Under Construction - Walk Carefully - Some pictures will be sideways and many will be out of order for now. That's the way it can be in construction zones.
Last worked on September 25
Day 9 - Tuesday, September 18
I had arranged for breakfast at eight o’clock, figuring that was a safe time. I was awake much earlier and Juanita was awake before the seven o’clock alarm. Lots of time for showers and surfing and just generally enjoying feeling good. Amazing how good it feels to feel normal after a couple of days of too high altitude too quickly. The afternoons were generally fine, but the mornings took some effort. And that was for just a few days. Can’t imagine fighting off some long term illness.
Speaking of which. On the bus yesterday I listened to a couple of podcasts. In the podcast of Jordan B. Peterson’s March Q&A one of the questions was from somebody who a couple of months before had found out they couldn’t have children and then found out he/she had cancer. He/she asked how to deal with the depression. JBP talked about that probably not being depression and gave a long useful answer. Two points that stood out. One, is that with bad news like the children issue you need to take about a year to process it and he had some advice for that. The other was that in a situation like dealing with cancer we need to focus on having a good week, or a good day or when things get really bad maybe just having a good minute.
Breakfast was on the roof under a canopy at a glass table. We sat in the comfortable chairs and enjoyed the sunlight and the view of the roof tops and the snow covered mountains. Breakfast showed up about half an hour late. The breakfast was included in the room price, so it wasn’t really free. Nevertheless I was reminded of the phrase “even if something is free it still costs time”. This was time enjoyably spent though.
When breakfast arrived it was pretty good. Kind of medium carb rather than pure carb. The server named the local mountain peaks. I don’t remember. If you really want to know it’s on line somewhere or in a library book. That’s kind of why we don’t spend a lot of time in museum’s and taking guided tours of churches. I will do walk-throughs of stuff I find interesting, but realize I am never going to store the pile of facts guides throw at you.
The server also confirmed where we were on the map and showed us the local covered market on the map.
During breakfast the street below echoed with the siren and honking of an ambulance trying to get past the filled two lane street. Drivers acted as if not losing position was more important than letting the ambulance through. If anybody gave space to let the ambulance by somebody else filled the space.
After breakfast I wrote a bit and Juanita read a bit and then it was time for the museum we both wanted to see. We walked to the Plaza de Armas. My shoes have been getting pretty dusty. I had remarked earlier that we hadn’t seen any shoeshine people. In many countries they seem to be everywhere. Then, here we were at the Plaza de Armas and there were brillistas with their little stools and boxes of supplies. Shoes look a lot better.
We walked across the street to the building where we thought the museum would be. Nope. Mayor’s office. Asked a passerby if she knew the museum location. Nope. There’s a reason men are reluctant to ask directions. The next door tourist information people were happy to direct us around the corner. They were also happy to have us sign their visitor book and seemed happy to receive curved illusions tracts. On our way around the corner we encountered a supermarket and checked it out. Much better than tourist prices. Seems like an odd location for a super market in the midst of a row of luxury and high end souvenir comestible stores but gift horses and mouths and all. I bought a small bottle of shampoo and a proper sized bar of deodorant soap. The Oxo cube sized pieces of hippy handmade soap back at the hotel are cute but are somewhat unsatisfying in the shower.
At the museum we paid our fee and got the time for the next movie in English. We had about thirty minutes so we found a bench in the courtyard and read until it was there time for us to hand in our cameras and iPod. The person put our items in a locker and gave us the key. I tried to get an idea of a reasonable amount for the “voluntary” tip for the guide. That would be the guide that “doesn’t receive a salary but survives solely on your donations”. She was pretty cagey. Lots of practice I guess.
The National Geographic movie of the discovery of Juanita the mummy was quite informative. It lasted about twenty minutes with English dialogue and German subtitles. The subtitles didn’t track perfectly on the parts I could follow, which were mostly conversions between English and metric units and some cases where they named things in one but not the other. Since the movie was in English I’ll go with the English units which I’ve already started to forget.
