Hola from Peru´s capital city Lima. I have arrived safe and well. The 12 hour flight with Iberia and change in Madrid ran smoothly, though the lack of individual TV´s and appalling choice of films made the time go unbearably slowly. Peru is certainly a world away from anywhere I´ve ever been before. The 40 minute taxi journey from the airport to the hotel was an experience in itself and I can´t believe we made it without crashing. Peruvians turn 3 lane motorways into 5 lanes and everybody drives about 1m behind the car in front no matter what the speed. The roads are awash with children on bikes with wide trailers and how all the cars manage to avoid them and avoid each other when swerving round them at the last second is a miracle. Horns are constantly sounded and there are no polite drivers. Nobody moves over for ambulances (which don´t appear to have sirens) and 2 lanes into 1, or entering from a sliproad, entails practically barging another car out of the way and then swearing at the other driver. I was amused that amid all the chaos there are traffic policemen stood at the side of the road simply shouting down a megaphone at drivers. They don´t stop drivers, they don´t pull them over, they simply spend all day screaming at them! Crazy. Also slightly bizarre is the high number of horrific speedbumps on wide major roads slowing cars down from around 50mph to about 5. Peru authorities clearly take road safety very seriously even if the driver´s don´t!
I managed to meet up with some of my tour group at breakfast yesterday and we took a taxi into Lima centre for a wander round. The 2 main squares were very pretty and we saw the excruciatingly long changing of the guard at the palace. In the afternoon we went to a Franciscan monastery and down into some catacombs where the bones of 25,000 people were on show. Pretty creepy. A middle aged woman from Sussex (who has to be the 1st English person ever to compliment my accent) flummoxed the midget tour guide by asking him why the monastery hoardes $25m worth of gold when it borders a slum area. He had no reply!
After arriving back at the hotel in our district of Barranco I took a walk down the cliffs to the stoney beach for a feel of the Pacific. On the beach was this dodgy group of 13-15 year olds wo were swearing at me. Anyway they soon left and went back up the hill and I followed shortly after. Anyway, back at the top of the cliff I was walking head down and a young Peruvian girl ran over and grabbed my arm and pulled me back saying something in Spanish. Turns out that I was steps away from being hit by a barrage of massive rocks that these kids had picked up on the beach to throw at a rivel gang! The stones missed everyone but were about half the size of a skull and big enough to kill! Despite this and despite the fact in the last 2 weeks 2 of the previous tour group have had passports stolen, and 1 their wallet stolen, the place feels safer than I imagined.
I met the full tour group last night and most people seem very nice. We went out for a meal (chicken, chips and salad seems to be all thats on offer here) and then drinks after in a sleazy Peruvian bar. Most of the group are English with a couple of Aussie brother sister combos, an American girl and 1 German guy. In an hour we set off for Paracas. Only 4 hours on the bus, which is fine. Hope England is good (its certainly a few degrees warmer than here though given the sunshine I´m not complaining).