Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Hit Me Lima One More Time - Our Trip Concludes

[For the full Peru experience, scroll down to the first Peru entry and work your way up]

Me and Jay, Pre-Trip
Jay and I, Before Going To Peru

We were different men from the ones we were when we first arrived in Peru, fifteen long days ago. We now knew how to ward off street peddlers ("No gracias, Tenemos"). We now knew how much a cab cost from the airport (30 soles... not $30 dollars). Our faces were now outlined in thick, uneven beards, our muscles were toned and refined from intensive high altitude hiking. Our lungs were... ok, you get the point.

We had been through a lot by the time we came back to Lima. And we were the better for it.

Our last night in Peru was both remarkably similar and markedly different from our first. We were in Lima, staying at the Inka Lodge. But this time, we shared a room. I asked the old man at the front desk who we'd be rooming with, where were they from?

"They're Columbians," he replied.

So this is how you punish us for keeping you up all night, I thought to myself. Sticking us with a couple coke smugglers.

But while initially we thought we might have to lock up our bags, in fact, the two Columbian guys staying with us were incredibly nice. We had a good discussion about the girls in South America. Our roommates had a strong opinion: "Peruvian girls are the ugliest in South America, Columbian girls are the most beautiful."

Jay and I didn't believe Peruvian girls were the ugliest, but had little basis for comparison. "Gisele is nice," I said.

Is Tom Brady Really Dating Her Now? After Bridget Moynihan?? What's He Got That I Don't???

"She's from Brazil. They're beautiful too," the Columbian guy replied. "But in Columbia, they're more beautiful."

I'll admit, the most I know about Columbia is what I learned in the Harrison Ford movie "Clear and Present Danger." But I may be willing to risk being blown up by a drug cartel if what our Columbian roommates said is true.

Jay and I went out for Chinese food (chifa). Lima allegedly has the largest chinese population in South America, but I can guarentee you that none of them took any part in preparing our meal-- it was truly gross.

But it was funny when our waiter found out we were from the United States. He rushed over with a newspaper and excitedly pointed at the front page. There was Saddam Hussein.

"Saddam esta muerto."

We had heard about Saddam's demise previously, but I don't think I realized till that moment what a huge deal it was. (I wouldn't find out what a amateur job the execution was until I got home.)

After dinner, Jay and I headed to the Marriott Casino Hotel. "We're going to go home with more money than we started," I said to Jay. "Hey, If we win big enough, we can stay at the Marriott tonight," Jay replied.

Hotel Marriott
It's No Inka Lodge...

Before we sat down at the blackjack table, I sunk a dollar into a slot machine. "If I don't win at all, I'm not gambling," I said.

After a few pulls of the lever, I left empty handed.

"Let's hit up the blackjack tables," I said.

Five minutes after sitting down, I was down $50. And that didn't include the $20 Jay lent me that I promptly lost. Jay, on the other hand, was cruising. He was up about $90. He was even thinking about joining the high rollers at the poker table.

While I was losing my money, and Jay was winning his, we ordered free drinks. A couple Whiskys and Sprites. We had four each. By the time we left, Jay was still up by $60, and we were both feeling pretty buzzed. We wanted to head back to the main street in Miraflores, where we had gone to the salsa bar on our first night. But we didn't know the name.

So when we got into the cab, we tried to describe the street to him. "Muchos discoteques, Muchos bares, Muchos bailandos y fiestas, Muchas muchachas bonitas."

"Si, si," said the cab driver.

After the cab turned down some dark streets, Jay and I started to wonder where the guy was taking us. We had heard that some parts of Lima were not as nice as Miraflores... and it appeared we were in those parts now.

The cabbie pulled up to a club. A strip club. Nothing else around but dark buildings for as far as we could see. Two men in dark suits and glasses standing at the entrance.

"Uh... no. No aqui," we tried to tell the cabbie.

"Si, aqui. Tu pagas." The cabbie demanded we pay and get out.

