Got off the plane and was greeted in arrivals by Vanessa, Steve's driver. I met my first traveller from our group: Florijee, a chain smoking mother of two from Kosovo who has been living in London for 20 years.
Vanessa drove us both to the hotel where Steve was waiting. It was really nice to see him again. The hotel is amazing. Wooden interior and a relic from the colonial times. The corridors were filled with huge overstated painting. They looked like paintings but I think they were large prints, but vibrant in colour.
We dumped our bags in the room and went back downstairs. Here we met Toni from Ireland, also living in London and a big surprise for me, Val who was on my Nepal trip!
The 4 of us met up with Steve and wandered down to the local pub for a welcome drink. All of us only had dollars so Steve ended up buying all the drinks. 75cl beer cost 7 sol (£1.50).
The pub was was a room with a makeshift bar at one end and a set of small tables and chairs in the centre. One of the tables had a mobile jukebox on it. This is essentially a case with a touch screen on it and a coin slot on the side. It was playing local music which was ok once you got used to it. We did the getting to know you thing with the others then I had a long catch up chat the Steve.
Just as my beer was kicking in the girls said they were feeling the jetlag, so we all headed back. Florijee and I sat of the roof of the hotel chatting while we smoked and finished off the beer. When she headed to bed, I got talking to a Belgium man to was cycling across Peru. He recounted his story of arriving in Lima and having to stay in a brothel because he couldn't find anywhere in the dark.
Got to bed at 2am and was up at 9.30am. I remembered from last night that someone had said that for breakfast you come out of the hotel, turn left and it's the first place you come to, so off I set.
It looked like a cross between someone's front room and a crack house, but I had faith. There was a bit of a language problem but Google translate helped. Steve had mentioned that I just needed to say "Steve's group" and everything would be taken care of. So I did and the waitress said yes. They pointed to some photos of food as Steve said they would and so I agreed to whatever they pointed to. I couldn't really see what it was so I went and had a closer look when the waitress left. When I saw the picture it occurred to me that I is was in the wrong place, but British politeness prevented me from doing anything about it as I had already ordered. I had to see it through now.
The meal arrived and this is where I was sure I was in the wrong place. 2 boiled potatoes, several slices of sweet potatoes, some onion salad and what looked like roast rat. It didn't have a head but it did have little ratty feet. So I dived in. All in all it was quite nice, not much meat on the rat and a bit fatty but the salad and salad dressing was nice.
As I consumed the meal it occurred to me that I didn't actually have any local money and if I wasn't in the right place, this was going to be a problem. Sure enough, she'll arrived with a bill and had no idea who Steve was. I bit of Google translate and she started to work out how many dollars it was going to be. 6 dollars and the smallest I had was a twenty, which made her even less happy. I said I'd be back in 5 minutes and left.
Due to my cock up, I had missed the group orientation so phoned Steve and met them in town. Steve pointed out some of the things worth seeing so that we could come back later in our free time. He then showed us how to change money from a street currency seller. They get a margin from travelling further to the bank with a slightly better rate than we would get. 3.30 sol to the dollar was a fixed rate that all the vendors used which is pretty good, certainly not worth the extra hassle to save a couple of pence. I changed $200 and as the group returned to the hotel, I went to settle my debt.
She was understandably very pleased to see me, I think she had given up hope. I gave her a little tip which she wouldn't accept, so I insisted. With her faith restored in humanity I left to join the others.
Today's activity was getting a taxi to Mira Flores, Steve had remained at the hotel to do tour stuff so we all arrived without him. It was clear they the group was waiting for someone to take control so I stepped up with a group photo. Linda had a guide book and wanted to see Testino's photo gallery which was about 1 hour walk. The group split and we set off to find a coffee before our trek.
Mira Flores was beside the sea and was very modern. Lots of joggers, shopping, nice restaurants and all the trappings of a modern capital city. I had the GPS so led the group. Many of the buildings on the way were brightly painted and the city had a youthful feeling to it. We followed the coastal path, then walked inland past the museum of contemporary art which looked good but we were aiming for the M.A.T.E. gallery so didn't stop.
We spent about 40 minutes looking at the photo gallery which wasn't too bad for 10 sol. The gallery contained mostly photos of celebrities including a whole room devoted to Diana Princess of Wales. We had a big discussion about the conspiracy surrounding her death. Afterwards we went looking for somewhere to have a bit to eat.
We found a nice modern coffee shop which sold savoury food too. I had a roasted croissant with ham and cheese which was lovely although it could have been bigger! It was getting on a bit so we decided to try and meet up with the others at 5 so we could share taxis back.
We all walked at different speeds and on this occasion, I was at the back with Richard and Linda. I saw a steeper climb that would save us some time and distance but on reflection we should have taken the longer journey because it was a little bit more treacherous than it looked and I think the other 2 struggled a bit. We arrived with 5 minutes to spare, hopped in taxis and headed back to the hotel. It cost 25sol to get back. Some of the people complained that it was only 20 to get there but I'm not much of a haggler. There was an hour to spare before dinner so I wrote my journal.
Tonight was the welcome dinner so we all wandered into town which was only a couple of minutes walk. Most of us had a local cocktail which tasted of whiskey and bitter lime. I had 2 and hoovered up one from another guest that couldn't finish theirs. I started with a famous Peruvian starter of yellow potato mashed and moulded into a 15cm cylinder filled with chicken and sauce, which was really nice in spite of being cold. It was supposed to be cold but we were expecting it to be hot. Steak and chips for my main. The group was teasing me about going to the wrong place for breakfast. It turns out the guinea pig is a specialty here so that's what I had for breakfast. So everyone had a good laugh at my expense. By the end of the meal most people were ready for bed so we headed back.