Solo Pisco, no Paracas

I’m more than sure my very nice, new Peruvian friend Daniel had no intentions of steering me in the wrong direction when he suggested I take the Soyez bus line instead of Cruz del Sur — the tourist-oriented, but expensive, bus line that runs throughout Peru.

“You can take Soyez directly to Paracas,” he told me yesterday, explaining that those buses leave every few minutes and are much cheaper.

Well, he was right — the busses do leave every 20 minutes and are half the price — but they only go to Pisco, the town adjacent to Paracas, aka 30 minutes away by taxi.

You can imagine my surprise when the bus assistant (in South America, all buses have a driver and an “assistant” — on the fancy buses this means the ticket taker, meal and drink server, and helpful attendant when you have questions. On the cheap buses, they simply collect your ticket money) told me we were in Pisco, and that this was my stop.

No señor, yo necesito Paracas. No Paracas. Solo Pisco. Tu salida aquí. Pero yo pago por a boleta a Paracas. No, tu boleta es por Pisco.

Turns out, he was right. My ticket was, indeed, marked Pisco. Total fail, because in my attempt to save myself 30 soles (about $12) I failed miserably, because I then had to fork over 25 soles to take a cab from Pisco to my hostel in Paracas. Why on earth the lady at the ticket counter let me believe I was buying a ticket to Paracas I will never know. You live and you learn right?

I’m relatively sure at some point my taxi driver was trying to convince me to go out to the discoteques tomorrow night with him (after, of course, he told me he has two young children) but regardless he was very nice, and we had a wonderful Spanish conversation, of which I understood approximately 85% of. It’s amazing, I always thought my comprehension would be much better than my ability to speak, but then people throw out vocabulary I just have never heard before, and I stumble pathetically trying to understand what they’re asking me or telling me.

Anyways, I’m safely at my Paracas hostel, slightly poorer, but in the end, no major harm done.

I spent the last 2 and a half days in Lima, wandering the city and making new friends in my hostel. I hadn’t heard such great things about Lima, and I’m learning that this trip and seeing new cities is all about managing expectations. I think because I expected to hate Lima in the same way I hated Quito, I was actually pleasantly surprised with the city, and didn’t find myself repulsed in the least.

Sure, it’s a major city with massive intersections and smog and insane drivers, but the city itself, especially the suburb of Miraflores where I stayed, definitely has some charm, and I enjoyed spending time walking around and taking it all in.

Of course, Miraflores is a wealthy neighborhood, and I didn’t spend any time in the poorer sections of the city, so I will admit to having a bit of a skewed perception. But the Miraflores cliffs overlooking the ocean (pictured), the Barranco neighborhood, also in the south, and the old city center are all great areas with beautiful architecture, and plenty of green parks. The city is very walkable, and the public transportation was easy to manage and understand (and exponentially cheaper than taking cabs everywhere!)

Unfortunately, Lima has a constant marine layer over it, so it was overcast and grey my entire time there, sans two or three hours on my second day when the sun made a brief appearance before slipping back behind the fog.

On day two in Lima, our hostel got a nice surprise: a gigantic Venezuelan middle- and high-school-aged badminton team (I couldn’t make this up if i tried) checked into the hostel. Incredibly young and very noisy, you can imagine myself and my fellow backpackers were less than thrilled (to put it nicely) with our sudden new bunkmates. Luckily I was only there for one more night, but the others chose to vacate to a new hostel to avoid the children. So bizarre!

South America may be a big continent, but it’s still a small world down here: in the last two days I managed to bump into Chloe, who was the first other gringa I met when I first got to Ecuador, on the beach in Huanchaco. Turns out we were on the same overnight bus down to Lima. And my first morning in Lima, I woke up in my shared hostel room after a quick nap to Milou’s voice — another girl I studied with in Montanita! Who knew we’d all randomly be reuniting several hundred kilometeres south.

Other than all that randomness, I’ve had 3 very relaxing, low key days. It’s crazy to think I’m almost halfway through my time in Peru: at this time next week I expect to be crossing the Bolivian border! Next on the agenda? A boat tour (I know, I swore I wouldn’t get on another vehicle in the water this trip, but I just can’t resist) of the Isla Ballestas, flying over the Naza lines, checking out Arequipa, and hiking through one of the deepest canyons in the world. Not a bad itinerary!