When I last wrote you, I left off at the point where I was saying farewell
to Central America and heading to the airport for my solo adventure in Peru.
Well, what an adventure it has been so far.
We´ll start with the saga of the guidebook. All travellers know that a
guidebook is essential to any foreign excursion. Especially when you are
doing a ¨DIY¨deal, it is essential to know what there is to do, where you
can stay, how you get to places etc. Without said guidebook, one might say
that you feel somewhat paralyzed, and that’s in a country where you speak the
language, and buses arrive on time, and people tell you the truth when they
are selling a trip. But not Peru. Here, being without a guidebook is
extremely difficult. As I found out on Monday.
On my last night in San Jose, I went searching for a guidebook in several
large bookstores. They had all kinds of books from all of South America but
nothing on Peru. ¨You´ll find one at the airport, they told me¨. No
SO, at the airport, departing San Jose, there were plenty of guidebooks,
hundreds in fact, but they were all for Costa Rica. Not sure why that would
be necessary if you´re leaving Costa Rica, but oh well. I figured the same
would be true in Lima, and I would find myriads of books in the departure
area of the airport. I wasn´t too concerned. However, upon arrival, to my
dismay ‘ I found lots of travel guides but NONE for Peru…for Rome, Athens,
London, Europe, Chile, India, Nepal…anywhere you wanted to go, except the
country YOU HAD JUST ARRIVED IN. When I asked, I discovered that it wasn´t
that they were out of Peruvian guidebooks, they just didn´t carry them!
Ok. Deep breath. I´ll find one. Stela´s family had very generously
offered to let me stay with them in Lima. Her brother, Saviour, met me at
the airport and we walked out to the car. I then saw her father, 76 years
old, Jose ¨Pepe¨ Diaz standing in the heat with his walking frame in the
heat and I just wanted to give him a hug for being so kind.
The Diaz family were wonderful to me and extremely hospitable. It was
also the greatest Spanish lesson of my life, I think I spoke more
Spanish in that one day than I have in the last 10 years. I also
learned, to my horror, that I´ve been saying certain phrases that mean
something completely different than I originally thought. Apparently,
when in the past I have commented to someone ¨Wow, its so hot, and I´m
so tired…but I´m excited to be here¨ I have actually been saying
¨Yeah, I´m hot stuff, and I´m so married….but I´m sexually aroused.¨
I immediately noticed with the Diaz family just how patient everyone
is here with one another. After driving to their family home and
dropping off my luggage, Savior and I sat and chatted for a while. I
asked him what the plan was..and he said that he was waiting for me.
¨Where is your Dad´´ I asked, ¨¨in the car, waiting for us!¨¨ So
bizarre. I was sure that I was waiting for them.
So off we went to find the local tourism office and enquire after
finding an English language guidebook. I couldn´t imagine it to be
too difficult. Well, they sent us to 3 different bookstores, and we
ended up fighting traffic for the next 4 hours, disappointed at each
store that had lots of guidebooks, but none on Peru. I felt so awful
to be wasting their time, not to mention gas for their car, and the
fact that they were all hungry. Pepe kept telling me not to worry,
because if I was a friend of his daughter, then I am also his
daughter. He was so sweet.
This all would be stressful enough, except that, did I mention, Pepe
really can´t drive to save his, and ultimately, our lives. The entire
time we were in the car I was braced for a metal twisting, screeching
brake, people yelling collision. Pepe drove very slow, causing every
car to honk their horn at him, yell angrily, and drive madly around
him. Because he drove so slowly, he kept stalling the car…when he
tried to rev it from 5mph in 3rd gear. We would stall in the middle
of an 8 way intersection, and I would just close my eyes and brace for
impact. I ts a miracle we survived.
At one point, Pepe decided he didn´t want to turn right, and turned
left into oncoming traffic, honking his way through cars, in order to
make a U Turn. It was absolutely terrifying. I asked Savior why he
didn´t drive, and he said that he didn´t want to pass the exam. I
don´t know, I wouldn´t let my dad drive me around if I felt that each
venture out of the house might be my last.
At one point, Pepe just stopped the car dead in the middle of the
street and started to get out of the car. It took him about 10
minutes, after which he stood there and peed. It was
After an exasperating time looking for the damn book, we gave up and
decided to go buy my bus ticket for tomorrow to Pisco, as the lady at
the tourism office had warned us that since it was Holy Week, I MUST
buy tickets today, I couldn´t buy tickets in the morning, and the bus
might be sold out.
I kid you not, it took another hour and a half just to crawl through
traffic MADNESS to get to the bus station, then another hour waiting
in line to talk to an incompetent sales agent who moved at the speed
of tortoise on valium. The bus company had been recommended to me..it
was called Ormeno‘ it was supposed to be the nicest of the companies,
and the safest. However, I really think they should change their
slogan from ¨´We are the people who help people travel´….to ´´We are
the people who make it as difficult as possible for you to give us
The following morning, I arrived, early. The bus was an hour late and
wait for it…there were only 2 passengers on board. We had to spend
5 hours arranging tickets for THAT. I don´t understand why people
can´t just make bookings on the phone or the Internet, especially
since it is a city clogged to a full stop with traffic. Apparently,
as I´ve discovered over the past few days, you can ONLY change your
ticket IN PERSON, AT THE BUS STATION, even if that means you have to
spend an entire afternoon and taxi fare going back and forth.
That evening the family and I went to have Chinese food, which was a
little odd for my first day in Peru. However, I did try a Peruvian
staple of Inca Kola…the Peruvian soft drink of choice which is
bright yellow and tastes of bubble gum. By the time we finished
eating it was 11pm, and I still had to go to the Internet to print AT
LEAST one chapter of the Lonely Planet,…which ended up taking
another two hours to print, no laser printers here!
Needless to say, I was extremely sleep deprived in the morning, but
caught my bus to Pisco and felt quite relieved to be leaving the dirty
metropolis. I loved staying with the Diaz family, I only wish I had
had the time to watch them teach in their local folk ´´Marinera¨dance
The bus itself was very comfortable and despite being tired, I
couldn´t resist watching Marley and Me even though it was dubbed in
Spanish. These Ormeno Spanish movies have been really improving my
language skills. I arrived in Pisco having balled my eyes out after
Marley had died, and then nearly started crying when I looked at the
city I was entering for the night.
It looked like what I imagine war torn rural Iraq to look like.
The roads were dusty, buildings completely destroyed, thousands of
makeshift homes made from mud and clay….The earthquake of 2007
clearly had very visible remnants of its impact, and rebuilding has
only just begun.
I was beginning to wonder what my hotel would look like, but I was
extremely pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful, clean, courtyard,
with restaurant, and very welcoming room with breakfast for 16 bucks!
I have to end there…to be continued! I am currently in the Colca
Canyon, so I might not be able to write again for a couple of days…
Hope you enjoy!