Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sidetracked in South America

At 11:30 pm on a Saturday night we headed to the Bahia bus station for the first leg of our journey. At the bus station we met our friend Leni, a German student who was going home after months doing six months of community organizing in Bahia. Together we we shook rattled and rolled for six hours to Guayaquil, Ecuador. Our heads all bobbed in unison as we unsuccessfully tried to sleep through the cold and bumpy night. The next morning at an ungodly hour (around 4am) we were dumped off the bus bleary-eyed into the deserted urban blight of the Guayaquil bus station. The only other place open at such an uncivilized hour was the airport. Coffee did nothing to penetrate the fugue we were in and when we stretched out on the benches in the quieter end of the terminal we were abruptly told to sit up straight and that there would be no sleeping in their pretty new airport. Their sense of decorum was lost on the weary travelers we were. Soon the sun rose and we said goodbye to our friend( she actually had a reason to be at the aiport as she was off to the Galapagos), and lit out for the next leg of our journey. The twenty-four hour bus ride to Lima was punctuated by a border crossing and a few well lit beach towns along the coast. Liz at one point snapped a photo from inside the bus in the general direction of a Peruvian border policemen and was surprised when he boarded the bus to find out who the offender was. He seemed more bored than upset and forgot the whole thing as soon as his cell phone rang. The rest of the trip was third world subsistance farming, half finished buildings and then the most bleak and desolate moonscape that made the Arizona desert look like old growth rainforest. Lima was one of those schizophrenic cities where abject poverty snuggles with glitzy oceanside malls. Mud huts perched over garbage dumps ring the inner sanctum while the more well-heeled play tennis and drink Starbucks. Don´t think for a minute we didn´t enjoy that coffee after going a year without in the land of Nescafe. In a restaurant in a mall built into the side of a high bluff overlooking the Pacific, we were delighted by the para-penters soaring at eye-level. Their slip turns looked out of control but I suspected they were happy as condors up there.

The view from Miraflores in Lima

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