May 30, 2013 by jiejie768
Early, very, very early, in the morning on Wednesday, May 15, Meg and I woke for the final time in our beloved Santa Ana apartment in Ayacucho (we loved the place, not the landlords). It was 4 a.m. (Keegan, the lucky bastard, got to sleep until 4:40 and take the last shower), and we had a flight to catch in about two hours.
After getting ready, and throwing our few remaining possessions in a bag for our next-door neighbor and co-worker, Percy, to take over to GeGe’s for us later that day, we descended to the street and met the cab we’d arranged the night before.
As ever, we arrived to the airport well ahead of the Peruvian travelers and checked in for our flights. Meg and I actually were flying a different airline than Keegan, so there were a nervous few minutes when Keegan had to board his flight — which was scheduled 15 minutes after our flight — and our plane still had not arrived in Ayacucho. Peruvian airlines are known for canceling flights on a whim (Earlier this year, GeGe missed a flight on the airline we were taking which caused her to miss her connection to the U.S.). All my fretting was for nothing, though, as the plane arrived just as Keegan’s was preparing for take-off, and an hour later we were all reunited in the Lima Airport Starbucks.
Once again, our first stop in Lima was at Casa Serra, where our good friends, and Peruvian parents, Ramon and Loty, welcomed us with open arms and plenty of fresh-made juice. I think they were pretty excited to meet a visitor of ours who actually spoke Spanish (My mother and Mikey, the two other Americans we brought by earlier, spoke none). After some chatting and more snack food than I actually needed, we set out to explore Lima.
Our four-day excursion was laid out as two days in Huaraz sandwiched between two days in Lima with overnight buses taking us to and from the mountain town. We had about 10 hours to hang out in Lima before we needed to return to Casa Serra, grab our luggage and head for the Cruz del Sur station. On the back end of the trip (Saturday) we’d have another 12 or so hours to show Keegan around Lima before he had to catch his flight home in the middle of the night.
The first day’s highlights included a visit to the waterfront Parque de Amor and stroll down to Larcomar along the Malecon with its sweeping views of Lima’s Pacific Coast. Along the way to the ocean, we wandered through Parque Kennedy, a big park in Miraflores that is inexplicably named after John F. Kennedy. In addition to staging several cultural events through the year (artisan fairs, book fairs, art installments, etc.), Parque Kennedy is home to dozens, if not hundreds, of wild cats. Apparently the cats used to live in a church that abuts the park. When the church wanted to evict them from the attic, it was determined they would be given free reign in the neighboring park, and they’ve taken advantage.
If this all sounds familiar to our regular readers, it’s because it’s what we do with every visitor who comes with us to Lima, and on a visit to Peru, getting anywhere in the country usually requires killing some time in Lima at some point. After we’d had enough of cats, ocean views and Larcomar (which Keegan aptly dubbed “the Peruvian U-Village”), we headed over to Barranco and our beloved Burrito Bar for beer and Mexican food.
Once we’d had our fill of the delicious handmade tortillas wrapped around ingredients that include real cheese, guacamole and sour cream (!!!), we spent some time touring the Barranco neighborhood, which has carved out a niche as something of an artsy district around Lima. It also features its own unique set of oceanfront views and a quaint little plaza.
While in Barranco, we scoured the area pharmacies in search of an ankle brace. My recently-sprained ankle wasn’t thanking me for Monday’s soccer game, and I wanted to stabilize it for a few days to let it heal before our 10K that coming Sunday.
We struck out in Barranco, but did strike gold at a big department store upon returning to Miraflores. This led to perhaps the strangest, and funniest, moment of the entire trip. The store only had a size large brace, and in most cases Peruvian size large does not work for me. Given that the brace was fairly pricey ($25), I wanted to make sure it would fit, so they let me try it on. This was easier said than done.
It took me 10 solid minutes of tugging, twisting and basically making a fool out of myself in the middle of the store before I finally managed to pull it onto my ankle. I’m not sure it sounds that funny in the retelling, but Keegan, Meg and I were almost literally rolling in the aisles while I struggled to get the little bugger onto my wounded wheel. Though it was a tad tight, we figured that was the point, and it did offer pretty solid support, so I figured I’d pry it off my ankle and buy the damn thing.
After leaving the store (which would not let me leave wearing my newly acquired brace), I once again had to struggle, this time on a park bench, to put it back on. Round Two went better, however, and all subsequent attempts to put it on were pretty uneventful.
At this point, we’d basically checked off all the things on our to-do list for Day 1 in Lima and decided we should seek out a few beers to make sleeping on that night’s bus a little easier. This, also, was easier said than done.
