Knowng there are 127 species of hummingbirds in Peru makes me want to head toward the mountains. Instead of running to the hills, I am living it up in the big city of Lima for the next five days. Surrounding by historic buildings, ancient ruins, and the beautiful Pacific Ocean, I think I'll make do!
So far, it has been nice. I had to endure another long day of travel to arrive here. I say "endure" because with each big travel expedition I take (yes, crossing the Andes even by air counts as an expedition), something seems to come up to keep me on my toes.
I left the hotel in Bariloche, Argentia at 6:30 am Wednesday morning. After a taxi ride to the airport (only nine miles outside of town), I waited patiently for about a half hour to load into a tour bus that took me three and a half hours south to Esquel where I would board a plane to Buenos Aires. Turns out the plane was delayed by about an hour and a half, which automatically made me stressed knowing the sequence of the rest of the journey ahead of me. Once to Buenos Aires, I would need to catch a taxi to the other airport across town and check my luggage (I bought a few souvenirs...) in time to board my latest international flight.
I recall standing in the Esquel airport, which is really tiny, and looked out at the vast stretch of Patagonia grasslands before me only to see a lonely concrete runway emerge amongst the dry landscape. Still no plane. I could of been in the middle of Australia for all I knew. The Patagonia grasslands can seem very desolate, depending on where you're standing. It rolls on and on and on across valleys and mountains tops.
The plane finally emerged out of the distance and landed. We boarded and I enjoyed a two hour flight to Buenos Aires. I quickly grabbed my luggage and headed for the area in the airport where I was to meet my prearranged taxi driver. Would he be there waiting? It was almost 5 o'clock. My flight to Lima was scheduled to leave at 7:45 pm. We had to drive across the city to get to the other airport. Was I going to make it in time? Luckily, the driver was there standing ready with a sign with my name on it. I was relieved to see him and we quickly made our way outside into the car. Once on the road, we quickly came up against the evening traffic commute. It was warm outside, the buses were buzzing by leaving their exhaust behind them, and my taxi driver was making phone calls to his colleagues trying to figure out the best route to take across town to get me to the airport in time. We did this for at least 45 minutes. I decided, if I wasn't to the airport by at least 6:15 pm, there was no way I'd be able to get to my flight in time.
Miraculously, traffic eased just enough to allow us to arrive by 6 pm!
I was out of the car in no time, made it to the check in counter, got my ticket, was off through security, immigration, went pee, bought some water, and arrived at my gate at exactly boarding time. What a relief! I was one big stress ball, but I made it! They soon began boarding the plane. I found a comfortable seat and slowly began to unwind...
Landing in Lima prompted another round of applause by the passengers. I put my hands together and clapped too. It is very common in Latin American for people to clap upon arrival I'm learning. I'm sure it is a combination between thanking the pilot for a good flight and perhaps a sudden burst of thankfulness for making it alive. I suppose it just depends on the type of flyer you are... For me, I could say I was a more the latter.
Meandering my way through security and immigration was a breeze this time around. I'm getting quite familiar with the process. Now I can proudly say I have three stamps in my passport, which is really exciting: Chile, Argentina, and now Peru.
I made it comfortably to my hotel room and quickly unpacked and went to sleep. I was exhausted. I took the opportunity to sleep in this morning, eat a nice breakfast in the hotel lobby, and gradually make my way to work. The office is only a ten minute walk from where I am staying. The streets are awfully busy with people and traffic. Little buses honk at each other and cars never stop for pedestrians. Be thankful when you walk and drive in the US from now on! I am in a trendier area of Lima called Miraflores. Only a few streets away from the Pacific Ocean, I have yet to see it, but that will definitely change after my weekend plans.
Once at work, I was able to meet a few people from the office. They prepared and shared presentations about the work that The Nature Conservancy is doing in Peru. Again, it is humbling and amazing to hear about. Peru's biggest projects include work on sustainable fishing strategies and developing marine conservation planning areas within the Humboldt Current, the biggest fishery in the world! The Humboldt Current is an upwelling of nutrient-rich, cool water that flows from Patagonia north to Peru. It supports an extraordinary amount of marine life. Other important projects include protecting the Lomas ecosystems along the coast, areas of vegetation that thrive in a harsh desert environment because of its ability to harvest moisture from coastal fog. How amazing! I'd love to see it. Efforts are also underway to help create a sustainable water supply for the city of Lima by protecting areas upland of three major rivers that flow within the city's watershed. Work is also being done in the Amazon forests of Peru with indigenous people to create a network of protected lands.
It is great to be here! I'm really excited to learn more about Peru's culture, people, and unique and abundant mix of biodiversity. Pictures soon to come!
photo: tripadvisor.com (I haven't had the chance to take photos yet, so this one will do!)