Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The End

The bus I got here on has returns to Lima at 3, 4, 5, ... which all would both get me there quite late and give me most of the day in Pisco without anything to do. I could squeeze in a day trip to Ica, an hour or so to the south, but I'd rather not pile things on. I'm supposed to be relaxing. Carlos, thankfully, knows a different bus company with a tourist bus leaving from Paracas at 10. Like the other one, in fact: all the tourist busses serve Paracas – Pisco is for ordinary people.
Carlos explains I should get a taxi for Paracas at 9:30, and gives me my voucher for the ticket he's reserved on line. Later, he comes by the hotel with my actual ticket, and says he'll meet me at the hotel to take me to the bus at 9:30. That sounds good.
After a long and restful night, I check out and wait in the square with my luggage. It's a nice day – already clear by 8. Today you can see the Ballestas from Pisco. Previously they were hidden in the gloom.
Life starts to get going around me, and I start to think about the road to Paracas. It's at least a 20 minute drive, more like 25. My ticket says to be 30 minutes early, and I know that's not really necessary but I have seen the tourist busses always leaving on time. 9:30 is cutting it pretty tight to make this bus. Perhaps it's Peruvian time, and you can count on delay, especially if they're waiting for a ticketed passenger. Perhaps not. If I miss this bus, the next one with this company is at 8pm, getting me to Lima at midnight.
When the hotel clock says 9:30 and there's no sign of Carlos, I convince myself that I may have misunderstood our last exchange, and I'd better get a taxi immediately if I'm going to catch my ride.
So I take my bag to the curb, and instantly a shiny new taxi appears. The clock in the car says 9:26, so maybe I'm the one to flake on Carlos and he's just now looking for me. No matter. We arrive at the tourist information center in Paracas at 9:52, where my driver is directed to the Otursa tour company farther down the road. Two minutes later the bus pulls up and the dozen travellers get on.
If I'd waited for Carlos, I'm sure we'd have made the bus, but we would have been running after it!

On the drive back to Lima we're treated to an idea of what the sandstorms can be like, with the air so  thick sometimes we can't see the shore, or even a 100 meters up the road. Fortunately, that clears up and it's an uneventful drive north. No testing the seat-belts today.
In Lima I'm treating myself to an evening of 5-star luxury. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost the little form they stamped at the airport – without it, the hotel clerk is terribly, terribly concerned about having to charge me tax on the room. Ah, so that's what that form was about. I'm pretty sure I left it with my other papers at Mev's parent's. Should have kept it with my passport, but I've had to show that so often, and it kept falling out. At any rate, the taxi fare out there and back is much more costly than just paying the tax, not to mention the bother. And how come in two weeks in the country, nobody else ever asked me for it?

I spend the late afternoon just walking around, more or less resisting the call to Buy Stuff, then going up the coast a ways along the clifftop park. Good idea. Nobody has a yard around here, so parks are the only green spaces at all. And this park at the edge gives the high-rises across the street some margin not to fall into the sea in an earthquake. People are out in the park, too, picnicing, playing games, just hanging around.
When the sun goes down, it cools off quickly in Peru, and I guess this is also when all those spectacular fountains around town that you see in tourism photos are switched on and lit up. Too much evaporation to run them all day in this water-poor country, but at night they come alive.
But I don't go for an evening tour on my own in the cold. I go for a hot soak in my glorious, taxed, bathtub. Then I cash in my free Pisco Sour ticket to accompany a meal-sized appetizer of various raw seafoods on Peruvian mashed potato beds. Delicious! 

Last day in Lima: breakfast at Starbuck's, a long walk up and down the coast, a wander from park to park in the Miraflores district, and art gallery, a museum. I'm done. Oh, except for this exhibition of local artisans. Can't resist just a little more yarn. And some holiday ornaments.
Tired of wandering around, and not really interested in another museum, I catch a taxi to Mev's family's house on the far north edge of the city. My nearly-last, carefully off-limits soles just barely get me there.
It's just me and Mrs Dominguez tonight. She's wonderfully comfortable with not persisting excessively in trying to make conversation. I show her some of my photos, and try to express my impression of Paracas, and then we retire to our books after a simple dinner of soup and bread.

In the morning I just relax. I barely move. I finish my knitting project, which my hostess admires. Then she brings out her knitting project box, and show me things she's making and we coo over baby clothes. She wants me to show her the lace pattern I'm working on, so I take up some yarn and show her. Michel is calling for his lunch from downstairs, but she puts him off until she gets the instructions right.
It's not easy to show her: she holds the yarn in a totally different way, making it hard to follow each other's gestures. I've used 5 different stitches in the scarf, and we finally get them all down, and which ones in which rows. And I thought this was a particularly simple pattern!

In the afternoon I say my goodbyes to this my temporary family, promising to come back in 2 years for Mev's next meeting. Then it's over to the airport, and 30 hours travel to Clermont-Ferrand and my waiting cats.
I'm home!

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