It seems that the Incas had the practice of grooming certain high status individual children to become like Gods. They would take them up to the top of high mountains, dress them in the finest available clothes, give them strong liquor to drink, whack them on the head and place them in a hole and cover them with earth. They were surrounded with finely woven purses filled with coca leaves or food they might need in their afterlife and with gold and other metal and shell statues. The first one found modern archeologists found they called Juanita because one of the discoverers was named Juan. Her grave was discovered when part of the mountain collapsed after the glacier on top melted. Her body was well preserved except where her face was exposed for about fifteen days before her remains were discovered.
Discovery of Juanita gave them the information of how the Incas surrounded such burial sites with stones and allowed the discovery of two or three more on that mountain and others on other mountains. Based on condition of skeletons and teeth the experts believe the children were from the upper strata of Inca society.
One wonders if they were raised with the knowledge of their fate and what they would have been thinking as they climbed to the top of these extremely high peaks. Maybe they were the suicide bombers of their day. Some of the artifacts wrapped up with them include their dried umbilical cords and locks from their first hair cutting. Somebody must have loved them and cared for them from birth. Did they know their ultimate fate? How would they feel about that?
After the movie we toured the museum with glass cases of artifacts and background articles and displays. Finally we entered the room and all peered closely at Juanita in her refrigerated glass case. Out in the sun we tipped the guide, picked up our stuff from the locker and headed for the market. On the way we found a restaurant the locals would use. I ordered for Juanita and unsuccessfully tried to eliminate the starchy parts of the plate I ordered. They compromised by reducing them. Of course, once it was in front of me I ate everything. Fifty years of lackluster trying has not overcome twenty years of hard core conditioning.
We walked several blocks and consulted the map and decided that we were across the street from the market building and went in and did a bit of shopping and a lot of gawking. Always interesting to see how people solve the common problems of obtaining their daily necessities. There were a number of cheese booths. All together. All selling about the same thing. Likewise other types of products. I wonder how they differentiate. There was a row of smoothie bars. The lady in a corner booth beckoned us and gave a sample slice of mango. We bought smoothies from her. I noticed she had a first place ribbon and a second place ribbon from some sort of annual award. When we went to hand back our empty glasses she refilled them with the remains in the blenders. Looks like she has found a way to differentiate. We handed out a bunch of curved illusion tracts to the patrons and juicistas. The teen patrons all spoke pretty good English and wanted their tracts in English.
Back at the hotel I wrote a bit and Juanita went out shopping for a while. Shortly after she came back from shopping the breakfast server tracked us down where I was writing and informed us the city water was off and would be off until morning. I asked about a bucket of water. I said we had lived in a motel once in Nicaragua where we had had running water for about an hour in the month and had done fine with a barrel of water in the shower.
We went out for supper and had a hamburger combo in a fast food place where all the other customers were at least fifty years younger than us. Then we walked around and poked into places and took pictures. Across from the Plaza de Armas we found a place that made ice cream to order. The server pours liquid ingredients onto a flash freezing surface. She mixes them up and then spreads them thin. The thin frozen ice cream is then scrapped up into rolls which go into a cup and toppings added. Yum!
When we got back we found a basin of water sitting outside our door and we took it in and placed it in the bathroom.
Well that was today and it was busy enough for us to collapse into an early bed and promptly go to sleep.
Day 10 - Wednesday, September 19
Arequipa to Nazca
Another full night of sleep. Can’t express how good it feels not to feel crappy from altitude sickness in the morning.
Breakfast on the roof again. Paul wrote some more and Juanita went out for a bit more shopping. At eleven we walked down to the square and ate lunch on a balcony overlooking the Plaza de Armas and with a view of the cathedral.
We got back to the hotel, grabbed our stuff and went downstairs to wait for the cab we booked for noon. We checked our luggage at 12:30 and the lady at the counter said to go pay our exit tax and don’t come back to line-up before 1:00. We paid and got another slip of paper stapled to our tickets and sat and people watched for half an hour. We lined up and were wanded and went into another waiting room until the bus was ready for boarding. The bus is scheduled to leave leaves from Arequipa at 1:30 and arrive in Nazca at 11:00. The hotel is supposed to have somebody meet us at the bus depot in Nazca. I’ll let you know how that all works out.
We are in the same seats as the last bus. We set up our tables, sliding them into the brackets. I do some keyboarding until the bus starts moving on rough city streets. Then I shut it down, but leave the table in place. The people in front of us recline their seats. The mechanisms on their seats are worn out. The only thing that stops them from going almost flat is our tables are in the way. I squawk and they raise their seat backs so we can free their tables.
