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We´d been recommended a hostel in Miraflores, an almost separate city on the coast just outside central Lima, and from the moment we wandered into the busy bar area we were grateful for the tipoff. The hostel offered various social activities (aside from getting drunk and talking to strangers) and optional evening meals (burritos? I think so). Though Miraflores had the best nightlife, central Lima was definitely the place to be during the day. The Plaza de Armas was a spectacular centerpiece, with an impressive palace and cathedral. Outside this well maintained square the streets and buildings were less well looked after but were filled with noise and colourful stalls selling wonderfully pointless goods.
Hoping to get a better understanding of Peru´s history and culture, we ventured into the Museo de Nacion which had some interesting exhibits; we were particularly affected by a photography exhibit which captured the shocking civil war struggles between the government and revolutionary groups such as MRTA and Shining Path. What was most shocking was how recent many of these events were an d that, despite the official end of the Peruvian civil war in 1992, these groups are still active and constantly gaining support – particularly that of the poor.
The museum itself was badly designed and confusing – we spent fifteen minutes wandering staircases and finding dark empty rooms with no apparent function whatsoever. We decided, after emerging back into the actual museum, that we should probably just get out before we all became victims to the treacherous labyrinth that seemed to lurk behind the exhibits. We had also signed up for a five-a –side football match later that day and I wanted to get a few squat thrusts in beforehand. Though we ended up being comprehensively beaten we (mainly Josh) managed to put a few good moves together and we were praised on our performances. I particularly enjoyed the first ten minutes before the dizzying exhaustion kicked in.
That evening we played beer poker in the bar – this involves using beer as the stakes (ie. I´ll raise you two fingers, etc) with a maximum of ten fingers per round. The winner doesn´t drink, everyone else does. Good eh? After obliterating a couple of Americans with my very first four of a kind I was invited by a new mate of ours, Mike, to go to the casino. We´d been hanging out with Mike for a few days, as well as having the indispensable advantage of speaking fluent Spanish he was also by far the funniest guy we had met so far. Therefore, with gambling spirit and a couple of beers buzzing through me, I made my way to the casino. I was actually going to sit at a table this time.
The table which I was destined to sit at was one which I had been assured only cost 5 soles per game. This is about a pound. I was also assured that as long as you played, no matter how slowly (in my case once every couple of games), free drinks would be brought to you! And they were! We stayed until the early hours and by the time we left I had (very slowly) lost 40 soles which I thought was well worth it. It was a surreal but very enjoyable experience to sit at a table and drop the little hand gestures which indicate how you would like to play the game. The pleasure, particularly when playing for small money, is as much in being a part of the game as it is the winning. Or at least that´s what I told myself when I knocked back my eighth whiskey and coke and left with my pockets empty.
We had arranged for an overnight coach to Huancayo, a place I knew very little about although I had recently got my hands on (that is to say stolen from the hostel) a guide book so I intended to read up once we got there. Rather than simply hanging around the hostel all day we finally managed to watch the new Terminator film (which was as action packed as you could possibly have hoped for) and after a final taste of Lima´s delicious restaurant food we bid Mike and our other newly acquired friends farewell. Up until now it had been relatively easy to leave our new friends behind. Everyone is doing it. On this occasion, however, we were really disappointed not to be able to do a bit more travelling together. What we did take with us was a particularly useful expression which he taught us the first day we met him. It involves putting two fingers up to your neck and saying “NO HORA!” which – if used carefully – is a very effective way of saying ´don´t fuck me!´ His first demonstration halved our taxi fare and even got a laugh from the driver. You can understand why I liked the guy so much.
on June 9, 2009
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