We woke up in Lima this morning at an hour only slightly less ungodly than yesterday. We had a fantastic breakfast at the hotel, and then got a ride back to the airport for our flight to the south of the coutnry. Around this time I began to suspect that this trip was going to consist of nothing but travelling to and from various airports and hotels. Three flights in under thirty hours is not very much fun. If we’d planned better, we’d have come into Lima a day early, but alas.
Lima is a very pretty city, though it seems that the weather in August is a perpetual state of something between rain and fog. The drivers are…not crazy really. They just seem to have a very different definition what constitutes safety and traffic rules. Possibly as a result of this, there are speed bumps everywhere.
We survived airport security and the boarding process well enough, though we also definitely got a lot of examples of what my sister refers to as the universal disdain people in Latin America seem to have for both lines and rules. Example: The gate calls first class to board, and everyone waiting in the terminal swarms forward at once and forms a disorderly clump to funnel through to the plane.
It’s possible that I’m just out of practice at being in a place where I don’t speak the language fluently, but there’s an element of chaos in Latin American airports – and Latin American driving – that I rather enjoy. Whereas the North American impulse seems to be to eliminate any disorder that happens to arise, so far I have seen little to no evidence that Peruvians feel the same. As long as everything works well enough, why bother? It’s an adjustment, but I think I rather like it.
We had some trouble getting a ride from the airport to our hotel in Puno – the travel agency seemed to have forgotten we existed, but one of their guides for a different tour group managed to find us a ride with one of their local drivers. The weather here is totally different, and the landscape reminds me a little bit of Colorado in that it’s very dry and hilly. They don’t look at all the same, though. In fact all the flat roofs and houses along hillsides reminded me more of Israel than anything.
Puno is a small but pretty town, and we spent a while in the afternoon just walking around. It wasn’t long before we were all pretty winded, however. At 12,000 feet, there is a definite lack of oxygen. Just walking up a staircase can leave you breathing like you just ran a marathon. Fortunately, none of us has fallen prey to altitude sickness (knock on wood). We’ve been drinking lots of water – the bottled kind, since us gringas aren’t supposed to drink the tap water.
We ate lunch in a café called Sweet that sits on a pedestrian mall near our hotel which had great food and lots of cake. I had a chicken dish with something called salsa saúsico which was delicious even though I have no idea what it might be.
I went for a walk afterwards to see some more of the town, though your movement is rather constricted when every slope sends you wheezing. Former religious studies major that I am, I wound up in a church just off one of the squares. It was beautiful inside, with big, high ceilings and white stone. Watching the people was also fascinating.
After resting up in the room for a while, we were called out of our room by the loud music that turned out to be emanating from the event hall across the street. We wandered around for a while, just soaking up the Peruvian nightlife. From what I can tell, it mostly consists of lots and lots and lots of people walking places even though I have no idea where they were going or what they might be up to. Everyone seemed to be very purposeful, however, and it was a lot of fun to just be out an about, even if being out and about in Peru usually involves at least one near death experience while crossing the streets. Traffic laws appear more or less optional here.
We had a nice dinner back at our hotel involving pizza, some Malbec, and lots of amusing conversation (the sentence “If it doesn’t involve Kokopelli flying a spaceship filled with whales I’m not interested” was uttered), before heading home to catch up on some sleep. Tomorrow, the tours begin!
Note: As of now, the internet is too slow to allow me to upload photos, but hopefully they will be part of subsequent posts/uploaded later.