Like in other major cities in developing countries, Lima has affluent and impoverished areas. I am fortunate to stay at an upscale hotel in the swanky San Isidro area and was invited to lounge at an exclusive beach club where membership dues are at least over 50 USD. Yes, in American dollars.
I also had the opportunity to stumble into the grittier parts of town yesterday but obviously lived to tell about it! After some photo ops at plaza d'armas, I looked to hop into a cab. However, traffic was especially bad so I decided to hoof it for a while and get a feel for the area as I had been atop the ivory tower of luxury for most of the trip.
I had lunch a few blocks from the plaza. Ceviche appetizer, an entree and inca cola for 7 soles ( around 2 USD). Next, I stopped at a Starbucks for a frap and collect my bearings then noticed that the hotel was a straight shot down the expressway, a one hour walk. My flawed logic concluded that I would be able to walk back as long as I followed the highway and have the opportunity to snap photos of their national stadium.
It was a straightforward jaunt at first as I passed some noteworthy landmarks. Eventually, I found myself in some working class neighborhoods. The department stores with large ads gave way to family owned shops that smelled of strong cleaning agents. But I trudged on thinking that I was getting closer to the high rises of San Isidro.
But the surroundings worsened. I saw signs that you were in a bad neighborhood: stray dogs, pedicabs, the homeless under bridges and graffiti. I shoved my ray bans in my pack, wore a scowl and walked briskly. Hoping to blend in.
Then I faced a Dead end, unable to follow the expressway any longer. I thought about going deeper into the neighborhood and maybe find the highway again. Gambled on cab instead although skeptical because of horror stories. I was nervous, I could not find his credentials and was texting. My mime then played tricks on me. "Is he texting his buddies? Saying he has a foreigner, let's take his money, I'll bring him right over." My hand stayed on that door handled, I was ready to bail if I did not see the gleaming skyscrapers of San Isidro.
Obviously, it ended well. I tend to think on a worst case scenario basis, which is no way to live. However, it is common sense to avoid dodgy areas especially if you are not fluent of the native tongue. So now I carry some of that authenticity as I ascended to that ivory tower once again.