Thursday, 10 December 2009


We get to Lima in the evening and catch an expensive taxi from the airport to the district of Miraflores, hoping that the hostel we found on the internet will have a room for us. On intersections there are platforms with the Inka Kola logo, policemen inside directing traffic. Unbearable noise, horns honking, vehicles squeezing into every empty space, fancy new cars next to accident scarred clunkers, exhaust fumes, hundreds of people on the streets, light from smokey street lamps, English-language songs in our leather-upholstered taxi (for the first time in South America we listen to British music instead of the ubiquitous Latin-American rhythms), thousands of small grocery shops and, finally, skyscrapers on the cliffs of Miraflores - that's how I remember the thirty minute taxi ride. The Angels Inn Hostel offers us a room for 84 soles (Peru's most expensive so far), with a bathroom, internet and a huge TV. We stay for seven nights.

At first enchanted by Lima, I soon discover that this city is not at all different from the others in Peru. The centre is crowded and congested, renovation everywhere, the Plaza de Armas far from being the prettiest. Miraflores is all about skyscrapers and expensive restaurants. After five days I regret that we cannot leave Lima a bit sooner - but appointments at a private clinic keep us here, we want to confirm that Bjarni is completely rid of his typhoid. The clinic makes my blood boil: on Friday a lady downstairs gives us an appointment at 12:20 on Sunday (the clinic is closed on Saturdays, we are also ordered to show up 15 minutes early). On Sunday, on the third floor, it turns out that we must first register with the receptionists on that floor, who charge 80 soles (20 euro) and direct us to a doctor. She sees us some thirty minutes after our appointed time; a conversation in Spanish lasts a mere five minutes, we are then referred to a medical examination in the laboratory downstairs and told to knock on her office door at 2:00 p.m. the next day to get the results. At the laboratory we are told they are closed for the day, we have to return tomorrow and the results will be ready the day after. When pressed, they concede that if we arrive at 7:00 a.m. there might be a chance to get the results at 4 p.m. the same day. Too late for the doctor's visit, but we give up and ask how much the tests will cost. They send us to a cashier. The cashier's position is closed. Frustrated we leave the clinic: we had different plans for tomorrow, we didn't plan to spend another day here. We don't come at 7 a.m. the next morning, we decide to cut our losses and visit a doctor in a different town. However, Bjarni soon starts to complain that he doesn't feel very well and decides he will return to the clinic after all, to confirm he isn't relapsing. He takes all the tests and after a short fight with the third floor's staff, who don't want him to see the doctor without registering and paying again, he finally manages to knock on a door with the sign: "Knocking forbidden. Please wait your turn". After a few days of visits to this private clinic, spending more than 200 soles, Bjarni learns he is perfectly healthy and I miss the quick, cheap, no-nonsense clinic in Yurimaguas. I also realize how much I hate going to the doctor.

Glad about the news, we want to play pool. We have some unusual kind of bad luck in Lima, as all the bars recommended in our book don't seem to exist any more, even though they still have up-to-date websites. We have no problem finding restaurants, but finding a nice (and not too expensive) pub turns out to be impossible. During our search, however, we find the charming, bohemian district of Barranco, where we sample pisco sour from a booth at a Christmas market on the central square. We plan to visit Barranco again, during the daytime, but somehow we never get around to it. Instead, we sacrifice a whole day's budget for paragliding that lasts all of ten minutes. The cliffs and skyscrapers below, birds beside us - those are our best and most memorable ten minutes in Lima. We both look forward to doing it again, sometime soon.

But for now, we go further south.

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The past!