One night in Lima

On Wednesday 19 February, in the early afternoon, after exactly 4 weeks in Ecuador, we left Guayaquil on a coach bound for Lima, capital of Peru. This was to be the first part of our 4 day/3 night coach trip up to the Peruvian Andes and the ‘sacred valley’ of the Incas.

wpid-IMG_20140224_174558.jpgWe travelled on a so-called double-decker ‘cama-coach’, where the seats are larger and recline more. In fact we paid a bit more for a seat on the lower deck, which reclined about 160degrees, and was almost like a small bed. But not quite close enough for us! We can’t say this turned out to be fun.

We crossed the Ecuador/Peru border just after nightfall, and all went smoothly. For the rest of the trip the coach travelled on the PanAmerican highway all the way to Lima, with just a few brief stops. That road followed the coast, usually a few miles inland, and passed through what is called Peru’s desert coast, because it is a desert. It is a beautiful, if harsh & barren landscape, of sand, and huge dunes, backed by distant hills & mountains. The sea rarely visible. The desert is broken every so often, but not often, by a few miles of green vegetation where a river flows down to the sea from the Andes. Somehow a very few people seem to be living in this environment, we have no idea how?

The PanAmerican is not what we expected, mostly it’s just one lane in each direction, some of it in poor condition, but improving as we got close to Lima. Our journey was due to take a max of 28hours, landing us in Lima by 6pm, but in fact it took 30hours. We reached the outskirts of Lima around dusk, but didn’t get to the coach station in central Lima until nearly 2hours later, around 8pm.

Passing through the outskirts of Lima towards the centre, we saw basically shanty towns, the streets teeming with people in the growing dark, trying to catch a bus, anything, on the increasingly overcrowded streets. It looked rough, and very poor, for the enormous majority.

wpid-IMG_20140224_163604.jpgAt last we got off our coach, and jumped into a taxi with a couple of others. We were all bound for the Miraflores area, where we’d pre-booked a hostel room for the night. The drive, of maybe 5km, took another 45minutes of manic driving, every driver with one hand on their horn.

Our pre-booked room had not been reserved, but luckily for them they had a spare, so we dumped our kit and set off for a walk about 9pm. After a quick leg-stretch we found a slap-up veggie meal at an Arab restaurant, plus beers & cafe, for about 60 Peruvian sols (£14).

We then spent a couple of hours wandering Miraflores…it was like a European city, as clean and ‘modern’, and a million miles away from the Lima we drove through to the coach station. Miraflores is a major tourist area, but also a key financial/business zone, with lots of nightlife too. It sits inland from the high clifftops overlooking Lima’s bay, where some very expensive properties look down. Naturally the only darker-skinned Peruvians we see are service workers, which seems a common theme so far in the posher districts of south America’s big cities.

wpid-IMG_20140224_163829.jpgWe crash out at midnight for a needed night’s sleep, and are up at 8am for breakfast. We have time for another walk around Miraflores, in daylight this time, and yes if is posh, and expensive too – we get fleeced buying snacks for the next coach trip. We take a few photos for the record – a daytime pic looking south along Lima’s bay from Lorca Mar to go with the night-time one, both of which appear on this post.

Then it is back to the hostel to checkout by noon, a cab to the coach station, and off on the next 22hour coach trip to Cusco in the Andes. Blimey!

Pic of the day 22 – Iguanas in Playas

On Tuesday we took a trip to escape the heat and humidity of Guayaquil. We went to a town named Playas, about 90km west of Guayaquil. It is the nearest seaside town to the city, a place where city-dwellers escape to at weekends. It has a huge crescent bay/beach, and of course many places to eat.

However it was so hot when we got there at midday, that we had to retreat from the beach to cafes and shaded squares for relief. In the small central square, we found an old tree with it least 5 iguanas living in/around it. They were not at all perturbed by people nor traffic, and seemed very happy eating all the waste food left lying about – which like the general rubbish, is a lot!

wpid-20140219_101631.jpg

Security in Samborondon

We have made a few comments about the class and race divisions in Ecuador, not least in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s most divided city. We mentioned we are staying in Samborondon, a mainly ‘gated’ middle class district quite seperate from the rest of the city.

So here are a few security pics we took the other day when we wandered through the neighbourhood of ‘Entre Rios’ – literally ‘between rivers’, which is what Samborondon is at it is surrounded by water on 3 sides.

First pic shows one of many electric road barriers, present on all roads into Entre Rios. Private security are present at all these barriers, and also patrol inside by motorbike. PIc 2 shows a sign at the barriers, where all domestic workers & tradespeople have to show ID to enter on foot. We of course, being middle-aged gringos, if a little scruffy, are allowed in and out unmolested – an obvious security flaw.

Within Entre Rios, the older houses are built close together, with the front protected by a high wall or metal fence, as seen in pic 3. While as pic 4 shows, newer buildings such as small apartment blocks, have yet another security gate.

wpid-IMG_20140217_184110.jpg

wpid-IMG_20140217_183546.jpgwpid-IMG_20140217_184709.jpgwpid-IMG_20140217_184426.jpg

Pic of the day 21 – Inca Kola

A rather sad aspect of Ecuador we have noticed, is that nearly all the soft/fizzy drinks, and most of the bottled water, are from companies that are ultimately owned by huge corporations like Nestle, Pepsi, and Coca cola. They control the market, and south America is a very big market!

wpid-20140217_185130.jpgSo today when we saw some bottles of ‘Inca Kola’ for sale, one of us remembered reading that this was an independent alternative to the global corporations. So we snapped one up, enticed by the sun-like colouring. Imagine our disappointment when, on closer inspection, we discovered that bloody Coca cola owned this too now.

Still we drank it anyway, tastes a bit like cream soda, and up closer the colour is a bit more like piss. Yeah well that’s Coca cola innit!

Change of plan…

So we have now been in Ecuador for almost exactly 4 weeks, and it has been a very interesting and enjoyable visit…although we realise it is nothing like long enough to really get to know the country! We have managed to get a snapshot of some of it’s regions – the glorious Andes, the lowlands to the west of the mountains, and the coastal region; but we have not got to the Amazon (or oriente) here at all.

One thing we have appreciated is the time it takes to get around, unless you fly, which we don’t want to do if we can avoid it! So coaches have been and should be our form of transport, and they do go slowly, although they do allow you to see a fair bit of what you are passing through.

With this understanding, and given we still want to visit Peru, Bolivia and Chile, before our 4 months is up, then we have decided to shorten our time in Peru. So later this week we’ll be setting off to travel approx 2500km over 4 days by coach, and hope to arrive somewhere in, or near to, the Sacred Valley region of the Incas high up in the Peruvian Andes. We expect to be stiff-legged & sore-bottomed by then, but think/hope it’ll be worth it. Adelante!

Pic of the day 20 – Birthday Boy

wpid-20140216_223205.jpg

One of our reasons for stopping in Guayaquil again, apart from the offer of a free bed, has been to catch up with a faraway family member. This weekend was his 21st birthday (and we remember him when he was in nappies!). Here is a pic of him at a birthday meal on the 16th February, and a fine looking young man he has turned into! We were also present, for the first few hours, at a much larger birthday party for him on the Saturday night. We took no pics at that, as we had no desire to embarrass the youngsters whilst they were on the razzle (it was a booze no food party), but we can say what a charming and polite bunch they were, whilst we were present anyway!