There is only ever one first day of a trip and this one was hugely pregnant with expectation due to its year long duration and the fact that most of our destinations are wholly new to us. As a result, a first day can be emotionally tricky but I am happy to report we were most satisfied by the start of our global romp, which after an uneventful 7ish hour flight saw our company of four happy Canadians safely deposited into the utilitarian, Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima Peru.
The immediate sights, sounds and smells of Lima were a medley of car and jet exhaust, the salt of the nearby Pacific and the dampness that pervades coastal Peru in late winter. These first sensory experiences were achieved with a 2am taxi ride across the city. Traffic moves quickly in the wee hours and many parts of the capital were on display in one long sweep. Inevitably airports are situated away from the hubs of where travelers congregate so these initial trips pass a full range of urban designs. Our taxi whizzed through the industrial airport district, into commercial boulevards and then by rows of concrete apartment blocks. Potted streets, blinking lights, speeding policía with lights swirling and the occasional darting feral dog competed for visual attention. Late night jaunts can provide an interesting introduction into the driving and pedestrian culture of nation as you quickly discover just how iron willed drivers are in negotiating road space and rights of way. As with many huge and quickly developing cities, the residents of Lima abide by the “might is right” philosophy of road etiquette. We received a clear notion of this about 15 minutes into our taxi ride as our driver tried to claim road space a mini bus had already staked out and was actively protecting with short blasts of air horn. Our driver, not convinced, tried the old right hand takeover on a long curving left arc only to discover the bus’s road claim extended wholly around the vehicle in all directions and into all lanes. Thankfully a quick, albeit late-ish, application of brakes avoided closing the 18 inch gap that separated our hurtling vehicles. As I looked to the back seat to gather the impressions of my fellow passengers I was rewarded a priceless look from my 13 year old daughter who in one look summed up the entire entourage’s feelings at the moment: “what the hell kind of place have we come to?” Remember, this is a creature who’s near brushes with death to that point in life had been sipping milk days past the best before date. In spite of her sleep deprived state, her wide eyed and darting eyes portrayed a mind keenly alert to danger and readiness to bound out of the vehicle the moment it slowed enough for safe egress.
Thankfully it was only about another 20 minutes before our dutiful driver scooted down the final, ever narrowing lane to our modest accommodations, Kaclla Healing Dog Hostel. After a brief but amusing mix up (at least for us) where my 11 year old mistakenly claimed the small black backpack belonging to our driver, we found ourselves snug in a pair of matching bunk-beds. The bag mix up required our driver to explain to me in Spanish that we had whisked off with his pack. Recognizing the blank look my non-Spanish speaking brain produced, he resigning himself to traveling with our small thievish party to the check in desk where again he needed to explain with the assistance of a bilingual hostel employee that it really is not cool to lift personal belongings from hard working folk. Actually the man was very sweet and patient and if all future interactions with Peru’s citizens are marked by such understanding and warmth we are in store for a lovely three weeks.