Jay and I looked at each other. On one hand, a strip club could be fun. On the other hand, considering how shady the place was, it could also end with both of us getting our organs removed.


Luckily, I still had Mabel's number, the girl I met our first night in Peru. I called her up and explained the situation. "Put me on with the cab driver," she said.

I handed the cabbie the phone. He did not look happy. But he finally understood where to take us. We gave him a few extra soles for his trouble, but probably not as many as he would have gotten kicked back from that strip club.

We bumped into a group of California students who were staying at our hostel. We went with them to a bar, got some drinks, danced a bit. One hot chick seemed like she was into Jay, but then she said she had a boyfriend. We decided to get out of there and head someplace else.

On the street, Jay went back into his Cusco-coca-tea-crazy mode and began mimicking the people who stood outside the various bars, pitching free drinks and deals. "Free Pisco Sours," one woman called out, and Jay immediately turned to two Peruvian girls who were walking by us. "Free Pisco Sours! You girls want free pisco sours? Y bailando?"

The girls spoke three words of english, but they understood "Pisco Sour" and "Bailando." We went inside the bar, the bartender gave us our free Pisco sours, and we danced to 80's videos projected onto a big white screen. Jay's girl was pretty hot and he was enjoying himself. I, in my wingman role, was less enthused. But what the hell, when in Peru...

The time came when we wanted to leave, so we picked up our stuff and headed for the door-- where we were stopped by the bartender. "Tienes que pagar por los bebes," he demanded. We had to pay for our Pisco Sours.

Now, the woman at the door said "Free Pisco Sours." And Jay and I argued this. But the bartender wouldn't budge. There were, apparently, conditions attatched to the free Pisco Sour offer. We were required to purchase other drinks as well. The woman at the door had neglected to inform us of the fine print.

Jay and I were still arguing when a bouncer and a security guard/policeman came over. Now things were getting serious. We couldn't understand them, they couldn't understand us. The girls were no help at all, telling us to just pay. And the fact that both Jay and I were wasted probably didn't help.

Seconds away from being led off to jail, we agreed to pay. But we were both pissed. Ripped off on that first cab from the airport, ripped off on the Lake Titicaca tour, ripped off at our hotel in lake titicaca-- now we were ripped off here. Had we learned nothing?? After two weeks, had we remained the same chumps we were in the beginning?

The girls lived close by, so we walked them home. We could have taken them to our hostel, but we didn't know if the Columbian guys would be there (turns out, they didn't come back until 5 am). Jay got a kiss goodnight from his second Peruvian girl of the trip.

Drunkenly, we stumbled into a McDonalds, got some Big Macs and ice cream. Jay dropped his ice cream after barely a lick. Somehow, we made it back to the hostel. Not bad for a last night. Tomorrow, we'd catch a cab to the airport at 8 PM.

The next day, we decided we should actually do something touristy. So we went to the Museo De Oro, The Gold Museum, billed as the most impressive in Lima. We were more impressed with the attached Weapons Museum, with guns, swords and uniforms from warfaring countries all over the world. The gift shop also had stunningly cheap souveneirs, which we stocked up on.

From there, we took a cab into central Lima for lunch. There was a street directly across from the palace, across the square, that was lined with cafes and restaurants. All of them offered competing prix fixe lunches. We sat down at the one that looked the best, ordered some fried yuca and a menu that consisted of ceviche (national dish of peru), baked chicken with a pink tomato sauce, rice and potatoes. Only 10 soles each.

A Delicious Dish
Ceviche, Lima's Famous Dish

Traveler's Tip: Ceviche is a white fish marinated in lime juice, accompanied by onions, sweet potato, and corn. Eat it only in Lima and other coastal towns, where the fish is fresh.

It was a warm day, and Jay and I debated going to the beach. Finally, we decided we'd try to get into the Marriott rooftop pool. We could lie out on the roof deck, maybe go for a swim. The only question was, could we get in? Would there be public access, or would we need a Mission Impossible-style plan to get past security?

