From the mountains to the sea

Cordillera Blanca from the bus
Cordillera Blanca from the bus

Today was a very, very long day. After breakfast, packing up and saying goodbye to Maruja and Guilf, who was drinking beer with his sister in law and, according to Maruja, had drunk far too much the night before, I caught the 9.30am bus to Lima. This is an 8 hour journey.

Down through the valleys
Down through the valleys

The first 4 hours saw us pass through the most magnificent scenery. We travelled through the high sierra, with a wonderful view of the Cordillera Blanca, and then descended down and down, through very many hairpin bends into a canyon, where the terrain became less green and more brown and dry. The valleys, however, must have been well irrigated as there was an abundance of crops along their floors. In those 4 hours, we descended from 3,900 metres to sea level. (One might think, at this point, that I am becoming obsessed with altitude!)

Sugar cane in the flat valleys
Sugar cane in the flat valleys

On arrival on the flat, where there was hectare upon hectare of sugar cane plantations, we stopped at a petrol station for lunch. I had brought a sandwich with me so sat on a wall with a couple of Peruvian ladies and ate it in the sun, whilst inhaling the traffic fumes. Nevertheless, I appreciated being able to stretch my legs and spend a little time out of the bus.

Lunch stop - typical 'collectivo' in the front and our bus at the back
Lunch stop – typical ‘collectivo’ in the front and our bus at the back

Afterwards, we were back on the road for the next 4 hours, following the coast and passing through some dry and dusty desert towns. At one point, there were high sand dunes next to us on one side of the road and the sea on the other. However, there was also a very heavy sea mist so everything was blurry (and this was not just because I had lost one lens out my glasses!). Unfortunately, I had picked the wrong side of the bus to be on as the most spectacular scenery was on the other side for most of the day.

Dusty town on the way down to the coast
Dusty town on the way down to the coast

After quite a few short stops, we approached Lima and the traffic built up and up and up. It was quite hideous after being in the mountains such a short time ago.

Big sand dune and sea mist
Big sand dune and sea mist

We eventually arrived at the bus terminal where we were immediately swamped by taxi drivers. Despite the tariffs being written on the wall in the terminal, none of the drivers would agree to the price ‘because of the traffic’, so I ended up paying more than I should have (surprise, surprise!). We arrived at 5.30pm but, by the time I reached my apartment in Miraflores, it was nearly 7pm. At one point, an intersection was being controlled by a policeman. He seemed oblivious to the traffic build up in the road I was sitting and kept allowing traffic on the main avenue to proceed. I could hardly believe my eyes. There was eventually much tooting of horns and he allowed us to go, by which time I was fuming, so I shudder to think how the drivers must have felt if they have to endure this every day. Admittedly, my rage was also partly due to the fact that I didn’t trust the taxi driver (particularly when his first question was whether the girls in N.Z. were pretty), and wondered if he had specifically taken me on this route to justify the fare.

A yellow suburb outside Lima
A yellow suburb outside Lima

The street the apartment is in is one way so the driver dropped me at the end of it. The number I had been given didn’t seem to exist. Having walked up and down, by now in the dark, I then realised that there was an extension of the street diagonally opposite (i.e. not obvious). It is a gated community of apartments and the gatekeeper had to go and track down the ‘maid’ who wasn’t answering the phone. By the time I actually reached my room, I was ready to implode! Where was the Lima exit door?!

The room itself wasn’t as I had anticipated. Once again, I seem to have struck an owner keen to make extra money by adding on rooms willy nilly (which, in this case, is a little tricky given that it is an apartment building). The room was described as small, with its own bathroom and patio area. Yes, the room is small (no problem), with a low polystyrene ceiling, definitely not permanent construction, and it also has a bathroom containing a shower and toilet, next to the laundry, and a patio that is a corridor between the bedroom door and the laundry area, so I have a lovely view of the sheets drying on the line. There is no sink but I can use the laundry sink for cleaning my teeth. Somehow it is not quite how I imagined it was going to be. The wifi didn’t quite reach the room and the password was incorrect. Hmm…… ! I went to the supermarket and bought a bottle of wine, which seemed reasonable in the circumstances.

After a couple of glasses of said beverage, the room didn’t seem quite so bad and, in fact, I even appreciated its novelty. I didn’t overcome my annoyance at the lack of wifi but really, is that important? I just have to walk down 3 flights and I can be connected to the world!

So, I went to bed.

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