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Peruvian Coastal Adventure

Pisco city hall
Pisco city hall
We were too excited to sleep much past 6:00am, so we got up, showered and went downstairs to the hotel restaurant. There, we ate our first continental breakfast at the Carmel Hotel in Miraflores, sampling for the first time quinoa the high-protein grain that is a Peruvian staple. We also tried chincha morada, a juice made from purple corn. It was not too flavorful. The hotel brought a money changer to the restaurant, and we exchanged some dollars for Nuevo Soles, the common currency of Peru that exchanges at 3.2 Soles for each American dollar. I then used the hotel computer to send an email to our family and friends. We were astounded to find that in a country with such limited resources, that they were so technologically advanced on the internet. There was no problem in connecting on the internet anywhere in Peru.

After breakfast, we explored the streets of Miraflores, the very upscale and modern section of Lima. We have to admit that we were nervous for a few minutes as we mingled with the natives who were energetically going about the start of their Saturday morning. Before long, we lost our fear and started enjoying the tremendous buzz of this nicer part of Lima. Along the way, we purchased some watercolor paintings from a local sidewalk artist, who had trouble changing our $20 Sole bill, and had to run down the block to get change from a friend. This was a problem we were to encounter throughout Peru. Even though 20 Soles is only about 7 US dollars, most merchants have trouble exchanging it because of the poor economy. Wandering far and wide, after some time we strayed beyond the boundaries of Miraflores, and entered an area with a dark energy. There we found ourselves close to a funky looking local market, and decided to explore it. However, a nicely dressed, middle-aged Peruvian business man approached us and told us in Spanish that we were going into a very bad area, and we would lose our wallets and camera because it was an area replete with pickpockets and thieves. When we gave him puzzled looks, he quickly switched to English and told us that he just could not let us go in there. He was genuinely concerned, and we appreciated being saved by this local from entering a bad area. So, we gave it a cursory exploration and got the heck out of there. We felt very thankful that this nice Limeño citizen would b e so helpful. As we walked through Miraflores, we were amazed at the captivating women with beautiful hair, big dark eyes and lithe bodies, as well as the handsome, curly-haired charming men-what a beautiful race of people!

In the early afternoon we returned to the hotel lobby and had our first meeting with Carlos Lazo, our first Adventure Life guide. Carlos walked into the lobby, looked at me and said: “Look! We’re twins!” This was because we were dressed in similar fashion, and were wearing our Adventure Life hats. Later in the tour, I was to realize that this statement was more accurate than I could have imagined. Carlos and I were certainly “simpatico” in many areas!

Carlos took us to the bus station where we first sampled Inka Cola, the favorite soft drink of Peru. It is a lot like Mountain Dew. Soon after that, we boarded an Ormeño bus for our trip from Lima to Pisco. An attractive girl from Madrid sat by Carlos on the bus and shared filberts with us as we traveled along the Panamericana Sur-coastal freeway running to the south. We saw political slogans painted on numerous buildings in Lima, and throughout our Peruvian tour. Carlos said that they were nearing elections in Peru, and the politicians were in high gear. We learned that the Spanish word alcalde, means “mayor” in English. Evidently, numerous people were running for that position, as we saw it painted on buildings everywhere. We noticed many Pecsa Peruvian gas stations as we left Lima. Many abandoned high-rise apartments with hundreds of windows broken out were situated on the outskirts of Lima, as the tenants had been unable to afford the rents. We quickly encountered the first of many peajes, the Spanish word for "tollbooth". There we paid our small fee and drove on. Ripening cotton fields dotted the landscapes, and we saw cattle living with squatters in their houses. Many large chicken farms were scattered along the highway, and pumpkin fields and palm trees lined the roads. Farther outside Lima, we saw slums established on high sand hills with steep stairs leading up to them. Carlos mentioned that the squatters had to carry their water up those many steep stairs from long distances. These settlements were occupied by squatters who placed a Peruvian flag to claim their spot. These slums all had names like “Nuevo Lima,” and were more or less tolerated by the local governments. Carlos mentioned that the first relatively strong earthquake would bring all of these settlements crashing down. As we traveled along the highway, we saw sticker bushes placed on back of trucks to deter robbers from climbing up the backs of the trucks to steal goods as the trucks slowed down on steep grades. As we passed through the town of Chincha, Carlos mentioned it was a town with many black people, but he said that more Asian people were brought to Peru as slaves than blacks.

After three and a half hours on the bus, we were glad to arrive in the late afternoon and stretch our legs by walking the streets of colorful Pisco, our first road town. After we checked in and settled into our first hotel, the Posada Hispana, we moved to the upstairs restaurant where we enjoyed a memorable first supper that included Pescada Putanesca (sea bass with Putenesca sauce). As we watched the attractive waitress in the Posada Hispana flirt with Carlos, we noticed that he had the ability to attract beautiful woman of all ages wherever he went. We were becoming more and more aware of the need to speak Spanish, as English speakers were far and few between. Before dinner, we had our chance to first experience the Pisco Sour, the national drink of Peru. It did not disappoint! It is a special type of brandy made from clear grape alcohol, beaten egg whites, lemon juice, sugar syrup and a touch of Angostura bitters. Jon Wise colorfully said: “It will knock you on your ass!” As we sampled our first typical Peruvian dishes we learned that Peruvian “papas fritas” are the best french fries in the world! We also noticed that Peruvian food is always served with both potatoes and rice. An excellent pipe band was playing authentic Peruvian music nearby as we finished dinner, adding to the festive air. When we recognized El Condor Pasa being played by the band, we mentioned to Carlos that it was unusual hearing a song by Paul Simon in Peru. We were surprised to learn that El Condor Pasa is actually a Peruvian folk song that Paul Simon “borrowed” to make his big hit. We heard this song everywhere we traveled, and came to consider it the unofficial “national anthem” of Peru. After dinner, Karen had a fascinating discussion with Carlos about our visit with the Peruvian Healer in Eugene, thus quickly cementing a strong bond between her and Carlos. After two Pisco Sours, we all barely managed to stagger back to our room after a very extraordinary day.

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