Posts Tagged ‘Lima’

Liking Peru

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

Lima wasn’t too special. I think it may be like Chiang Mai. Lots of people raved about how good Chiang Mai was and I found it rather ordinary. Perhaps I didn’t see the right bits. Perhaps I didn’t see the right bits of Lima either.

I stayed in Miraflores, supposedly one of the nicest neighbourhoods. Well it was nothing like Palermo in Buenos Aires. Other parts of the city on the bus ride to centro historico looked nicer. Certainly more alive, more interesting. The traffic was interesting too. Not in volume, but in intent. In various Asian cities there were as many, or more, vehicles but there you could step out into the road and the traffic would flow around you. In Lima I had the feeling they’d delight in running you over. There are a few photos in my Lima set at Flickr.

Two nights in Lima were enough. There are several intercity bus companies in Peru. I used Cruz del Sur for the journey to Nazca. Apart from the rubbish “meal” (three layer sandwich with foul tasting unidentifiable fillings) the journey was fine.

Nazca is a bit of a one trick pony. The thing everyone goes to see is the collection of geoglyphs referred to as the Nazca Lines. By the time I had dropped my luggage at the hostel it was too late to get a flight that day. Nazca follows the traditional Spanish town layout with a central Plaza Mayor and a neat rectangular grid of streets leading off it. Birds of a feather flock together and in Nazca, as in pretty much everywhere I’ve been, similar businesses set up shop next to each other. I needed a haircut so after I found the street with the peluquerias there were about a dozen to choose from. A quick buzz with clippers cost S/.4 (four Nuevo Soles – just under £1).

Next morning I took a taxi to the airport (S/.3) with one of my roommates from the hostel. All of the flight operators were charging the same price (US$90) for a 30 minute flight to see the lines. We found our other two roommates there so the four of us grouped together and picked a company at random. About an hour later we took off in a Cessna bimotor operated by Unistar. The promotional blurb for all the flights says something along the lines of “see the lines from several thousand feet”. Actually the manoeuvring height was only 400 feet above ground level. People with motion sickness are advised not to eat before taking a flight. The aircraft perform a series of tight left and right turns around each of the figures so passengers on both sides can see them clearly and have a chance to take photos. One of my roommates was looking a bit green by the end of our flight but managed not to throw up.  The first figure came up after just a couple of minutes, a whale. It was followed by the “astronaut”, monkey, dog, condor, humming bird, spider, tree, hands, parrot and heron. There are actually a whole bunch of lines all over the desert and some of the figures were harder to spot than others. See how many you can spot in my Nazca set at Flickr. About thirty five minutes after taking off we landed on runway 25 and found a taxi back to town.

While waiting for our flight I practised my Spanish on one of the ground crew, a Quechuan named Maximo. He was keen to teach me some Quechua too. When someone here says “hablas espanol?” it is dangerous to admit “hablo un pocito”. They seem to hear “yes, I’m completely fluent” and launch into a thousand word per minute spiel. If they respond to “mas despacio, por favor” at all, they’re likely to slow down for only a few seconds before resuming full speed operations. Maximo was one of the few people who actually maintained a slow enough pace that I was able to understand most of what he said first time for a full twenty minute conversation.

Late that night I caught an overnight bus for the ten hour journey to Arequipa. I like Arequipa; it reminds me of Salamanca. Unlike Nazca where many of the streets are unpaved and therefore the city is very dusty, in Arequipa all the roads are paved.  There is still a haze hanging over the city. I don’t know if it’s smog, trapped by the surrounding mountains. It doesn’t seem like there’s enough traffic for it to be smog. The city is at 2380m asl and is surrounded by three volcanoes – Misti (5822m asl), Chachani (6095m asl) and PichuPichu (5669m asl). Whereas much of Salamanca is made from yellow or grey sandstone, many of the buildings here are made from sillar, a white stone quarried from the volcanoes. It’s a photographically challenging city; white stone and the harsh sunlight is a bad combination, and many of the views are spoiled by telegraph poles, phone and power cables. There are some pictures at Flickr.

