We got off the plane and picked up our bags
. Our tour guide Deltom was supposed to meet us. I guess this should have been our first sign. We called Deltom and he told us he was almost there and that we should look for a gold car. My first car (toyota camry) was considered gold, but was more of a tan color. Well Deltom rolls up in a 1986 Hyundai that is painted GOLD gold (the hubcaps which may or may not have been purchased at target, were also painted gold). We got in the car, and Deltom starts to take us on the tour. The area where LIM is located is not in Lima, but this is what you think of when you think of 3rd world country. Not Urubamba, not Aguas Calientes, not Cusco. This is it. Unfortunately this is the main road from the airport to downtown Lima.
About 10 minutes into the drive, and perhaps in the worst area, Deltom gets pulled over by the cops. He claims it is just a check and blames the fact that he has Americans in the back seat for being pulled over. Regardless, we brushed it off as he seemed to be a nice guy. Next stop was a gas station so Deltom could fill up. This is the first time I was asked to pay for gas as most of the drivers either included it in their charge or had a full tank when they got us. He also got breakfast for himself (orange juice and chocolate cupcakes. he told us his girlfriend wants him to cut back on the junk food, but he didn't have the will power). Then we parked in what looks like an alley, but is apparently a parking lot
. He tells us to get out while he parks the car. While we are waiting, the parking lot attendant asks us if we could spare some change. Deltom finally comes to meet us and we start the walking part of the tour. Although not sure I would call it a tour yet as we only we learned 2 things so far in the 30 minute drive from the airport. The first thing was that there are 2 squares in Lima that have 6 roads intersecting it. The buildings at each corner are identical to each other. This was to confuse the Chileans as there were no street signs back in the day. The other thing we learned was Deltom needs to fix his car because for the 2nd time this trip there is a powerful smell of gasoline emanating from the vehicle we are traveling in.
By now Amy is really pissed off and a bit scared, which is also fun to deal with. Now I have to deal with Amy refusing to walk with us because she is scared, and Deltom (a 5 foot 4 inch man that makes Ken look like a linebacker) telling us we have nothing to worry about because we are with him. This is almost as funny as a man of the same stature telling me that he is going to throw me into the canals of Amsterdam because I accidentally spilled his beer.
During the walking tour he explained to us the 3 different types of balconies on the buildings. Square, straight, and corner. Square balconies are small balconies that fit a few people, straight balconies go the full length of the house, and corner balconies go around the entire house. There are also colonial balconies and modern balconies. Colonial balconies are covered and you can see out, but people from the street cannot see in. Modern balconies are what we think of when we see balconies. So there you go, that is your lesson on Lima, you too can now be a tour guide
. We arrived at the main square. One side was a Cathedral, one side was the municipality, and the third side was the government building. Not sure if it was good timing, or if Deltom planned it this way, but the changing of the guard (which, not sure if you knew this, but they do this in London as well, Deltom tells us) was taking place when we were there. Deltom didn't think it was a big deal, but I asked to watch. This is when I had a first: here we are in a foreign country, in a touristy area, with lots of white people, and up walks a guy, probably about 18 years old, native to Peru and probably Lima, and asks to take my picture. Deltom tells me they don't see white skin very often (perhaps he should have looked around). You may have noticed that Deltom has only explained three sides of the square to us, my guess is he forgot or doesn't know what the fourth side is. After the changing of the guards, we walk down the street, passed the tank on the side of the road, to another Cathedral.
We go into the Cathedral and paid the 5 soles, this comes with its own tour guide. So the tour guide we already paid for gets to spend the next hour on break (reading a book about teenagers, that his girlfriend recommended). The cathedral was actually pretty cool, we walked around, saw all of the paintings and different areas, then we headed downstairs where there were catacombs. Thirty meters deep of bones and skulls from over 10,000 people
. Kind of creepy, but we were safer with the dead than out on the streets (this is really all in jest, Lima is actually a very safe city). After the tour, Deltom wanted to take us to the top of the mountain with a view of the city of Lima. The only way to get up there is by bus. He claims that you have to wait for the bus to be filled before you can go up, but he has a hook up that will throw us in a bus that is almost filled so we didn't have to wait. We walk over and talk to his hook up, but she tells us a bus just left and it will be 30 mins till the next one leaves. Some hook up. I tell Deltom to forget it and lets grab lunch and then he can take us to the hotel.
