Andrew & Angela at Dinner in Miraflores
A word about Lima
traffic. There are no pollution controls on the cars in a city of 9 million people and the climate most of the year is overcast. The microclimate here keeps the smog and exhaust fumes close the ground and it's a fatal combination. In my first few days I already felt like my lungs were getting black. There are very few police and it seems like their job is more to sit and chat with their partner rather than stop any traffic. In a week I've seen not a single traffic stop and ticket issued. There are lights, but they seem to be optional, which applies to traffic lanes too. You drive where there is room and you make a lane wherever you can.
If traffic opens up in front of you, you gun it and drive as fast as you can until you have to slam on the brakes to avoid crashing into slower-moving traffic up ahead. They estimate that one in 7 cars in Lima is a taxi. They run from the officially licensed ritzy cars that cost a pretty penny and solely operate as shuttles from the expensive hotels to the airport all the way down to little death traps with just a sticker slapped on to the windshield to indicate they are in service. If you are on the side of the street and raise your hand it's impossible to wait longer than 30 seconds before a car stops to see where you want to go. The location is given and then price is negotiated. If you're a good bargainer and have patience you can get anywhere for very cheap but it might take letting up to 8 taxis reject your offer before one accepts.
Maite, Ysaura, Andrew & Yvette in Barranco
I love talking to the drivers and making conversation on the way. They know I'm not native of course and being from the States always makes for a good topic. I'm impressed at the pride they have in their city and country and they are always nice and anxious that their city and country make a good impression. I ask about their families, about life in Lima, and just about anything. It's good to practice my Spanish and it makes the trip go faster too.
The other transportation method is the collectivo. Ah, I love the collectivos! These are mini or micro buses that are operated by different private companies and each has their route with main roads painted on the side. They cruise down the streets and pack as many people in as possible into their tiny seats.
Club in San Juan de Miraflores
There is a driver and another guy who chants out the destinations and stops as the collectivo cruises along. He hangs out the side door and tries to get people to jump in take their bus. It costs 30 cents for a ride and they go just about everywhere in the city. You stand by the side of the street and yell out your destination as they come rolling by. If it's where they are going, they hustle you in and you scramble to get situated in a seat or grab a handrail before the bus jolts away and tries to pick up speed. Most of the vehicles look like they were in their prime during the Carter administration and the seats leave something to be desired in the comfort area. But it's the main transport system and I love taking them for the sheer spectacle and crazy ride.
Somehow I don't feel unsafe or scared in Lima traffic. It's a rush and an experience that keeps you awake.
On Friday I did some more research at the Explorer's club and shared lemon meringue pie (meringue seems to be a theme at the club?) for Maria, the Finnish volunteer at the front desk, who is going back home after 6 months here. I met up with Angela, a Peruvian girl who has traveled quite a bit in the US, and she accompanied me to check out a room for rent in a house in Miraflores
. The room turned out to be a bust, because the owner of the house didn't even answer the door. We had a garbled conversation through the intercom at the gate and he informed me that the room wouldn't be free until the end of July.
The cost was $150 a month for the room and shared house priveledges, which is about common for the area. I was starving so we stopped at a little restaurant near there where a smiling girl in chef's coat invited us in. I had wanted to try cebiche and it was on the menu and it only cost $5 so we decided to stay. It turned out that the chef had just graduated from Cordon Bleu culinary school in Lima and her father had just opened the little restaurant a few months earlier. The cebiche was chunks of marinated whitefish in lemon juice and a bit of oil with chopped cilantro and parsley and some other ingredients to make a milky sauce. It was topped with thinly sliced red onion and came with two discs of cooked sweet potato. It was delicious with a glass of Peruvian white wine that as a mix of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, viognier, chenin blanc and something else.
Light and not too fruity. We shared some conversation and then I made my way back to Barranco
to meet two sisters that I had met on the internet prior to my trip. We had chatted for some months before and they always made me laugh so I was anxious to meet them in person to see how they were. I was surprised when another girl I met online showed up too. Evidently she is an old friend of the older sister and I had planned to meet her too so I was pleasantly surprised. Yvette and Ysaura or Yve and Ysa are the sisters and their friend is Maite. We went into one of the many bars/discoteques that line one street in Barranco and ordered up a "jarra" or liter of beer and Yvette ordered a pitcher of sangria and some pisco sours.
There wasn't enough room at the table to put down our glasses! I took the girls out to dance and they were surprised I could dance. I don't think South Americans are used to American guys being able to dance well. In fact, Yvette wasn't a very good dancer and neither her sister, but Maite turned out to be very good and she was the one I enjoyed dancing with the most. The girls decided they wanted to change location and a taxi was hailed and we were off flying to who knows where. The route took me to a part of the city I hadn't seen before, away from the ocean and towards the dry, hills that surround Lima. The road got worse and then turned into dirt and the houses started to look like shanties. Little knots of menacing looking guys occupied the street corners and I realized that this was the poverty that I had read about and that made up much of Lima.
Not a place to get lost in at night or have your car break down. I felt uncomfortable and a little scared to be honest. Then the dilapidated houses gave way to shops and lights and activity and there seemed to be a district with some bars and clubs and that's where we got out. The club turned out to have excellent music even though the DJ was long-winded between sets. He played merengue, salsa, reggaeton and other kinds of music I wouldn't know how to name. I liked that it was an out of the way place, a place for the people of the barrio, their club. We danced and danced and danced until I was ready to drop. At 2 am the salsa band just started to take the stage! But at that point I could see that Maite was exhausted and a bit sick from mixing drinks.
Yvette had had more than her share but I was fine and Ysa didn't drink too much either. It was time to go. They were dropped off first and I got home safely. But when I told other Limenos (residents of Lima) where I had been - San Juan de Miraflores was the name of the district - they were aghast and told me if I valued my life then I wouldn't go back there. "Who were these girls that took you there?!" was their response. I don't know...the club was so much fun and the music was so great that I might chance another ride back just to experience it again. While we were there, a lady was going around promoting their Thursday live salsa night and as I found out later she is a well-known salsera and was a Miss Peru contestant. Yvette had her sign the card for me and we took some pictures together.
Andrew & Maite
I really liked the evening and had a great time.
Lima Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Charming little restaurant with tables inside and out on a quiet street in Miraflores. The chef greeted us with a huge smile as we were walking by an… read entire review