South America - 5th continent in 5 months

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Feb 20, 2014

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Flag of Peru  ,
Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Another break! This swing went much faster. Maybe I am getting used to the 6 weeks thing. Although this one was only 5.5 weeks cause I did 6.5 last swing. We had 'Happy Hour' on the Friday night before I flew out. Very tempting to get intoxicated, but I am sick of getting on that 4.5 hr bus trip hungover. Plus I am a bit sleep deprived because I have got wrapped up in watching the Michael Jackson trial live on Sky News. So after only 3 drinks at happy hour, I returned to my room to pack. It was lightest and most compact my suitcase has ever been! (14 kgs at airport check-in!). I am finally getting good at this packing business. Although my backpack still bulges with endless items known as ‘I might need this’ and ‘I wouldn’t want to lose this if the airline loses my luggage’. I want a more compact laptop to ease this situation of bulge backpack.

I think the things I look forward to most when going on break are: better food (even airplane food is better than the menu here sometimes); hang out with different set of people; change of routine. I don’t like the flying to get there though. Every time a plane takes off, I have a vision of it falling back down to earth with a fireball thud. This time I have 3 flights to get to my destination. That is unprecedented for me and I am not looking forward to it. That is 3 take-offs with potential fireball thud, 3 sets of invasive security checks, 3 sets of immigration and custom checks. I have now worked out that on this break I will have 10 flights!! Way too many.

Finally arrived in Lima following the longest travelling in my life. Door to door from site was 46 hrs – just shy of two full days! Technically 32 hrs in airports. I slept/dozed on the Accra-Johannesburg leg. Then got some breakfast in the Jo’burg airport. Jo’burg was my first ever overseas destination – in 2006, so I am familiar with this airport and have been through it a few times since. South African Airways is still pretty good – much better than the crap I have flown to Europe and USA of late. We sat on the tarmac in Jo’burg for an hour because they hadn’t yet brought the food onboard. I only had a 2 hr stop over in my next destination (Buenos Aires) so I was worried I would miss that connecting flight. This meant that I was on that plane for 12 hrs. My god, it was an eternity. The airbus though is smooth and very quiet to the usual Boeing planes that I fly in. No individual tv though like on Emirates. Eventually got to BA, Argentina and was very confused because I had no boarding pass for the next flight and wasn’t sure whether to get my bag and check-in. I spoke to some attendants and they said my boarding pass would be printed at the gate; strange cause I’ve never heard of this before. In the end it was all ok, but my flight was delayed 3 hrs!

I didn’t really feel like I was anywhere different or in Argentina. I find airports are all pretty much the same; although I had no idea what language they speak in Argentina – it is Spanish. I also had phone issues cause their mobile networks are incompatible with my dual sim phone. But I was eventually able to msg Melissa and she was in the airport at the same time, so we met up for a champagne! I was not at all expecting that we would meet in BA so it was great to see a friend in this random leg of the trip and have a very brief catch up before she had to board her flight to Lima. I don’t know why we didn’t just book the same Lima flight from BA. I eventually got on my Lima flight 4 hrs after it was originally meant to depart. I flew TACA airlines for this leg and man, it was the worst take-off I have ever experienced. Someone’s mobile phone rang while at full speed on the runway; the pilot hit the accelerator while still in corner so we skidded around the bend; this caused the overhead locker above me to fling open and someone had to jump up to close it before the luggage fell out; and then the whole plane starting swaying in the wind as we lifted off the ground. As I was recovering from this, my nose started bleeding! Yep, my first blood nose in years and strangely the blood was more orange than red...odd. I don’t know what caused it, maybe too many take-offs for one day. I watched a really good movie on the plane though (Limitless) and then fell asleep for most of that 4 hr journey. I got thru immigration and customs very smoothly and Melissa was waiting for me at the other side. We met our pick-up driver and he took us the 15 min journey to our hotel, which is well situated in the historic centre of Lima. It was 2 am and we both slept like logs!

Day 1 in Lima was spent largely exploring the historic centre. All walking distance from our hotel. 2 different city squares and a Hay Street-style mall. The buildings remind me more of Paris than anything in Spain (odd considering Peru was settled/invaded by the Spanish in the 1500’s) and I particularly like the wooden balconies overhanging the footpaths. We had a delicious dinner (steak) that night in a fancy restaurant overlooking the main square. The streets are a lot safer than what we were both warned about and expected. We strolled back thru the main mall to our hotel without any fear at all. They warn of pickpockets and muggings, but we saw none of this. I feel much safer walking the Lima streets than I ever did in Athens. We do stand out as tourists tho, there doesn’t seem too many tourists at all (well those of Anglo-saxon decent anyways).

Day 2 (today) was a bit of a sleep-in as we tried to catch up on the timezone difference and just get some rest. Lunch at McDonalds for my obligatory Big Mac meal and then we headed to the San Francisco Church and Catacombs for a guided tour. Today was the feast day of St Francis, so there was celebrations and gatherings in the courtyard, which was interesting to see. The tour did not permit photos, but I just had to slip a few in (naughty I know). The catacombs contain an estimated 70,000 dead bodies, all skeletons now, from hundreds of years. Really creepy and a bit like something off Indiana Jones when we walked below the cathedral in a series of tunnels and burial chambers. From there we went across to the Inquisition Museum, which was all in Spanish but interesting nonetheless. I still need to google what exactly the Spanish inquisition was, but they had the original cells and some of the torture equipment used. This reminded me of the Tower of London. Free entry and we didn’t want to wait for the English guided tour, so that we could squeeze in that and a trip to the Larco Museum across town. We caught our first taxi to get to this museum – what an experience! One of the major warnings of travelling in Peru is the taxi’s. There are lots of unofficial ones that rip you off or kidnap you. We got in an ‘official’ one that had no suspension, no interior upholstery and no seatbelts. Um, ok. And then he had to ask a traffic cop for directions. What a ride. All the drivers speak Spanish only, so I was fortunate to have Melissa with me who had been studying up on her Espanola and could at least negotiate the price – no meters, so u have to negotiate the price before u get in. The traffic is typical of any developing nation, so was a little bit hairy at times. The museum focuses on the pre-Spanish history of Peru with pottery, textiles, gold & silver jewellery of the Inca’s and other civilisations. Some fascinating stuff and good to get a picture of the history before we get into the organised tour.

We taxi’d back to the hotel for the tour briefing at 5 pm. This time the taxi was much better and safe. We sat down to go thru all the logistics of the tour with the guide. There are 8 of us on the beginning part of the tour and then meet up with 11 others in Cusco on Day 3. Doesn’t seem like a really friendly bunch. A couple from Aust, two 60+ guys from the UK, and a 30’s couple from USA. I gathered all this info from just looking at the documentation as we were filling it out – no one actually introduced themselves or anything. As soon as the briefing was over, they all went their opposite ways. Bit unusual. Melissa and I wanted to head down to the Miraflores precinct of Lima (a bit like a Freo/Cottesloe region) and were going to ask the others if they wanted to come along, but they all took off and weren’t that friendly that we would ask anyways. I’m sure after a few days we’ll get to know them better. The Miraflores district is heaps newer and nicer. Lots of shops, restaurants and bars. It was dark, but would be good to see the coastline at sunset or something.

Now back in the hotel and need to get to bed as we leave hotel at 730 for the airport to the Amazon Rainforest. Yay. this is the part I am looking forward to the most. No electricity, so I won’t be online or updating for a few days until Cusco.
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