22 Dec 04
I’ve found hell on earth. Lima, a city of either 8 or 9 million people, depending on who you listen to, is crowded, dirty and somewhat expensive. I came in at night, which is often a good time to see a city. It’s dark, hiding a lot of the mess, and there is generally less traffic. Coming out of the airport, I find a taxi desk, which is supposed to guarantee you won’t get jacked by the taxi driver. Agree on a price ahead of time, and away you go. Nope, we get a little ways out of the airport, and the guys ask me “where are you going again?” I tell him El Centro. “Oh – I thought you were going to Miraflores. It’s going to be more.” I’m pissed, and luckily he speaks halfway decent english. “Look – I told you guys where I was going in the Airport, and you both said OK, and said $10.” “I thought it was in Miraflores.” “Miraflores is a lot further away – why would it be more. ” – it wasn’t a question. “Traffic is much worse.” “Look – we agreed on a price before I got in and you said OK. Now you want to charge me more for about half the distance. If you are going to try and charge me more, take me back to the airport.” I said this angrily, and he sighed, and went on his way. He was a nice enough guy other than trying to jack me. Once we get to the hostel/hovel that I’m going to stay in, he say’s $15. “No – I’ll give you a little more, but we agreed on $10 at the airport.” I gave him $12/US, which was generous I thought. I think this might just be a game that they play, you know, screw the foreigner.
Here is what my Rough Guide says’ about the hotel I’m staying in.
Popular and centrally located, Hostal Espana is very secure and has a dormitory, plus rooms with or without private baths, Internet connections, book exchanges and it’s own tour operator service, all based around a nice courtyard and rooftop patio.
Doesn’t that sound pleasant. Here is what is says about my hotel in Quito.
Modern hotel with a pleasant street level cafe. Some rooms are small, but they’re all spotless and have private baths and cable TV.
The one for my Quito hotel was pretty right on. Lima, on the other hand, is old, dirty, open, loud and generally bad. I guess when they list that it’s secure, that’s a bad sign. It’s in a bad-ish section of town (which the book hints at, but doesn’t come out and say.) The hotel smells of vomit, but later I figure that’s because the bathroom is next to my room, and is open. Eventually the smell goes away. The internet connection was only using OLD computers running windows 98, the version of IE is old enough to not support encryption of web pages (such as mail.yahoo.com) and it’s slow on top of it all. The book exchange was paltry, and well, I don’t really have much faith in the travel service. The do say that I can get to Quito for ~$90/US, which I’m tempted to do tomorrow. The restaurant? Well, let’s just say I wasn’t going to chance it – it looked rather, um, primitive. Oh, and there aren’t any power outlets in the room, which is odd to me. The lights are fluorescent, so I can’t use my nifty plug that screws into a light bulb base and gives you a two pronged outlet. Foiled, for the first time.
On the positive side, I did find I can get a flight to Cusco on Friday morning, even if it’s a bit expensive. I’m going to see if maybe I can find something that leaves tomorrow (thursday) afternoon, so I don’t have to spend another night here. If I go on Friday, its a 9 a.m. flight, which is OK, but kind of early. I went out in the city to find some food, since I didn’t feel like chancing the restaurant upstairs and right down the street (it’s about 9:30 p.m. at this point) is a small diner that also has soda, beer and crackers. Food isn’t being served this late, so I get two small packs of ritz crackers (8 crackers each), two beers and a thing of Gatorade. I have no idea how much things should cost, and so I give the woman a 50 Nueva Sol bill – the symbol is S/., so I should write S/50. I thought it wasn’t that much money – the taxi driver told me that one US$ is worth 3.3 S/, but I’m not sure if I believe him. It’s probably close to that. She had run around for two to three minutes to get change for my money, and comes back giving me quite a bit of change. She was quite nice, and something about her made me like her quite a bit. It may have been that she reminded me of my grandmother. On my way back to the hotel, I realize I don’t have any water, so I stop in another store, and have another very pleasant exchange with the old woman running the place and her grand daughter (who tried to explain how much things were.) My two bottles of water were S/3. So the people I’ve actually talked to have been quite nice, quite pleasant. That is a good sign.
Tomorrow my plans are to find a flight to Cusco for the afternoon and visit the Museum of the Inquisition. It’s supposed to be a very worthwhile museum, and it’s about a block from where I’m staying. I’ll take in a few other sights, but if I’m still here in 24 hours, I might just get a better hotel. No problem is so big that it can’t be solved by throwing money at it, and that’s something I’m very, very good at.
As far as the building I’m staying in, it was probably amazing it’s it’s day, but that was many decades ago. There is a central courtyard, which has some classical (roman and greek) sculptures, what looks to be authentic pottery and, oddest of all, several mummified remains, one of an infant. I imagine they are real, since I don’t know where you would find a reproduction of such a thing. There are elegant stairways, very high ceilings and beautiful wooden floors. Most everything has an advanced state of wear, but my bathroom is new, with very nice tile and a new toilet, hot water, and a very tall shower head. With a lot of love this could be an amazing place. That would be hard at $12 a night. I just hope I can sleep.