After barely sleeping, my friend (I’ll call her George because that’s her name) and I got up at 2am and drove to Heathrow airport for a connecting flight to Madrid and then on to Lima.
My first experience of South American friendliness came not in South America but from the driver of the airport bus from the long stay car park to the terminal. The Columbian driver with a warm smile told us how dangerous it was in his continent and how if we couldn’t speak Spanish we wouldn’t be able to get anywhere or do anything. Nothing like a vote of confidence is there?
I had turned up at George’s house the previous evening expecting to be full of joy and excitement for the coming few weeks. However, I had spoken to many friends and family that day and everyone appeared fairly pessimistic about my travels. My 91 year old Grandad told me South America is full of bandits and I will get robbed. Friends warned me about drugs and how I shouldn’t get involved with any drug lords. And everyone warned me against the water/food. Nobody appears that confident that I’m not going to come down with cholera or typhoid. The result was I turned up at George’s house fairly down in the dumps and not bouncing around with excitement.
However, I didn’t let other people’s fears affect me for long, it soon changed when we set off on our journey and the excitement kicked in. We were on the road for almost 24 hours door to door so were knackered by the time we arrived at our charming hostel- Lima Wari Suites. The best part was stepping out of the airport and feeling the warmth of a summers evening in Lima. Bliss after coming from a Northern European winter.
We were picked up at the airport by a staff member and took the coast road down though Lima to the southern barrio (neighbourhood) of Barranco. George and I sat in the back of the car chatting about our forthcoming journey up into the Andes and the need for acclimatization before going to Machu Picchu. It was obvious we were seriously lacking in sleep when George asked me how high Lima was. I pointed out the window. “Sea level, George” I said, “sea level”.