Finding somewhere to grab a beer in the late afternoon on Wednesday in Miraflores was no easy task. The first two bars that the Internet told us to check out weren’t open yet, and we ended up wandering for about 30 minutes. Finally, we tried an Irish bar where Meg and I had once seen Fabiola’s brother’s band perform. It was 4:15 and they told us they too were closed until five. Undeterred, we headed back a block up the street and grabbed some cold Cusqueñas at a little cafe and killed time until 5.
At 5, we once again headed to the Irish bar, as they were one of the few places in Peru that had beer on draft and could offer us large mugs of frosty ale — or so I thought. At 5, they let us enter, but informed us there wasn’t any beer yet. This was a problem, as Meg had left us at that bar to run to the grocery store and said she’d be back in an hour. With no way to tell Meg that we were seeking a new location, we were stuck at the bar. We ended up ordering and nursing Jamesons on the rocks and chatting with the owner and bartender. They were nice, but I’m not exactly sure why they were attempting to run an Irish bar that was bereft of beer. It was a pretty disappointing experience.
Meg arrived back at the bar just in time to stop us from ordering an unnecessary (and expensive) second Jameson, and the three of us headed back toward a Cuban bar we’d tried to visit earlier, hoping this time it would be open. We were in luck, but their beer selection still left something to be desired. We spent a while there chatting with Jose, the bartender from the selva (jungle) with an extremely difficult accent to understand, before Keegan decided he was going to get his dinner there.
Meg and I had other ideas, so we left Keegan with his beer at the bar, and told him we’d be back in a bit. Earlier that day, Meg and I had made a very exciting discovery while wandering through Miraflores: A Subway had opened up just a block and a half from the hotel where we often stay when in Lima. Keegan was ambivalent, but for us, this was HUGE. I can’t express how exciting tastes of home can be when you’ve been away from the U.S. for nine months. Subway is one of my favorite places to grab a quick bite to eat, and previously the only place to get it was the Lima Airport or at a mall that was a long and expensive cab ride from the parts of Lima we usually occupy.
After ordering our sandwiches, and wolfing them down in record time, we returned to Keegan who was working his way through a tortilla española at the Cuban bar. By that point, it was about time to head back to Ramon’s and Loty’s, so we settled up at the bar and headed for the metro station. Back at Casa Serra, we showered, ate avocado sandwiches and chatted with the always amusing Ramon (who was out running errands when we stopped by earlier in the day).
When it was time to head to the bus station, Ramon and Loty insisted on accompanying us to the corner to hail a cab. When no cabs presented themselves they insisted on walking the mile or so to Cruz del Sur alongside us. Well, I say walking, but for most of the way, Ramon jogged well ahead of the pack and played traffic director when we reached the very busy thoroughfare separating their neighborhood from the bus station.
Once at the station, they refused to leave until they saw us board the bus. It’s hard to express just how much Meg and I appreciate their kindness and willingness to help us out. Without them, many of our visits to Lima would have been significantly more difficult and infinitely less enjoyable.
The bus ride to Huaraz was not my favorite trip on Cruz del Sur. Meg and I have taken myriad overnight bus rides during our time here, and have come to prefer them over the early morning flights that often are the alternative. The Huaraz trip, however, had an unusual flaw: it was too short. Generally, I’d never say a bus ride was too short, but at 7 1/2 hours, there was not enough time to sleep. On the 10-hour trip from Lima to Ayacucho, I can usually manage about 7-8 hours of sleep — it’s not great sleep, but it’s not awful. On the 7 1/2-hour trip, however, that number was cut down to about 4-5 hours — that’s definitely not enough.
Making matters worse was the fact that bus left Lima at 10:30 p.m. (too early), meaning it arrived in Huaraz at 6 a.m. (way too early). This meant that the bus crew went into its pre-arrival checklist at about 4:45 a.m. This included taking away our blankets and turning on an extremely loud, extremely awful “Wake-Up” playlist of pan flute music. This, combined with the attendant’s insistence on waking up us up the night before to see if we wanted food (¡Señor!), blankets (¡Señor!), drinks (¡Señor!), mints (¡Señor!) or anything else (¡Señor!) made for a very unrestful trip. (Playing “Shrek 4” at top volume for the first two hours of the trip didn’t help matters either.)
I felt bad, because I had told Keegan, and meant it, that the bus rides weren’t that bad, but this one was. Paradoxically, another couple of hours on the bus would have gone a long way to make it a better trip. For example, when we took Mikey on the 15 hour bus trip from Lima to Arequipa, all three of us were well-rested and had no complaints. Sorry, Keegs.
Nonetheless, the early arrival did grant us a complete day in Huaraz on Thursday, and since we only had two days there to start with, any extra time was much appreciated.
Catch up on all of Keegan’s visit: