Send Lawyers, Guns, and $$$ Tour
Last installment found us in the one rail town of Agua Caliente, today I sit in the middle of a Catholic school classroom with about twenty giggling 14 year old girls and Lois isn't with me. Trying to find the closest Internet access to our hotel found me in the school after it closed for regular classes for the day. Our business class hotel had Internet access but at 35 cents per minute I deferred.
Our trip back to Cuzco from Machu Pichu proved somewhat exhausting. Everyone on the train was emotionally drained from the visit there and the return was bound to be difficult. The Peruvian Railways made it just a little more trying, by taking four and half hours to travel 114 kilometers, less than 70 miles. The last half of the trip was in darkness so it seemed even longer. Upon approaching the last small hill before Cuzco station we had to try three times to get over the top. Came to think that this was perfectly matched by our three attempts to get over the same hill on the outward trip, it somehow must relate to an Inca attachment to the number three. Most Incan sites are explained in relation to some numerology, so why should this be different.
Rising at 5:00 AM the next day we were off to the airport for an 8:00 AM flight. Somewhere it is written that you must always be two hours early for all flights. When the plane is then announced everyone immediately jumps into a line, not us of course. Must relate to the "get on the bus before all the seats are gone mentality", haven't been able to adapt to the idea that everyone gets on the plane. The flight was totally uneventful, though the equipment on the Boeing 727 definitely looked like it had seen a lot of miles, probably a plane forced into retirement from the USA.
Lima is a very big city but it definitely has more problems than any other big city we've ever seen. There is no way to describe the security that encompasses every aspect of life in this city. When we first entered a taxi we found armed guards making sure the door was properly shut and insisting that it be locked before we could depart. Every business, from the Laundromat on, has armed guards and the houses have levels of security befitting a prison. In the neighborhood where our hotel is, Miraflores, there is a private school for girls. The parents all congregate outside the security fence to pick-up their children at the end of class. That is not unusual in itself, but the half dozen armed guards that patrol every possible access road to the school attest to the fear of kidnapping the parents must have.
Miraflores is the most prosperous part of Lima and contains all the McDonald's, Burger Kings, Duncan Donuts - you get the idea. The brown shirted security that front each business with their guns certainly give it a festive atmosphere. It is at the very end of the main street, Locar Avenue, that you find Locarmar Center and the Hard Rock Cafe. We walked down this street knowing that the HRC was at the end of the street but we couldn't figure where it was. There was, however, a number of security guards there who were guarding the entrance to the underground parking garage. They pointed to the cliff and we approached and looked down. There overlooking the highway and Pacific beaches was perched a shopping complex built into the cliffside.
The HRC was right there next to Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and the Cookie Factory. Tremendous view and location that reminded us greatly of the Beirut HRC. The ceiling of the two story HRC contains a dome with a painting of llamas and Machu Pichu. We were told that we were quite fortunate to be able to see a warm-up performance of the Peruvian rock band EL TRI, who appear to be their equivalent of the Rolling Stones. The HRC gave us a special edition t-shirt they had previously issued that honored this band for three decades of R&R. They were quite good and during the couple hours we spent there they never seemed to do a cover song, but only their own compositions.
Aside from the fried squid that was one of the appetizers there was one other unique feature of this HRC. Each chair had a chain and hook attached to it. The chain is for attaching one's belongings so they don't disappear during dinner (more on this later). The merchandise was fairly standard though they did have some interesting t-shirts. The prices were at least on the level with all USA HRCs except for the fact that each Opening Guitar Pin cost $13. We were able to distribute some pins to the staff, as not one of them was wearing a pin, but they quickly put them on after they got them. Very sure that not many of the kids are ever going to be able to afford to buy many pins and one might hope they don't get into trading them. We had a great time there and expect to get back there next week just before we leave for the USA.
We decided to go into Centro Lima to see the historic buildings left by the Spanish. Downtown Lima is a very scary place and one is always advised NOT to venture far from the major sights. That was fully in our minds when we went to town, but we hoped that everyone's paranoia was not justified. The Place de Armas is the center of the historic area, containing the Cathedral, Government Palace and a number of other scenic buildings. At noon they change the guard at the Palace much like at Buckingham Palace in London.
We arrived early and had a very secure spot against the front fence and buttressed against a concrete gate post, so that no one could be to our right. All our money and other valuables were buried in our clothing where theft was impossible. My camera bag strap was wrapped around the iron fence so that it could not "fly away". I had my camera ready to take photos and for most of the time had its strap wrapped around the fence post also. Magically, the camera disappeared.
It was at that moment we realized the fear that the people of Lima must endure. Let your guard down for an instant and you will be a victim. Peru is a wonderful place but it is indeed a place that suffers from a pervasive crime wave that leaves one in constant danger. The camera can be replaced obviously but you can see how it shapes one's perception of their daily lives. It is very sad. We'll never understand how it could have happened but it most assuredly did. We'll not be back in Centro Lima in the future and fortunately the rest of our trip should avoid any such situations.
We are off tomorrow for Nazca where we will get a bird's eye view of the famous Nazca Lines. Taking a bus that is supposed to be like a first class airplane cabin so it should be comfortable. Will plan on getting back on our experiences there on Sunday - know that my Catholic School Internet site won't be open that day however.
- LOIS & JOHN
© Copyright 1999 Lois and John Hassan
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