Fairly early in the trip the cabin attendant serves us the hot meal that goes with the length of the trip. All seat backs go up. WE set up our tables. We all eat. I remove my table and leave Juanita to herself. I commandeer an unoccupied single seat across the aisle with an empty seat in front of it. Won’t have to worry about a seat crushing the laptop. The table is a bit wonky but is good enough for writing. I am happily writing away, expanding pint form narratives of recent days into semi-coherent text. Then the cabin attendant shows up and relocates someone from the back row into the seat in front of me. She promptly leans her seat back as far as it will go and goes to sleep. This is an inconvenience, but not a disaster to my efforts. The seat only approaches the table, not crushes it. I am crowded but not thwarted. I keep writing.
The bus descends from the mountain and gets to the coast. The sun sets on the Pacific Ocean. About six I move back across the aisle to Juanita. Her table is pinned and supporting the seat back in front of her. I lean my seat back, close my eyes and listen to a pod cast until I realize I have missed a bunch of it and switch to an instrumental playlist. I think I must have slept a bit.
The cabin lights come on shortly before we arrive in Nazca. The couple in front of us continue to sleep. Juanita is trapped in her seat by the reclined seat pressing on the table. When the bus stops the cabin attendant intervenes and shakes the couple awake so we can get out. We and another couple get off the bus and get our checked luggage. The bus will carry on to Lima, another four hours away. I hope the couple gets back to sleep. The broken seats are not their fault.
We go through the bus station and Julio, the hotel owner, leads us to what he calls his Ferrari and laods our bags. We get into the rust bucket tiny car (a Daewo? I thought they made pianos.).
We ride a couple of blocks to the hotel. We are there by midnight.
I buy a big bottle of water at the store next door. We check in and will pay in the morning.
Julio tells us breakfast is at 8, gives us towels and a roll of toilet paper and leads us to the room. He helps with the Wi-Fi password and plugs in the area repeater when it doesn’t show up on the available networks. The he goes and gets us another light bulb for the bathroom, then a second when the first replacement doesn’t work.
Juanita goes to sleep. I do my laundry and then read the guide book about local attractions until 1:34.
Day 11 - Thursday, September 20
The alarm goes at seven. We have both been awake for a while.
I feel great. My blood oxygen level is at 95% and my pulse rate is in the mid-sixties. Normal for me at near sea level. At elevations at times it had been 67% and over a 100. Breathing exercises helped both numbers temporarily, but you are not doing breathing exercises when you are asleep. Juanita wanted the blood oxygen finger monitor for her birthday. I have enjoyed using her gift more than almost any other birthday gist I have given her.
Breakfast is on the roof and happens in stages, but we get enough to eat and visit with other guests. Breakfast ends at nine and the tour we arrange with the owner starts at nine-thirty. Between those two times I upload a bunch of mostly complete sections for the web page. Later, in the evening, I detect typos in everyone, and do some editing. Uploading to follow.
The guide shows up and off we go. Juanita, a sturdy female German college student, a tall German middle aged man and me. The guide’s car is one of the smaller models Hyundai makes. We manage to fit into it and get out and in again at various viewpoints for Nazca and Paracas lines petroglyphs. These are designs on the surface of the desert made by removing rocks or adding rocks so the clear spaces between them are visibly distinct from the surrounding surfaces.
Many of these patterns were made before Christ, but were unknown in modern times until the work of Maria Reiche, a German scientist. She spend decades measuring them and creating maps working ground level. They are more visible from the air and in recent years A Japanese scientist has mapped many more designs using drones.
Nobody was aware of the Nazca lines when the Pan-American Highway was built so it goes right through the middle of some of the lines. Travelling to the overlook, towers and the Maria Reiche Museum required passing lots of freight trucks. The little Hyundai did surprisingly well with five occupants.
The guide dropped us back at the hotel after noon. Juanita and I walked to the square to find a place for lunch. On the way the college student joined us and then we walked together to a money changer and back to the hotel.
