Farewell to Palma Real

Today we said goodbye to a team of four workers from our YWAM base. They are heading into the jungle in the south of Peru for six months, to relieve a missionary couple there who have not had a rest for over five years. Our team will also be working towards starting new ministries and other activities.

The Palma Real team (L to R - Vicky, Yolanda, Maricruz, Paul)

The village where they are going does not have electricity nor running water. Purchases of groceries has to be done every month by travelling in boat to the nearest large city/town, called Maldonado. Each month they will also be able to respond to and write emails to everybody. Outside of this singular monthly visit they are very isolated from the world.

Foods eaten in this area are quite different to what we would call “normal” foods. Things such as monkey, turtle, and grubs of all sorts are common here. Tropical fruits are also, naturally, very abundant. It is a challenge, but each member of the team, through prayer, is convinced that it is worth making the sacrifices to be able to help the people there, and to continue the work being done by the missionary couple.

These guys would love any support you are willing to provide them. Please advise me by the contact form for further details on how you may support them (prayer, giving, letters of encouragement, etc.).

New Years Day in Miraflores, Lima

The first part of our new year was spent sleeping to recover from the night. Then we headed out in the afternoon with the girls to visit Miraflores, a richer part of Lima. Walking along the coastline gave us fantastic views of the beaches below and of almost a dozen paragliders that were soaring above.

Our hosts in Lima
Our wonderful hosts in Lima who made us feel completely welcome in their home… the Ausejos.

Our walk took us through the park of love, where a Peruvian Chinese couple that had just been married were getting their photos taken. All along the walls of the park were love hearts and love messages from unknown people to their beloveds, and couples talking, embracing and kissing were littered all around the grounds.

Cliffs of Miraflores
The cliffs of Miraflores in Lima and many paragliders.

We ended up at a food mall, below some very expensive shops in a complex that sat on top of the edges of the cliffs and offered some spectacular views. It was extremely busy and loaded with security guards, but smelled strongly of money. After a quick bite we emerged from the lower floors and caught a cab back to the house. Tonight we were heading out to the airport to pick up Darlene. Tomorrow we leave Lima.

Paraglider overhead
A paraglider overhead soars past using the winds of the cliffs to give him more height.

Landing pad for paragliders
All of the paragliders were taking off and landing on this patch of grass on top of the cliffs, and giving people rides. The guy with the camera took photos of the people while the paraglider hung there in the same spot only metres above the ground.

Park of Love
The Park of Love, with a huge statue of a couple kissing. It is said that you are allowed to kiss anybody if you drag them under the shadow of this statue. While we were there I never saw anybody trying to drag someone down there, so maybe this is just a tale.

Looking back over to the lighthouse, the point where we had come from.

Rich food area
This section of Miraflores was the richest part that I have seen in Lima. Filled with security guards and very expensive shops, it also sported many of the typical America fast-food joints (Burger King, Pizza Hut, KFC, Starbucks, etc).

The Marriot Hotel
On the other side of the road to this rich complex was the very elaborate Marriott Hotel. We were in an upper-class area of Lima, although Paul informs me that there are richer areas in Lima than this.

New Years Eve in Lima, Peru

After arriving in Lima, we finally decided that Paul and I would remain behind and wait for Darlene to arrive at the airport. It was a perfect day on the last day of the year for a walk, so we wandered out to visit another uncle of Paul’s and then returned home along the coastal cliffs, affording a beautiful view of the ocean and beaches below.

When the night comes around we hang out chatting until midnight, climbing the stairs to the roof of the house to watch the fireworks all over the city. Our neighbours provided the most interesting fireworks displays however, probably because they were so close to us and exploding directly over our heads.

All over the city as far as we could see there were not only fireworks but also life-sized dolls being burned in the street. Paul had told me of this unusual practice on the last bus ride, so I was not surprised to see life-sized people being burned in the street even though it was still a little weird to see it actually happening.

After taking in the fireworks and the burning of the dolls we all sit down to a delicious pork and salad meal together and then continue to chat into the night. Sleep finally comes at around 3am. New year had been a good night.

Coastal cliffs
The coastal cliffs of Lima, from the Magdalena looking towards Miraflores.

security doors
Lima has a reputation for being dangerous in places, and these doors do nothing to persuade you otherwise. Every house has grills and grates and doors and gates and fences and electric or razor wires around them.

A moto-taxi stop. These little 3 wheeled motorbike cars have a limited range in which they can take you, but are very cheap if your destination is within this range.

