Lima, and the long journey to get there

Last modified 16.03.2022 | Published 17.12.19871980's, Peru, South America, Travelogue

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This is about Lima, and the long journey to get there. After a month in Ecuador we returned to Peru. We spent two days nearly continuously on buses from Riobamba in Ecuador to Lima, Peru over a distance of 1,700 km. Lima had some old colonial buildings, interesting museums, and we were twice subjected to the good old toothpaste trick.

This article is part of a travelogue from of a five month journey in 1987-1988 to several countries in South AmericaBrazil, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile.


Sunday 13.12.1987, Tumbes

The bus from Riobamba, Ecuador departed a bit delayed due to a lot of luggage being stored up on the roof. We slept little and arrived in Huaquillas on the border around six in the morning, after 8.5 hours on the bus.

The authorities on both sides of the border were fast. All formalities took place on or at the bridge so we didn’t have to stop in Zarumilla south of Aguas Verdes like last time. In Tumbes we tried to find a bus to Trujillo as we imagined it would be too demanding going directly on to Lima. Besides, Trujilloseemed interesting.

There was however few buses and we decided for Lima anyway. The Tepsa bus company had seats left for their two o’clock bus this afternoon and we threw in 450 intis each, approximately 5.6 dollars US. In the meantime we had a look around the not overtly interesting Tumbes.


Peru entry and exit stamps, 1987 (2)

Entry and exit stamps in my passport from my second stay in Peru


I would have thought that Tepsa was an alright company, but alas. Slow ticket sale, delayed departure and nonsense and mess all the way. Large parts of the road was destroyed, the bus was poor inside and the windows hard to open. Well, well. The first hours there were a couple of lengthy police and customs controls – thorough.

Later the bus pulled over to some kind of garage and we had to wait for almost three hours before they had finished welding something on the front axle.

The landscape along the road was stone and sand desert, with a few green farming oases in between. It was barren and we felt sorry for the people who lived here.


Monday 14.12.1987, Lima

After nearly 28 hours as opposed to 24 as expected we arrived in the capital of Peru. The handout of luggage was according to a non-functioning system and it took its time.

The Handbook-recommended Hotel San Sebastian was full and after a long search we found:

  • Hostal El Dorado. Avenida Pierola. It cost us 360 intis (4.5 USD) for a double with private bath. It was expensive, and had a slow service, cold water, high-ceilinged ugly room and wasn’t particularly clean. Bo found her sleeping bag liner.


Tuesday 15.12.1987, Lima

Today a lot went well

We first went to the Aero Peru office and bought plane tickets to Cuzco on Thursday, costing us 1300 intis (16 USD). We did not want to stay here in Lima long for all the crime. Neither are the roads up to Cuzco tempting for the same reason. (In Ayacucho the Sendero Luminoso is shooting at everything that moves.) In addition the roads are so bad that we’ll have a hard time getting there before Christmas.

I exchanged 100 USD cash at one of the exchangers behind Hotel Bolivia at a rate of 78. We were later offered 80 from another on the first offer. But still, the rate is good and almost the double of what we had received previously.

The tourist information office was informative and pleasant. Bo picked up a letter from the Amex-office and we set off for the Poste Restante office.

Bo found on her first attempt nothing for herself, while I found a letter on my second name initial. I then asked them to look for my first name initial as well and they produced two more letters which I imagined would be the correct number. Bo checked once more and received two letters. We sat down at a restaurant to read them.


The toothpaste trick

All of a sudden happened what we had been warned against. At the bottom of my shirt and the top back of my trousers I was sprayed with toothpaste. I was not able to see who did it, but the woman who drew my attention to it seemed well dressed and did not look like a pickpocket. There was no one else in the immediate vicinity. I managed to remove and wash off the mess and was mighty pissed off. Nothing was (attempted) stolen.

Before this we had found ourselves another place to stay.

  • Hostal Samianego. It is located in no 184, Emancipación, eighth floor. It was practically inside the home of a nice lady. Alright place, clean and with laundry facilities on the roof. 240 intis (3 USD) for a double bed and communal bath with hot water around the clock.

The Plaza San Martin and the Plaza de Armas were both impressive. The cathedral on the latter plaza was beautiful and we joined a guided tour in the San Francisco monastery with a church and catacombs. Very nice.

I have contracted loose bowels but am in a good condition apart from that.

The centre of Lima seems okay with modern and busy shopping streets. Cakes seem to be popular; there is a number of Pastelerías around with good and varied types of flavour.

Wednesday 16.12.1987, Lima

Toothpaste is popular in Lima, obviously. After waiting for a long time to confirm our intention to use our Cuzco tickets we went up to the post office once more.

Inside I was told by a woman (again) that my pants and bag had been sprayed with toothpaste. This woman too was well dressed and nice, but probably she and another lady popping up with tissue paper were pickpockets. Nothing could be proved and nothing was stolen either.

We visited the very interesting Museum of the Inquisition. Lima used to have the headquarters of the Inquisition in the entire Latin America and the torture chambers with life like figures and equipment were impressive and horrifying. Torture racks, the burning of foot soles etc.

The Museum of Anthropology was highly fascinating too. We now understand where the souvenir makers get their inspiration.

We met an American at our hotel who was returning home from Christmas after a year in South America. He told us there were actually schools for pickpockets here. He added that one could meet people with spray paint cans who without warning would start spray you as you are watching. The purpose is to grab your attention while a friend is robbing you from behind.

In his view souvenirs had become more expensive and less handmade.


Read more

The next chapter: Christmas was coming up and we wanted to press on into the mountainous southern Peru, and away from Lima. We flew to Cuzco, the ancient capital of the once mighty Inca people.

Read the introduction to this journey 

View a full screen map of the journey 

Click to view my entry about Lima, the World Heritage Site