With Jonathan’s arrival in Lima, my mood lifted along with my excitement for the rest of the month. I was still feeling very weak and my stomach was fragile as I continued treatment to kill off my little stomach parasite friend. I wasn’t suppose to drink, or eat anything of real substance, so having Jon on vacation, and ready to party was a hard balance to maintain.
We started out with a trip into the center of Lima and the Plaza De Armas. The famous yellow presidential palace marks the center of the city and it’s main attraction.
Visiting different areas of the world has been extremely interesting and I have realized that the differences between people are really only skin deep. If you focus just on emotions, and how we act in different situations, we are all very similar. Every time I have made a judgment about a people or place, something happens to contradict that judgment and I continue on with no clear answers, only insights. I write this only as a precursor to the insight I am about to describe.
When in Asia, I can say without question I feel very safe. It might be because as a culture, the Asians have always had a kind of social code that violent crime will never be tolerated, is shameful and harshly dealt with. When there, you accept that you might have something stolen, or be charged more than you should for goods, but overall you are safe from bodily harm from the locals. In Peru, the feeling of safety changes, my guard is up, I am suspicious of everyone. It may be irrational, but the feeling is supported by the warnings from fellow travelers and staff at the local hostels. This heightened sense carried through to our day trip to The Plaza De Armas in Lima.
We exited our cab in the plaza and walked up a series of steps to take some pictures of the impressive buildings. No more than 2 minutes into our shoot, a man approached us. With surprisingly good English he asked if he could show us around, and practice his English.
Obviously, we both knew this was a line, but in a funny unspoken moment both Jon and I decided to go with it and see what the scam was. We knew nothing could happen as we were in a very busy area with all sorts of witnesses.
We called him Pepe, a name which we totally made up, and started to walk the plaza. Pepe gave us a history lessen like a veteran tour guide.
We entered Santo Domingo, one of the many churches surrounding the plaza.
Of course as Pepe was taking us around, both of us where waiting for the scam to take shape. We where always around people, so neither of us were too concerned about Pepe and whatever he was planning. Once we left the church, we started walking down a street leading away from the plaza. The street was packed with vendors, and street hawkers. There where plenty of gringos here and we could tell it was the main tourist area.
At this point I was growing weary of Pepe. We told him we wanted to head back to the plaza to catch a cab back to Miraflores. He agreed, and took us down a parallel street. This is right around when my annoyance turned to paranoia as we where getting away from busy streets and into a quiet area.
Pepe convinced us to stop into a restaurant for a beer. I really didn’t want to, but Jon was keen (I think he really wanted to find out what the scam was) and agreed to a drink. We sat down and Pepe ordered 3 beers. I couldn’t really drink because of my stomach which was fine with me, and I uncomfortably sat next to Jon and waited for Pepe to finally play is hand.
2 beers in, Pepe was getting chippy and was hugging Jon and grabbing my arm and shaking it in a “we are making fun party!” kind of way. I was keeping my eyes peeled and my head on a swivel, waiting for Pepe’s possible accomplice to sneak out of the back room and hold up the two stupid gringos. After the next beer, our patients ran out, and we sternly told Pepe it was time for us to head out. Jon graciously offered to pay for Pepe’s beer as payment for the tour. Pepe scrambled to the register to get the bill. He took an unusually long time and for some reason was filling out the bill out himself. The woman running the register started to yell at Pepe, and they argued for a moment. He finally came back to the table and told us that each beer was 30 soles. Having been in the country for 2 weeks already, I knew that that was about 20 soles too much, and Jon and I started to tear into Pepe. After 10 minutes of arguing, we finally found out that the beer was only 5 soles which was told to us by the woman at the register, and we both berated Pepe for trying to rip us off.
I was frankly very disappointed that Pepe’s whole scam was to overcharge us for beer. He spent a solid two and a half hours with us, showed us around, and his final brilliant end game was that? I was really expecting something a little more creative.
Jon ended up giving Pepe a few soles, which I disagreed with because he dishonestly tried to rip us off. The stupidest part was, if Pepe had just asked, Jon and I were prepared to pay a good amount as the tour was actually very nice. Pepe lost out because he was dishonest. We got away from the little Peruvian man quick, and headed down to another plaza to check out the sites and catch a cab.
The next day, Jon and I headed down to the ocean. I was excited to explore the ocean side and the main surf beach in Lima.
Our plan for the rest of our time in Peru materialized and we decided to head north to the tropical surf coast of Northwest Peru. We decided to spend the weekend in Lima, and check out the night life. I had been linked up with a former Reef colleague that moved back to his home town in Lima and was distributing surf brands throughout South America. I contacted him and he awesomely offered to take us out for a night in Lima……