Nevado Pisco, Urus & Ischinca Expedition
Day 17 – Return to Lima:
July 15, 2004
We slept in after our late night at the Tombo and then breakfasted once again at the Casa de Guias. Safe fare was the name of the game and with an eight hour “solo orinario” bus ride to Lima but a few hours away. None of us I needed a stomach full of ache to turn that trip into an eternity. We packed our gear as compactly as possible and lugged it all down to the ground floor hallway. Jim and I then went down to the main drag to find some staples for the bus trip. I took the camera along and got a few market pictures, as I had taken none the day before. Soon enough it was time to lug the gear to the Movil station a few blocks away and head for Lima.
Rather than man haul my 70 lb. Duffle two blocks, I hired a taxi to haul all the stuff over (Hint: me too of course) to the Movil terminal. We checked in and fended off the shoeshine boys whose racket was either to get us to pay for a shine of worn hiking boots or just get us to draw our cash from our pocket for a fast grab and run. I don’t know which but I explained in Spanish that I was a lost cause as was Jim and G. Eventually they took the hint that though we were temporary captives of Movil, the Stockholm syndrome was not even on our psychological horizons. Eventually the bus was loaded, the gate opened and we were headed for Lima.
Taking the 1 p.m. depart from Huaraz gives you the opportunity to see the stretch that was covered in the dark on the trip up. The route leaves Huaraz and trends south along the Cordillera Blanca and then near the Huayhuash before turning to the west and crossing a 15,000-foot pass. The road then drops and drops and drops through innumerable switchbacks before getting to the coastal plain. The weather on the coast was much like that we had experienced in the high country, rain, fog and drizzle. The ride up down the coast passed once again through coastal towns and villages before the sun set on the outskirts of Lima. We came into the sprawl, making a quick stop at the outlying bus station and then arriving at the main station from which we had departed.
My hope was that we had a waiting ride back to the Hotel Aleman as I had emailed them requesting a pick-up. I have no problems getting taxis and haggling over fares but I just did not want to do so while keeping the thieves away from the gear that would have ended up on the sidewalk. The Hotel came through like a charm and the fellow was there again with a sign bearing my name and the same smallish set of wheels that we piled into from the airport. But . . . this time, we knew the routine and three climbers and all their gear assumed the position.
The Aleman had the same room ready for our arrival. We dumped gear bags at the left luggage room on the first floor and then I headed for the room. G and Jim, the ever-hungry pair, wanted no part of bed, they needed food. They headed out onto the street to find dinner before coming back to the Aleman for our final night in Peru.
Day 18 – Playing Tourist in Lima and Homeward Bound:
July 18, 2004
Rain greeted us on our last day in Lima, as if that should have been a surprise at this point in the trip. We did breakfast at the Aleman’s euro breakfast area, fresh juice, cold cuts, bread . . . once again good Continental fare. While feeding, we discussed our plan for the day, which would be an incredibly long affair. We were going to do some tourist things in town, then get some shopping done and then get to the airport and head for the U.S. All told this was going to be a 30+ hour marathon by the time any of us got another shot at any real rest.
We all decided that we had to scope out the bone filled catacombs that lie beneath the former Franciscan Monastery in the heart of old Lima. We hailed a taxi to city center (8 soles from Miraflores) and hit a major traffic jam about 6 blocks from the Plaza de Armas. The cabbie pointed to where we were supposed to go so we could cover the ground on foot and he could head for better hunting grounds. The Plaza de Armas is like the central Plaza in Mexico City and Guatemala City, mandatory Cathedral and major governmental edifices. We walked to the Cathedral and I went inside to find the crypt of Hernan Pizaro. It lies just inside the door behind some major league iron gates but there is his final resting place. G and Jim were outside where in the meantime a local lady was offering them her services as a no fee tour guide. (If you ever get something for free in a developing country, write me so I can believe there is such a thing)
I took in the other main sight within the cathedral, the Sunday Mass and singing of a choir like I’ve never heard before. Catholic or not, this is a sight to see and hear. I caught up with Jim and G outside and found that Jim now had a guide. I’ll leave the details of my thoughts to the reader’s imagination. The four of us headed back into the Cathedral for a round of Saint-seeing before we were back on the street and Catacomb bound. The former Monastery is four or five blocks off the Plaza de Armas and connected to another church of course. The entrance to the tour is off to the side and the tour will cost you 5 soles. As an English-speaking group, we waited a bit for a few more English speakers to arrive before Jim’s guide led us off to see both the Monastery and the Catacombs.
