Lima to Arequipa. 18th August 2001. 11,230 miles
We have visited Lima 2 years ago and know that the suburbs are difficult to navigate. This time we caught a bus to take us through the suburbs to central Lima. It dropped us off in a very grubby looking shanty town area on the wrong side of the river for central Lima. As we started to ride across a bridge towards what we thought was central Lima, a car overtook, stopped and the driver told us not to go that way. Another pedestrian on the other side of the road also indicated not to go that way. As we were turning round, a police car pulled up and gave us the same message. Apparently we were heading for a local no-go area where it is definitely unsafe for tourists even in daylight.
Eventually found our way to the Plaza de Armas and a nice hostel with our room in a rooftop garden overlooking the beautiful San Francisco Church.
For a couple of weeks now, David has had a nagging toothache, which is getting worse. Lima is a good place to get it seen to. The South American Explorers Club recommended an English-speaking dentist, who saw him straight away, decided that it was a slight infection and prescribed antibiotics. Including X-ray, the charge was 40 dollars, about the same, as we would expect in England. The antibiotic course worked out at 20 soles. We shall let you know if it is successful.
Local buses are very cheap and plentiful. The fare is 1 soles (20p) for about 5 miles and there is a bus about every minute, or 10 seconds in town when the roads are full of buses and taxis. If you stand by the road and point to something on the other side, all the taxis screech to a halt.
We visited San Francisco Church and the vaults where there are the bones of 70,000 people. The whole population of Lima (only the dead ones!) was buried here until about 1920.
On the map, the road out of Lima looked easy. We should have guessed otherwise. Another no-go area was pointed out by locals, one of whom drew out the route on a map he produced and gave us the map. Eventually we found a seaside resort, which was like a ghost town. Lots of cafes and holiday homes, but nobody around.
In a remote spot, we met three English people and on talking we discovered that they lived in Impington only a few miles from where we live. The woman, Vaeries, actually knew Avril Dring of CAMTAD, who is a friend of Joans.
A note about hotels for those in England. In Peru and other South American countries, there are Hotels, Hostels, Boarding houses (Hospedajes) and others. In practice, there is no real difference between them although the very expensive ones are always Hotels. Motels do exist but most are normally rented by the hour! Work that one out!
The coast road south of Lima is slightly more interesting or less boring, than previously. It follows the coast more closely and has more towns. And...wonder of wonders, we had the wind behind us for a while - but that will probably change.
A petrol station with an old racing bike perched on the roof attracted our attention. As we stopped to take a picture a man came out and invited us in to sign his book in which many previous passing cyclists had made entries. The owner had previously been a keen cyclist and toured in Alaska.
The wind did change back to a headwind from the right, which is at least the right direction as we turn inland to the left soon and will then have a tailwind to Ica.
After a day at Pisco, where the Pisco in "Pisco sour" comes from, we started inland across more desert against the wind which should have been behind us. Only the cyclist readers will know why we talk about the wind so much. It really does make it twice as hard into the wind especially as we climbed slowly upwards 2000ft at the same time.
At Ica, we treated ourselves to a rest day and visited a museum showing trepanned skulls and skulls which had been elongated by binding at birth. There are lots of ancient sites around here and the next important place is Nazca where David is planning a plane trip to see the lines and Joan will probably give it a miss. "I wouldn´t mind if it was a jumbo, but those little one propeller things...." said Joan. "What! Only one engine".
Joan had another haircut, and carefully asked in Spanish for a little bit off..... and got scalped! Still, it only cost a pound.
With all the hostels and hotels we have used, we have become quite good at recognising value for money. One general feature, especially in tourist towns is that the places recommended in the guidebooks are not so good value as an unknown one round the corner. Frequently now we have found that a place not in the guide books will be cleaner, more spacious and even have a T.V. for the same price or less than those advertised. We suspect tourist rip-offs, especially in the so-called back-packers hostels.
On the way to Nazca, we cycled across the desert plain where the famous lines are. From the ground, there is absolutely nothing to see unless you look closely for the straight lines going directly away from you.
The best clue that they are there was the continuous drone of small aircraft circling above. We climbed a small hill to get a better view and could see much more, but David expects to see it all from the air.
In Nazca itself, we found one of the best hostels yet. It had a small courtyard garden and a very clean spacious room opening onto the courtyard. With hot water, as well, it was a bargain at 30 soles. David arranged for a flight over the lines for 35 dollars at 8 in the morning.
Next morning arrived and a taxi took him the 2k to the airport where he sat around for an hour before being given an hour-long Nazca video to watch with some other tourists. Another long wait and he was told that due to the hazy conditions it would take off at 1 o'clock. At 1.30 he was told "Not until 3 o'clock". Other planes were coming and going and it certainly wasn't too misty and as he hadn't paid anything yet he gave up and went back to the hotel. Other tourists that had been on a flight said that the lines were not easy to see anyway and that they can only be seen clearly when the sun is low.
More desert to Lomas, a small fishing village. The next intended stop, Challa, was a reasonable 60 miles away we thought. In the morning the wind was quite strong and after the first few miles it was gale force against us and nothing but desert and sand. No shelter anywhere. We were down to 5 mph on the flat and cycling into sandstorms. The sand stung our arms and legs and we had no choice but to battle on. Eventually after 30 miles and six hours later we arrived at a small town and found the one and only hostel. It was very basic and the room with only a bed was 7ft square. It also had a basic no flush outside toilet, but a decent electric light and we cooked rice and fish for dinner, with banana pancakes for dessert.
Short 30-mile trip to Chala, a seaside town with old wooden buildings. It was deserted, and we were the only ones staying in one of the hostels. It had a room with a beach view and we watched sea lions in the sea just off the beach. David bargained 30 soles for one night or 50 soles for two. We spent two days here cleaning all the sand out of everything. Bought a 2kgs of fish for 1 soles (20p). Very nice juicy oranges cost 1 sole a kg.
Still against fierce headwinds, but much better scenery, the best we can manage is 60 miles a day which is convenient as the towns with hostels are about 60 miles apart.
David's tooth. After a course of antibiotics, there was no improvement and discomfort after eating or drinking hot food or drink. He has decided that it was not an infection but a sensitive tooth and has begun looking for sensodyne toothpaste but to no avail yet. Joan has had mild diarrhoea for about 3 weeks now, which is far too long. She has had no stomach pain and only mild discomfort. We will check with a doctor in Arequipa.
On the coast around Camana we passed many earthquake devastated areas. This continued as far up as Arequipa.
Finally turned inland up to Arequipa at 7000ft.
In the next report find out about David's tooth and Joan's upset stomach!
Dave and Joan