Day 7 Friday March 30, 2012
Today is going to be a long day. I fly from Cusco in the morning and then a little after midnight, I fly to Atlanta from Lima. I am currently in the airport awaiting my flight, and a woman wearing far too much makeup and a plastic purple skirt and vest just walked by..... (shudder)
The morning was uneventful. I packed everything, downed 3 mini Lara bars and tried to check in for my flight back to the states via wifi but was unsuccessful. I caught a cab to the airport paying a FAR more reasonable S10. The flight to Lima was pleasant and brief. It was neat to fly over the Andes one last time, seeing the snow capped mountains and the ocean in one single view as we approached Lima. The water near the port in Lima looks absolutely awful, chunks of trash floating in it, streaks in the water where ships pass, and boats out fishing in it.
I made it into Lima without any problems, and I found the baggage storage place fairly quickly after realizing it was called "Left Luggage." I thought that this was a place to claim lost luggage, but it's actually storage lockers. I changed from my boots to tennis shoes, grabbed my camera, and shoved everything into a locker. I paid S38 for day use of a large locker that easily stored all of my gear.
I headed out of the airport, and knew that the cheaper taxis would be out by the road, so I walked out that way. I had a map of the historic district of Lima, so I choose a random central-looking square and got a ride. About 20 scary as hell minutes later, I was at Plaza San Martin. I took a stroll around the square and took some photos before busting out the map. I had looked up a couple of veggie restaurants in this area and found I was close to one of them, just off of Plaza de Armas. I found the address where the restaurant was listed and it was closed. Due to dark tint and the gate out front, I wasn't sure if it was permanently closed, or just for the afternoon. Maybe they will be open later?
I detoured through the Union Pedestrian Mall, taking in all of the shops and restaurants before arriving at the Plaza de Armas. It was about 3 now, and I was getting quite hungry. I found a walking "alley" off the plaza that contained a number of restaurants. I figured Italian would do if nothing else jumped out. I looked around and ended up at an Italian place and immediately had difficulty conversing with the waitress. Fortunately, a German gentleman spoke up and offered his assistance. Stephan was a very friendly man from Bavaria who runs an organization in Iquitos as well as owns an international restaurant there. I quickly explained that I was vegan, and what that meant, and he began to give me a hard time about it, but in good fun. I said I was interested in gnocchi and he discussed this with the waitress. She confirmed "sin queso" and ran off to put in my order. Stephan and I discussed Europe Peru, business and culture as I waited.
A while later, the waitress returned with a bowl of gnocchi swimming in a creamy pesto sauce. Uh oh.... pesto, by nature, contains cheese, and the sauce was extra creamy looking as well. I didn't was to seem ungrateful, and honestly, it's probably not the first time on the trip that I had something I wouldn't normally eat, so I dug in. I was pretty decent, which is saying something as I am I'm not a big pesto fan usually. Nothing close to the gnocchi I had in Urubamba, but decent. For S15, it seemed quite affordable for an upscale neighborhood in Lima.
I thanked the waitress and Stephan, promising to check out his website (www.amazonfundacion.org) and decided to head South toward a few parks, museums and wait appeared to be a shopping center. The central bus station was located under the shopping area. I first strolled through the park, relaxing on a bench and people watching for the better part of an hour. It was pretty warm out.
I then checked out the shopping areas, the first was called "Lima Centro", located across from a more modern shopping center. I thought I might find a new clean shirt to change into. My ADV shirts from fattees have been great on the trip, but after a few sink washings, they need to be properly washed; they smelled like the water in Cusco. I had been walking around in it all day, sweating, and thought I could use some deodorant also. Turns out, Lima Centro is a large 4 story building full of nothing but print shops. Lots..... I mean LOTS of print shops. There were guys that specialized in ditto-printing forms, others that only cut paper, huge banner printers, anything you needed for printing. Later that night, I would also pass through a 3 block zone of printing and stamping shops with forests of paper piled on the sidewalks. Lima must need a lot of crap printed.
After striking out at Lima Centro, I crossed over to the modern shopping center. I walked through it twice and was seriously debating on watching a movie as respite from the heat, but settled on a frozen smooth instead. It was mixed up, poured into a plastic cup and then had a plastic lead heat sealed to it. I was given a giant pointed straw to pierce the lid. It was wonderful and cold, helping to cool me down quite a bit.
The shopping center had their own marching band... their uniforms had the center's logo on them:
I eventually wound up in a department store were I bought some deodorant and a cheap S14 shirt that was pretty ugly, but clean. I had deodorant in my locker, but I didn't feel like tearing into the Coyote for it, and it was JASON brand "hippie" deodorant. It works great when I take a shower and spend much of my day in an air conditioned office, but today, I needed some mega-powered shit.
As soon as I left the store, literally in the exit path, I ran into a kiosk selling nice higher quality shirts in the style that I wanted. They were S40, but I had some extra cash on me and decided to get one. I returned to the store, BSed my way through a return and bought the shirt I wanted. It was after 6 now, so I decided to see if the veggie restaurant was open tonight. No dice, still closed tight.
I ended up back at the Plaza de Armas for about 30 minutes, watching all of the surrounding buildings begin to light up. The square looks fantastic after dark. There didn't seem to be a lot of taxi traffic here, so I walked back down the Union Mall to Plaza San Martin, where I had started my touring this afternoon. There were lots and lots of taxis, but none wanted to take me to the airport. I was starting to be a little concerned when one driving began to explain, in Spanish, so I didn't understand, why no one would go there. He was indicating a road that would have to be crossed to get to the airport, and was saying "fuerte" over and over. I was afraid a road might be closed.
Finally, one pulled up and let out a fare, agreeing to take me to the airport for S40. It was a little more than I paid to get out to the Plaza, but I jumped right in. He stuck with secondary streets on the way back, a different route than I had been on earlier, and soon we were passing through neighborhoods that put me on edge. The driver was much safer than my driver earlier in the day, but with the sketchy neighborhoods we were in, I was far more concerned. I actually began to mentally inventory what was in my pockets, thinking that if something bad did go down, I had a $100 hidden in my pants, I just needed to keep my passport. Fortunately, my driver turned out to be a cool guy, and about 45 minutes later (traffic was REALLY thick in spots) we arrived at the airport. He had only scraped up against one light pole on the trip!
I found a restroom in the airport, slathered myself in cheap but effective roll-on deodorant, changed into my new shirt and carefully sealed my smelly shirt into the bag the new shirt came in. Good to go, I almost smell human again! Got my luggage back and proceeded to the Delta check-in counter. I was about 2.5 hours early, so the counter had no one there, but there were already 5-6 other people waiting for the same flight. It opened about 45 minutes later, I got checked in, got through security, didn't have to pay a departure fee (I think it's included in most ticket fees now), and breezed through customs.
My flight back home was uneventful, I actually fell asleep before we left Peruvian airspace, and woke up over southern Florida.
I had a really great time, and apart from simply disliking Lima (too many people, too many scary neighborhoods, too many hustlers) I really enjoyed my time in the country!
The rest of my pictures from today:
http://s290.photobucket.com/albums/ll256/sandalscout/Peru March 2012/7 Friday March 30th