Arriving In Lima

I brush off every taxi driver with knowing head shakes. I know that any taxi ride on first arrival into a new city involves explaining why you don't want to go to whatever roach-ridden hotel they get a kick-back from. I can select my own roach-den. In Lima, I learn that the bus doesn't run to the airport any more. Annoyed with capitalism I trudge back to the taxi touts, exhausted. I accept the first tout and we wind our way out of the airport and trundle along towards gridlock. We merge with the seething mass of cars that individually have no speed but collectively heave through the streets. We funnel into a sequence of tapering roads until we pop like a cork onto the main boulevard. Now we speed. Reckless and unrelenting we veer along peculiar road choices through the traffic. The taxis use their horns in a constant cacophony, not in anger but, to let each other know where they are.

Along this road I catch a glimpse of the Lima that could have been. A big bold sign asserts LIMA, trees fringe the avenue and green grass fills the island between the lanes. The road stretches on and the grass fades and becomes unkempt. The trees dwindle, then disappear. On the left-hand side of the road, beyond the Rio Rimac, lays a slum of adobe dwellings. The right-hand side holds richer, luckier inhabitants. The shift in quality distinguishable as the houses are complete.

We wind our way into the the Plaza de Almas: the main square and I get out. It's eight thirty in the morning. I sit down on the steps in front of the Cathedral de Lima and soak in the sounds of the city. The murmer of society, the hum of transport and the gentle honking of sonar-taxis. I have arrived.

when: Monday, November 14, 2011