The journey from Gatwick to Lima was in 2 legs. The first leg, Gatwick to Madrid was on time, which meant I should have had a 3 hour wait in Barajas airport. This became more than 4 hours, with no information or explanation being given for the delay. As it was late at night, very few of the shops and eateries were open, which added to the frustration.
Madrid to Lima was the longer leg of the journey, so I upgraded to a seat with longer leg room. I found myself in the company of a family with 2 small children. My heart sank, filled with dread for the 11 hour flight.
My fears were unfounded as the children, aged about 3 and 6, were delightful ( it is doubtful that I have ever used the words “delightful children” before). I was seated next to their father, Luis, a pharmacist from Lima, who spoke quite good English ( better than my Spanish) and between naps and meals, we chatted in Spanglish. It helped pass the time and I had no other way of entertaining myself as I had contrived to leave my in-flight entertainment, such as Ipod, books etc., in my car. I later discovered that I had left behind many other things.
The flight arrived in Lima just over 2 hours later than scheduled. We hit the ground jogging in true “Flintstone’s Airline” style. One hour was due to the delay in Madrid, the other was due to the fact that the flight information gave an incorrect arrival time. It then took me an hour or so to collect my bag (not quite the last one to be put on the carousel), clear customs and immigration and emerge into the arrivals area where meetings and greetings were taking place. I was very happy to see my name neatly printed on card being held up by my personal meeter and greeter. He had been patiently waiting for 3 hours for my arrival.
We quickly got acquainted and went off to stow the luggage in the car and start the journey to the hotel. It must have been at this point that my driver, Carlos, changed to his alter-ego. I am fully aware of the personality changes that take place when people get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle ( myself very much included) but I did not expect the journey I was about to experience.
As we were exiting the car park, another vehicle was trying to enter, which led to a serious altercation between the two drivers as both insisted they had the right of way. Neither wanted to back down and I was surprised that they did not come to blows over it. At this point I realised that I should have my camera on. I began filming what was approximately an hour of a strange mixture of terror and elation. It was similar to the feeling you might have on a roller coaster but without the comfort factor that it had been tried and tested and declared safe.
Carlos informed me that the chaos could be attributed to the fact it was rush hour. Having been a pedestrian in Lima for 2 days now, I am not convinced. The sound of horns is almost constant. They announce that a vehicle is coming through and you had better move out of the way. The white lines and other road markings serve only as decoration, no one seems to heed their real significance. There are warnings painted on the road that in 4 out of every 5 deaths that occur in traffic accidents, the victims are pedestrians.
Carlos was an extraordinary driver whose skills have been acquired through years of experience. Sadly, the same cannot be said about my newly acquired “skill” as a cameraman and I will be very lucky if there is any footage worthy of publication here. I have not reviewed it thoroughly yet, so there is still some hope. Also, I hope I learn from my mistakes.
From what I have observed in a very short time, the urgency these people have behind the wheel of a car, does not go with them when they exit their vehicles. In that short time, I have already had many conversations with local citizens and found them to be friendly, helpful and extremely welcoming. I hope it continues…