We go to lunch at a true local spot. This place was right next to the alley where we parked, and you had to go downstairs into what looked like an area that turned into a rave at night. Deltom asked what we wanted to drink, I got a large beer, Amy and Deltom shared a large inca kola. There were signs everywhere saying the large beer was 5 soles (which is a good deal for what was close to 32 ounces). Next thing I know, a man comes over and rotates the sign so that the beer is now 6 soles. There is a three sided pivot so they can change the price of the beer based on time, location, and color of skin. Deltom orders us some food and tells us to trust him, we will like it. We talk longer and learn that his girlfriend is American, from Georgia
. She was there on an exchange program 2 years ago and they met in her last month she was there. He has never left Peru, but she came back for a month with a missionary and to see him. He hopes that she will get him a scholarship to study in the states so he could be closer to her. He then tells us about how he tried really hard to save money to take her out and pimp out his car (hence the gold color), but instead his car broke down and his father got sick. It was really sad, and although I am not sure that tour guide is in his future, he certainly was a nice guy and we were absolutely safe at all times. Our food finally comes, and forget Cusco and Ollantaytambo, this was the best saltado in Peru. The saltado was a mound of fries on the bottom piled high with beef, bacon, tomatoes, onions, and a fried egg on top, there were also sweet plantains on the side. Talk about best hangover food ever. Each person got a plate of rice as well. Amy bowed out quickly. Then I stopped eating when Deltom took the fried egg and dipped the beef and bacon into the yolk. At that point I felt my heart stop beating. For $10, we had enough food to feed 3 people, 1 liter of inca kola, and a large beer. Deltom can really pack it in also. Kobayashi watch out.
Lunch was over so we go back to the alley to get the gold car. Deltom tells us to wait here and pay for the parking. 3 hours cost the equivalent of $1.25
. I didn't have change so I gave the worker $1.50. He looked at us like we were Stephen Ross donating 4 millions dollars to pay the Rich Rodriguez buyout (completely off subject, but need to vent about college football. It was michigan that made Rich Rod take WVU to court. Rich Rod wanted nothing to do with it. I wish the media would learn that and stop blaming the coach). Deltom pulls up and we head towards Miraflores. Along the way he asks us what type of music we like. I tell him reggae since I see he has a reggae tape in his cassette player. He popped it in and we got to listen to such hits as Bad Boys (the cops theme song) and Informer (from Snow). He drove us around through some other neighborhoods down south. These were where the rich people live. Beautiful apartments, right on the water. After a quick tour, Deltom drops us off at the hotel.
We stayed at the Casa Andina - Miraflores. What a nice hotel. I highly recommend to anyone going to Lima. We check in and find out we are upgraded to the next level room. The bellhop takes us up to our room. Very modern, with 2 rooms and a flat panel tv on the wall. We change into our bathing suit and head to the pool. The pool is half inside, half out. It was 60 degrees outside, but the pool was heated to about 75 degrees. Finished up at the pool, went up to the hotel and ordered room service. Then went to bed at 8 since we had to wake up at 2:30 in the morning to catch our flight home.
Our flight left for LIM at 9:15, so we had to get to the airport at 8:30. For us that meant leaving at 8:15. I wish you could do this for domestic flights in the U.S. Anyway, quickly grabbed breakfast, checked out of Torre Dorrado, and took our transfer to the airport. I was actually worried because last time we got our tickets 45 mins before the plane left, we were running around the LIM airport. But CUS is much smaller, so we had plenty of time to catch our flight. Once again we flew LAN, and just like the first flight we had a snack and blooper show for entertainment. Again I was mesmerized by the view of the Andes. All of a sudden a thick layer of clouds completely covered the mountains, I knew we were getting close to LIM. You wouldn't believe the amount of smog in that city. I think Seattle gets more sunshine then they do. You can't even see the end of the runway when you land it is so polluted. In all fairness, I think LIM has the longest runway I have ever seen. Our Airbus A300-600 was able to land with 2/3rds of the runway to spare.