Lima Historic Center

Lazy Dutch time in Lima and many dead van parts

Lima time! Even before my trip stared Egbert told me to check with him before getting to Lima. He used to live in Lima for some years and still has some Dutch friends living there. So a few weeks ago I contacted Hans and Yvonne to see if they wanted to meet up for a drink. Their response was even better, I was welcome for a drink but could also stay at their place for however long I wanted to stay in Lima plus they knew a good mechanic for a checkup of my van. I planned to be at their place just south of Lima at around 5. I was pretty close to the city so no rush to leave in the morning. That is, if you don’t count for Lima traffic, the worst traffic of my trip so far. Even Los Angeles and Bogota were a breeze compared to this shit storm. The Panamerican highway goes pretty close to the city center. It’s a wide, flat highway and traffic is friendly and easy until about 15 minutes before the city start. All of a sudden cars start changing lanes like maniacs even though the amount of traffic is the same. In the end I spend about 3 hours in barely moving traffic. It’s pretty tiring because even though barely anything is moving everyone still wants to change lanes. That huge truck filled with bricks on my right side wants to be in my lane. There is no space, nothing is moving but he starts moving into my lane anyway. I can’t go forward or backward and on my left side is a huge concrete wall. It’s nothing short of a miracle that both my mirrors are still attached to my van. I originally planned to spend about an hour at a mall in order to show up at 5. I end up showing up at 7 without a single break. But hey, I made it to Hans and Yvonnes house! They know how to make a Dutch traveler happy and I’m welcomed with a beer, drop and chocolade pepernoten. Perfect combination!

The next three days I mostly just relax. It’s great to not have to think about where to sleep every night. Also extremely good internet and a shower where you can have hot water and a lot of water at the same time are things I haven’t seen for a while. I have time to call almost all my friends back home, plan the next bit of my trip and because the house is near the beach I go for a beach run. Also Hans’ Dutch food collection (oude kaas, appelstroop, drop, pindakaas, hagelslag, etc.) are heaven.

Van getting a very much needed bottom clean

It took me a while to convince myself to bring my van to the mechanic here. I could really use a good checkup, but Hans and Yvonne did warn me that this is not a cheap mechanic. Finally I decided to go. So far there have been too many mechanics that are either so bad I don’t want them working on my van or when I ask them for a checkup they just say everything is fine (I guess because it’s not yet falling apart). I instantly like the mechanic. He wants to go for a test drive with my van to see what’s wrong. What makes stuff even better is that his English is the best I’ve seen so far at mechanics. He mostly works on newish cars, but he quickly understands that for my travelling my van does not need to be perfect and I do expect I will need to visit more mechanics the following months. After the test drive we go through the problems. It’s not what I want to hear but it is what I need to hear. The shocks: dead; one of the bearings: dead; one brake cylinder: dead; a whole bunch of rubbers are worn out. Besides that my big archenemy the oil problem is not a leak, it’s definitely burning the oil and to fix it I would require an engine rebuild. After a discussion we conclude that we should try an even thicker oil and hope this keeps it going enough so I can get the engine rebuild done in the Netherlands where it is easier to get parts. On top of these problems it’s time for an oil change and a diesel filter change. Enough to keep them busy for a few days I guess. But before they can start I first need to get the bottom of the van cleaned. I have not done that at all during this trip, so there is a thick layer of mud under it. I head to a gas station where I can get the van cleaned. Luckily we agreed on a price beforehand because the lady needs more than an hour with the pressure cleaner to get the bottom clean. Every time I thought she was done she finds another corner filled with mud and pebbles. I think the van got at least  2o kilos lighter… The next few days they take the broken parts from my van and through some magic WhatsApp groups they manage to locate most parts in Lima which even surprises themselves. They will not be done before Monday so that will be six full days of work. Time go explore the city.

Dead, dead, all dead parts

Lima is a huge city with more than 10 million inhabitants. The old city center is actually a few kilometers from the coast. Near the coast are the well off neighborhoods of Miraflores and Barranco. I say near the coast because they’re actually located on top of some cliffs so no beaches here. But on top of these cliffs are loads of nice parks to hang out and read a book. Miraflores is filled with high rise residential buildings while Barranco reminds me of Palermo in Buenos Aires: old colonial buildings filled with hipster bars, restaurants and stores. I also manage to continue my unlucky museum visit planning: when I show up at the contemporary art museum they’re closed because they’re setting up a new exposition. I should mention that winter is now clearly starting. In Colombia, Ecuador and northern Peru the coast was always sunny and the mountains rainy and cloudy. In Huaraz I already got the surprise of sunny mountains which now is followed by very gray coast. It’s cloudy most of the day, but Lima winter means that it is still 2o degrees or so. That said, I am one of the few people in shorts and a T-shirt. Hans and Yvonne even lit the fire place in their house. I guess winter here isn’t that bad after all.

Miraflores cliff parks

Another day I go the historic center of Lima. It’s not extremely big but pretty well conserved with loads of nice parks and churches. Lima is the only city in the world with more than 10 million people without a subway. So getting around can be fun. Short distance transport is organised by a crazy system of an almost infinite number of small buses driving specific rounds. But for longer distances there is a very fast, special bus system with dedicated bus lanes to get around traffic. Locked off bus platforms can only be entered with chip cards. This system works really well and shows an unexpected side of the Lima people: they’re actually really good at queuing. Or at least for these buses. Everything else is still some great South American chaos. But I’m so much not used to queues anymore that I barely notice that I’m cutting in front of people… Sorry!

Lima historic center

The last day before the van should be ready I meet up with Nicolas who made it to Lima as well. I hadn’t seen him since Ibarra in northern Ecuador so we have enough to catch up on. So time for a Miraflores to Barranco cliff park walk with some stops for drinks ending at a craft beer brewery/bar in Baranco with great food and beers.

Steertart in Barranco

The van is ready! Finally! My time in Lima was really nice but I’ve been here for 11 days now. I’ve never stayed at one place for this much time so I’m getting itchy to head on. Hans had a good chat with the mechanic and now I’m getting a huge discount on the work. Plus as extra gift I get one of those fancy foam spray bottles to fill up a flat tire so you can drive to the next shop. So much SCORE! One more nice evening in Lima and then tomorrow I can head out. When I’m about to leave, Hans shows up with two big shopping bags of Dutch food. I’m so excited! Time for some great cooking. Now it’s time to start making some kilometers so I’m in Cusco on time before Vincent arrives.

A big huge awesome thanks to Hans and Yvonne for so much: letting me stay at their place, all the Dutch food and getting me a big discount on my van repair. And of course thanks to Sjoerd and Bart and everyone else for the fun days in Lima.

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