Having enjoyed our trip around Santiago, Valparaiso & Vina Del Mar in Chile so much we were slightly reluctant to fly into Lima, especially after our expectations were set by reading Lonely Planet. Normally we love to hate/chuckle at this useful (but sometimes inconsistent/annoying/frustrating) publication, but this time it was different; more serious, down-beat, and cautious, essentially a warning to travellers - especially those coming here.
Still, it was a means to an end, and this was the only way we were going to get to Cusco and onto the Inca Trail. We had naively assumed this would be a nice/interesting city break when we booked the trip back in 2009, but with more experience under our belt and now having read the guide book we couldn't help feeling that we'd made a wrong turn and a little trapped by our schedule that meant we had to spend 4 nights here.
First impressions weren't great...a local woman Julie spoke to at the airport confirmed everything the guide book said, our 'taxi officiale' tariff was on the high side and our driver tried to plug his hotel on commission most of the way whilst asking prying questions. The streets were similar to Delhi and everyone honked their horns beyond all meaning as vehicles swerved all over the road. Upon arrival at the hotel, the driver could offer no change to honour the agreed price in what seemed a well-rehearsed and almost comical routine that left us with the last American dollar he had in his wallet. We felt like tourist meat as the locals watched us enter our hotel.
The hotel was pre-booked through Trailfinders, which was definitely a mistake as we found ourselves in an overpriced (pre-paid) Peruvian equivalent of Faulty Towers in the wrong part of town. We ventured out only during daylight, which is a fairly natural schedule for us anyway, and walked up and down the main route to Plaza de Armas, stopping for lunch at various establishments along the way on differing days. We managed to ignore or accept that everyone looked us up and down and refused the frequent approaches for tattoos in the main shopping street. On the positive side we found the owners and workers in the restaurants and cafes to be very friendly and they all served good food at very good prices.
Thankfully in what seems typically South American style, much like that in SE Asia, internet connectivity with wifi is everywhere and free of cost, even in our hotel. We spent a fair bit of time online at the hotel, catching up on things, planning our trip and researching plans for our return to the UK. Watching the breakfast news at the hotel, we witnessed the kidnappings and murders on-screen that Lima seems infamous for. We kept looking forward to our flight to Cusco.