In Trujillo, we were fortunate to meet a lovely taxi driver who took us from the hotel to dinner in the city. A very friendly man, he shared the details of this town and some of its history. Trujillo is known for its shoe making industry. If you are an Emma Watson fan, you may have read about some of the sustainable manufacturing development that can be found in this area. The driver described the importance of this footwear industry in Peru, telling us that there were over 4000 vendors in Trujillo. We had been warned of the dangers of getting too close to the areas of town where there is a crossover of typical vendors and mafia type wholesalers. He asked if we would like a tour and provided us with a remarkably ‘up close’ vantage point of the city’s vast market place, where we found thousands of pairs of shoes!
We moved on from Trujillo, a coastal city toward Lima. We were ready for the beach and warmer weather after spending so much time at high altitudes. The skies in the Andes were blue, but the nights were chilly. We were really surprised to find that much of the northern Peruvian coast was barren and desolate. It was shocking to see the lack of development at the coast. As many of you already know, much of the United States coastal areas are filled with populated beach resorts, small fishing villages, extreme sports regions, etc. This is certainly not the case in Peru. Miles of coastline stretch on with untamed beaches, sand dunes and deserted shells of former dwellings.
However, this is not the most striking feature of the coastal area for it is filled with an agro-industrial mission of immense size! As far as the eye can see, the Peruvian government has managed to use the success of the Chavimochic project to irrigate much of the barren landscape of the northern coast in La Libertad. Now in its third stage of development, this project is touted as the largest private-public partnership in the world. It supplies water to approximately 160,000 hectares of land. The growth of the agricultural industry is so intense that you can plainly see the development in real time – houses are being built, small villages are being prepared and the food is growing as far and wide. Imagine, artichokes and asparagus, grapes and vineyards, blueberries and quinoa?! Interestingly, you will not find these products for sale in the local market places, street vendor baskets or restaurants. These products have such high export demand that much of it is never available to the people who are growing these delightful fruits and vegetables.
Next, we visited Lima. Honestly, we wish we had not. It began in a wonderful conjunction of a safe Airbnb accommodation near the consulate district. All was well. We found a secure garage within a gated area and with security guards, so the truck was safely parked while we explored the city. We had a lovely first night at La Locanda, a restaurant located in the Swissotel. The chef had just been featured in a local food review magazine and he and the head waiter were excited to share some of the dishes that had been prepared for the photo shoot with us. If you know us, you know that we are very animated when we experience deliciousness. As soon as the first appetizer was delivered, our delight was evident. The chef shared delicate morsels and intricately sophisticated bites. It was superb!
We were excited to have dinner the next night with another of Jorge’s childhood friends, Heidi (sister of one of the Felipes) and spent the day visiting the local flying site while Heidi finished her work. The city of Lima is immense and the flying site perches on the edge of a large cliff just at the ocean. Remember when I said we were ready for a bit of warm sun after the cold Andean nights? August and September in Lima bring about a certain garúa – the continuous misty drizzle described in Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. The days were filled with clouds that swept all the way down to our toes, completely obscuring the ocean that we could hear lapping at the shore. You can see from the photos that this would not lend itself to satisfactory flying conditions.
As we wandered about the afternoon in the safety of the Mira Flores shopping areas with secure access to an ATM, we took out cash. This is not unusual for us and we did not take much, about $300. Remember, most of this vacation is done with fewer than $100 each day. We had inadvertently brought our iPad with us when we moved things from the truck to the apartment that morning, but even that was not a real problem. After all, I had my good Alaskan bag – secure, strong handled and hopefully thief proof. Safety is the responsibility of the traveler. Of this we are certain. We always make sure to be extra careful, holding the bag in front, not taking secluded side streets, etc. We also carried our internet device with us…a Solis from SkyRoam. This device allows us to use the cellular connections in each country to gain internet access for our devices, so naturally we carry it with us. It works very well and we have both had good internet connection while traveling through Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. We took time to stop by the Peruvian version of Home Depot – you know Jorge loves to frequent the hardware store! We needed a few nuts and bolts.
For dinner, we met Heidi at a new microbrewery – imagine an evening without Pilsner! We were thrilled to have strong beer and pizza at the Barranco Beer Brewing Company in Mira Flores. The restaurant had good security, cameras throughout, a complete staff actually monitoring the cameras to watch for suspicious behavior, two bouncers at the door, many servers, etc. The bar was not crowded, as we met Heidi reasonably early. We caught up with life, shared stories, enjoyed the evening…until.
As I reached for my phone (which was on the table) to show Heidi a photo, I realized that our internet connection was gone. I looked down toward my bag to see if the Solis was out of battery when I discovered that the bag was gone. Heidi had been watching us across the table the whole time. We had not been aware of the couple on the other side of the room watching us. We did not notice when they moved closer to us. We never paid attention to the woman as she stood, stretched up her sweater as if putting on, and scooped up my bag as she headed out the door.
We had been robbed.
As we watched the security footage, even the trained security team was in shock at the professional thieves and their streamlined approach at taking my bag – the bag that contained the cash we had gotten at the ATM, the iPad we had inadvertently carried for the day, the Solis, our wallets with drivers’ licenses…everything.
As we calmed ourselves and set our emergency procedures to work canceling debit cards, wiping the iPad, coordinating our next moves, we realized that my spare set of car keys were in the bag…along with the parking ticket that described precisely where the truck was parked. We panicked thinking that these professional thieves might be headed straight to the parking garage. We raced there to explain what had happened to the parking attendant, used our spare key to get into the truck, verified that our extra debit cards, extra cash and passports were safe and moved the truck to a different 24-hour lot. Thank goodness we had Heidi with us! Without her, we would have had no money for the taxi!
In the end, the thieves cannot use the locked iPad for anything other than parts, could not use the canceled Solis subscription and did not have the charger for it when its battery died, and would not have access to our bank accounts that had been locked and canceled. They did get the equivalent of $300 in soles, cause a great deal of stress and generated a general feeling of unrest and distrust in the city of Lima for us in the future. Next time, we will ask Heidi to visit us in Spokane.
Today’s theme – being careful is not optional when you are thousands of miles from home.