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!

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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.

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Pic of the day 20 – Birthday Boy

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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!

Pic of the day 19 – Stormclouds over Valentine’s day

On Friday 14 February we travelled back to Guayaquil from Canoa. The journey of approx 250km took us 7 hours, using 2 buses, with numerous stops as ever, even though much of the journey was on an ‘executive’ coach! Guayaquil was as hot and humid as ever, but overcast too, and as the afternoon proceeded the clouds got darker.

wpid-IMG_20140214_192305.jpgThis pic was taken about 6pm just before a storm swept in, with thunder, lightning and rain. We are staying once again with a family member in Samborondon, the heavily gated & secure middle class neighbourhood. They were away for the night, so we sought food and relief from the heat in one of the many shopping malls in the area. Avoiding the expensive restaurants in the area, we found ourselves a vegetarian plate of food & a drink from ‘China Wok’, for $10 in total. This was one of a dozen food outlets set around an open-plan seating plaza inside one of the malls.

The place was rammed with people on Valentine’s night, serenaded by some standard singers covering standard love songs. Looking around we saw these people were not the middle class ‘Spanish’ Ecuadoreans of the area, but the poorer darker-skinned workers – domestic workers, tradesmen, retail workers etc, many with their families. It seemed ironic that these folks, unable to afford the goods in the shops they work in, or live in the houses they clean, should spend their Friday night eating cheap food amidst such opulent shops. But they seemed happy enough for now, perhaps like us they welcomed the coolness of air-conditioning?

Or perhaps they were secretly plotting the overthrow of their masters? Guayaquil is Ecuador’s most divided city along wealth distribution lines. The better off exhibit clear paranoia of the poor millions outside their gated areas, with a real sense they are keeping them ‘back’ from overrunning the wealthy, for now at least. But for how long will both sides accept this situation?

Background article on Guayaquil: http://www.Andes.info.ec.com/en/news/guayaquil-faces-new-york-and-calcutta-single-town.html

Pic of the day no. 9 – Mosquito trap

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This is what happens when you hang out on a river delta and your anti-mozzie spray doesn’t work…even the 50+ DEET doesn’t deter the little blighters. The mozzies of Guayaquil are small and silent – we never seem to notice when they settle in for a good, long drink but only start to feel the irritation and itchiness well after they are gone.

We’ve learned to stay away from trees and not stand or sit still for too long outside – this means we couldn’t really enjoy the Parque Historique ‘cuz if we stood around marvelling at the crocs or monkeys for too long, we’d get swarmed by mozzies and other insects. The silver lining on this insect cloud is the number and variety of birds around here. They are continually swooping down for a little dose of insect-protein.

Pic of the day no. 8 – Sloths

This is how we feel today…wpid-P1000174.jpg

…cuz it’s so flippin’ warm!

We only arrived in the Guayaquil suburb of Samborondon yesterday evening and we’ve already taken three cold showers. In fact, many houses here don’t have hot water because it would just be pointless.

We haven’t had a chance to explore the main part of Guayaquil, south of here and across the river, because we are so wiped out from the heat but we are really hoping to do so tomorrow. Samborondon is not typical of Guayaquil and feels like many big American or Canadian cities: big roads, big cars and loads of shopping malls (which are well air-conditioned, so do offer welcome respite). Also, unlike the places we’ve visited or passed through so far, there is no obvious presence of Indigenous culture.

Perhaps what is freaking us out the most is the security: all homes appear to be contained within heavily guarded gated communities and there is a heavy police presence. It seems that this makes Samborondon much safer than most parts of Guayaquil but it is hard to get used to…

Ah Grasshopper!

Knowing our love of insects, a friend sent us this photo of a grasshopper swarm in Guayaquil (Ecuador) last Friday.
Apparently it’s not uncommon to find grasshoppers on sale as food in south American street markets. As vegetarians we are aware we may have to adopt our diet in the coming months, but when it comes to walking around we think we’ll be adopting a ‘mouths shut’ policy!
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