One of many fireworks going off all over the city during New Years Eve celebrations.

Buring doll
The person on fire in the street is a life-sized doll that is covered with old clothes that are no longer wanted or needed and then burned at midnight on New Years Eve. The belief is that if you do this you are getting rid of the old and therefore making room for the new that will now come in the new year. From what I understand it is only practised in Peru.

Neighborhood fireworks
Our local neighbours let off dozens of amazing fireworks directly above our heads as we were standing on the roof of the house where we were staying.

Street fires
Our local street was filled with burning dolls as far as the eye could see. Somewhere this burning got out of control and a firetruck raced down our street with lights blazing, dodging the existing little fires all the way down the street.

Girls playing with sparklers
We bought the girls of the house some sparklers which they enjoyed playing with.

Arriving in Lima, Peru

The bus ride from Tacna to Lima took 22 hours, leaving at 2pm one day and arriving at 12pm the next day. Once again we were on a long journey. Passing through customs was without any problems and we took advantage of the small shop there and the delay in getting the bus through to grab ourselves some better food than the sandwiches that are offered on-board. This was the last sign of civilization for a long time.

boarding the bus
Boarding the bus in Tacna.

The desert area here is completely barren and very hot and dry. There seems to be no plant that grows in this landscape and yet as we drive along the road, the only sign that this inhospitable land has been invaded by people, suddenly great concrete jungles of cities loom up and we are engulfed by their myriads of buildings. Within these cities there are sections of grass, trees, and other signs of life, distracting the inhabitants from the grim reality of the desert that encircles them.

International terminal
The international terminal in Tacna, Peru, filled with international taxis.

Before long the night comes, and sleep along with it. By the time we wake up, we have passed through Pisco and the earthquake zone and are getting very close to Lima. Some heavy traffic greets us as we move into the capital city of Peru and our bus labours to move through it. Finally we are done, we reach the bus terminal and grab our bags. What happens next is still uncertain. Six days of travel so far, with four of them on buses.

Going through customs
Passing through the customs search building. We make it through easily but the bus delays in getting through the gate.

We should be moving onward, finishing the journey. But we cannot. A visa problem left one of the students stranded in Buenos Aires, and we need to wait for her to arrive at the airport here. The question now is who waits and who goes. So it is time for lunch, and some decisions. We take refuge in Paul’s uncles place, using it to store our bags so we can go out for a meal and stop at internet for a moment.

Green next to desert
When the green ends, the desert begins immediately.

Sandy and few rocks
Finding rocks in this desert was very unusual.

Green and brown
The difference that a little water can make in such a dry place is amazing.

Selling to the bus passengers
Every time the bus stopped we were swamped with people trying to sell things to those on the bus.

Local village
Passing through a local village, supported by a nearby river.

River in desert
Streams of living water in dry places… a strong flowing river for such a desert area.

Beach resort
One of many local beach resorts as we near Lima – the next day.

Rich beach community
A rich beachside community on the outskirts of Lima.

Main street in Lima
Finally we reach the busy streets of Lima, Peru.

Stopping in Taxi
Stopping outside the house of Pauls Uncle to find a refuge in the middle of Lima.

Heading Northward – Arica and Tacna

Arriving in Arica was a welcome relief to our tired bodies, tired of the travel and hungry for some decent food. So the first thing we did was store our backpacks and head to town for a hearty meal. Arica has some lovely beaches which are very tempting, although we only ever got to see them from a distance. Lunch was our priority.

The beach at Arica
The beaches of Arica, Chile.

Lunch was a hearty meal in some small restaurant in front of the local train station. Only two trains leave per day so our restaurant was not even remotely busy when we stopped by. A huge plate of rice, meat, salad, and fried potato chips combined with Peru’s unique Inka Cola softdrink went a long way to appease the hunger that we all had. Some icecreams afterwards helped fill up any remaining holes.

Paul ready to eat
Paul salivating over our delicious lunch… after days of bus food.

After lunch we wandered through the city centre and looked around for some tax-free shopping. Iquique is the city with tax-free everything and after looking around we could not find anything that was truly tax-free other than stoves and fridges. Wandering through the back streets we find our way back to the bus terminal, grab our bags and then head off to the other, international terminal, to take a taxi to Peru.

The main mall of Arica
The main mall of Arica, Chile.

wandering through the streets
Wandering through the streets trying to find our way back to the bus terminal.

