with a few other foreigners. Literally when the two British girls in front of me had reached the start of the queue to check in, a lady tells us that this queue is only for Iquitos, not Colombian destinations. Ok. And to move to another desk, where they will begin checking in. We moved – there were no queuing posts up so we just assembled in a rough line. For one hour. Then an officious jobsworth came along and told us all to move out of the way so he could put out his posts without anyone in the way. Which is all fine when there aren’t 200 people trying to go backwards whilst also trying to maintain their position in the queue. He took forever, of course, because he wanted to get the posts in exactly
the correct position – he is obviously very proud of his job. Finally they began checking people in – I reach the desk, fully expecting and understanding I would need to pay extra for my bags (this is the Ryanair of Colombia, after all), but not expecting the US$22 fee for printing a boarding pass (it had been $5 in Colombia, but usually I had been able to print it at a hotel). Anyway, I passed them my card – no, they don’t take cards (again, they had on every other flight in Colombia). Ok, have some Peruvian Soles – no, sorry, we only take US dollars. Um. Right. I have none, funnily enough, because I’m in Peru. 'Well, you’ll have to go and take some out or go to the money exchange'. ‘And queue up again?’ I say. ‘No, you can come straight back to me’, which sounded friendlier than the face it came from. Oh, ok, how generous. So I head off to find a cash point (still with massive bag), only to find half the airport roped off with a bomb scare. And the doors all locked. Very sensible – a bomb might go off and no
one can get out. So I eventually haul my bag through thousands of people to a tiny door that is still open, and find a bloke outside saying he will help me – I tell him I need a cashpoint, and he shows me the way, waits with me while I get the dollars, and then offers to take my bag back to the check in desk. How nice, I thought, this is slightly restoring my faith when compared to the stony faced VivaColombia staff. So he takes my bag as far as he can, to the now locked tiny door where people are waiting to get in, and then stands in front of me saying ‘tips please’. Right. Thanks mate.
Eventually, I get back to the front of the queue where some lovely Dutch girls, who spoke to me earlier and ranted with me, let me go ahead. The stony faced lady at the desk still looked straight past me when I approached, but I was beyond caring. Then asked to see my flight ticket from Bogota to London, which I thought was a joke at first, but fortunately my e-ticket on my phone was adequate
to satisfy her.
Thankfully, anything outside of VivaColombia’s control was fine – security was easy and I got to the boarding gate. Except of course, VC’s love of queues meant delays and very confusing tannoy messages. People seemed to be queuing up to re-validate boarding passes and a British guy seemed to think they were fitting two plane loads onto ours. So I was surprised when we finally boarded and I was allowed the same seat as at check-in. We arrived late, naturally, and I had no way of contacting my AirBnB host because the queue at Colombian immigration was so long and so full of people trying to connect to the free airport wifi. US immigration is bad, but this was ridiculous. It was about 1.5 hours queuing, but I did manage to get internet for as long as it took to send a message and tell the lady to leave the keys somewhere.
Anyway, once through customs everything worked out ok. I got a nice taxi driver, who knew exactly where my apartment was, and the security guards were super helpful. It was, despite that chaos, good to be back in Colombia.
I suppose I was due one bad trip after everything else had worked out so well.
Ok that was a rant, after all. Apologies. I should’ve made it into an adventure book and told you to miss out a bit and go directly to this paragraph if you do not like bad transport stories, but still.
Today I’m going shopping. I don’t expect much to happen, but if it does I will write it in my last blog.
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