Sunday, November 13, 2005

Hostal El Carmelo, Miraflores, Lima, Peru

Sunday, November 13, 2005 12:17 a.m.

Landed at the "Tours Pinedo's Hotel" in Los Olivos, Lima at about 3:30 this morning (Saturday), after four hours driving around in search of a hotel. Racked up about 80 miles, just within a small section of Lima. It was truly insane. I finally paid a cabbie to show me to a decent “three star” hotel. It turned out to be very seedy, with a dismal, smoky disco attached. Most hotels I found were “love shacks” rented in 6-hour increments, except for the Sheraton downtown, and, judging from all the suits and dresses inside the lobby, that was not worth even going into.

After having looked at rooms in six hotels and passing this one no less than a dozen times, I finally broke down and took a room here. 40 Solés, about $12. The "Tours" didn't have any parking for my bike, but they offered to let me park it in the dining room! Figuring out how to get the bike in past all the tables, and then hauling my stuff up several flights of stairs just seemed too complicated. My mind had gone numb and decisions came quite slowly. I wanted a simpler solution (like "just let me lie down here on the ground." (Oh, how I wished I had camped in the desert!)

But my hosts were intent on taking care of their guest, even at 4:00 in the morning. I squeezed the bike through a side entrance and we got it tucked into a corner of the dining room.

I was back up after five hours' rest. Breakfast showed up at my room at 10:00. A couple rolls, preserves, hot water and a pack of Nescafe instant coffee (“100% Peruano”), and some kind of juice. I went downstairs and found the restaurant busy with diners. The bike had been with draped with old curtains.

After having the receptionist call to confirm they have tires that will fit my bike, I went to "MotoPower Honda". It was a 45-minute drive through downtown Lima's demolition derby. When I arrived, there was a little twist to the story: I would have to wait until the Honda shop closed, then I would accompany the service manager, Orlando Cajo, to the Pirelli tire distributor.

In the mean time, I asked if I could change my oil. Orlando invited me into the shop and they put the bike up on a lift. It was the first time I’ve worked under a lift. It's so much easier! As the oil was draining, I started changing out plugs and asked "Alex", one of the mechanics, if he’d “like to” change the rear brake pads (only 8,000 miles on this set, but they're ready.) "Si." My "oil change" was gradually expanding in scope.

Meanwhile, Orlando made contact with the Pirelli distributor and learned he was now closed for the weekend. We would have to follow-up on Monday. I was a bit perturbed, but it had not been a total loss. I had done some much-needed maintenance.

I needed to relocate to this area, since I wanted to be here bright and early Monday. It took about five minutes of searching to find a new hotel, the "El Carmelo". $25 per night, breakfast included, and it was obvious from the staff and the condition of rooms, this place was well-run. And the Miraflores district is definitely an upper class enclave, which I didn't mind at all after all the rough neighborhoods I experienced during the night.

(If I had looked at my map of Lima before coming into the city, I would have seen the inset of Miraflores, showing numerous hotels.)

I asked "Carolina" to hold my room. I would go check out of the "Tours" and be back in an hour and a half.

In the past 24-hours, I think I've done a year’s worth of cursing other drivers. There is absolutely no regard for motorcycles in Peru. (Unlike Cali, where they were a major mode of transport, motorcycles are relatively few here. Drivers just don't seem to see us.) "I'm really hating this city!"

The Los Olivos area is particularly depressing. By day, it looked totally different and I had to re-learn my way. Last night, I had come to know my way around the area pretty well, but in daylight, all the familiar landmarks were gone.

Carolina, the daytime receptionist at “El Carmelo” is a real delight. Very insistent on placing customers first, and assisting them at all times.

After checking in, though the restaurant was closed, she arranged for them to prepare a steak, fries and rice for me. It was very good and very welcome.

Later, a walk “just up the street” to a grocery turned into a five-mile hike. Finally found the “Plaza Vea” supermarket. Really a remarkable store, with eight-foot high shelves, higher than most can reach. Picked up groceries, mostly snack foods and water, and some laundry soap. Back at the hotel, washed laundry in the sink.

Learned my nephew Alex is in Berlin, back-packing around Europe! Another world traveler!!!

Tonight, the streets are alive below my window: families, couples, buses and taxis. The god-damned car alarms are utilized everywhere by buses and taxis to attract riders’ attention. “I’m going to shoot myself!!!”


Genevieve said...

I can almost taste the instant Nescafe. They drank it very strong in Bolivia with copious amounts of sugar.

timtraveler said...

That's one thing I DON'T miss!