This is unbelievably belated, but after sorting through thousands of photos — my friends didnn’t knickname me Asian Picture Girl for nothing (ok, you got me. It also has to do with a regrettably awful, cheesy AOL screenname once upon a time that will haunt me forever) — I’ve finally corralled my thoughts, memories, and photos into something post-worthy;).
I’m not sure what I was expecting with Avianca Airlines — it was the cheapest flight we found going to Peru, so we figured, “heeeeeell yes.” Surprisingly, by some act of airline wizardry, I got bumped to first class. Maybe the airline wizards thought it might be time to make up for me having to ride in a ghetto plane apparently piloted by teenagers and attended to by drunken flight attendants wearing Jack Daniels Eau De Parfum on my previous flight. The world works in mysterious ways.
I have to admit, I almost yelped when I sat down and found a plush blanket tied with a big red bow, plush pillows, and 3 feet of leg room. I thought, “SO THIS IS HOW THE 1% LIVES. I’d want to be part of the 1% just for the blanket.” Of course, I was sitting with the fancy South American elite, businessmen, and people who probably ruled parts of South America, and here I was looking like a 16 year old in a Run DMC tank top, leggings, a Dakine cap and some Havaianas. And my hair still kind of damp from a shower. Just my fanciest attire.
One Wolf of Wall Street — accidentally in Spanish for 15 minutes til I figured out how to switch it (Leo sounds like a Telenovela star en español, FYI) — and a quick nap later, and we were in Lima. But not without a quick snap of my beloved down blankets, and accidentally, my catnapping travel companions. Ya know, since I figure I’ll never be let back into first class again:P. See how peaceful everyone is when they have leg room and a fluffly blanket? LIKE BABIES!
Once the obsession with down blankets was over, and they pried me away from my big red bow and pillows, we wandered around the Lima airport at midnight trying to figure out the best way to get a taxi to our first hostel. There are seas of people trying to lure you into their cab (legit or not), but there really is seemingly only one certified/reputable taxi company (Taxi Green) here, as forewarned by Peruvians who worked in the airport:“You’re looking for a taxi? You want a safe one, right?” I never sensed any real danger in taking any random cab, but after reading a lot of travel forums and asking locals, it seemed like generally speaking, the most risk you’d be taking involved being scammed out of money. For instance, cab drivers taking you a very long route to your destination, or in some cases, the wrong destination, or charging you a lot more than the average going rate.
We hopped into a cab headed to Miraflores, a touristy district of Lima, and were simmering in the thought of our adventure finally beginning. That is, until we cracked open a window and smelled the streets of Lima. For some reason, I had this image of Lima as being somehow metropolitan but sprinkled with beautiful old Spanish colonial buildings and bright colors. In all my research leading up to this trip, I had never bothered to google a picture of Lima, oddly enough. Well, as it turns out, Lima has all the same features of any large city — a huge population, burgeoning businesses, but along with that, major congestion, pollution, and poor air quality that made breathing feel like inhaling pure car exhaust.
About an hour and 50 soles ($20 USD) later, we arrived at our first hostel and were shown our room, consisting of 4 bunks and a random twin bed, thrown in there because, well, it fit. If you’ve never stayed at a hostel before, they do range in cleanliness, fun, features, etc., but when it comes down to it, if they can pack 8 people and a refrigerator in a room, they will. Back to basics, baby. Part of both the pain and the beauty of backpacking. It’s really all you need without much luxury, but takes you back to an idea of Enoughness in life. And if you haven’t already, check out National Geographic photog Cristina Mittermeier’s TED Talk on it.
Maybe hostels aren’t for everyone, and probably not suited for every trip you’ll ever take, but it’s definitely something I encourage everyone to try once. I used to be the girl who traveled with a 50 lb suitcase, a blowdryer (full sized, not even travel sized!), and a mini shoe closet in her bag, but I think hostel living has taught me a new sort of formula that works while traveling: Amount of belongings is inversely proportional to Amount of Fun Had. The less I worry about where I put my laptop, pretty shoes, and 50 lbs of clothes, the more I can just kick back and enjoy a pisco sour and check out some sand dunes.
Back to THIS hostel… We ended up showering with cold water (often the only kind, in all the hostels we stayed at), slept under some oddly damp, soggy blankets (who knew Lima was so humid?), and bought a bus ticket to get the hell out of Lima as fast as we could. “6am bus to Huacachina? 2 hours of sleep after a 5 hour plane ride? OH-to-the-KAY, YES.” I guess we hadn’t experienced much of Lima enough to critique it just yet, but we were just aching to get out of city life and into places that really gave a better indication of the heartbeat of Peru.
And so we made our way to our next stop, the sleepy sand dune oasis of Peru: Huacachina.