10 March 2003

So on the Friday we got up early and hopped on a bus to Huancayo.  It was a beautiful ride up through the Andes, but all I could think about was that I would rather be on the bike.  It is amazing how different the experience you get on the bus.  Everything was sealed off, and it seemed like you were watching a video scroll past, not the real world.  No sounds, no smells, no experience.  Can't wait to get the bike back.

Anyway, we crossed over a 15,500 foot pass to get to Huancayo, which is at 10,700 feet.  This is the Andes you've read about.  Beautiful mountains, rivers, fields, and the people are amazing.  Damn cold too.

I spent the next day walking around the market, where half the vendors wanted to talk to me.  I stood out.  All the Peruvian Andean people are small and dark, so I was very white and towering over them by at least a foot.  It was weird, but made very comfortable by the smiles and the greetings.

Also at our hostel were a Swedish guy, Lars, who has been traveling in South America for 7 months or so, and Karin, a Swiss girl traveling for a year.  Both cool and interesting people.  Merv and Ruth took off Friday night on the overnight bus...  I decided to hang around some more, as I plan to fly from Lima to the border with Chile, as opposed to taking the 24 hour bus.

My plan was to leave Saturday afternoon, but after breakfast with the group, I decided to change, and got a ticket for the overnight bus Saturday night instead.  I headed back to the hostel, met with Lars, and we headed for a coffee.  An hour or two later, Karin showed up in the cafe, so she had a coffee while we talked for another hour.  Then the three of us headed off to buy some music.  All the CDs here are good copies, and cost $1.  Good deals to be had.

Then we returned to the hostel and traded music, ripping their stuff onto the laptop and burning CDs for them of stuff I had.  Finally, we headed off to dinner, then an Irish coffee.  Finally, at 11pm, I hopped on the bus, and attempted valiantly to get some sleep.  Arriving in Lima at 6 yesterday morning, I headed back to my old hotel there, called the airline and got a reservation for today, and got a room.  A few hours of sleep was all I managed on the bus, and I was beat.

Today I made it down to Tacna (the border), then the next day bus down to Iquique, Chile where hopefully the bikes arrive Wednesday.  I heard from Merv that he and Ruth are already in Iquique, so I will catch up with them there.

05 March 2003

Well, we have sort of a plan now.  I searched on the internet and found out that our bikes are not scheduled to leave Panama until the 8th of March, arriving in Chile on the 15th.  Proves once again that our lovely shipping agent is a big fat liar.

So, Merv and Ruth (who turn out to be grandparents!) and I are hopping on a bus tomorrow morning to the mountains.  We are going to spend a week or so traveling by bus south into Chile, then get our bikes.

Yesterday we walked down the bus station to look at buses, then over to the market, several floors of a whole city block full of vendors, selling everything from live guinea pigs to wedding dresses to baking tins to pig's heads.  We met three girls working at a pork stand, and one gave me her number, and I was suppose to go out with the three of them last night.  Unfortunately, I sort of got stood up..  They never answered the phone.  So my future dating a pork-monger is ruined.  Oh well.

Instead, I went for a walk last night and ended up drinking beer at the local tattoo parlor, sitting on the balcony overlooking the main pedestrian street.  The guys had binoculars to check out the girls walking down the street.  One of the guys had lived in New York for 20 years, and I reckon he was back here because he was in trouble with the law..  That seems often to be the case down here, if you lived in the states and moved back south, it's because it was either that or end up in jail for a while.  But it was definitely amusing talking to this bunch of guys and girls hanging out.

03 March 2003

Yesterday we had a very easy trip from Panama to Peru.  Made it to the airport early, I got an emergency row seat with plenty of space, flight left only a half hour late, and we arrived in Lima easily.  I was a bit worried about customs and all that, because apparently you are supposed to declare anything worth over $1000 and pay a 25% bond that is extremely difficult to get back when you leave the country..  So I did not want to get caught with my laptop, as then I might have to pay $500 that I probably would never see again.  And, we also are supposed to have a ticket out of the country, which we don't.  I did have the hard earned letter from the Peruvian Embassy, so I was not very concerned about that though.  Needless to say, no one questioned anything, I didn't have to pay anything and I didn't have to show the letter.

We took a bus into central Lima that dropped us off at our chosen hotel, recommended by the bus driver.  It is pretty nice, and only a few blocks from the Plaza Mayor, the main square in town.  There is a ton of vitality here, a huge pedestrian street with lots of cafes and stores.  People are everywhere, the area was crowded with people last night even after 11pm.

This morning I woke up leisurely, which is becoming more and more difficult. I can't seem to sleep late anymore.  Had a nice cappuccino and some eggs at a cafe, then headed across the park to the Monasterio de San Francisco, dating from the 1600s.  Amazing art collection, a one ton solid silver bishop carrier thingy, great paintings, woodwork, gold, and 70,000 bodies.  The catacombs below the church supposedly contain that many remains.  It used to be the main cemetery for all of Lima, but in the 1800s they restricted to only priests and other important folks.  Quite impressive.

All in all, so far Lima is very nice.  There is a strong police presence, especially in the park (which is in front of the Palacio de Gobierno), but few of them are armed.  Also, this morning the park was swarmed with caretakers, sweeping, mowing, picking up trashing, edging, and generally making sure the grass, flowers, and walkways were spotless.  And finally, everyone I have met from the bus driver and waiters, to tour guides and folks on the street have been extremely nice, friendly, and generally willing to help, assist, or just say hi.  One thing throughout the trip so far is the police and army are rarely friendly, but one of the guards at the Palacio was very nice and returned my greeting yesterday, asking how I was with a smile.

I am probably going to stick around here for another day or two, then start my bus journey south.  The bikes could arrive as early as the 8th, or as late as 15th or later.  And we won't have any idea until Panama goes back to work after Carnival on the 6th... and maybe not even then.

And, something special here, a little bit of Latin pop music.  Columbian Carlos Vives is very popular (everyone knows his music), and here is one of his hits, Pa Mayte.


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