21 March 2014 – A Tale of Lima, Peru
Oh – before I forget – when cutting and pasting for the 17th I managed to include the photo of Dani but not the explanation of why you were getting the picture of her at mile 8. (which mostly consisted of the fact that the finish line one was at too much of a distance to really see her).
Back to the current topic!
Originally I was going to do a “Lima on your own” which was simply a bus ride to town and back with about five hours in which to wander around. After talking to a couple of my buds it sounded a lot more fun to take the bus to one of the Inka Markets and look at stuff for about 90 minutes figuring we could either find wifi or spend the time fondling alpaca scarves, shawls and ponchos. Also included were some highlights of downtown on the way to the market and a suburb or three on the way back.
Getting on the bus, our guide informed us that our tour might be a bit disrupted due to a planned protest in a major downtown square. (Please remember that I spent a lot of years in the military. I don’t do or go near demonstrations. I have seen all too many turn ugly and I don’t see the point of putting myself at risk while being an inadvertent bystander). Believe it or not, we drove right past the square (solid with people, all of whom were wearing hard hats along with lots and lots of flags) and drove around a number of streets.
About 45 minutes into the drive, we came to standstill. The street down which our tour had been planned was now blocked off. Police dressed for the worst at the barricade. Our tour guide suggests that we all get out and walk to see the next section. The bus would go around and we would meet up with it at the other side (which obviously meant crossing the line of march….).
Now, passengers on the tour had picked it for the shopping and the fact that there was no walking involved. Ages 60s-80s. Like Lemmings, all but a few of us got off the bus. Did I mention that I am not stupid, don’t want to be in crowds and don’t speak the language. Plus, having already been subjected to crushing crowds and individuals attempting to lift off my possessions I just didn’t feel like playing. Bus driver is a nice guy and he safely gets us around all of this mess and to the pick up point. Meanwhile, several of the group have gotten separated from the rest which now involves several stops to gather everyone up.
At this point, the sensible thing would have been to get out of there. Right?
Not our brilliant tour guide who wants to “stay on the path” Said path takes us across the line of march which means we are at a total standstill for over 30 minutes while the police hold everyone in place till all the miners have cleared the intersection two stoplights ahead.
I did mention the helmets, riot-shields, weapons didn’t I?
End result is that by the time we finally reached the suburbs (which could have been literally anywhere Spanish speaking complete with name brand stores and Starbucks, we only had 20 minutes of our allotted 1 hour 20 for shopping. I wanted postcards. I also found some yarn (=$2.50/ball? why not, it is such a pretty blue).
Back on the ship, that evening I attempted to talk to the Shore Excursion desk about the risks of that tour. Got an argument back! Effectively saying since nothing happened, it was safe. No good answer to why they believed the tour guide thought it was safe or why we were upset about losing the portion of the tour for which we had signed up. Argh. Chere and I finally told them if they couldn’t figure it out to go and talk to their own security personnel about the risks of taking elderly passengers out for a hike in the middle of a miners protest. I don’t actually expect and answer or a refund. I am just hoping that someone will think before putting people at risk. Nothing happened – good. But if that protest had turned at all violent it could have had major repercussions for all of us.