Gastronomically inquisitive friends will be disappointed to hear I haven’t tried the Peruvian specialty of guinea pig yet. Apparently it’s not as popular with the locals as is widely believed. On the drinks front I have tried Inka Kola (looks like piss, tastes like cream soda) and mate de coca (tastes less yuck than any of the other varieties of tea on offer).

Santiago de Chile

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

My Santiago story came in two installments. Like slices of bread around an Easter Island filling and with about as much substance. Both were flying visits.

The first slice after crossing the Pacific Ocean from Auckland lasted just under 24 hours. Santiago has an efficient airport bus service which got me to four blocks from my hostel in about 40 minutes. I joined a free walking city tour in the afternoon. Felippe our guide was a passionate guy full of interesting information about the history and current affairs of Santiago. He struck me at first as angry young man full of the socialist ideals of the students who protest regularly in the city. They protest about the cost of education and the vast inequalities between the rich and poor in Chilean society. The kind of things students all over the world protest about. It turned out he’s an actor as well as a tour guide. Was it passion or was it performance?

Santiago felt much more vibrant and alive than Auckland or anywhere else in New Zealand. That shouldn’t really be surprising; the population of the city is more than twice that of the whole of New Zealand. Next morning the bus whisked me back to the airport for the flight half way back across the Pacific to Easter Island. It seems a bit crazy to have to fly past the place and then back to it but that’s the way the airline routes work.

Five days later LAN plucked me out of one time zone and plonked me back down in another in Santiago. They wouldn’t let me check my rucksack all the way from Easter Island to Lima even though my stopover in Santiago was only twelve hours. Sleeping on a bench at Melbourne airport was pretty uncomfortable and Santiago airport had looked pretty hard and spartan on my first visit. So I repeated the bus ride into the city, stayed in the same hostel again and took the bus back to the airport the next morning. There was no time in this slice to do anything other than eat and sleep. The return ride took a different route than usual because of a student protest somewhere along one of the main routes through the city – the surprisingly named Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins. Felippe had explained how a city with otherwise standard Spanish street names had a main street named after an Irish guy.

Thirty six hours in Santiago is nowhere near enough time in the city, never mind Chile. As Arnie said, “I’ll be back”.

As always, there are some photos at Flickr, in my Santiago de Chile set.

There are millions of people who do a lot more flying and time zone hopping than me. After jumping backwards and forwards between five different zones in quick succession I feel a little like Sam in the TV show Quantum Leap. I’m going to enjoy being in only one zone for the next three weeks. Sam was always hoping his next leap would be the one to take him home. My next leap will take me back to Buenos Aires. I hope I won’t have entirely forgotten how to tango when I get there. Before then I will scratch the surface of another country – Peru.

Here’s the plan

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Lots of people are asking me what the itinerary for my imminent round-the-world trip is. I launch into an enthusiastic spiel and one of two things happens:

  • their eyes glaze over and they stop listening about half way through.
  • they get excited and ask more questions and after a while I reach the point of shrugging my shoulders and saying “… and then I’ll see.”

Hopefully you’re in the second group.

I have an itinerary because I booked a OneWorld Explorer ticket and I had to name airports and dates. I have an itinerary because I had a rough idea of the places I wanted to go and approximately how long I might want to spend in each place. The itinerary is flexible and likely to change once the travelling starts. The ticket is good for upto one year. There are very few details filled in yet between the flights. There are some highlights and must-see/must-do things and lots of vague arm-waving inbetween.

Date changes are freebies, changing my mind on the routing will cost me money – about £100 per change. Sadly there is no reciprocity between the airlines and me in this respect. They have changed two of my flights already and did not pay me £200.