At three-thirty the guide showed back up and took Juanita and I to visit some aqueducts and a set of ruins as well as look at another Nazca line on the far side of the valley form where we were this morning. The ruins were of a large adobe complex that were knocked down by an earthquake in the 1990’s.They were partly restored by an Italian eleven years ago. The aqueducts were built on the natural paths of prior streams and have many spiral walkways allowing access from surface level. These spiral opening provided oxygenation of the water. Mostly covering the waterways ensured year-round water by preventing evaporation in the heat and dry desert air.
After that bit of exploration we walked to the park. I got my shoes shined to remove all of today’s dust build up. Then we dined on some sort of flame roasted chicken mixed up with ham and eggs in a tortilla. Walking back to the hotel about seven we acknowledged how tired we were.
Tomorrow there is a scheduled bus ride from Nazca to Paracas. The bus is scheduled to leave 11:30 and arrive near three. We plan to take it easy until it is time to head to the depot.
Day 12 - Friday, September 21
Nazca to Paracas
As the man said, anybody who says they like a cold shower in the morning will lie about other things.
The sink in the bathroom is cold water only. One tap. The shower has one tap, but has a circuit breaker you can close to power the widow maker water heater/ showerhead assembly. The ground wire is artfully curled up and taped out of the way. I may have a piece of paper that says “Electrical License” in Saskatchewan, but approach electricity pragmatically in other countries. I can be flexible with code in those places, but the flexibly breaks when it comes to 220 Volts heating the water directly above me and no ground wire. Of course with no GFCI a ground wire probably wouldn’t help. If bad things happened you might be as likely to get chunks of molten copper dropping on you as you would be to be electrocuted.
I chose the cold shower option. It is supposed to be good for you. Seems to be a common characteristic of unpleasant things.
In the previous hotel, in Arequipa, the widow maker hot water heater was an artefact. They had rooftop solar water heaters. After the water had been off all evening and most of the night I anticipated a cold shower, but they must have something that prevents drain down of the hot water from the tank attached to the panel. The water was cold at first and then hot. When I opened the cold water tap to compensate, the showerhead spat a fair bit of air to mix with the hot water. Then things stabilized. Lots of hot water, a large bar of soap. No altitude sickness. Could life be better?
This hotel room has room for a bed and not much more. There is a bed side table and a chair. On the chair when we arrived were some extra blankets. On top of the blankets was a large electric fan. I prefer the wall mounted fans one finds in some places. The frame seems to be missing some vital bolts. Not sure how one would get it working and sitting stable. Or where one would put it. Not sure where to put it when it is not needed for that matter. The chair is next to an outlet. It is the ideal place on which to put things being charged.
It has not been hot enough to need the fan. During the night I elected to put it in the shower. During the day it sits in the middle of the bed.
This is a modern, if modest, purpose built hotel/hostel. We stay in self-contained rooms. If we wanted to stay in dorm rooms it would be an option here. I’m not that cheap. Yet.
The hotel in Arequipa was a modified colonial home. They made enough changes to provide comfort, but stopped there so it still has plenty of character. There were tiny rooms available, but ours had two beds and room for five more.
The curved illusion tracts come with elastic bands around them. This morning Juanita asked me, “Do you know what feels really weird when you step on it in the dark in the middle of the night?” She then held up one of these elastic bands.
Breakfast on the roof again. Just puttering at the keyboard and web site until it is time to head to the bus depot. We are scheduled on an 11:30 bus that is scheduled to arrive in Paracas around 3 this afternoon.
The route initiated in Nazca and was headed to Lima. I had talked to a couple of girls in the terminal who were headed to Ica. Juanita and I and one other person were the only passengers in first class. Everyone else went upstairs. I nicknamed our fellow passenger Typhoid Mario. He sat across the aisle from us. He was sweating and plucking at his neckline and complaining about how hot it was. Well it wasn’t hot. The AC was running. He paged the cabin attendant a few times and went off to the washroom a few times. Finally he hit the call bell for the cabin attendant one more time and they disappeared. At some point his water bottle dropped on the floor and clunked back and forth on the curves. No way was I touching it. I went across the aisle once and opened the curtains next to the seat in front of his so we could see out, but I was careful not to touch anything he might have touched. I slathered my hands with sanitizer when I returned from that mission.
The drivers (they change every four hours or so) ride up front in a separate compartment. It is not accessible from inside the bus. Could have used that arrangement on the airplanes on 9-11. The cabin attendant can talk to them with a phone handset. He used the handset to talk to them about Typhoid Mario before they both disappeared.
