watch out for cars
It was an early start to get away from Santiago. Out flight was at 6:40 which meant getting up at about 3 to shower, pack and get to the airport. Interestingly a taxi is about the same cost as a bus to the airport and much faster.
Airports are always a joy, this one no exception. We arrived at about 4:50 and queued in various queue until about 6:15 when it was time to board, so no time for a coffee or anything.
The flight, what a surprise, left late, but from there was no problem. Arriving in Lima
you cannot see anything. It is a mixture of smog, and I mist from the sea, I understand.
Originally we had planned just to follow the “gringo trail” and head south down the coast past Ica, Nazca, etc before going on the Inca trail, but we had a small change of heart when we figured that we would have enough time to go a bit north too. This is not strictly on the gringo trail but still has enough tourists to have plenty of hotels and hostels and plenty to see.
The north has some much older history than the more famous Nazca and Cusco (Inca) areas with civilizations (and ruins) dating back to 1500BC where the Incas are from around 1000-1500AD. It also has some of the most impressive mountain scenery.
Against all advice we have seen on things like www.tripadvisor.com and in other places we decided to hire a car and drive up north. Now I realise why people say not to hire a car. Firstly it took me an hour to get the car. You would swear that they have never rented one out before. They were also completely confused by the prospect of renting a car in one city and dropping it in another – which required a phone call to find out if this is possible. Eventually I settled on taking a car for a week for us to go north and we would then return it back at the airport in Lima where we rented it. We finally managed to get out of the airport at 12 for a “6” hour drive to Huaraz.
Getting out of Lima proved to be challenge number one. The exit from the airport only takes you onto a toll road highway into town, which is south, and not in our desired northerly direction. This required some entertaining roundabout route, but we managed.
The first thing that is clear from Lima is that we had left Chile. Everyone said to us that Argentina and Chile were really European and not really South American in feel. I now understand. Lima, around the airport, has a real shanty town feel about it. Rubble, taxis, constant noise, people selling and fitting car exhausts on the side of the road etc. All of this in a smog which is trying to convert the vivid colours (taxi – yellow, buildings – you name it) into a black and white picture.
You really need to be completely awake and aware (all seeing) for driving here and it does require that you adopt some of the local driving tactics too – ignore signalling any intention, drive in the fast lane as the slow lane has taxis who will swerve into any lane and from far right across to turn left anyway, swerve randomly. There are many distractions apart from the obvious taxis, including: children, goats, cows, mopeds and motorbikes, 3 wheel taxis (which are basically a motorbike with 2 back wheels), buses, huge trucks, mini bus taxis, people with groceries, etc etc. All seeming to want to be on the road at the same time in the same space.
Once we had managed to get out of Lima, Kat needed a smoke to calm down (as a passenger). Now I understand why people say you don’t drive in Peru (or I through I did – see further adventures).