The port of Callao is, almost certainly, not the best advert for nearby Lima, Peru’s capital. It is, in no uncertain manner, a very busy working port and other arriving vessels ahead initially delayed our berthing. For some of our guests their voyage with us was completed, while others were joining, having flown out from the UK.
Along with all the scheduled tours, the return of an overland excursion, storing and fuel bunkering, and even a diver doing some routine inspections, it was indeed a very active day. In addition we were to host over thirty young children from the Flor de la Paz orphanage nursery, a charity that Saga supports.
Even so, around midday, my wife and I took the shuttle bus over to the Miraflores area of the city, a journey of around 45 minutes through a hot, dusty and heaving conurbation of non-uniform, Lego-like buildings. From first impressions one might rapidly conclude that there is no planning or building controls in existence, nor is the use of an architect compulsory or even considered. Shabby brick and concrete constructions, all different sizes, go on as far as the eye can see. Only the face of buildings seem to be rendered, so the sides are often left with no attempt made to tidy up their appearance.
Steel reinforcing bars protrude, perhaps with the expectation that sometime in the future money may become available for another story to be added. The facades, however, are a different matter and have usually been made to look attractive, but all totally different from each other - there is no uniformity. On the main roads, as one might expect, the properties are all commercial, built in the same way, but with outrageously glitzy ‘in your face’ decoration. Bright plastic brass and chrome, bold primary colours and ‘exotic’ designs are all there to entice the potential customer. The casinos and other entertainment venues are, without doubt, the worst examples of this kind of ‘kitsch’ design.
In the day it looks, in my opinion, awful, but at night with all the bright lights, often flashing garishly, it somehow works. Miraflores, however, is the oasis, and where the tourists are inevitably taken. Modern high-rise hotels and apartment blocks abound, and an impressive shopping and leisure centre has been built into the escarpment overlooking the ocean.
Above, racing around on the ridge wind, para-sailors displayed their skills. Amongst them, I found out later, was at least one of our young-at-heart saganauts, trying out the latest of ‘not to late to try’ activities - tandem para-sailing. Apparently, perhaps because of the language difficulty, conversation was limited to the most basic of safety training, "Cross your hands over your chest, when I run, you run". I would have found that slightly disturbing I think, but who am I to know?
What I did know was that dinner for my wife and I at ‘La Rosa Nautica’, perhaps one of the most romantic restaurants in the world and situated on a pier reaching out into the Pacific, would be as delightful a surprise as when I took her there for the first time 26 years ago.
And so it was, we left Peru and the coast of South America, with a smile on our faces, having rushed back in time for sailing. New Zealand is over three weeks away, but all things being equal we shall call at seven islands on route. Our expectant passengers, and my wife, eagerly await them.