Welcoming as Peru is, the capital Lima greets me very friendly by slapping its grey, humid heat into my face like a wet towel. It is 7 am in the morning and I am just stepping off the plane. But as I`ve just spent 12 hours in the same clothes in a crammed airplane, I don´t think a little bit of humidity really adds up. Instead I just cope with it like everybody else and sweat myself from the migration point to the baggage claim and through the customs section.
Luckily I booked a sweet little hostel which not only happens to be just around the corner of the airport in the district Los Olivos, but is also run by the sweetest host I´ve ever met: Mama Backpackers. Smirking she welcomes me with the words “Hace mucho calor, sí?”. Sweating I smirk back. Her husband, a gnarly Swiss of Italian origin, takes my luggage and sweats too. While driving to the hostel I have my first encounter with the Peruvian style of driving and have to learn, that the question “how much time does it take to go to…” only can be answered with “Depends on the traffic.”. The Peruvian way of driving can be pretty much summed up with the exclamation: “Geronimooooo!” Undaunted by death and with the accelerator at hand the drivers plunge into traffic like the famous chieftain of the Apaches plunged into war. Turning left or right for example is mainly indicated by waving an arm outside of the window. Due to the heat the windows are open anyway and apart from that, in case of doubt, the turn signal has nothing (seriously: Nothing!) to do with the direction the car might be going in. Sometimes the car is flashing all over just because. Later I will learn that in Peru “there is no fatal accident for a car”. As long as it is going and the horns are working, a car will be repaired by gluing, screwing or even tying things in place. Using the horns is, by the way, always the option of choice. May it be right before a possible accident, right after something could have happened or just using them from time to time in a more precautionary manner. In a city like Lima, with about 10 millions of inhabitants, the streets are naturally crowded, the noise level is incredibly high and with the current air pollution it is no wonder, that Lima is also called “the grey city”.
One of the many causes of the traffic chaos is the concept of the velo-, normal taxis and buses that drive through Lima. The drivers will rent the velo taxis, cars and buses in the morning and then have time until night to get the most out of it. Of course this means that they will try do to as many tours as possible in the shortest time possible. The outcome is aforesaid traffic chaos. In the meantime, someone tried to put an end to this thrill of speed and had the great idea to build bumpers onto several streets. Unfortunately, this solely seems to incite the will to combine the highest possible speed on short distances with highest possible braking effort. The first Newtonian law is straining my neck and nerves. But the most remarkable thing to me is, despite all this, how calm and even stoic the Peruvians seem. Stoically people sweat (here we go again) in the buses, calmly they are squeezing themselves into the already totally jam-packed buses, even when the doors won´t be closing anymore and mothers with 3 children will unhurriedly force themselves through between two huge buses on a completely blocked crossover. And still, with all this chaos, nobody is really aggressive. But interestingly the Limenos somehow are a bit ambivalent when it comes to their urban chaos. Whilst all possible laws, legal ones as much as physical ones, are ignored with great dedication, it is for instance very important for Lima’s citizens to stand in line before entering a bus and woe betide the tourist who is not fast enough to realize that. Being shooed to the end of the line by the wildly gesturing queue of Limenos is quite a remarkable experience.
Thanks for reading so far. This is the first part of my impressions of Lima, a second and even a third one is coming. I hope you enjoyed and nobody had the phone fall onto their face while reading and falling asleep.