Foto: Murray Foubister/Wikicommons Over the weekend a blogger for the London Review of Books published The Fog in Lima, a first hand narrative of h
Foto: Murray Foubister/Wikicommons
Over the weekend a blogger for the London Review of Books published The Fog in Lima, a first hand narrative of her recent experiences in foggy Lima.
Lima is foggy alright. I’ve been there several times in the last 20 years and I don’t recall having ever seen the sun for maybe longer than half an hour at a time. After a while you learn the routine. Mornings in Lima are foggy. From midmorning into the evening it is overcast, and by the crack of dawn mist moves in from the Pacific. A steady breeze engulfs the coastline and moves the massive mist clouds in and out.
But then it also hardly ever rains in Lima. I’ve asked the locals whether it ever rains there. The answer typically was a smile, a shrug of the shoulders, or an anemic no. How are then pollution and smog moved out of the huge metropolis, I asked? They don’t know. Dust on the rooftops, dust on the cars, dust on the ground, dust on the trees and vegetation. There is no rain to washi it all out and give people fresh air to breath. Imagine that: people in Lima hardly, if ever, smell the fresh air brought about by a refreshing tropical shower which cleans the air of dust and what not.
What, one would ask, would make millions of people live in such an environment? Where the weather is monotonous, repetitive, and humans hardly ever see the sun or breath rain refreshed air? And, yet they do.
Lima is nevertheless worth a trip. Miraflores, some 15 kilometers east of the magnificent Santo Domingo Cathedral in downtown Lima is probably the top spot for foreign tourists to rest. A huge suburb of Lima, Miraflores is the residential area of Peru’s wealthiest. Stretching for miles along the Pacific coastline, Miraflores is also the favorite spot for tourists to rest for a few days after visiting the Andes, Machu Picchu, Arequipa, Trujillo, the Amazonas, and other formidable tourist attractions. The shopping centers are modest but up to Western standards. Top line hotels dot the coastline for miles and a few blocks away from the coastline the moderately priced and more affordable lodging options abound.
Food is excellent, plentiful, and generally inexpensive. Book stores here and there sport the best magazines and literature in South America and Europe, and quaint coffee shops, including Starbucks, are everywhere. Exotic parks obstruct Lima’s cement jungles and the heavy and polluting traffic. And, on the weekends it is not uncommon, as you walk down the streets of Miraflores, to hear large groups of locals worshipping in large congregations, both Catholic and Evangelical.
But Miraflores is also the place where I run, whenever I am in Lima. A few blocks to the east from the town center is the edge of the abrupt drop of the hills on top of which Miraflores seats. You run east for a few blocks and then veer left for half a mile to reach the steps which take you to the beach at the bottom of the cliff. About half a mile of steps will take you to the bottom of the cliff where the Pan American highway runs along the Pacific, taking you to Barranco to the south and San Isidro to the North.
It’s almost midmorning as I run and my feet are still moving, from the south end of the boardwalk to the north end. That’s about 3 miles one way.
The beach, however, is a disappointment. The air is smelly from the mixture of sea odors and the waste released into the water by nearby restaurants. More awful even is the stench of the packed sand mixed with remnants of fuel, trash, and dog waste.
But the weather is perfect for running. It is cool. It never gets below 60 or so in Miraflores – that is 15C – or above 75 – that is 24C. But it’s misty and foggy. The mist is thick early in the morning and you feel the fine grains of water pummel your face as you run. There hardly is anyone on the beach at that time. People party till the wee hours of the morning and by midmorning the only people you see around are employees of Municipalidad de Miraflores, cleaning up the beaches, repairing bike racks, or watering the vegetation.
As I run, people start trickling in. Old men and women put up their wares for the day, hoping to sell water and souvenirs to tourists. Dog lovers walk their dogs. Restaurant workers empty refuse in the large trash bins placed here and there on the beach. A few people start running as well. Some take pictures of us runners and life just goes on.
As I near the end of my run for the morning I spotted a white truck on the beach close to the stairs leading back up to Mireflores. A young man came out of the truck, spread a blanket on the hood, pulled his son out of the truck, and put him gently on the blanket. He then gently raised his son’s head and oriented his face toward the timid sun which was trying to pierce the clouds as the mist was starting to lift.
Intrigued, I stopped running and walked up the young man and watched how he tenderly handled his son. No more than two years old, the little boy was quadriplegic. My heart sank at the sight. I watched for minutes on end the father’s gentle handling of his quadriplegic son. The love, the care, the interest in the boy’s welfare, the hope – they were all there, on full display, impressive and emotionally overwhelming.
I then crossed the PanAmerican Highway by foot, watching for cars left and right. I could have taken the overhead bridge – or pasarela as the locals call it – to make the crossing safer, but decided I was fast enough to dash across the freeway. I made it safely on the other side and started running again. Once I reached the bottom of the stairs I ran out of breath. I was done. There was no way I could still run, uphill for half a mile, hundreds of steps to the top of the hill.
I walked, instead. And the walk was worth it. It connected with me with the locals who started to come out of their homes and do their morning routines. It was the week after Christmas and people were in a good mood. They smiled and engaged with their gaze, occasionally uttering buenos dias. The children were out playing as well. In droves. Peruvians have lots of kids. Several of them were drawing in chalk on the steps leading to the top of the hill. The girls were drawing flowers and dresses in pink and the boys seemed to settle for the more masculine interests: swords in Black and the images of kings with red crowns on their heads.
I was surrounded by life. By abundant life. It was beautiful. It was the time of year between Christmas and New Year’s when people think less about their life’s many troubles and focus on what matters most: family and relationships.
Soon I made it to the top of the stairs. Teenagers came out in droves on their rollers as well. The mist was almost gone and the skies began to clear. Miraflores was there for all to see, with its people outdoors, and displaying its splendor, magnificence, and hospitality. On my way back to my modest hotel I stopped at a coffee shop for hot tea. And looking among the books on the shelves which tourists had left behind, I spotted my favorite book. Content, I grabbed it, sank into a comfortable seat, and read the Word, while sipping my delicious cup of tea.
It turned out to be a beautiful day in Miraflores, even in the midst of the mist!