Thursday, March 28, 2013

San Cristobal Slum of Lima (South America Omnibus 5)

In Lima Hotel, I wake up in the morning feeling badly beaten up. I remember that I was having very strong tequila and then it appears that I collapsed. It is seven AM and I come out on the street and cross the river and walk towards other side of the town which is haphazardly placed. I badly need a half a dozen cups of herbal tea. Actually I love this side of town because it is haphazard like the towns of India, I feel at home here.

Emoliente (Aloe at Herb tea cart in Peru)
I find a cluster of Emoliente (herbal tea) carts and I try everyone for their tea. After having 5 cups, I feel renewed. Then I eat a couple of buns with jelly and drink a cup of coffee.
I wonder around the streets and change my money outside from a licensed money changer standing outside of Reserve Bank of Peru.
View of beach from Miraflores
Money changers wearing uniforms are always present outside this bank. At 9am I find a cyber café open.
Whoa! I got an email from the airhostess. Her name is Abelina.
Abelina writes –
One of my friend in Tumbes found Isabel’s phone number and I called her. I will give her the money on my next trip but your email address is passed to her and she remembers you very well. I understand that it is not just a matter of 10 dollars but a lot bigger. I asked her to write you and hope she does.
Good luck El Señor Pravee.
San Cristobal Slum
I decide to postpone my flight to Tumbes but wait for Isabel’s email if it ever comes.
Let’s see what happens.
My friend Naanu, he always had/has many girlfriends and also a wife too. He always advised me to be very dheet in these matters.
His motto is: “चिपक जाओ, कुत्ते की पूँछ बन जाओ.”
I will do that this time. Isabel is a keeper.
She is always worried and I am always not worried so this levels us out.
Lima Suburbs
She is extremely responsible and I am irresponsible so this may straighten our some matters.
राम बनाई जोड़ी.
As I am about to leave the cyber café, suddenly I get Isabel’s email. It is in Spanish, she cannot speak English. Then she comes on the chat.
I tell her that I am coming to Tumbes today evening to see her.
She writes in Spanish: No Amigo you no come. Three tourists are murdered here yesterday after you left.
Near my hotel
I: I will take my chance.
She: I have to come to Lima tomorrow. I have relatives here. I get free air ticket.
She disappears, saying that she has to get to work at nine thirty am.
I don’t know – may be she is coming so I won’t go there in the world famous den of criminals-and-scoundrels; or may be she has to come to Lima anyway. This only means that I have good chances.
My very initial plant was to catch the flight to Cuzco to visit Machu Picchu but then I never arrived in Lima.
Inside Lima Cathedral
Since I have nothing to do here in Lima so I come out of the hotel and walk towards the San Cristobal hill.
One of the most amazing yet underrated places to visit in Lima is the San Cristobal Hill, or Cerro San Cristóbal, which has witnessed Lima’s history since ancient times: located very near to Lima downtown, its 400 meter high peak offers a privileged and unique panoramic view of Lima, not found anywhere else.
The route to the San Cristobal crosses starts at Plaza de Armas (Main Square). All travel guides recommend taking this bus but never walking through the unsafe slums. Tourists bus costs about 3 dollars. But I decide to walk to the hill through the slum. I walk past most of the Lima’s historical monuments. First was Lima Cathedral, than Alameda de los Descalzos, the convent of the same name, the colonian Paseo de Aguas, the Plaza de Acho, where bullfighting take place, and El Angel cemetery, one of the oldest ones in Lima.
Leaving all these landmarks behind, the road begins climbing the hill. Well it is not like a slum in India but a lot better and very clean. Hundreds of colorful houses built one after another. It takes me one hour to walk past the slum and people are all looking at me because it is rare for any tourist to walk in these streets. At a cafe I buy a cup of coffee and sip it up while sitting on the bench on the road. Children are playing, women are busy in their chorus just like in any slums of India. People have small homes so they do most of their errands outside their homes.
Day is clear and I can see the ships anchored at Callao Bay, and the Rimac River coming down from the East, between the first Andean elevations. I come out of the slum and now the road to the peak very steep.
Ancient Peruvian civilizations believed that the hills surrounding the valleys were their protective gods, or Apus.
San Cristobal Hill
When Spanish conquistadores arrived, brought their Catholic religion and decided to place crosses at the top of every apu and changed its native name by the one of a Catholic saint, as a way to exterminate what they considered as idolatry and paganism.
According to a legend, this hill was named San Cristobal after an indigenous rebellion in 1536, and a wooden cross was placed at the peak to protect the new and small City of the Kings. Time and earthquakes passed by and the cross were changed by new ones several times, until 1927 when the current huge iron and cement cross was placed there.
The Maoist Communist Party of Peru (Spanish: Partido Comunista del Perú), more commonly known as the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), was a Maoist guerrilla insurgent organization in Peru. This group is responsible for killing hundred of thousand of innocence people. Widely condemned for its brutality, including violence against peasants, government and the general civilian population, the Shining Path is labeled by the Peruvian government as a terrorist organization. The group is on the U.S. Department of State’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, and the European Union and Canada likewise describe it as a terrorist organization and prohibit providing funding or other financial support.