We joked about the bus driving along with only the drivers and ourselves still alive and conscious. Not funny. Most gallows humour isn’t, but it helps you cope when pondering the contagiousness of somebody jerking around like a staked out goat at the approach of a tiger.
The bus passed the areas we went yesterday when we went to the overlook and towers to see the Nazca lines, then it entered territory that was new to us. There were lots of rocks, dirt and sand and a couple of green valleys. Before Ica there were a bunch of small holdings of one or two hectares in the desert. They were somewhat fenced and each had a small ramshackle structure on them from two by two meters to maybe as big as five by five meters. Many of them had a perimeter row of juvenile trees. None looked particularly active or lived in, but most didn’t look quite abandoned either. Curious. Maybe a Peruvian version of Arizona City. I wonder if anybody dined out on the pitch for these properties.
Near Ica we started seeing vineyards. The area is famous for its bodegas which I have always heard used to mean a store or warehouse, but here apparently means winery or estate.
Typhoid Mario showed up looking much revived and watched twenty minutes of his movie before he got off at Ica. The cabin attendant showed up to make sure Mario didn’t walk off with the pillow or blanket or the earphones. He put the pillow and blanket back on the empty seat for the next passenger. Let’s not think about smallpox blankets and the British and the Indians. Let’s ditch that thought there. Let’s not think of that the next time we get on a bus where they hand out blankets and pillows either. At Ica the cabin attendant asked for several curved illusion tracts for his friends. Neat. How many tracts do you have people asking to get more to hand out?
More passengers boarded the bus at Ica and all went upstairs so we continued in our own private compartment. The cabin attendant asked us our beverage choice and delivered our hot meals and showed up for the trash before we were finished and went away. When we were finally done I used the call button to let him know.
There isn’t much time between Ica and Paracas, a sea side village. We got off in Paracas and discovered that our hotel was not “across the street from the bus station”. It is part of the same property and operated by the Cruz del Sur bus line. Once we figured that out we were able to figure out where to check-in. We arranged for a tour of the Ballestra Islands in the morning and took a pass on the extra cost continental breakfast until we walked downtown and checked out the alternatives.
Downtown we checked out a few places for breakfast tomorrow morning. The earliest opens at seven and is a ten minute walk each way. We need to be assembled at 7:30 for the tour which officially starts at eight. Later on at the hotel I went and paid for tomorrow’s Americano style breakfast at seven. The continental breakfast offered is buns and juice.
We walked around checking out the walk by the beach and a few restaurants. This is a tourist town. Even the off the beaten path side street restaurants have tourist pricing. After staring at the beach and the boats in the harbour we went to a mini market and bought some water and bananas for later. On the way back to the hotel we ate dinner.
Not long after we laid out stuff for tomorrow we went to bed and read briefly and went to sleep quickly. The highway construction outside our window ended awhile after dark and the first truck loading workers happened at 4:30. Neither prevented us getting a good night’s sleep.
Day 13 - Saturday, September 22
Very little wind.
A good day for a boat ride to the islands.
This morning we dined on the terrace between the hotel and the bus depot. When we went up there was one of the plastic patio tables with a brightly coloured woven table cloth set for two. There were buns and margarine and jam. In short order the waiter brought little jugs of concentrated coffee and a tea pot of hot water. A little later he brought scrambled eggs.
At seven-thirty we went inside the bus depot to the tour counter. They said to do what we had to in the next ten minutes. Put on sunblock, visit the bathroom or whatever. We got on a newish 14 passenger bus and rode to a plaza near the water where we took pictures and hung out until another bus arrived and a park person showed up to sell us admission passes to go to the island. We had the option of buying an admission for the national reserve as well for a discount, but declined. Looking at the itinerary and reading reviews on-line and in the guidebook the tour did not appeal to us. YMMV.
The guide gave a talk about the meaning of Paracas (sandstorms), the history of the area (epicenter of the revolution) and what would see on the islands (boobies, terns, cormorants, pelicans, penguins and sea lions). Then he said that we should walk to the boat and get on and if we were the last on we may not get to sit next to the person we wanted. He said there had been fights between passengers in the past, but he did not want to see us fighting. We would have lots of time after the boat ride to spend time next to the person we wanted. This incentivized the group and we took off almost running in our two lines. At the boat the two lines merged and we boarded one by one.