Crossing the border to Tacna was without any problems at all. I had expected it to involve a thorough search of our bags and other checks for duty-free items, but since Tacna is also part of the tax-free zone, we only needed to get our passports stamped and were through.

In the international taxi to Tacna
Riding in the taxi on the way from Chile to Peru.

Peru border crossing
Arriving at the Peruvian border crossing.

Upon reaching Peru, the prices of everything dropped considerably. We were all exhausted so we bought bus tickets for the next day and then found ourselves a $10 soles per night room in a residential setting. Our night involved a wander around the markets and the town centre and then going out for a big meal of wood-fire cooked pizza. It was delicious.

Everything closed at night
During the night most of the shops were closed.

Breakfast at the markets
Eating breakfast the next day at the markets.

The next day we returned to the markets and picked up some very cheap bits and pieces. I grabbed some stuff for computers, while the girls were more focused on the clothes and leg-hair-pullers and stuff like that. It was tough trying to find each other in the labrynth of small shops within the markets, and by the time we all got together again our bus was about to leave. So with packaging and bags flying everywhere, we all jam our newly acquired stuff into our bags and race out to the bus terminal ready to start the next leg of our journey… to Lima.

Paul happy with his purchases
Paul returning from the markets, very happy with his purchases.

The city centre
The only part we got to see during the day of the city, because of our rush to catch the bus.

Peru – The Diary Notes – Getting There

The story below is taken directly from my daily journal with a few modifications to clarify anything that may not immediately be clear.

Monday 10th July (Argentina – Buenos Aires)
It is 5.30am and we are still traveling. Arriving at the Liniers terminal in Buenos Aires early, we waited 1.5hrs for our pickup to the Ituzaingo YWAM base. A shower, some emails, lunch and time with friends and we are soon back in our bus on the way to the airport.

Waiting at the airport
Waiting at the airport

Now we are in the airport – early, waiting for Lloyds of Bolivia to open their counters. Oops. We were watching the wrong counters. They were already open but their computers were down. This meant that we were all scattered over the plane with nobody together. I could not change the date on my ticket either, with my return still set for the 26th July instead of the 5th September.

Customs and security completed, I am still with my scissors, but our plane is delayed and we don’t depart until 4.30pm. Now we are on our way in an old Boeing 727-200.

(Bolivia – Santa Cruz)
It’s a shambles. Nobody knows where we are going or what we are doing. We thought we were in transit but suddenly everyone has to enter into the country though customs. Bewildered we fill out the paperwork, then pass through.

Mari, one of our team, is detained. Bolivia requires that people from her country obtain a visa to enter. She does not have one as none of this was expected. We are distraught, but after consultation it is agreed that she will be escorted to the plane just before departure. We leave, still wary, but unable to change or do anything about it.

Now we are officially in the country. I try to adjust my ticket dates again. They confirm that the dates are fine in the computer, but a dispute remains as to who pays for the changes. It as the agency’s error, but in this part of the world that may mean nothing.

Next, we are told to line up at the check-in counters again, but nobody is attending us. Jorge finally finds a person working there on other things who tells us that we can go straight through to the gate as we already have our boarding passes for the next flight. It is a national gate.

Crowds in Santa Cruz
Crowds of people waiting to go through security checks.

Arriving at the gate we encounter a mess. It is like a herd of cattle all trying to fit through one tiny gate at the end, and indeed between 100 to 150 people (a rough guess) are all pushing in a group towards a tiny door (I find out on my return to Argentina that "Miss Bolivia" had just arrived moments before us and this was the contingent that had been traveling with her). We join them and move slowly toward our goal. Thirty to forty minutes of waiting sees us finally inside and waiting at our gate.

There is no Mari. While we wait, we send out a search party to find our missing group member, but with no luck. A second attempt encourages a guard to console us and he tells us that she will be escorted directly to the plane at the point of departure. After further questions we also discover that we have been waiting at the wrong gate, but our plane has been delayed again.

Finally we are on the plane. An announcement while at the gate scared us all. They told us that our existing seat allocations were null and void. Suddenly everyone was up and pushing into an anxious line, as many of us were now concerned that there could well be insufficient seats. With this airline very close to the point of closing down, anything was possible. We all made it aboard however, and there were plenty of left-over seats. To our relief we also see that Mari has also boarded this plane.

(Bolivia – La Paz)
After a short 45 minute flight we stop in Cochabamba at 10.15pm. This time we were able to stay onboard. After another short flight we are in La Paz, flying low over the mountainous edges of the Altiplano. Once landed, I get to exit the airplane by the rear tail-steps which brought back memories of my childhood flying days in Australia.

