After waiting 10 hours in the Lima airport—on the floor; 4 more hours in the hot bus station, and 16 hours in the bus—my body was really tired of sitting and what do I do when I finally arrive in Arequipa? Take a nap! Actually, take two naps in one day! And then slept all night! And so ended my first day in Arequipa Peru.
But before that, I had an interesting, and exhausting trip from Corpus Christi, Texas (where I visited family for a few days) to Lima. As the plane landed in Lima at about 11:30 pm, I said to myself, “Well, there’s no backing out now!” Getting through immigration and customs was a breeze. A very cute young man saw me through immigration. I told him that I would be here until May 5. He insisted on giving me a 5 month visa–“just in case…Welcome to Peru!”
Then I had to find a place to sleep in the airport. I did not want to try to figure out where to stay over just one night when I would be leaving Lima immediately the next day. I found a place where other travelers were awaiting flights the next day and we all slept together on the floor. About 2:30 am, we were unceremoniously moved by the floor cleaners!
I moved upstairs and found another place. Another set of floor cleaners came close but did not move us this time, but by 4:00 am the airport was again getting busy and sleep was impossible. I bought some water, moved back downstairs, and dozed on and off until I could take a taxi to the Cruz del Sur terminal. By 8:00 am, I was too tired and sleepy to read or knit, so when I was not dozing off, I found that it was calming for me to just be a part of the “landscape” and watch all the people coming and going.
The taxi was ungodly expensive for Peru—80 nuevo soles—about $30! But once we were in traffic, I treated it as a carnival ride and marveled at all the drivers’ abilities to create a 4-lane road from a 3-lane one and never run into each other. (Horns being an essential tool for the task.)
Waiting in the hot and humid bus terminal for several more hours, I noticed that at least 3 people were continuously sweeping/mopping the floors. These Peruvians—they like their floors clean! Once I was finally on the bus, I was so glad I splurged and got a first class ticket (only $55 for the 16-hour ride to Arequipa). The bus seat was plush and the cabin was quiet with large windows to see outside. Seeing outside was a mixed blessing. I was glad to see the city and the countryside, but the sights brought on my first attack of culture and environment shock. It has been a LONG time since I have been in a country where poverty is seen everywhere and it is very difficult to take it all in at once. Another difficulty was seeing how stark southwest Peru is in many places.
I was fed dinner on the bus, but was certainly hungry by the time we reached Arequipa at 7:00 am. My host came to pick me up at the station!! The taxi to his home was FIVE soles (about $2). Manuel and Adela welcomed me to their home with breakfast on the table starting with fresh mango! Then came my first nap.
Then, Michel, a visitor from Quebec who lives here temporarily and speaks fluent French and Spanish, volunteered to guide me on my first walk through the streets. It was good I had guide on my first outing—I felt like a little kid again learning to cross streets where the cars (mostly little taxis) have the right of way. We had lunch at one of his favorite places and I got bowl of fruit with a little granola and yogurt. I doubt that I will tire of fruit in 4 months!
We returned home and I took another 2-hour nap; woke up to join the household for dinner. I did not eat but just sat and listened to the conversation; letting my first immersions in the language do their job. I understood about 10%…
This seems like a very long day! Was it only this morning that I woke up on a bus? And now I climb into what will be my bed for many nights…
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