The boat had ten rows of 2 by 2 seats and two seats up front. One for the captain and one for a passenger. Including the guide, there were forty-two passengers. The guide stood or sat on the deck. We put on our life jackets and the boat got under way. We stopped to look at some birds (boobies and pelicans) on a cliff that was part of the peninsula. At some time earlier than the mid 1800’s (first recorded mention) somebody had made three large candelabra on the side of the sand dune.
The boat then set off at around 40 km/hr for twenty minutes or so and we arrived at the Ballestas Islands (archer’s bow islands). We saw all the mentioned wildlife, plus some crabs and didn’t get too much bird poop on us. The islands were mined for guano (bird poop) for fertilizer extensively in the past, but now get mined only two months or so every seventh year. Two hundred people show up and live in dormitories and collect guano with picks and shovels. Fun job.
Back to land and back to the bus depot and the hotel. I paid for breakfast tomorrow and we read, rested and wrote a bit.
We walked downtown and along the walk next to the beach and the harbour. After a relaxed lunch overlooking the harbour we walked to one end of the walkway and back to the other. Then once more to the mini market bought some water and bananas and back home to relax by about three. This is a perfect way to enjoy the sun and the warmth while we read about the record snows in Edmonton. Sometime today the sun crossed the equator and autumn started in the northern hemisphere, but Edmonton has always been ahead of its time.
Tomorrow midday we leave for Lima with a scheduled four hour bus ride. Monday we have all day to sightsee in Lima. We fly out early Tuesday, just after midnight. There is a long layover in Houston. Long enough that we debated getting a hotel room, but decided against.
We are scheduled to arrive in Edmonton at 8:30 pm Tuesday. Then we get to deal with chipping the ice off the car and seeing if it starts. The delights of winter. Juanita tells me we have dental appointments for Thursday so it looks like we will be driving back to Meadow Lake on Wednesday. Winter driving here we come. I can hardly wait. /s
Day 14 - Sunday, September 23
Paracas to Lima
Another good night’s sleep.
Breakfast on the terrace again, then some key boarding and going through pictures to choose which 10% go to the web page. There were some abortive attempts to upload picture files to the server, but hotel Wi-Fi in this small town behaves like dial-up. Being slow means more than just patient since a lot of operations time-out and die if not accomplished in a timely manner. Got some reading in and enjoyed the sunny, warm weather. We are scheduled to be down in the valley near the end of October, but warm does not describe the Rio Grande Valley in November. Hot is more the word I would use, although that usually has modifiers attached to it.
Official check-out time is 10:30. I went up and asked for an extension to 11:30. That’s about the time we should announce our presence for the preliminary activities to board the 12:05 bus to Lima. There was another bus loading when I went up to submit my request. The person I talked to didn’t feel he had the authority to extent the time. He was reluctant to bother the person who did have that authority. She was busy with the bus. We compromised at 11:00. Within minutes of us leaving the room the cleaner moved in and started working. When we showed up to check out of the hotel room they gave us our paperwork, and quickly grabbed and checked our bags. We were free to wander back out onto the terrace and order tea and enjoy more sunshine.
The bus was the same basic design as others we have travelled in on this bus line, but older and a lot more worn than most. You can see how they have improved design details over the years.
The ride to Lima was pleasant, through a few smaller cities and towns. Much of the trip we had views of the beaches and surf. Many of the towns seemed to cater to the beach holiday trade. It all looked quiet. That makes sense. This is the equivalent of the northern hemisphere March. Things start getting beachier later in the year with December and January being the big months. School vacations and all. Somewhere in there the hot meal was served.
We arrived at Lima bus depot, stood and watched our bags from six feet away and waited until the baggage handle figured out what he was doing and deigned to give them to us. At the exit door of the hotel there were a cluster of taxistas. A younger, enthusiastic, but not especially bright cabbie asked us first. I asked if he knew where our hotel was. Oh sure, it’s in Miraflores. I said, “No.” And older cabbie standing there rolled his eyes, shook his head and said no it’s in San Isidro. We showed him the address on Avenida Parque Sur (Park Avenue South). Oh yeah, sure. Fourteen Soles.