So the plan at the moment is:

  • London-Delhi, Delhi-Kathmandu for a two week Everest base camp trek. This is organised by Above the Himalayas Trekking and I booked directly with them, cutting out a UK agent and saving some money in the process.
  • Kathmandu-Delhi, Delhi-Bangkok for a ten week tour around SE Asia with my friend, Hannah, who will be blogging about the trip from her perspective at travelpod. We have an approximate route worked out for this, based on information we found at travelfish. Briefly it’s a week in Bangkok including a Thai massage course at Wat Po, a few days in Koh Chang for Thai New Year, north through Thailand, south through Laos and Cambodia, north through Vietnam, topped off with 2 weeks lazing on a beach somewhere in Southern Thailand.
  • Two more weeks in Thailand by myself. I have various ideas for how to fill this time. We’ll see…
  • Bangkok-Beijing for three weeks in China. I have a very rough idea of how to get from Beijing to Shanghai involving Qi’An, Chengdu and half a dozen other cities. Probably this will be a challenge. A friend who knows much more about China than me says this will be hard outside of Beijing and Shanghai because of the language. It will probably involve lots of train journeys. We’ll see…
  • Shanghai-Melbourne for a couple of nights in Australia. Why only a couple of nights? Because I’ve been before and didn’t plan to stop in Oz at all on this trip. However, I couldn’t get from China to New Zealand in one day and will have to spend at least one night in Australia. So I’ve routed via Melbourne and will have a couple of nights there. Hopefully this will give me a chance to catch up with a tanguera friend I met last year in Buenos Aires, and maybe get to a milonga or two.
  • Melbourne-Queenstown for three weeks in New Zealand. How I get from Queenstown to Auckland is completely unknown right now. I’ll work it out much nearer the time. I have another tanguera friend to visit in Auckland and again, hopefully get to at least one milonga.
  • Auckland-Santiago de Chile. Not looking forward to this one; it is a LONG flight. I’ve got a few nights in Santiago and then double back westwards to Easter Island for a five night stay. Then it’s back to Santiago for another night. This extra night is courtesy of one of those airline imposed changes; they changed one of the flight times making it impossible to get from Easter Island to Lima in a single day.  Well, it would have still been possible but only by reducing my stay on Easter Island to two days, or by extending it to nine days.
  • Santiago de Chile-Lima for 3 weeks in Peru. I’ll go to Cusco and then Machu Picchu of course, but whether by train/bus or by trekking the Inca Trail is still to be determined. Yes, I’ll have to decide very soon – if it’s not already too late – because I’ll have to book the Inca Trail. That would pin me down to specific dates. I’m already tied down pretty tight with Easter Island so it could be argued that fixing another date for the Inca Trail would be no extra hardship. But that is approximately five months into the future and I don’t really want to be that constrained.
  • Then there’s a bit more uncertainty; I may go to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands or I may not. Money will be a big factor in that decision. All the flights up to this point except Delhi-Kathmandu-Delhi are on the round-the-world ticket. Getting from Lima to the Galapagos would be a separate trip. I had thought I’d book a LAN airpass for the intra-South America flights, but found I couldn’t because I didn’t book it at the same time as the RTW ticket. Opinion on the web is divided about whether or not this should be possible. Anyway, if I’m under budget by enough when I’ve done what I want in Peru then I might manage a trip to the Galapagos Islands.
  • Finally sometime around the middle to end of September I’ll return to Buenos Aires. Ah, proper tango, at last! A couple of months of milogas and much more learning/improving my Spanish than last time. After that travel all around Argentina until about the middle of February and then return to Buenos Aires for another month. The travelling will include Ushuaia and if I’m really really lucky an Antarctic cruise. I’ll decide in that “final” month whether to use the final Buenos Aires-London sector of my RTW ticket to come home. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Perhaps I’ll stay in Buenos Aires or perhaps by then I’ll have decided there’s somewhere else that would suit me better. We’ll see…

Great, you were in the second group!

That’s the plan so far. I have just a few more days in the UK and then the tenants move into my house and I hop on a plane to Delhi. My transit visa for India arrived today, the Nepal visa is already stuck in my passport, I’ve had jabs against just about everything and I’ve sold or otherwise gotten rid of most of my stuff. Just another dozen or so boxes to go :-)

I’ve got three more nights of tango to look forward to, one of jive and maybe one of West Coast Swing. And then several months of probably no dancing of any sort that I’m used to. Withdrawal symptoms here I come.

Have you done a trip like this or been to any of these countries? Are there any must-see places or must-do things you would recommend in the countries I’m visiting?