After getting up at 4 AM my flight landed in Lima around midnight.  After heading through customs I got to the arrival area where my scheduled ride was not there to meet me (a common theme in Peru, but more on that later).  It took me over 30 minutes to find an official taxi to take me to my hostel.  In Lima, anyone can be a taxi driver.  All you need is a car.  No license required.  However, it makes for a dodgy situation at midnight because its the equivalent of getting into a stranger’s car.  So the safe bet is to take an official airport taxi.

Plaza des Armas

Plaza des Armas

As we left the terminal Lima was dark, dirty, and empty.  There was a cop on EVERY corner.  Just what I needed to feel nice and comfy on the first night of my trip.  We got to my hostel without incident, except for some bumps and bruises as the taxi driver drove like a madman.  I got into my room, which was cold and noisy.  Pillow must be spanish for “sandbag”, because that’s what I felt underneath my head.  As I lay there in the dark I thought “What the hell am I doing here?”

Lima is a mainly overcast, dirty, Latin American city.  It has no charm or character not even in it’s main square , Plaza des Armas.  On my first day I walked there and didn’t find much to see or do.  There are some churches, catacombs, and museums to see, but they didn’t interest me much.  In fact, my mood matched the gloomy overcast sky.  So I did what any backpacker dealing with initial jitters and homesickness would do.  I booked myself into the Radisson in Miraflores for a couple of nights.

Miraflores is a suburb of Lima that is situated on cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  It has all the comforts of home.  There is a mall on the cliffs called LarcoMar that has Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and of all things, Hooters.  You can go surfing, paragliding, or waste your money in the casino of the Sheraton hotel across the street.  It was paradise and a couple of grande vanilla lattes was just what I needed to feel better.  I started to get used to being on my own in a foreign country and interacting with people.  Within a few days I knew more Spanish then I thought possible within such a short time.

Miraflores

Miraflores

In Lima, the traffic is ridiculous.  There are few traffic lights or signs.  Crossing the street is like playing Frogger.  Intersections consist of a mass of cars trying to keep going or get through the intersection, inching their way across.  Honking cars and belching black smoke are the norm, but yet it works.  I never saw any pedestrians get hit or any cars smash into each other.

One last thing about Lima, and Peru in general.  The plumbing stinks, literally and figuratively.  Most toilets have a waste basket next to them where you place your used toilet paper.  Otherwise, flushing paper down the toilet can cause some major problems with the pipes.  The irony of all this?  There is never any toilet paper so bring your own roll.  That’s what most Peruvians do.  I’m glad I did.