Callao ride, 17 April 2010

Marilyn looks out at the Miraflores beaches in suburban Lima

This will be short and sweet. The day broke warm but hazy. We didn’t ride in Callao because the ship’s crew and the local officials warned us that the area was unsafe because of rampant crime and security problems. We took the bikes outside even after listening to the warnings of the crew and ran into a series of local officials who made it difficult first to even get the bikes outside the port and then convinced us that we would be taking our life in our own hands. We decided not to ride, but to put the bikes back on the ship and to take a free shuttle bus to a shopping center in Miraflores.

The ride out of the port went through the offending Callao area and I saw only a poor industrial/residential area with less than moderate traffic on relatively wide two lane streets . The people on the streets also seemed unthreatening. Many were parents and children walking this Saturday morning. Some were old men. I saw no single drunks or groups of people who seemed like gang members. Also on the ride back into the district after Miraflores, the area seemed like a normal low income area. We passed through a large hospital area and a “rehabilitation center”, but neither of those area were particularly threatening. The roads would have allowed us to pass through at relatively normal speed and I doubt if anyone could/would have been able to interfere with our ride unless they accosted us at a traffic stop. I think I would choose to ride the bike next time I had an opportunity in the area. I might not stop much in the area, but I think the area is completely rideable.’

The bus took us through the area and then turned back toward the coast to the road on which we would have ridden. The road skirted the coast for 20 miles near sea level. For most of the way, construction vehicles were moving earth for most of the 20-200 yard wide area between the road and the water. This is apparently a very dry area. The surf is brown with the color of the local dirt. After about 15 miles of ride, we began to pass beaches covered with 2-4 inch diameter rounded stones. I don’t know whether these were natural or brought in to cover the dusty beach. The bluffs rose 200-500 feet above the beaches. The area called Miraflores topped this bluff. Below the bluffs, the newly constructed beach/recreation area contained small cement soccer practice areas complete with goals and dozens of users playing this morning. A few jetties jutted out from the shore and at least two of these contained resorts. Below Miraflores, surfers worked two separate areas on either side of one of the resort-clad jetties. Beyond Miraflores turnoff, lay another 3-5 miles of beach with large residential areas complete with tall condos.

Monument in Miraflores with Marriott Hotel in background

The bus topped the bluffs and stopped at the Marriott Hotel which housed the trading company which provided the free busses. The hotel was very new and modern. We noted the second floor restaurant’s wifi availability but took the staff’s direction to a Starbucks shop at the three story shopping center built into the bluff across the street. We had coffee at the Starbucks and used their wifi for 45 minutes for a few telephone calls. The coffee was free after the staff was unable to sell us decaf coffee beans because their supply was tenuous and they doubted their ability to hold out until the next shipment. People were nice.

We walked around the very modern shopping center, purchasing Peruvian chocolate and a Vicuna sweater for our grandchild. The entire center was very upscale and a bit expensive. We took lunch at an outdoor café with a spectacular view of the coast and the surfers. Lunch was a three ham sandwich and a wonderful version of corvine en papillote. I learned from the English translation on the menu that corvine is Chilean Sea Bass. The accompanying Chilean beer and Pisco sour were perfect. Miraflores strikes me a sthe Palermo of Lima. The area was replete with restaurants and coffee shops and upscale stores serving a large condo-living population.

Bob enjoys lunch at the shopping center in Miraflores

After another walk around the center, we returned to the bus and eventually to the ship. The visit to Lima/Callao/Miraflores was pleasant except I felt guilty that we had not ridden the bikes. Perhaps next time we will.


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