Friday, December 4, 2009

Peru, Day 6

Since Day 5 in Peru was lost somewhere between a clinic – ay caramba, it was expensive and the nurses there need to learn how to inject a needle into a patient’s arm – and my bathroom, I’m resuming my little blog on Day 6, after arriving in Lima.

Actually, it would be better for me to start prior to arriving in Lima, beginning with some, let’s say, character-building experiences with transportation in Peru. In my first five days in Peru, I have had three flight delays (which substantially shorten the time I have in each of my destinations), one flight cancellation, one un-cancelled flight that defied explanation (except for maybe the fact that an irate Canadian man threatened to kill a StarPeru employee if he couldn’t get to Lima by evening in order to make his connecting flight back home), and a taxi ride to a clinic in which I was dropped off in the middle of nowhere despite the fact that the driver had a map with the clinic’s location clearly spelled out. Ah, there’s nothing nicer than a fifteen-minute walk through an unfamiliar neighborhood in Peru without knowing the language and feeling very sick. My character, in case it had been on the low end of the scale, I’m pretty sure has suddenly – or at least in the eight hours I spent in the airport yesterday – grown in leaps and bounds. So that’s a relief.

By the time I got to Lima, I was very happy. I was starting to feel much better, and my return to a “normal” altitude was welcome. I arrived in the evening, during the height of rush hour traffic. Aside from my constant inhalation of exhaust that filled the taxi, it was an interesting ride. Our progress was slow enough that I could get full views of what we were passing. Perhaps it wasn’t much, but it gave me a sense of where I was. The three things that immediately struck me about Lima were that it is extremely grimy, it has very few trees, and there is construction seemingly everywhere. There are also very many young people. With babies. At least these things were true of my trip from the airport to Central Lima, where I spent the night.

Shortly after checking in I decided to take a risk and go to a restaurant in Miraflores that is supposedly known for its Chinese-Peruvian dim sum (an example of chifas, or Chinese-Peruvian fusion) -- this, according to my guidebook. The highlight of this excursion was my first trip into Miraflores, which is an upscale neighborhood full of beautiful colonial architecture. After tipping my taxi driver more than I realized, I headed into Wa Lok, a small chain of well-regarded Chinese restaurants in Lima. I can’t say I was surprised to find that the first floor of the restaurant was a casino, but it’s also true that I stopped and stared in some wonder before climbing upstairs to the second floor, where the actual restaurant is.

Once there I discovered that my guidebook had totally underreported the cost of dim sum here, which was still about what I paid for every meal in Aguas Calientes. I ordered three types of dim sum – tai chi kao, siu lam koc, and kau choy kao – and a Pilsner Callao beer.

The dim sum was in no way Peruvian, as I had either foolishly thought or as my guidebook had foolishly written. (I’m still not sure.) Even so, I was happy to have dim sum, which was good but a little greasy. I can’t remember which dim sum was which, but one came with diced vegetables, one with shrimp, pork and asparagus, and one with chicken and shrimp.

It was no DinTaiFung, but it was pretty tasty. My order ended up being twice as much food as I could eat, but it was nice to have regular food again, and the beer of course was mighty fine.

When I went downstairs to get a taxi, the first one I flagged down refused to take me home, laughing with what looked like fear in his eyes, saying twice in succession, “Central Lima? No, no, no,” and then peeling off down the street. The next one that came, I managed to sit down in the back seat before telling him where I wanted to go. He took me there with no complaints and nothing terrible happened along the way. (Of course, who knows what might have happened to him after he dropped me off.)

Back at the hostal, I dropped off my doggy-bag of dim sum for the receptionist, who seemed happy to receive it but then never appeared to eat it. I spent much of the evening talking to other guests in one of the two common rooms – a couple from Canada, a couple from Israel, and a woman from Hong Kong – before going to bed. Not what I’d call an exciting night, but not a bad ending for the way my day started.

I’m just hoping that my trip to Trujillo tomorrow afternoon isn’t delayed or canceled. If it is, there’s really no point in going, as I won’t have any time to see what I planned.

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  1. Catherine: Thanks, it was great! :)

  2. We recently had our character-building adventure in airports in Kalibo, Aklan, Philippines; it was quite inconvenient and uncomfortable but as far as I know, there were no homicidal threats flung around. Happy to hear that you were feeling much better - dim sum would be my recuperative meal, too!