February 8, 2022
Lima is the tidiest Latin American city we’d ever visited. There is an army of uniformed cleaners who are out all day emptying trash cans, sweeping sidewalks and gutters and cleaning signs and parks. Others are constantly painting sidewalk stripes, lamp posts and park furniture. Recycle and trash bins are everywhere and people use them. For a city of 10 million people, it’s amazingly clean—at least the Miraflores and Barranco neighborhoods we’d visited.
Today we’d leave Miraflores and head to the Lima airport where we’d stay our last night in the same airport hotel we’d stayed during our crazy trip from Leticia, Colombia in the Amazon jungle to the Iquitos, Peru when our boat trip was cancelled. The hotel was within walking distance of the international terminal and we had to be at the gate by 5:45 am. And we needed to get Covid tests there in the afternoon.
But we had most of the day before we had to be at the airport so we took a final pre-breakfast oceanside morning walk and marveled again at the weather in Lima. During the day it was pretty much room temperature. At night it was only a few degrees cooler. We wore shorts every day and never felt the need for anything more, even at night.
We still had some Peruvian soles we needed to either use or exchange for dollars so we wisely decided to take advantage of an inexpensive massage for me and pedicure for Susan. My recently surgically-repaired neck was usually sore by mid-day and I found a massage place that gave me a wonderful one-hour massage for less than US $30. Meanwhile, Susan found a nail salon where she got a gel pedicure for just US $10.
By now, Susan’s Spanish had gotten quite good and she was able to explain the type of massage I wanted and the type of pedicure she wanted, even though nobody in either salon spoke English.
We weren’t ready for a meal yet, but had a few more Peruvian soles to spend and wanted to try Lima’s famous sandwich shop, La Lucha Sanguchería Criolla, known for quality, fresh ingredients and bread baked on site. La Lucha was on the way back to the B&B, so we stopped by, waited in a long lunchtime line, then picked up takeout for later using the last of our Peruvian soles.
After a late checkout from our B&B, we took an Uber to the hotel by the airport. The ride should have taken less than half an hour but took over an hour due to traffic. The Uber driver took a route that was different from the way we’d come when we arrived in Lima a few days before, presumably to avoid the traffic we were nonetheless stuck in.
About halfway to the airport, our driver turned on a road away from the coast. Unlike the tidy, upscale parts of Lima where we’d been, we now passed through a dusty, crowded industrial area that reminded us a little of Iquitos, but with cars instead of tuk tuks. Lima’s sheen dulled a little as we got a glimpse of the poverty-stricken area and the extent to which Lima is city of haves and have-nots.
We later learned that there’s a six-mile-long, ten-foot-high concrete wall topped with barbed wire dividing some of the poorest areas from the upscale ones. The wall was built starting in the mid-1980’s when there was a large migration to Lima from poverty-stricken rural communities in Peru. The government supported building the wall so Lima’s wealthier residents in the more central areas of the city could be separated from even seeing the shanty towns on the outskirts. We wished we’d have had the time to visit the wall while we were in Lima to round out our experience of the city. But today we were getting ready to leave, so that would have to wait for another visit here.
Eventually, our driver deposited us at our airport hotel. After checking in, we relaxed briefly in our room, enjoying our La Lucha sandwiches which served as a midday lunch/dinner combination. Before we could even think of flying the next morning, we had several bureaucratic things to do, each one dependent on the other. First, there were our pre-scheduled Covid tests at giant tents set up in the airport parking lot. After we got our (hopefully) negative results, we could finish required paperwork through various apps and websites so we’d be permitted to board. We both had Global Entry, so we (correctly) anticipated that entering the U.S. would be easy. We’d have to wake up at 5:00 am but, because we were about a three-minute walk to the terminal, getting there would be easy—by now, we were getting pretty good at figuring out how to travel with low (or at least lower) stress. While walking back from the Covid test site, we’d noticed that security guards at every door were making sure each person who entered the airport had a proper vaccine card, creating long lines to get inside, so we readjusted our timing for the morning. Peru was dead serious about Covid. We eventually got our negative test results, filled out the proper forms, and climbed into bed early so we’d be well-rested before our early morning wakeup the next day.
It would be a long journey back, with a flight change in Dallas. We were looking forward to going home, but knew we’d miss both Colombia and Peru. The people were wonderful, the countries both have breathtaking beauty and we knew we’d barely scratched the surface.