August 10-14, 2007
This was my fifth visit to Lima. I wasn't too fond of the city on my first visit to start my trip, so I left after two days. Every other time I came to Lima I was just passing through. On this visit, I was going to get a bus right away to Huaraz, but I was invited to stay with a Couchsurfer named Marcela who I had met while trekking near Cusco, so I figured I'd give Lima another chance.
Marcela lives in a neighborhood called La Molina, which is quiet, unlike the rest of the city. The first thing I noticed when passing through the area was how Americanized it was. Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Starbucks all made their presence well-known. I even saw my first McDonald's in four months (there are no McDonald's in Bolivia). A few minutes later, I saw my second, third, and fourth McDonald's. There were also big shopping malls, expensive car dealerships, and every other form of decadence that exists in American culture. The palm trees scattered throughout the city and Latino heritage made it feel like Los Angeles (even though I've never actually been to LA). Because of this, Lima shares little in common with the rest of Peru.
Marcela made me feel welcome in her home right away. She still had a few days before starting university, where she is going for an engineering program, so she was able to show me around her city (she's actually from Cajamarca, but has been living in Lima for a few years). We went to Barranca and Miraflores, the main districts for nightlife, and met up with some other members of Couchsurfing. Everything was very expensive, almost to the point of having American prices, but the pisco, cashaca, cumbia, and salsa reminded me that I was, in fact, still in South America. Everyone I met was so nice, I felt welcomed right away.
Although I had a great time meeting the locals, I'm still not very fond of Lima. The city has a lot of air pollution, it's cold despite being at sea level in the tropics, I didn't see the sun the entire time I was there, it's damp despite being dry season, the city extends to the ocean but the water's so polluted you can't swim there, the city's so spread out it takes half an hour just to get to the next neighborhood, and there's no subway system to alleviate the constant problem of congestion. It's not the kind of place I'd want to live, but I still really enjoyed meeting the people there, and it was a welcome break on my long journey through Peru.