Sun, sea & sand

Day 89 - Huanchaco

The sun turned a searing red as it began to dip below the horizon. Only a solitary tarmac strip disturbed the sandy expanses that lay to my left and to my right. The bus tracked Peru's Pacific coast until we reached the seaside town. Huanchaco was a small village home to fishermen and little else until surfers discovered its breaks. We too sought a break, though one from the vast distances we had to cover through South America's third largest country. The day after our arrival brought an undeserved defeat in the rugby, the day after that an undeserved victory in the football. At this point we broke our week-long alcohol fast. Michael's was done under medical advice, mine self-imposed after 3 months of daily imbibing. We stayed in a hostel called 'Chillout' which was run by a Scots fellow called Will who supplied fine Pisco Sours while decrying the state of the motherland.
Back into the desert we plunged, passing hills of silicated sterility and beaches of splendid inaccessibility. The landscape was slightly more diverting than the onboard entertainment which consisted of 3 films, back to back, on the subject of football (a most unfilmworthy subject in general). We were headed for Francisco Pizarro's 'City of Kings', home to 8 million people and with a name a bit like a green citrus fruit. One in three people in Peru call Lima their home so it couldn't be without its appeals, pollution-choked and carhorn-soundtracked though they were. The relative strength of the country's economy and partial immunity to worldly financial woes have rendered it a surprisingly costly country to travel through, no dollar beers here. Shopping for a replacement camera turned up some eye-watering prices you'd baulk at back home. It took 1 mall, 3 stores, 12 stalls and (roughly) 7 hours to find one at an acceptable price. We toasted the success with (to Michael's ecstasy) pints of cider in an English pub we found in the Miraflores area of the capital. Miraflores - mark that name.
"Um, shouldn't we have turned off back there?" "Or there?" "Or here perhaps?" The taxi driver and I were speeding along Lima's main thoroughfare but even my, admittedly wonky, sense of direction was telling me something was amiss.
3 hours previously...
"So you'll be back at the bus station at 3:15 won't you?" I sensed that even an emphatic answer of "yes" would not allay Michael's palpable apprehensions. So I replied "probably" and trotted off to survey Lima's historical sites. I toured the cool chapels of the cathedral containing the founder's tomb and photographed the baroque stylings of the Monasterio de San Francisco. I saw General San Martin astride his horse in the plaza bearing his name and chuckled at the statue of Madre Patria who, owing to a linguistic mixup due to the fact that the Spanish word for 'flame' is 'llama', rather than a burning crown placed atop her head wore instead...well you can probably guess. As I was about to make my way back a pleasant chap called Pedro engaged me in conversation. The formalities of names over with he announced that he was gay and would like to go for a drink. Alas, I replied, I have to be at Flores Bus Station in 20 minutes and so must take a raincheck. Disappointed though he must have been Pedro kindly hailed me a cab and gave the driver my intended destination.
15 minutes later...
"No Señor, Miraflores es thisa way." He was driving me to the opposite side of Lima. With my destination clarified I implored in broken Spanish "Flores!, rapido! rapido!" I must credit the dangerous tenacity with which he got me to the station in time and felt obliged to tip, though the amusement he got from the confusion was perhaps compensation enough.

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