Back to the City Again

Trip Start Sep 07, 2011
Trip End Dec 22, 2011

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Flag of Peru  , Lima,
Tuesday, October 25, 2011

After a few sweat fueled weeks slowly crossing Panama, Colombia, and the Amazon, landing in Lima is like a breath of fresh air.   Well, not literally for dust and pollution seem to be the norm here.   But fresh in the sense that I need a jacket and I've traded sunshine for some welcome fog and clouds.  I am all about some cooler weather and mosquito free skies at this point.  So this is what it feels like to not dissolve into a sweatbath from any outdoor activities.  Nice! 

StarPeru shot me across the Andes on my favorite plane, the BAe-146, with a painless enough flight from Iquitos via Pucallpa.  The first hour followed the flat jungly Amazon to the tiny airport in Pucallpa.   After 20 minutes our trusty BAe 146 was airborne again for the next hour and I watched the terrain change from expansive Amazon forest to green mountains to even bigger stark dry giants to dusty Lima.   Some downright treacherous looking roads lining the mountain passes bore even from 25,000 feet the telltale signs of landslides dotting the landscape.   I wonder how many chicken buses meet their demise in an avalanche of mud of rocks.  Who needs 7 days on slowboats and chicken buses climbing over some of the tallest mountains in the world to reach Lima?  The airplane was obviously invented for a reason!

Arriving at the Lima Airport is like the Iquitos dock scene version 2.0 with the same same but different scam artists trying to usher unsuspecting visitors into their gypsy cabs for a ride to god knows where.  I never considered a baggage claim a serene oasis until the domestic terminal's disgorged me into the chaos of the arrivals hall.  Warnings in guidebooks abound about some of the taxis here.. crooks even pop a fake taxi sign on the roof of their cars, troll for tourists and then literally take them for a ride to a remote location to rob them.   Nice, huh?   Official fixed rate taxis are the way to go from the airport and any business in town will call for a licensed cab as well.  In other words, hail one on the street at your own risk and don't feel rushed or overwhelmed at the airport.  Like in Iquitos, take your time, get your bearings and you be the one in charge.  I will gladly pay a few extra bucks for some peace of mind such as for the ride out to Miraflores today.

Lima's population of 7 to 8 million is shoved into a dense arid strip between the mountains and the Pacific and much of the city is dangerous, especially just beyond the downtown area.  Many people come down from the Andes hoping to hit the jackpot for jobs that just don't exist and the slums expand.  Some unfortunately resort to theft and crime to make up the hole in their income, and accordingly the areas near downtown are better left unexplored.  The upscale part of town has built up in Miraflores right on the Pacific a world apart from reality.  Embassies, nice restaurants, department stores, and highrise apartments line the leafy streets in the safety and affluence of this neighborhood.  In fact, I saw my first Starbucks since leaving the US and even the Golden Arches beckon the hungry to obliterate their tastebuds with meat gutbombs.  A Burger King sighting just doesn't hold the same thrill as watching a pink river dolphin do its Amazon thing.  

With the tropics and rainforest a mountain range and huge cultural divide behind me, Lima is my bridge to the next phase of wandering aimlessly around South America...the Andes and highlands.   Cool weather coupled with big city amenities are a welcome change from the hinterlands, but I am having a hard time adjusting to people and traffic noise.   My normal the past few weeks has been listening to thousands of squaking parrots fly into Leticia each evening, hearing waves lap at the white sand shores of an uninhabited island in the San Blas, and smelling the fresh rain as it pours into the thick green jungle.   As much as I love the city, I am finding the great outdoors much better for the soul.    I still remember Candy's words of advice back there in Isle Royale...we need to slow down and listen to nature.   I am trying, Candy. It's just that the loud fume belching buses, cellphone chatter and car alarms are masking it for now.

How I Got Here:

Flying Dog Hostel to Iquitos Airport - Mototaxi - 8 Soles ($2.50) - 25 minutes
Iquitos to Lima - StarPeru Airlines - $92 - 3 hours
Lima Airport to Flying Dog Hostel - Registered Taxi - 50 Soles ($17) - 45 minutes
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