The collectivo arranged yesterday arrives at the hotel gratifyingly soon after half past ten. However, the driver is keen to obtain a full bus before leaving Puno and we spend well over half an hour crusing the streets of Puno before the last seats are filled and we are finally on our way.
Juliaca seems much like Puno—slightly drab and run-down, with the same three-wheeled rickshaws plying the streets. The airport by contrast is clean and modern, and the check-in efficient. We are a little concerned by the continued absense of our plane as the time of our scheduled departure approaches. Just about ten minutes before the due time to leave, it arrives, and is on the ground for less than half an hour before we are away. The first hop to Arequipa is barely thirty minutes. We are hoping to see the Colca Canyon from the air, but fail to make a positive identification before coming into Lima at about 4 pm. The taxi ride from the airport is dreadful. Lima is in the grip of near grid-lock. To compound our problems, we have great difficulty in finding a suitable hotel. Eventually we accept the taxi driver’s recommendation (owned by a friend of course), some way out of the centre, but not too far from the bus depot.
It is a queer old place—a slightly gothic mansion, with very high ceilings and a green stained-glass window above the oak staircase casting its eery glow into the hallway. An ancient black and white television-set graces the landing along with an old sofa and a sideboard. The bathroom fittings, ancient in appearance, are at least functional and the water is hot. There is something peculiar about the proprietor’s manner that is rather unsettling when he approaches silently from behind. It is initially disturbing that there are apparently no other guests in the hotel. We wonder what has happened to them…
We walk over to the bus station first to book tomorrow’s bus to Pisco. After that, it is dinner at the lovely French-style “L’Eau Vive” restaurant. It is run by nuns who treat diners each evening to a rendition of the Ave Maria at the end of their meal. Communication is easier than we have generally experienced because the waitors are French-speaking Africans. The food is quite excellent.