The monastery played a significant role in the history of Peru as some of the events leading to its independence occurred in the rooms around the central courtyard. The courtyard is decorated with paintings of significant events and the tile work on columns depicts the generally gruesome final moments of various Saints, you know . . . a spear through the gut here and a beheading there. The tour also includes the Library, a cavernous and dark room full of ancient books and another room with a depiction of the last supper. This supper had all the usual players but was different in a number of ways. The table is round, there are women and kids all about, and the main course is guinea pig. You know what they say . . . when is Jerusalem, do like the Peruvians.
Next was the decent into the Catacombs to see the remains of Lima’s past residents. The scoop on the Catacombs is that there was no city cemetery until 1720. Those who died were taken to the catacombs and placed in lime filled pits to decompose enough to be placed with the other residents without making a stink about the move. Then at some time, the powers that be wanted to have a census and all the bones were sorted into types, i.e. skulls and femurs, so that the past burials could be tabulated. Once the count was done the femurs all went in one area and the skulls in another. But they also had a number of round “wells” where the bones and femurs were placed in a circular pattern, thirty feet deep. These wells are visible today with the well-ordered bones still as they were placed long ago.
After the catacomb tour, Jim’s tour guide insisted that we have our group photo taken so that she could have a photo of her new friends. We had already seen the photos of her old friends, a group we would join by the end of the afternoon without a doubt. We did the pose and no doubt the photo dude provided our guide with the appropriate commission. With the conclusion of the photo op. we were off to the Museum of the Inquisition to take learn a bit more about the independence of Peru and the treatment of those whose heresy needed treating. The building is a few blocks away from the Plaza de Armas and a tour in English is available. It is a worthwhile undertaking as we knew little of the Inquisition and the kid in each of us loved the wax figures undergoing various tortures used to facilitate the need to come clean on witchcraft and the devil.
Now the time had come that G and I were Hotel Aleman bound and Jim had to relieve himself of the no fee tour guide. She knew by now that we were a pair of cold shoulders but Jim had already been the willing recipient of an “I love Americans” speech and now got the full press “I’ve got to support my family” pitch. It was time to tip the piper and Jim was hosed. He told her all he had was a 20 sole note and of course she said that would be fine. But no . . . Jim wanted change so off they went scampering about to break the 20. I know I’m sounding harsh but to be there for the disentanglement was entertaining at the least and a lesson to the unknowing . . .’tis easiest to say no at the start then drag it out to some bitter end.
We knew it was going to be a long day so we kept the room at the Aleman for the night even though we would be airport bound by early evening. The alternative was a long sit at the airport and none of us could face the thought of that ordeal. I haggled with a cabbie for the ride back to the Aleman and after dismissing the first driver for not even having an idea where the place was, I found one that had a look of mild comprehension at the mention of the Avenue the hotel was located on. (Hint: take a Hotel business card with you when you are doing the cabbie routine. They will often have no idea where your hotel is by name but will be able to wander into the right area and find it if you have the card and address.)
We arrived at the Aleman in mid afternoon so it was off to find some lunch. What we found was a huge parade put on for Father’s Day with floats from major stores, various local schools and the Peruvian Army. I’m guessing that we watched the festivities for an hour before heading off for some lunch at a nice restaurant nearby and then heading on back to the Aleman. We still had an two hours to kill before we had to head for the airport so we settled for some CNN and local TV while taunting Jim about his failure as the man about towns, both Huaraz and now Lima. Needless to say, we can be a tough crew.
Our flight out was at 11:50 so we wanted to be at the airport no later than 9:50, hence a depart from the Aleman no later than 9 p.m. Like our arrival, all the departs to the U.S. go out at the same time so the arrival at the airport is a step into mass confusion. We paid the skycap equivalent a more than fair tip to hustle our stuff and confirm our delivery to the correct line, a step I’d advise anyone to take. Then we did the wait in line to show our passport to the airline, then the wait in line to check in for the flight, then the wait in line to pay the exit tax, then the wait in line to show our passport to the guy who lets you into the immigration hall where you show your passport and then we waited in line to get on the plane. Does this give you a slight indication of our frustration? At 12:30 or so, the flight boarded and by 1 a.m. we were in the air and headed north. From there it was but another showing of the passport and flight from Houston to Denver before we were on the ground and heading home.