I liked Lima, it was quite grubby. I was only there for two nights but had a bit of a wander round and rather enjoyed it, found it quite atmospheric, pretty dirty and rough and ready but striking mix of v impressive old colonial buildings and lots of art deco/ more modern buildings. I was v pleased to be walking down the streets that are named in one of my favourite books, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa and could picture the goings on, helped by where I stayed. Most hostels are in Miraflores which is several km from the centre but I stayed right in the centre of town and am glad I did, at the Familiglia Rodriguez which was a B & B in a town house listed in the trusty South American Handbook. I do like the sort of places that the handbook tends to recommend which are rather tired but safe and comfortable b & Bs and small hotels locally owned, rather than hostels full of 20 year olds owned by Australasians or Europeans, and I would guess that many of them have been on the handboooks books for decades and in the same ownership. and I`ve stayed in some fascinating, idiosyncratic places. I sent an email to the Famiglia Rodriguez but when I rang the bell at 10.30 pm they hadn´t received it but let me in and gave me a room. The house looked as the though it could be the home of a charater from Aunt Julia, and as if the family had been there for many years decorated in the Peruvian style, which I understand to be dark wood, so wooden parquet flooring with faded rugs, wooden panelling, big wooden sideboards, wooden chairs, overstuffed faded armchairs. Lots of ancient Christmas decorations. Mr and Mrs Rodriguez were in their late 60's I would say and there were various younger family members around. So I made a good impression by turning up late unannounced which I added to the next morning when I managed to unscrew the hot water tap from the communal bathroom basin resulting in a spout of hot water which I couldn´t stop. All the fittings were a bit tired and the tap literally came off in my hand. I had just had a shower and didn´t have any clothes on and had left my towel in Medellin so was having a shave to pass the time while I drip dried. The water was coming out at quite a rate and I had terrible thoughts of flooding the downstairs flat, I couldn`t get the tap back on (it screwed on contra wise) and so thought well I`ll have to tell Mrs Rodriguez. Mrs Rodriguez was serving breakfast to the other 4 or 5 guests. I rush to put my jeans on, fall over on the wet bathroom floor, run into the dining room dripping with just a pair or wet jeans on saying perdon perdon una problema. Mrs Rodriguez isn`t v impressed with this English halfwit although eventually I did manage to get the tap back on but it could not be used and thereafter had gaffer tape on with Out of order written on it.
The Plaza San Martin features in Aunt Julia and I was sitting in the Plaza when my musings were interrupted by two young boys who asked me if I liked hombres. This threw me slightly, and I established that the Plaza is a gay pick up spot. This doesn´t feature in Aunt Julia.
I had flown from Bogota to Lima and then caught the coach from Lima to La Paz which took 27 hours. This was to save a bit of money. I had blanched at the cost of a flight from Bogota to La Paz, which was $600, but the price then went up to $900 by the time I had to leave or $600 to Lima and $70 for the coach leg. I didn`t mind itthe coach too much, although air con didnt work a lot of the time, and I was glad to get off. I had two seats and the view was fascinating, along the Pacific coast for several hours through desert then gradually becoming more mountaneous. The Pacific didnt look v inviting, often shrouded in mist. Periodically along the barren desert coast there would be a huge sign advertising an amazing new resort in glowing terms and often extravagant entrance gates and a road that led to nothing or some abandoned foundations. There was an enormous sign advising that HSBC had provided project finance for one development and I was interested to see what this was in this strange location but impressed that HSBC might be funding some industry in this out of the way place, as we drove on I could see that the scheme was a golf course, half built on a desolate foggy stretch of desert in Peru, how could it fail?! Eventually a seemingly endless line of snow capped mountains stretching across the horizon then past lake titicaca and eventually turning a bend and La Paz is stretched out below you in the ravine between mountains, an extraordinary sights. I was glad to hook up with Anton and Becky again in La Paz, indeed bumping into them in the street as I was looking for an internet cafe to send them an email to arrange a meet.
We were in La Paz for 5 days I think, including Christmas and took an apartment for a few nights which was great, a bit of luxury and the first bath in 3 months. We fitted in a ride down what they call the worlds most dangerous road and trip to Lake Titicaca. As Anton said the bike ride should be called the world´s most beautiful road not the most dangerous. Apparently it used to be the most dangerous for cars but since a new road has been built it now gets v little traffic. It was a stunning ride though along this road that is unpaved and is just a cutting out of the side of a thickly forested mountain, down the valley starting at 4,000m and dropping down to 1,500m, through forest with waterfalls at several points on the road. There werent any barriers on the road which was sometimes quite narrow, perhaps 8 feet with a sheer drop sometimes perhaps a few hundred metres. Luckily the bikes were excellent with v good brakes and suspension. We had a great trip o the Isla del sol which is on Lake Titicaca. I was a bit dubious thinking that it would be v touristy and spoilt but like most places it wasnt what I expected. The lake was stunning, bright sunshine, clear clean water and snow capped mountains in the background. The island felt like it could have been in Europe with roses around the door and a little brick church.
We then spent 3 days in the Sale de Uyuni and the lakes in the south of Bolivia which was spectacular, I haven`t seen scenery like it, epic salt flats, mountains, lakes, hot springs. It felt like a huge geography lesson with a lanscape that has been weathered for however many thousand years, amazing combinations of colours. I`ve put some photos up on Facebook. We`re now heading north from here in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, to Peru.