John

Lima, Peru – Sick as a Dog

Man, it feels like forever since we’ve talked. How ya been?

IMG_1835.JPGPutting up a brave front before the flight to Lima. I am full of Walflu Non Drowsy.

We’ve been a little under the weather. It all started back in Hollywood, Florida, USoA, when we both developed a full suite of cold and flu symptoms that knocked us both on our ass. Bex was about 48 hours ahead of me in the cycle, so she was feeling full-on awful during the Dolphins / Patriots game that we attended, and I was maxing out my hacking and coughing just in time for our five+ hour flight to Peru. I suppressed my symptoms for the flight by chugging great, desparate gulps of Walflu non-drowsy, and we all got through it. We arrived in South America around 2300 local time, and caught a cab to the hostel, which is in a neighborhood of Lima called Miraflores. As it turns out, Lima is a damned big city, hosting over 8 million folks. It took us about an hour in a cab to get to Miraflores from the airport, but we had an interesting ride through the cool night air, seeing the town.

I learned a few things. First of all, the car in which we rode is a natural gas / gasoline hybrid. I had never seen one of these before, but our driver had to stop and re-fuel on natural gas during our trip. When the attendant came out and hooked up this rig, I had to get out and talk to them about it. I got a picture of the refueling setup for the natural gas.

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Also, this is my first time ever down under the equator. The seasons are flipped relative to the Northern hemisphere, and so they are now coming out of winter and entering spring. It’s incredibly pleasant, not only in the evening, but also during the day. Its been a lovely surprise, especially after being in Miami, which is a beautiful place but is absurdly, hellishly hot. It was Tourette’s hot in Miami; it was the sort of heat where you just walk outside and immediately begin cursing involuntarily. On my first day in Lima, it was so cool that I had to bust out the trusty Iron Maiden hoody!

We drug our asses into the hostel around midnight. I was not disappointed to learn that our hostel has a bar. But, that information was filed, not used immediately. We were far too tired for drinking. Tomorrow, I thought. Indeed. We crashed.

IMG_1849-0.JPGThe bar. In our hostel! I was pleased.

We were a little draggy the next morning, and slept in. We eventually stirred and wandered out for brunch. We found a nice little spot called Home Made that offered healthy delicacies and WiFi. This is where I made by first huge mistake of the trip. I was craving the cold, sweet refreshment of a Coca-Cola, but Home Made only serves things they make right there, so I settled for some frozen strawberry juice thing that they have on the menu. It was truly delicious, and it wasn’t until hours later during my *teenth trip to the bathroom that this thought found its way into the ole cerebrum: that frozen drink was made lovingly at Home Made in a blender, and one if its ingredients was ice. The same ice that I have been repeatedly cautioned not to drink, on pain of going to the bathroom with frequency and urgency. It turns out, the many writers and medical professionals that provided these warnings are correct. Don’t drink the water in Peru.

IMG_1850-0.JPGThe offending drink and me, in better times. We were so happy then. Unfortunately, our relationship was irreparably damaged by this drink’s irresponsible and unkind actions.

My bacterial hosting experience lasted about four days. I didn’t start medicating until 24 hours in, and it took about three days after that to get back to being able to move around quasi-normally. In between, there was a lot of laying around in bed, getting up mainly to visit the toilet. After a couple of days, ya just get tired of going in there. Also, I was a little worried about this turning into another operation kidney shutdown, which happened to me a coupla years back when I get severely dehydrated during a similar illness. That time, a hospital visit was required to patch things up, and the visit was most memorable for the use of an inserted catheter. I was hoping never to experience that type of hospital visit again, and I was super-hoping that I wouldn’t experience that type of hospital stay in a third world country. But two days ago, this seemed to me to be a very real possibility.

Bex was a real trooper during all of this. She hung out with me in that little hostel room for days. She read Stephen King to me for hours (“story time”, we called it). She brought me chicken noodle soup and many, many bottles of fluid. She rubbed my back when I puked in the street the one time I thought I was well enough to go out and eat a BBQ sandwich. That event cleared away all the street beggars fast, btw.

It’s all good now. I’m feeling great. Lessons learned include:

1. The warnings not to drink the water are not bullshit.
2. Bex really does love me.
3. Don’t eat BBQ or nachos when you are on the mend from a multi-day upper and lower GI illness. Stick with broth, etc.

As that was clearing up, and afterward, we did manage to see a few interesting things in Lima.

Our hostel sits right next to Parque Kennedy in Lima. It’s named in honor of JFK. We walked through that park every day, and it’s full of cats who live there. No one knows exactly how they got there, but they are there to stay. It seems that there is a cat for every 4 square meters of park surface. They are all over the place. And they aren’t begging either. They are in full-on cat mode….laying, sleeping, stalking, ignoring. The number of shits that they give is zero. They own that place.

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We visited the Huaca Pucllana ruins. This site is a temple constructed by the original people of Lima, who were coincidentally named the Limas. This site is a great adobe and clay pyramid built from seven staggered platforms. It takes its name from the Quechua word “pucllay,” meaning “game,” which in its entirety can be translated as “a place for ritual games.” It served as an important ceremonial and administrative center for the advancement of the Lima Culture, a society which developed in the Peruvian Central Coast between the years of 200 AD and 700 AD.

IMG_1846-0.JPGThis isn’t a model! These are the ruins of this place, juxtaposed with bustling downtown Lima.

IMG_1845-0.JPGCheck out the vertically-oriented adobe bricks, with space in between them. This made these buildings somewhat shock resistant. It also made it easier to redecorate.