Okay and off we went.
I spotted the hotel as we turned on the right street and then barked a bit in surprise as the cabbie drove past. He stopped and backed up to the hotel as traffic allowed. Five o’clock. He gave us his card in case we wanted a taxi to go to the airport or anywhere else. You never know.
After getting settled in the hotel we went down to the desk and had them call us a taxi to take us to a Chinese restaurant. The make of car was a Cherry, made in China. Most cabs that show up to a call from a hotel or you find at airports or bus terminals are newish and clean. This was probably the most comfortable cab we have ridden in Peru. I asked for his card.
After eating way too much wonderful Chinese food (Lima has over a million Chinese origin citizens and is the sister city of Vancouver, BC in the Chinese community) we asked the waiter to phone the Cherry driver. He couldn’t be there in under half an hour so the doorman flagged a cab for us. Stopping at a convenience store we bought bottled water and some travel snacks for the airplane. Then it was early to bed and early to sleep.
Day 15 - Monday, September 24
We woke to what is said to be a typical day here at this time of year – foggy and gray. We went downstairs for an Americano breakfast (continental breakfast plus a couple of eggs each) at eight and then went back to the room and relaxed and uploaded files. The hotel Wi-Fi connection delivers city style internet speeds.
Around eleven we went downstairs and asked about walking to a mall that is about ten minute’s walk from the hotel. The desk clerk and the doorman said it would be too dangerous to walk so we took a cab for five soles (under two bucks). The mall, Open Plaza Angamos, is a modern, luxurious indoor mall on three levels. It has a Home Depot type store attached and a Tottus (a mega WalMart style store), a large department store and many shops of all types. There is a food court with all the usual International suspects plus a number of local chains on the third level. There are escalators that are inclined moving sidewalks. It means you can do your grocery shopping at the Tottus and easily take your shopping cart to your car’s parking level.
The McDonald’s on the main floor has prices higher than it would have in Canada. They do have a daily special that is about sixty percent off. Today’s special was the Big Mac. No prize for guessing what we ordered.
After walking the entire mall and buying some water and some ham and cheese croissants for later we headed to the exit. There was a cabbie standing there talking loudly on his telephone. I stood there for a while then started walking away in annoyance. He interrupted his telephone conversation (mostly) and said it would be 25 soles for a ride back to the hotel. Between incipient deafness and the language issues it is not unusual for me to mishear something. I asked for clarification. He really did want twenty-five soles. I said the ride here was only five. He dropped the price to twenty-two. I walked toward the door. At the door a cabbie offered to take us back to the hotel for ten. I protested. His buddy offered eight. Good enough. He got the gig.
More reading, relaxing and uploading. The primary September page was gaining so much overhead in pictures it took forever to wait for it to reload itself after each minor change I made. I created a “Peru – Part II” page and uploaded pictures to it for the last half of the trip. Then I added the text, created a link for it on the Part I page and nuked all the duplicate write-ups on Part I. Then it published. Time to shower, change into cotton based clothes for flying and go down to the desk. The flight is nominally after midnight, but the boarding and re-boarding can take a long time. Ten o’clock is a very conservative time to be at the airport. The trip on a bad evening can take an hour and a half so I planned on leaving the hotel at 8:30.
We went downstairs at eight. We checked out. I gave the Cherry driver card the receptionist. She called him. Not available. She called somebody else. They said they could be there in fifteen minutes. Sounds good. We went and sat in a corner of the lobby. Around twenty-five after we heard a horn beep outside. We went to the door and the bellman loaded our bags in the truck of the cab and away we went.
Miraflores district, south of where were staying is quite upscale. San Isidro district, where we stayed is none too shabby. Great looking neighbourhood even if it is not safe to walk around. As we got downtown there were colonial areas that were busy with nightlife and pedestrian traffic. North of downtown on the way to the airport the buildings start looking very rough and basic. Not shanty style third world slum. More well-built, well worn, post-apocalyptic urban industrial. People walking, but walking quickly perhaps to reduce their exposure. Nobody hanging out on the street corners singing ballads.
The cab dropped us off at the airport at 9:30 and directed us to the part of the terminal we should go. Once inside we got better directions and went to the right counter. We checked about the exit control form United’s e-mail mentioned and were told that we didn’t need anything. I guess things change but boilerplate persists. She printed out proper cardboard boarding passes and we headed toward the gates and security.
