[In this fifth installment of the serial sharing Bill White's great journey into a new world he has at last reached what Peru's conqueror, the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, titled in 1535 the "City of Kings". Now WILLIAM WHITE, a conquistador of the heart, makes his first claims on it nearly 500 years later.]
We arrive at the port of Callao, entrance way to Lima, on schedule at 10am Friday morning, November 2. There has been so much trouble and misinformation regarding the means and methods through which Kel will pick me up. The front desk is manned by a different crew every time I have had cause to do business there, and each time my story has to be explained anew, how I am disembarking at Lima, rather than continuing to Santiago, which is the final port on the cruise. Kel is told by the Holland America agent in Lima that she requires an email from the ship that includes her name, make of car, and license number, in order for her to enter the port. It turns out, however, that this is a cargo port, and no one at all is allowed to walk on the pier, and that a shuttle will take me to the gate, on the other side of which there is a waiting room where Kel will be sequestered until my arrival. So, after three days of fruitless effort, the solution turns out to be this simple. However, there are more serious complications to come.
I am moved quickly through the customs inspection and am looking for the person who issues the visas, but there is no such person to be found, and we leave without getting my passport stamped. Or so I thought. As we discover, upon visiting the immigration department to sort things out, the stamping of the passport and issuing of the visa has already been accomplished without my participation, and I have been given only a thirty days visitor permit. This will result in nothing more than having to pay a fine at a later date, but is maddening as I emphasized repeatedly to the cruise people that I planned to stay on in Lima to apply for residency. For the most part, the company runs their business very efficiently, but any abberation from the norm, such as my jumping ship to remain in Lima, does not compute in their system. No matter how many times I have told my story and to how many people it has been told, there is perhaps no way to record the information in a prominent way that would have led to my passport having been stamped in any other but the routine manner. I had been led to believe, by all I had read on the internet, that visas are not issued in advance in Peru. Instead, there is supposed to be someone there to interview you on your intentions, who then determines how long of a visa you require. I imagine that most people coming to the country do so by aeroplane rather than cruise ship, and that this must be the airport procedure, but there is no need to have such an official hanging about at the port when a cruise ship comes in.
At least there are no problems with Kel picking me up, and we begin our drive to Lima. Callao is a pretty run down area, and Kel warns me to keep the camera hidden to avoid attracting the attention of thieves, who would break into the car when we are stopped at a red light to get any valuables that we might be carrying. Eventually we enter a nicer area, where lovely houses such as the one pictured below are plentiful, and the architecture in general is varied and eye-catching.
After about 45 minutes of driving in Lima traffic, which is accomplished as much through the listening of horns as the movement of vehicles, we arrive to our pretty little street. In Lima, there is no simple way to predict the actions of the cars around you, but if a collision is imminent, someone will sound a horn, which is a way of saying, “I have no plan to stop, so get out of my way.” Kel is an excellent driver, and avoids several threatening situations as we have moved through the vehicular chaos of these streets.
Pictured below is a sight almost unknown in Lima, an empty street! For the most part, the city is constantly awash in the movement of life. Unlike the cities up North, people here are not governed by the regulations of stop and go, but dart about as they please. I recently saw a group of elderly ladies squeezing through the bucking cars at a lively intersection. Unlike Seattle, you will never see a group of people standing in the rain on a deserted corner, with nary a car in sight, waiting for the streetlight to change to green. Most intersections here don’t have lights anyway, which is the cause of so much intrepid aggression. Although most streets have clearly marked lanes, drivers seldom confine themselves to their boundaries.