Looking for Christmas in Lima


This blog entry about the events of Monday, December 15, 2003 was originally posted on December 16, 2003.

DAY 58: Call me old-fashioned, but during the holiday season, I like it to feel a little bit like Christmas — you know, with the trees and decorations and people following shoppers leaving the mall to snatch their parking space, only to find out they were just dropping off bags in the trunk.  Being in the jungle city of Iquitos, I was far away from anything remotely resembling a stereotypical Christmas, and so it was time to move on.

No roads go into Iquitos, so no roads go out.  I got a flight bound for Lima, Peru’s capital, on the southern coast.  At about $70, it cost about the same as if I traveled via boat, bus and hostel over days — all in just 90 minutes.

LIMA IS YET ANOTHER BIG CITY that the Lonely Planet guide suggests to people to avoid, but I had been there before in 2001 and knew it wasn’t that bad.  Lima is one of the major stops on the backpacker trail, and I figured I’d bump into other travelers in the same predicament as me — away from home on the holidays.

Once in Lima, I got a shuttle bus ticket for half the price of a taxi — the catch was I had to wait for other passengers before departure.  It took half an hour for the next passenger to come, and unlike the week before, I really didn’t mind just sitting around — perhaps I’m just getting used to it.  My busmate was an ecologist named Aura, a friendly, English-speaking native of Iquitos, who was stopping over in Lima for a couple of days en route home from a work trip in the southern jungle city of Puerto Maldonado.  Rather than try to sell me on one of her daughters, she kindly pointed out the different things in Lima along the way, until we dropped her off at her hotel.

MY PLAN FOR MY ARRIVAL in Lima was to take the suggestion of South American Explorersthe American organization I joined in Quito — and go directly to their office from the airport.  I thought it might be a good idea to be greeted somewhere with open arms — and members-only hostel discounts.  I wanted to ask them where the best place was to be for the holidays, if not right there in their cozy office.

Using the Lonely Planet map and the detailed directions to the Lima clubhouse given to me in Quito, I gave the bus driver directions since he got lost.  He dropped me off at the address and drove off, only for me to find myself next to a sign that told me that South American Explorers had moved out of Lima and into the suburb Miraflores.  It was late in the afternoon and there was no time to get there before their office closing time. 

SAE suddenly went from my “nice” list to my “naughty” one.

This wasn’t the first time SAE disappointed me; so far I didn’t get any substantial discounts by flashing my card and I never got a free night in a hotel in the Galapagos like they said I would.  I really started regretting the $40 membership fee I paid, although I will say that the money did pay off that one time I was lost in Quito with an explosive case of diarrhea, and used their bathroom because I was far away from anywhere familiar.

I LUGGED MY BAGS around central Lima, a metropolis with the usual traffic, buildings and guys passing out flyers you would expect from any big city.  I got lost but asked for directions at the restaurant where I stopped in for a fried ceviche lunch.  I eventually made it to a family-run hostel recommended in the Lonely Planet guide — I figured a family-run hostel would be a little more Christmassy than a crowded backpacker hostel.

The “family” of the “family-run” hostel was just one woman alone in a big apartment, who cautiously unlocked four locks on two doors to let me in.  There were no other travelers there, and I had the entire dorm room to myself.  It was sort of lonely, but at least there was a terrace and a Christmas tree in the living room.  I’m a sucker for a good old-fashioned Christmas tree.

I HAD BEEN IN CENTRAL LIMA before, and everything came back to me as I walked down the Jiron de la Union pedestrian mall which led to the main plaza.  The mall was crowded with people shopping for gifts, and it was beginning to look a lot like Navidad.  The fountain at the Plaza Mayor — formerly known as the Plaza das Armas — was just as I remembered it, only with Christmas trees around (picture above).  It was finally nice to see the decorations of the holidays — until a shady man ruined it by hassling me once he saw me start taking pictures. 

And so, to find the holiday spirit I went to the movies and saw Will Ferrell in Elf (El Duende).  Although I’m sure a lot was missing from the dubbed translation in Spanish, but it was still pretty hilarious.  Will Ferrell is funny in any language.

The movie only cost me three soles, which breaks down to about 86 US cents — a 91.4% discount from what I would have paid to see it in a theater in New York City. 

Eighty-six cents for a first run movie, can you believe that?  It’s like Christmas!

Next entry: Across Lima and into Mordor

Previous entry: Amazon Dot Com

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Comments for “Looking for Christmas in Lima”

  • the best way to spread christmas cheer, is to sing out loud for all to hear….

    where’s my dinero wheat?  don’t make me send kurt after you?  hahaha….

    tranquilo, tranquilo

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/16  at  04:22 PM

  • BUURRRPPP…. “Did you guys hear that?!”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/16  at  04:57 PM

  • OK EriK. 

    As one of the heretofore silent, lurking blog readers, please remember that some of us gave you lots and lots of money.  Uhhmm, well, I was unemployed then and it seemed like lots of money.  Anyway, if you stop writing, we will sue you.  Understand?

    Second of all, dare I propose that on some days, writing nothing might be OK.  Better than resorting to say, oh, I don’t know . . .  feces photos.  I know others disagree, but that’s just this old man’s opinion.  The “marathon” analogy just seems a bit forced to me.
    Finally.  Snap out of it!  Cheer up!  Be more funny!  If we wanted to read unfunny, sniffling, whiny blogs, we’d ask O’Grady to write one.  Hey-ooo!