This time we knew about the food court after the expensive restaurants and we burned up most of our soles on a sandwich and a couple of smoothies and had a relaxing time finishing them.
Through security and its normal chaos then on to passport control, through the duty free shops and to the waiting area near the gate. There are more seats on the airplane than in the gate area, but we were early enough we had somewhere to sit. I visited the washroom a few times and while waiting for a space talked to another old guy. They had “done” Peru (Machu Picchu, Cusco, Puno) in a week. I guess they flew everywhere. He had been quite sick since Saturday. There were three cubicles. One was always locked but had no sign of feet. We pushed on the door, but nothing happened. One last visit to the washroom just before boarding. I had the washroom to myself except the two occupants of the cubicles in use. It was very satisfying to flat kick the door like in a police movie. It flew open. Fortunately the stall was empty. Nobody was squatting on the toilet. There are pictographs in washroom stalls in China saying that you are not to do that. And nobody was here either. The latch was just partially engaged and no damage occurred.
We stood to wait for the group one and two people to get processed and were close to the line entry point when our group three was allowed to start entering the area. Like all Central and South American flights we have been on to the States we went through a second security check just before boarding the plane. At least this time the United people warned passengers that any water bought after going through the first security check would be confiscated. It cost me a couple of bottles of water in Nicaragua before I learned the drill. It is bad enough to pay airport prices for bottled water without having it taken away only minutes later. Once I looked pitiful and played the age card and needing water for my medicine. That only worked once. The next time the person said, “Sure. Show me your doctor’s note.”
I have pondered that they deliver bottles of liquor and perfume from the duty free store to the plane. Perhaps they could sell bottled water in the duty free shop and deliver it to the plane.
Speaking of cards being played. My leg and knee have benefited so much from the walking and all the stairs in Peru that there is only the odd twinge of pain. As long as we are not at twelve thousand feet elevation I can keep up with any normal line movement. No pre-boarding for us on this flight.
Well, we submitted our bags to the checkers. They opened each compartment and felt around and then we presented out passports and boarding passes and walked down the skyway to the 767. Nice plane. Nice flight. Seats in economy incline maybe 5 degrees. Too vertical to achieve true REM sleep, but we got some sleep of some kind and landed in Houston around seven.
Day 16 - Tuesday, September 25
Lima to Houston to Edmonton
On the plane they handed out forms that must be filled out by people without US passports. I was pretty sure that Canadians didn’t need these form, but the day you don’t do the form is the day they have changed the process again. No change to that process so far. No form needed. Do the kiosk thing – scan your passports, check off the boxes. Hand in the form when the guy checks your passport. Skip the baggage pickup since we are doing carryon only. Try to walk around the re-check area for luggage going on other flights. That has changed. There is a walk through now. Good change. The bathrooms at the bottom of the escalator after that are not portioned off. Bad change.
The new layout for security for ongoing flights is much stream lined. Must have been done by somebody who paid attention in his/her work flow management class. Whoever did the old one slept in the back of the classroom waking only to vape dope.
Released into the terminal complex we headed for the departures display board. Our flight to Edmonton is at 4:30. I checked with my United app on the plane and found a few alternatives that would get us home hours earlier. All of them involved going through an additional airport (Denver, Vancouver, Calgary). Calgary would work. There was one leaving right away (too soon) and another in two hours (that would be good). We went to the service counter and asked about alternatives. Nope. Sorry. United has one flight a day to Edmonton. Period. I understood and understand. They will move you to another carrier if United causes the problem, but aren’t going to move you out of their system to save you a few hours.
We settled into the food court with a good Wi-Fi connection, a power outlet and okay chairs on okay tables. We will take turns going for brief walks until it is closer to time to move to our gate. On one walk I traded our last twenty soles note for four US dollars. Note a money maker since it probably cost me six dollars, but can’t think of any point in keeping it for a very unlikely future trip. There was a brief flurry of excitement when the airport money changer offered me $US for the 770 Cordobas in my wallet. Then we realized he thought I said 7,700. My enthusiasm for exchanging them diminished. It’s only about eighteen bucks and we or somebody we know will probably get to use them.