I flew from Quito, Ecuador to Lima, Peru to meet Austin, a friend from high school who I had not seen in over 7 years.
Austin had just finished a job in NYC and while he was lamenting the fact he had to leave NYC, his place of residence for the past ten (I think) years, he was happy to have four weeks off before starting his next job. He had decided to spend two of those weeks with me in Peru. Our itinerary would include one of the seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu, but we started in Lima, Peru’s capital.
Austin and I had been on a high-school-organized trip to Spain 13 years prior where we had mastered critical Spanish conversational pieces such as “un mas cerveza, por favor” (one more beer, please) and “I’ll have the … bacalao” (I’ll have the … cod).
Thirteen years later our Spanish tongues were put to the test again in Peru, where we quickly discovered that we were just as bad in Peru as we were in Spain.
Austin and I stayed in an area in Peru called “Barranco”, well known for its good nightlife. Near our hostel was a public beach that was honestly pretty lousy but still made for a good spot to throw some frisbee around.
Austin and I were staying at a hostel called “The Point”, a hostel chain in Peru (locations also in Cuzco, Mancora Beach and Arequipa) famous for its Partytime, Excellent! atmosphere. The types of backpackers that stay at the Point Hostel are generally not interested in seeing the city or gaining any appreciation for the culture, the main reason they are there is to party.
These are exactly the types of hostels and backpackers that I usually try to avoid but having Austin there made it a riot. To give you an example of the type of people that stay at the Point, we met two guys from Sweden who had been staying at Point Hostels for over six weeks. When we met them they told us that they had spent four weeks at The Point in Cuzco and already two weeks at the Point in Lima.
I think part of the reason that they were unable to get out is that they were perpetually high, spending nearly all their waking time in the back courtyard smoking a joint. Every day they kept telling us that they would be leaving “tomorrow”, just as soon as they were able to rent a car … without a license. They were nice guys though and I think the day that Austin and I left they finally made it out.
We also met two interesting New Yorkers staying at the Point. When they asked us where we were from, I said “Wisconsin” and Austin said “New York” but we mentioned that we were both originally from Iowa. In response one of them wanted to argue with us that Austin was not “from” New York because he was not born there.
He was upset that someone that had moved to New York and lived there for 10 years would have the audacity to say he was from New York when introducing himself at an international hostel. In contrast, according to him these guys were “real” New Yorkers because they were born there. They weren’t all bad though – I think they were just trying to be friendly, New York City style.
One of the two – a former sexiest man/firefighter in New York who I will call “Polo” (I can’t remember the exact title but he was the sexiest something in New York at one point) – perpetually had his shirt off, particularly if there were any females in the courtyard present.
We met Polo and his friend when we checked in around 2pm – the two were just finishing their night up and still quite drunk. Two days later after finishing another all-nighter Polo walked in looking very upset. We later found out that he had had his iPhone stolen that night. As Austin pointed out, though we had only known him for 48 hours, we had never seen Polo look so distraught.
The characters we met at the Point Hostel may have been the most entertaining thing about Lima, Peru. Sights/culture/character-wise, Lima was my least favorite South American capital city. However, being with Austin made it the most enjoyable time I spent in any South American capital city. And Lima was not without great cultural highlights.
For instance, there was a Pisco Sour tasting event going on in Barranco while we were there.
Pisco Sour is a popular drink in Peru and South America and from the different stalls you could taste the different brands.
There was also some live music at the event, though my attempts to get the crowd get more involved fell quite flatly.
There were also some great food vendors at the event. I’m not a sweet-tooth but these fried donut-type things, topped with a healthy drizzling of syrup, were awesome. But not for my arteries.
Austin and I also ventured in central Lima. Our first stop was at the Monasterio de San Francisco, one of Lima’s best preserved churches.
The monastery has massive underground catacombs which contain an incredible 70,000 burials of monks and other religious folk. There are tons of bones to look at, if you’re into that sort of thing, the “highlight” (if I can call it that) being a well with hundreds of skulls stacked at the bottom.