Unfortunately, our time in Lima ended up becoming another “Honolulu.” I’m referring to not having the time to give a place its full due. While we saw and did a lot on our private tour of Lima on our final day in Peru, we still missed out on a great deal (I’ll be writing more about this at a later time). But for now, here are my first impressions on one of South America’s biggest metropolises.
If I had to pick one thing that I hated about Peru, I would have to say the traffic in Lima. I’ve been to some of the world’s most populated cities-Seoul, Mexico City-and yet Lima, a city that has a smaller population than both the Mexican and South Korean capitals, had ridiculously worse traffic. It seemed that it didn’t matter what time of the day it was or where you were going, the traffic was appallingly bad. The ride in from the airport to the hotel took almost an hour. Our cab driver said that the road one can normally take to get to Miraflores from the airport was temporarily closed for work, which meant that not only did the ride take longer but there was that much more traffic on the main highway to and from the downtown. On our tour of Lima, we were picked up at our hotel around 11 AM and immediately set out for the city’s colonial zone. We had to get back on the same highway we had taken the previous day in from the airport and even at 11 AM, traffic just crawled. Nothing however, would top the return trip back to the Lima airport. I had arranged to be picked up at 6:15 PM (our flight was scheduled for 11:55 PM). In Lima, you are advised to arrive at the airport two hours before a domestic flight, and three hours before an international one. By the end of our trip, we were both extremely exhausted and it seemed fine to just go to the airport and settle in even if we would be ridiculously early. Well, for a distance of only about 12 miles, the drive took two hours. Yes, two hours in a taxi to go a relatively short distance. We were told that on a Friday night at rush hour, yes it would take a while, but people said allow an hour, maybe 90 minutes. Not the 120 minutes it was. On the highway, we would just completely stop and sit at regular intervals. The worst, though, was when we got off the highway and were on city streets. On one particular street, the light would keep changing and we didn’t move once. We sat on this street for more than 30 minutes until finally a traffic cop came to this particular roundabout and we finally moved. Although our flight would end up being horrendously delayed (along with some other flying drama which I’ll share another time), I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t arranged a taxi so early. I’m not someone who would write off a city because of traffic, but Lima’s was completely abysmal, period.
The drivers are nuts
Yes, all major cities have their share of “crazy drivers” because let’s face it, in some of those cities you need to be a little nuts to get behind the wheel. But until Lima, never before had I seen drivers just driving any which way, completely ignoring lanes, just making their own rules as they went, literally. I guess that was the one barely good thing of traffic being so terrible, you couldn’t exactly speed so I didn’t fear for my life in terms of getting into some high velocity speeding accident. However, there were innumerable times where I truly thought the car I was in was going to crash into another car, or reverse. At moments I would see a car start to snake his way into space that really was nonexistent. I would grip the door handle, close my eyes, and wait for some sort of “bump.” Thankfully, the bump never happened but all of Lima’s drivers must be watched over by some guardian angel because it was a true miracle there weren’t any accidents that I saw. Lima’s drivers and its roads looked very much like a bumper car arena-drivers just going everywhere. And seriously, traffic lanes just did not exist there.
The skies are gray
I was only in Lima a short time in the scheme of things, but seriously, the constant gray skies were a bit depressing. You hear “South America” and you think tropical; in a city that is located right on the Pacific Ocean, one envisions stunning weather. Well, for four months of the year (i.e. winter), the sun abandons the Peruvian capital and there’s nothing but a whole lot of gray and fog enveloping it all…the…time. Naturally, my visit to Lima was smack dab in winter, so I got to see the not so pretty skies firsthand. The temperatures were not at all cold (for winter that is), but the sun was just nonexistent. Although I took many great photos in Lima, I can only imagine how much more spectacular they would have been against vibrant blue skies.
I blended in “more”
In countries like Mexico and Costa Rica, I was forever being gawked at, due to my red hair and very pale skin (not common sights at all). However, while walking along the streets in Lima’s colonial district, I really didn’t feel like anyone was ever staring at me. Sure, looking around at my surroundings, I knew that I definitely stood out (neither my hair nor skin was dark), and yet most of the people in Lima that I walked by seemed to be doing their “own thing,” not looking at the five foot five gringa tourist who was passing by them. It may sound odd or silly to some, but when you don’t look like everyone else when you travel somewhere, it definitely leaves a good feeling knowing that you can just walk and not feel like you’re on display. While there were certainly foreign tourists in Lima, it still wasn’t anything like what you would find in Paris or London.
I wouldn’t have enough time
And I didn’t. Not even close. A short visit paired with feeling ridiculously tired equates to a blur of memories. In the parts of Lima that I saw, it had a little feel of everything-Manhattan, Mexico City, and of course, Spain, the country that founded it. While I had some fun and memorable eats, I know that I barely grazed the culinary surface. And let’s not even talk about shopping-with our time in Lima being so limited, I got to do no shopping which was a shame since Peru as a whole was such a shopper’s paradise with all of the beautiful artisan products.
Lima, you definitely intrigued me. I just need to return when one, I have more time and two, I’m not running half empty. I’d love to get beyond the first impressions although I feel that the first three things I listed there would be the same regardless…