    Returning to my virtual spider hole . . .

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/16  at  05:10 PM

  • O’Grady writing a blog??? *shudders*

    (^_^) Tranquilo tranquilo!

    Buying myself a gift puts me the holiday mood…u should try it. Better yet…buy me a gift. It’ll definitely put me in the holiday cheer!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/16  at  05:28 PM

  • it’s ok erik….the only people that can be funny all the time are will ferrell and tracy morgan….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/16  at  06:14 PM

  • oh wait….dave chappelle too…he’s funny all the time….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/16  at  08:27 PM

  • don’t kill the blog son.  I know it’s tough & boring sometimes but a lot of people are seeing the world thru’ you, so keep up the good work..

    had I been younger I would have done the same thing, but you are doing it for me..  I love you and I miss you. I can’t wait to go home every day to read your blog. it keeps me sane & alive..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/17  at  01:07 AM

  • Don’t forget Mike Myers!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/17  at  01:49 AM

  • Emile4real:  i have yet to top the feces photos…only time will tell.

    Td0t: Cat in the Hat isn’t out here yet, I’m surprised Elf was—they are still on American Pie 3 here.  Elf was probably just rushed overseas for the holiday rush. 

    Matto:  awaiting your retorts to Emile4Real and Love Penny…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/17  at  02:06 AM

  • I’m used to getting slammed by people who just don’t “get me.”  Emile, good to see you’ve stepped out of obscurity long enough to say hi.  I kind of remember working with you.  Didn’t you used to deliver my lunch?  Love Penny, well I’d say something bad about you, but it couldn’t be anything worse than your wife says about you.  When I’m doing her.

    Posted by Matt  on  12/17  at  02:22 AM

  • Fried Ceviche! Yummm.. wow. I can still remember us heading into that bar to watch the soccer game. I remember the smells, negotiating our way through the mass of people at the Jiron de la Union pedestrian mall (trust me, it’s 10x worse at Rockefeller Plaza these past weeks), the signs for Mc Pollo at the local McD’s. Please tell me the Peruvians aren’t subjected to the awful campaign of “I’m loving it”

    Wonder if you’ll find your way back to that place where we had ceviche last time or you’ll probably have the proper time to find a better one!

    LP: If buying yourself a gift puts you in the holiday mood, you must be in a holiday mood on a weekly basis! ;P

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/17  at  07:00 AM

  • ps. Did you name your backpack yet?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/17  at  07:02 AM

  • I gave students in my graphic design classes extra credit for reading your blog and answering questions that I designed. They had to find out where you were, what you ate, on certain days, and whether you were a wimp or a real mountain biker.
    At least 20 of my kids read some of your stuff. That was a good experience for them.

    The science dept plans to look read it now too and use it in class. They might even ask you to do something out there in the wild.

    Let me know if you will be in Greece, I have a friend there you can stay with and I have a relatives in Poland and Holland that you can stay with if you are planning to pass through those countries.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/17  at  01:07 PM

  • Oogy:  “I’m loving it?” Boy that sounds lame…no such lameness here.  I’m heading off to Miraflores today…perhaps I’ll make it back to Punta Sal’s!

    CathyDM:  Wow, that’s great!  How much extra credit am I worth?  As for Greece, Holland and Poland…that’s sooo far away right now, I’m not thinking about it yet.  I don’t even know where I’ll be tomorrow yet.

    Vineland Science Dept:  Welcome aboard!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/17  at  01:40 PM

  • I saw ELF too with yvette, udz, lizle and glenn.  I thought it was funny and a cute Christmas movie.  smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/18  at  01:10 PM

  • Risa: Elf was more the cute….It’s the best Christmas movie EVER!!...well, it ranks up there with Home Alone and Die Hard

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/18  at  02:38 PM

  • Yeah, what gives with no name for the backpack?! I thought by now you’ld at least have called it “shnukuums”.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/18  at  04:16 PM

  • markyt: The best Christmas movie ever?  Better than A CHRISTMAS STORY…better than A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS?!?  hmm…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/18  at  05:00 PM

  • Risa: A Christmas Story is classic….I agree….not my favorite xmas movie ever….Charlie Brown is the best TV XMAS Special EVER!!!!

    ho, ho, ho….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/18  at  08:09 PM

  • How about we get some suggestions for naming my backpack, and I’ll choose one?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/19  at  01:26 AM

  • for all those that need to see what erik bag looks like again: http://www.eeyartee.com, then enter the site and hit “more.”

    how bout you name it: phoenix since it’s an eagle creek bag out of the phoenix bird from harry potter and the chamber of secrets….maybe one day that bag will save ur life as phoenix saved harrys….

    yes….i know what you are all thinking….what a dork?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/19  at  02:29 AM

  • I enjoyed your comments and look foreward to more information on Peru as i want to relocate from US and buy a house there or in Panama having trouble locating realtors and want some information before i visit
    Heard there are some nice 3/2 Beach houses with small pool in Lima that are priced from $30,000 to $ 40,000
    any input appreciated  

    Thank you Tom

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/04  at  01:31 PM

  • TOM:  Sorry, don’t know much about the real estate here, but I know for sure that things are damn cheap!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/04  at  09:41 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Across Lima and into Mordor

Previous entry:
Amazon Dot Com


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