Friends Reunited

Well, we have been on many long-haul flights in the past but this one seemed to last forever. We were seated in the centre of the centre set our four seats, so it meant that Trevor and I each had someone on our other side which meant that if we needed to go to the loo or wanted to get up to stretch our legs or retrieve something from our bags, we would have to disturb the person in the aisle seat.

Time passed in its inexorable and inevitable way, however, and eventually we were on our final approach into Lima airport. The skies seemed cloudy and it was hard to distinguish where the sky ended and the Pacific ocean started. I felt tired and extremely grubby; I was longing for a good hot shower and change of clothes. We also desperately wanted to sleep but knew that if we did, considering the six-hour time difference, we would be wide awake during the night.

When we disembarked the aircraft it was absolutely ages until we retrieved our luggage from the carousel; in fact I wouldn’t have been surprised if it hadn’t made it to Lima and was still sitting somewhere in Amsterdam, considering the changes in our flight itinerary.

Eventually we got through customs and looked around in anticipation for the Travelsphere rep. No sign of him/her anywhere. The airport arrivals consisted of the usual manic crowds, baggage trolleys, taxi drivers and over it all the incessant announcements.

Trevor eventually found the rep and we thankfully collapsed into the minibus for the 45-minute journey, through the rush-hour traffic of Peru’s capital city, to the José Antonio hotel. I felt totally spaced-out and had that strange feeling of still being on the plane.

When we arrived at the hotel at 8.45 am (13 hours late!!) we went to room 514 and dumped our bags before making our way to the dining room for some breakfast and some strong, hot coffee to keep us awake.

As soon as we got there the first people we saw were Stephen and Alison, who had arrived on the flight from Mexico an hour before us. We all looked completely knackered, and regaled each other with tales from our own separate flights. At least we were all reunited again and now the Peruvian adventure could start in earnest! 🙂

Our very pleasant guide, Rosario, advised us that there was a Lima city tour at 1.30pm, so at least we had four hours in order to have a shower and change and a very welcome nap before getting our first impressions of this bustling, lively city on the Pacific coast.

It was bliss to get showered, wash and blowdry my hair and change into clean clothes. Then I enjoyed an hour’s sleep before we all congregated in the hotel lobby until the Condor Travel coach arrived to take us on the city tour.

It was only a 4-hour tour which offered us a taster of Lima. One of the things that surprised us so far was the cloudy skies and mild temperature, even though Lima is situated in tropical latitudes. But the proximity of the Andes moderates the air coming from the Pacific ocean, and today was typical of the year-round climate in Lima, around 20ºC and cloudy. We were also surprised to hear that Lima gets hardly any rain ever, and any farming and crops are irrigated by artificial means.

The constantly rolling waves of the Pacific ocean attracted a great many surfers, and we could see them riding the waves adjacent to the contrasting wide sandy beach. Traffic went by in a never-ending parade of horn-hooting vehicles and, like any capital city, we passed many shops, garages, banks and offices.

Peru, like a lot of South American countries, is 85% Catholic, so we saw many churches and a beautiful cathedral in the Plaza Mayor, the city’s main square. We also stopped to admire and photograph the archbishop’s palace and the Presidential Palace, with its guards on duty outside, before we went into a lovely convent, which was quiet and peaceful compared to the frenetic city-centre activity outside.

We then concluded our half-day tour by visiting a small botanical garden and the ‘Parque del Amor’ (Love Park). We saw many colourful flowers and birds, including black-headed vultures and green parakeets.

Once we arrived back at the hotel we had an hour or so before we all needed to meet up at the sister hotel over the road for the briefing from Rosario, our tour guide, as well as a welcome drink.

We decided, with Stephen and Alison, to find an eaterie along the shoreline; they had previously found some shops, cafés and bars down some steps in the cliffside which were practically invisible from the road.

We enjoyed some fast food; Trevor and I from KFC and Stephen and Alison from Pizza Hut, before we made our way back to the hotel for the welcome briefing.

Inside, we were offered the Peruvian national drink of pisco sour. It’s a cocktail made of the local distilled liquor pisco, mixed with lime juice and whipped egg white and sugar. I quite liked it but Alison wasn’t so keen. There were a few spares left over so Trevor and I made the most of the freebies and enjoyed another one each!

Once we got back to our own hotel I thought we would be ready to drop, but we wanted to stay awake as long as possible so we’d get used to the new time zone. So, after dumping our bags in our room, we went down to the hotel bar with S & A, where we were shortly joined by our guide Rosario, then another couple.

I was pleased to see my favourite cocktail, the Brazilian caipirinha, on the drinks list, so I ordered one and then we spent the next couple of hours or so chatting and drinking. S & A lasted until around 8.00pm and were practically falling asleep, so we said goodnight to them and enjoyed a couple more drinks each, before making our way back to our room just before 10 o’clock. We had the first of several early starts tomorrow morning, having to be up at 6.00am, but in the meantime it was sheer bliss to go to sleep in a proper bed, in a quiet room, at long last.

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