Our old Boeing 727-200
The old Boeing 727 allowed us to leave by the tail steps.

Once out, we all gather together in the terminal as a group and prepare to go through customs to leave the country. Mari still does not have her passport however, as it was taken from her and given to a flight attendant on the plane. She does not know who has it either, so I go with her to help sort all of this mess out. She is understandably quite concerned and worried about it all.

After finding an official person from the plane, we then seek another, until finding the man with her passport. He tells us to follow him through the checks into the common areas of the airport. Mari was even more stressed about doing this, but I reassured her as best as I could. Soon we were before another official who then took charge of the situation. She led us to customs and immigration and arranged with the officer there to allow Mari to pass through without a problem, after standing with everyone else in the line.

Once through, she was safe once again, and visibly relieved, although quite exhausted from the experience on top of all of the traveling. This was not the end of our dilemmas however. Katie, another of our team, considered her boarding pass old and used it to wrap up her chewing gum and throw it away. When she discovered that this was the very piece of paper that she needed to board the next plane, there was more rushing around between officials until somebody could replace her boarding pass for her. Soon enough however, she was passing through the security checks.

After safely making it through two previous security checks, my scissors were finally discovered and removed from me here in La Paz. Katie too, discovered that she had scissors in her hand luggage. Finally, at 12.30am in Bolivia (1.30am in Argentina), we are on our way again.

Flyng over La Paz
Flying over La Paz city in Bolivia.

Tuesday 11th July (Peru – Lima)
After a 1.5 hour flight we arrive in Lima very late, at almost 3.00am Peru time. I sleep most of the way, exhausted. Surprisingly, when we get there the pastor that was going to pick us up is still waiting. We pour out of the main doors of the airport as a group, pushing two loaded trolleys filled with our luggage. As we leave the lobby, we pass through lines of taxi drivers, all looking for customers.

The airport here has a very modern feel, recently built by a German company and complete with electronic eye bathrooms where everything is automated without touching a thing.

Two cars carry us all back, six in each car with four in the back as is common here. We pass through an area that looks like Las Vegas with all of the lights and casinos lining the street. Nobody feels like talking, but as I am in the front seat, I try. It was hard work trying to clear my brain of enough of the tiredness to think conversationally.

Traveling late at night
Late at night, everything seems like a blur.

Finally we reach our destination. A large house that is also used as a mission base for a church. I quickly find my bed down in the basement and within minutes am in and asleep. Exhausted. It is something like 6.30am in Argentina. 4.30am here.

The journey is over, I have finally reached Peru.

I Just Want Water

One of the things that I like about South America is that you have a choice when you buy water of having it carbonated (with gas) or plain (without). Of course, when purchasing water you need to specify which way you want it.

Here in Peru it is not quite as simple as asking for just that however. To purchase a simple water there are various things that need to be specified. The size of the bottle, the brand, and other things too. Many people offer water refrigerated or at room temperature too, so this also needs to be accounted for.

In the end, buying a simple water becomes a request something like:

Can I have a water, without gas, in a small plastic bottle, not refrigerated, of the San Mateo brand.

That is a lot of talking, or a lot of questions, just for one water. Choices are good but this is becoming silly.

Peru – Surprised at No Surprise

Upon returning to Argentina after two months in Australia and only days later heading up into the north of Peru for two months, I was expecting some sort of adjustment period to the culture and the way that life runs in this new country that I had never visited. Instead, I felt completely comfortable and everything appeared to be normal to me. This was my surprise.

The lack of surprise at life in this culture is something that I attribute in part to my two years of living in the north of Argentina which has a remote similarity to this part of Peru. Also my recent travels through Bolivia revealed places very similar to here in Peru which may have also helped even though I had never lived in these places but only seen them in passing.

So after almost two months of being here and with virtually nothing that has caused me to be surprised, I would like to share a little about the life that now seems to be so very normal for me. As we have lived both in the city and the country, they needed to be treated apart, since each lifestyle is quite distinct.
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Peru – Getting There

How I love to write stories that involve the reader in the emotions and events that pass by. This time there is too much to tell, and too little time to tell it. So here is a quick run down of our journey to Peru.

Bus to BA
It was four days of journeying. First an 18 hour bus ride from Puerto Madryn to Buenos Aires. A quick stop for lunch and we were at the airport waiting for our flight. Flying with Lloyd airlines of Bolivia, which is still in financial problems, we experienced a little of their problems ourselves.
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