We stepped into the elevator, wearing swimsuits and carrying our towels. So far so good. We went up to floor 6, the health club level.

"Can I help you?" the woman at the desk asks.

"Yes, um.. where is the pool?"

"Right through those glass doors and to your left," she answers.

We look. We can almost smell the pool. But those glass doors are closed, and next to them is a key card reader.

"Do you have the key?" Jay asks loudly.

"Oh shoot, I don't. Dave has it."

"Oh man. I can't believe you forgot it."

We look around, no one offers to help.

"Well, I guess we'll have to find Dave."

We walk back to the elevator, dejected.

"There's got to be another way."

We go back downstairs, get the lay of the land. I ask the consierge where the pool is. "The sixth floor," he replies. "But the best way is through the health club."

The best way. So there is another way! "Sixth floor, right?" I ask.

"Sixth floor."

We head back to the elevator. This time, however, we get out at the second floor lobby. There's another bank of elevators there... which lead to the other side of the sixth floor. Pool deck baby, here we come!

We step into the elevator, along with another man. Immediately, we see we're screwed. The elevator requires a key card too. My heart sinks.

Then, the man swipes his key card. "What floor?" he asks.

"Six," Jay and I say in unison.

The door shuts, we head up. How about that for timing!?

The elevator stops at six, we get out. Almost there!! But then, we're confronted with another obstacle. Two glass doors. On the other side, we see the pool deck. But the doors are locked. The only way to get through? You guessed it. A key card.

Just then, a family, three little kids and their mother and father, walk down the hall. They put their key card in, the doors open. We walk in behind them. How about that for timing?!

At the Pool
The Pool Was Too Cold To Swim In

The pool deck was the best thing we could have done. Relaxing and quiet (that family was the only other group on the pool deck that afternoon). We laid down in the cushy lounge chairs and took a nap, listening to the ocean waves crash in the distance. At around 5:30, the sun started to go down and we were treated to the most beautiful sunset.

One Of A Dozen Pictures I Took

As the sun set, a still, tiny light emerged from the gathering darkness. As I lay on my lounge chair, facing the ocean, I could see it's orange, eerie glow peek out from underneath an overhanging roof, far in the distance. Jay saw it as well.

"Do you see what I see?" he asked.

"I do."

Where Dreams Come True

So it came to pass that on our final night in Peru, we ate at Hooters. While the meal was terrible, and they only had xtra-large t-shirts for sale, at least we could say we'd had a genuine Peruvian experience.

Before going Hooters, we made the mistake of hitting up the casino again. I lost twenty more dollars. Jay lost his $60. We left our hearts in Lima, and our wallets as well.

At the airport, we made some more Peruvian friends at Papa Johns when Jay tried to pay for water in Bolivianos. Who knows? An extra day in Peru and both Jay and I might have been married to Peruvian chicks. But alas, it was not meant to be.

On our flight home, I watched Little Miss Sunshine. If that doesn't win something at the Oscars I'll be very disappointed.

Back in Jersey
Us With One Of The Jersey Locals

And that was our trip. Peruvian girls and Carne Corazon. Seven hour hikes and paddle boat rides. Macchu Picchu and floating islands. Beautiful vistas and powerful pisco sours. Fifteen days in a country where everyone calls you "mi amigo." The trip of a lifetime.

Next year, Columbia.


Hot Mama said...

Thanks for taking us on this fabulous and funny journey. Welcome back!

Luigi said...

hi guys

ive read some of your post about your visit to my coutry and it is hillarious. Thanks for the tip about the marriots pool.

when you go to Colombia (yes is ColOmbia not Columbia)I suggest you must go to Andres Carne de Res BY NIGHT, you wont regret (Thats in Bogota)and you MUST go to medellin where the most beatiful girls in Colombia live. Believe me.

oh another tip, as well as in peru Colombians will try to overcharge you for everything so be aware, God luck

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