Since the capture of its leader Abimael Guzmán in 1992, the Shining Path has declined in activity. Certain factions of the Shining Path now claim to fight in order to force the government to reach a peace treaty with the rebels. Similar to militant groups in Colombia, some factions of Shining Path have adapted as a highly efficient cocaine smuggling operation, with an supposedly support of villagers. Tourists are still recommend to stay away from the cocaine growing areas. When we went to Tingo Maria, after passing Hullaga River, we tried to venture about one kilometer in the village roads but people including children asked us not to go further but still we went in for some distance where a hidden sniper aimed his assault gun at our feet and sprayed warning bullet and we ran. We heard laughing sounds from far away.
On the top of this hill is also the memorial for the victims of Shining Path violence. Monument is built by the fragments of the destroyed and blown things by the Maoists.
Nowadays there is a Site Museum near the gigantic cross, whose most attractive collections are undoubtedly the historic photos of old Lima; there are also collections of historic documents related to the first cross and the hill itself, and sculptures of traditional Lima characters such as various types of street vendors, women in old typical outfits, etc.
Since Peru is still a Catholic country, San Cristobal Hill receives a large number of pilgrims during the Holy Week celebrations; pilgrims climb in procession, walking until the top, offering a stone to each of the smaller green crosses spread along the route, that represent the 14 time Jesus fell down during the Via Crucis.
A cathedral plaza in the suburbs
I mentioned in each of my post about Andes Mountains so here are some words about these majestic mountains.
http://en. wikipediaorg/wiki/Andes
The Andes is the longest continental mountain range in the world. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about 7,000 km (4,300 mi) long, about 200 km (120 mi) to 700 km (430 mi) wide (widest between 18° south and 20° south latitude), and of an average height of about 4,000 m (13,000 ft). The Andes extend from north to south through seven South American countries: Venezuela, Colombia,Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.
Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated by intermediate depressions. The Andes is the location of several high plateaux – some of which host major citiessuch as Quito, Bogota, Arequipa, Medellín,Sucre, and La Paz. The so-called Altiplano plateau is the world’s second-highest plateau following the Tibetan plateau.
The Andes range is the world’s highest mountain range outside of Asia. As much I love Himalayas, I also love Andes mountains. I crossed Andes mountains at several places, this time we crossed it from Columbia to Peru journey. Later on I crossed it from Argentinean town of Mendoza to Santiago (Chile) and then by trekking from Chile to Argentina in the Patagonia region near Antarctica.
San Cristobal Slum Suburb
The highest peak, Mount Aconcagua, rises to an elevation of about 6,962 m (22,841 ft) above sea level. The peak of Chimborazo in the Ecuadorean Andes is farther from Earth’s center than any other location on Earth’s surface, due to the equatorial bulge resulting from Earth’s rotation. The world’s highest volcanoes are in the Andes, including Ojos del Salado on the Chile-Argentina border which rises to 6,893 m (22,615 ft). Over fifty other Andean volcanoes also rise above 6,000 m (19,685 ft).
After spending 2 hours on the hill, I return to the bottom, walking again through the San Cristobal Slum because it reminds me of my good old India.
When I return to the hotel, I tell Baldy that I am not going to Tumbes.
His hand reaches on his head, he asks, “¿Por qué”
“Tumbes party is coming here to meet me. ”
“?Aquí en mi hotel?” (In this hotel?)
“We may meet somewhere else. ”
“Puede,” he shouts in disappointment because such important meeting between the Dons of the underworld may not occur in his hotel.
He feels insulted now.
I enter in my room and take bath because I left in the early morning without taking my bath. As I come out of bath, Baldy knocks my door and asks me to come to the phone. Harsh is online. Washington USA is in the same time zone with Lima, Peru. He expected me to be at this hotel so called here. I give him the news that I fell in love with someone at that scary border crossing with Ecuador and he gives me news that he fell out of love with his Filipino Girlfriend.
Upscale Miraflores market
He demands full story because he is more experienced in these matters whereas it is my first love.
After listening to my story, he says that actually she (Isabel) kicked me out of Tumbes. She made sure that I am out of her sight and far away from her.
“तुम उसका पीछा छोड़ो. उसने तुम्हे धक्के मार मार कर, मार मार कर वहां से दफा किया था.”
Well I don’t think – उसने मुझे धक्के मार मार कर, मार मार कर वहां से दफा किया था -.
She is very responsible and she made sure that I get to Lima. (Whether I wanted it or not).
When I am off from phone, Baldi is again staring at me.
“What now!” I say.
“Yoooor frieeeeeeeend is nooot die.”
Baldie is now very disappointed that after all, I didn’t kill Harsh. His pride that a great Don Pedro is staying at his hotel is injured now.
I tell him, “Lo dejé ir. Le di otra oportunidad.” (I let him go, I gave him another chance.)
“Y ¿qué pasa con los otros?” (And what about other?)
I reply as I dance my eyebrows, “Oh, eso. El – Me ocupé para siempre.” (Oh, that. Him – I took care for good.)
“Bueno – bueno – bueno. Fabuloso” (Good – good – good. Fabulous)
We both raise our hands to do High-Five.
To be continued.

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