These guys were wiped out by competitors, who in turn were wiped out by other competitors (the Incas), who were of course wiped out by the Spanish. But the ruins, abandoned and eventually covered by earth, were partially excavated and restored starting in the 1980’s.

The place is vast; the site that we explored contains many buildings surrounding the pyramid. Construction of all of the buildings and the pyramid rely on the use of irregularly-shaped adobe bricks arranged vertically. Spacing in between the bricks allows for subtle shifting during Peru’s frequent earthquakes. Like Weebles, these buildings wobble but they don’t fall down. Yep, the Peruvian builders of 1500 years ago had a bead on making their buildings earthquake-proof.

We also learned that the Limans enjoyed an occasional human sacrifice. They worshipped multiple deities, but the most important were the gods of the moon and the sea. Our tour guide explained that the reason that only women were sacrificed by the Limans was that they believed that these two deities were female, and thus preferred to receive female sacrifices. Some jackass from the US asked a follow-up question…which was really just a set up so that he could enlighten the group on his little theory…that maybe things were done this way for population control reasons. Nope, responded our tour guide politely…it was just a set of folks who sacrificed women to female deities because that made sense to them.

I’m gonna go on a little sidebar here. I suppose you could say that everything I write seems like a sidebar, but this has been on my mind since Europe.

I love America. I think you all know that. Or I should say, I love lots of America, and find other bits frustrating. I love the freedoms we have to travel, the freedom of speech, the freedom of space. I love the Bill of Rights deeply. I love the ideas that we are founded upon.

Having said that, there are a number of unfortunate and embarrassing things about being American. Some of those things are hard to ignore when traveling abroad.

In general, Americans are among the worst equipped to travel. We are much less accustomed than Europeans to the flexibility and adaptation that travel abroad requires. We like things the way that we have become accustomed to, and many of us get real brittle when shit goes wrong.

Also, it seems that the average American doesn’t know when to shut up. Whenever some clown is talking too much on a tour or in a restaurant, or is talking in such as way that he seems like a privileged lout with no ability to empathize, that clown is often traveling on a US passport. It’s an embarrassment to be an American when this happens. My fellow Americans: you are cool. Be cool. A lot of people do in fact want to be you. Start acting better. Talk less, listen more.

This all ran through my head…for about the twenty-third time so far in the 365 journey…during Out little man’s frequent comments and questions during our tour today. Dr. Knowledge, and other mouthy American tourists, here are a few tips: do not talk about things you don’t know about (Steve Martin said it first). Don’t help the tour guide with her tour, unless you have a PhD in whatever she’s lecturing about. And don’t even help then. The tour guide is not defending a dissertation. She is going through a rap of facts and anecdotes that has almost certainly been pre-planned and pre-scripted with way more care than your random speculations and half-remembering from some TLC show that you saw one night. Fix yourself a hot, tasty mug of shut-the-hell-up, and let the paid professional WHO DOES THIS EVERY DAY do it today without embarrassing all of the other Americans on the tour.

We also visited the Magic Water Circuit in the Parque de la Reserva. It’s a series of more than a dozen water fountains, some of which are very elaborate. They are lit at night. One of them features a thrice-nightly laser / video / music extravaganza that looks like something you might see at a low-grade Disneyworld. Worth doing, as everything in Peru is inexpensive compared to what you would pay in the US. Lots of pretty lights. Oh yes, and there was one fountain where people (mostly kids) can walk in and then get “surprise” squirted when the fountain cranks up.

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Thanks to Billy the bartender for turning us on to several of the attractions that we experienced in Lima. Billy is a native Peruvian who has lived in the UK and the US in addition to Peru. Billy lives in the hostel where we were staying, and he and I hung out in the middle of the night one night when I couldn’t sleep (he couldn’t sleep because he was super intoxicated from something that one of the other campers had shared with him). I was sober as a judge due to my prolonged illness, so the whole conversation (while we watched Ocean’s 13) was amusingly inefficient and hard to follow. It was like carrying on a conversation with a native Scot. Billy was great though, and is the one who suggested the specific meds that cleared up my stomach troubles. That recommendation has been filed for ongoing use.

One last thing about Lima. This is ongoing from San Jose, Costa Rica, so maybe this could be extended to be a generalization about all big cities in Central and South America. Cabbies in this city drive like they have been possessed by Beelzebub. Or at least some minor demon…one who values covering terrain far more than human life. I’ve ridden in many, many NYC cabs, as well as cabs all over the world. I’ve been on some crazy cab rides with motivated drivers. But these guys in Lima…and in San Jose…they are just hardcore. There is at least one near-death experience in every city.

Also, the drivers of Lima are not afraid of using the horns on their cars. Let’s just say, they all know where the horn is located. Like Americans, they use it to tell you when you’ve done something naughty. They aren’t shy about this, and are much faster on the draw than the drivers of Nashville. If a stoplight goes green in Lima, and there is even hesitation demonstrated by a driver, there are a couple of taps on the horns of those behind. For serious offenses, ya get blasted. I heard from the confines of my bed the other day a guy stand on his horn for a full, I shit you not, 45 second blast.

But there is so much more to the use of the horn than just getting on it as a means of complaint. The horn is used here as much as the steering wheel and probably more than the breaks. The horn is used as a subtle warning (I’m not stopping; don’t think about pulling out or lookout, I’m doing some crazy driving over here). The horn is used as a greeting. The horn is used to ask questions of pedestrians (do you guys need a cab?). And somehow the horn sounds different in each of these different use cases. These cabbies are horn artists.

OK, I reckon that’s enough for now. More soon, from a new location. Ciao!

IMG_1848.JPGThe Pacific Ocean, as seen from a cliff in Miraflores.

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Categories: John, Peru

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