At 6.30am I was picked up across the road from the hostel by the Peru Hop bus. I opted for this transportation option around Peru rather than struggle around bus stations with next to no Spanish-language skills.
On the way out of Lima we headed to a hilltop overlooking the city. Here we found a huge statue of Jesus, Cristo del Pacifico (Christ of the Pacific). It’s kind of Lima’s version of Christ the Redeemer. According to the Christian Post (not one of my normal go-to websites), this is the largest Christ statue in the world . Despite it being misty, this viewpoint really showed the sheer size of Lima. From here it’s also apparent how shanty towns are often situated right next to blocks of posh flats.
After this brief stop we were off out of town. Immediately after leaving the city you are passing through a full-on desert, with sand as far as the eye can see in all directions. From being in the city you’d have no idea that Lima is essentially built within a large desert. Not to be mistaken with a large dessert as Steve Jobs’ spellchecker seems to insist that I mean!
The tour guide Nilo (from Lima) introduces himself and is a right good laugh. Like many people whose first language is not English, Nilo shows false modesty about his English not being very good. In reality it’s excellent. He can certainly understand me better than many Americans whose one and only language is English. Nilo’s a natural on the microphone. He told us that he learnt English from watching Two and a Half Men so his phrases may be out of date and his jokes a bit lame! We’re informed that the main rule of the bus is that (like most buses in South America) the toilet is only for Number Ones. Or wee-wees and no poo-poos! The bus itself is very nice. It looks new. The seats are comfy and there are plenty of video screens. By the magic of piracy we are able to see a film that hasn’t even been released in Peru yet, Money Monster. With my Barry Norman head on, I’d say that it’s OK. The narrative is slightly contrived and it’s not clever enough to be the satire that it wants to be but overall it’s far from bad. A solid 3/5.
No sooner had the film finished and we were at the next stop. We’re off the beaten track in a small village and outside some tall gates. They open and at the end of a driveway stands a large beautiful colonial ranch, Hacienda San Jose. Nilo showed us around the buildings and the grounds, which today are a posh hotel and upscale wedding venue. We were told that we’re not allowed anywhere near the bar following a past incident. Apparently some Irish lads were a bit worse for wear and jumped into the pool while naked, must to the aghast of the highbrow clientele. That almost got tour groups banned from the property! The unique selling point of this place is that there’s a series of underground tunnels beneath the property and we went down to have a look at these. I’m not sure exactly how much the owners are aware what visitors are told about the history of the place but a lot of unsavoury slavery activity took place on the property and within the tunnels. I certainly doubt that any of that is mentioned in the wedding literature.
It was then on to Paracus where we would be staying overnight. Paracas is a small and fairly quaint fishing village. And I mean small. There’s the beach and three roads parallel to the coastline. The fourth road is the start of miles of desert. There appeared to be a fair amount of tourism here though. The nearby desert is good for quad biking. Also there are boat trips to the nearby Ballestas Islands. Described by the tour companies themselves as the Poor Man’s Galapagos, you can apparently see some exotic wildlife here. I’m no public relations expert but I always thought that the idea was talk up your product! As I’ve already seen plenty of seals, sea lions and penguins, combined with the 7.30am start meant that I opted out of this trip.
Again the hostel was excellent. The place was spotlessly clean and it even had a nice pool. It’s patio and bar area merged with the beach which apparently is a great spot to view the sunset although I managed to miss most of this. While travelling you often encounter one of those “it’s a small world” cliched scenarios. Here I was talking to one of the bar staff who mentioned that she was from Colorado. I said that I’d recently been there and asked whereabouts in Colorado was she from. She replied Denver and asked if I had been there. I said that I liked Denver despite being in the vicinity of a murder there a couple of months ago. Well this lady was actually working in the next office block from the scene at the time. Small world indeed!
Paracas isn’t a bad night considering its size. For a little fella Nilo can certainly put the booze away. Although if any of his bosses ever read this I’d like to make it clear that he was operating within the company alcohol consumption guidelines!