teamoperu wrote:OK, just for fun. When was your first visit to Peru and what are your memories of your first impression?
I'll start. First visited 26 years ago, then the next year, and next. Even tho I've visited 32 different countries in the world, I fell in love with Peru. I remember the Inca Trail and Machu Pichu not over-run by tourists (and so you could be guaranteed in Cuzco to be subject to a pickpocket attempt and your backpack razor-blade slashed, and the police just shrugged). Colca Canyon was over-run by condors. It seemed 90% of the cars in Lima were Volkswagen Beetles. Jeans had not yet caught on so many people still wore traditional clothes. Tourists stayed only in Miraflores, always attached their belongings to the chairs with clips. Few went to the Plaza de Armas in Lima, those that braved it were rewarded with entering the front doors of the palace, with blue uniformed palace guards, for a free tour or independent wandering. The airport was tiny and the police took you to the washroom to search you. Almost impossible to find anyone with good English, but everyone was friendly and helpful. I remember it being so different, in so many ways, to what I was accustomed back home, a fascinating culture shock.
I went to a small village in the mountains. No restaurants so we had to ask a older lady to cook something for us. I asked her how many gringos visit the town. Her answer: none. No gringo had ever visited this village in her memory, the kids crowded around me out of curiosity, especially my blue eyes, while the parents pulled them away and told them not to stare, it was rude.
Teamoperu, I've worked out you must have first come to Peru about the same time as I did (1987?). I think you are looking back with slightly rose tinted glasses but agree with a lot of your sentiment. I remember my first 72 hrs in Peru like they were yesterday...Since I should be working I will tell it how I remember it
I arrive at lunchtime. On passing through customs at the airport a tourist guide saw me looking at my Rough Guide to Peru and and said he knew the author who came through there quite alot!. At that time they kept a list at the airport of places that put tourists up at different prices, do I got an address, a price $US5. I took the tourist bus service that took all tourists who wanted it to their hotel although it did take a while going round all the places. I remember thinking Lima looked like a big building site with all the building only half built, all the reinforcement sticking up in the air. I was taken to my hotel which was a little family run hotel in the centre of Lima the wrong side of Wilson. I remember being grateful that the room had no windows and a large padlock to lock the door on the inside. So I felt really safe. I had a couple hrs sleep and then decided to explore. It indicates my budget at the time that I thought $US5 was probably a bit expensive so I decided to check out the Europa Hotel near the Plaza de Armas. Part of it was I wanted a place with other tourists. I was the only gringo in the small family run hotel I was sent to.
I remember walking through the Jiron de Union and being blown away by the atmosphere, the look of the people, so much going on and new things to see.
I checked out the Hotel Europa and it was around 40cents a night which I couldn’t really believe but there had been lots of inflation recently. I decided to go there the next day .
I went back passing the Plaza de San Martin where there my guide book told me was a telephone place. There were small little kiosks with very old fashioned phones in them. Even then they looked really old, like from the 60s. You paid what seemed a lot of money and then got two minutes to call home. I spoke to my Dad, told him I had arrived safely and that all was well. “what time is it there?” he said. “6.30” I said. I realized it was late there and he was just going to bed. He would have been concerned about me and it showed in his voice. “Take care” he said. “I will, it is still light here” I said. I came out on to the Plaza San Martin and it was already dark. I wasn’t used to it getting dark that quickly.
I remember the next morning in the first hotel. There were chickens walking about the bathroom. Breakfast had nice bread but coffee was hot water with a strange cold syrupy coffee extract you put into it. At breakfast was a young guy from Iquitos who seemed as overwhelmed by the city as I was but we could communicate very little given my Spanish was still poor.
The next day I walked through central Lima with a full rucksack at around 6am to the Europa Hotel. Now I realize that was a pretty stupid thing to do on my first day in south America. But at the Europa I met a whole gang of other backpackers, a lot more experienced than me, and all was great. I got robbed on the third day in Peru but a young waiter chased the thief into the San Francisco church and somehow got my bag back. That was a good introduction to the best and worst of Peru.
Oh dear that was far too long. The joy of remembering. Back to work...