I remember a sequence on tv a few years ago (i think it was on the Clive James programme) which compiled a whole load of national tourism board adverts from around 30+ countries. They represented every single continent, ranging from Indonesia to Spain, via Zanzibar, Brazil and Hawaii etc. The gag was that EVERY SINGLE ONE maintained that their country was ‘a land of contrasts’ – the ultimate tourism cliche. It can probably be said of every single country in the world – except for the really diddy ones like Vatican City and Nauru (formerly known (apparently) as ‘Pleasant Island’). Well – here goes – Peru is most definitely a ‘land of contrasts’ (apologies – couldn’t see any alternative way to put that). It has very distinct regions – coastal desert (in which Lima sits), jungle and mountains. But more significantly, it has vast economic divisions which seem wider than those in Uganda. The wealthy here really are living a very comfortable, western lifestyle – where as the poor, well, are not.
In Lima’s city centre, the main business and political district, you find real grandeur and material prosperity – exemplified by the colonial style Presidential Style (the new president (recently reelected), Alan Garcia, seeks to prove his ‘man of the people’ appeal by living in a modest suburban house near Richard & Rachel and only works at the palace).
There are huge boulevards littered bizarrely enough with Casinos and Chinese restaurants.
But only a few minutes drive can take one into shanty towns where 10%++ of Lima’s 10 million people live. It is a cliche to point this sort of thing out – but the hardships and rigours of life in these places certainly do not feel like cliches if you have to live there.
Sunday was a quiet day – despite a few panics about trying to contact the organisers of the conference (i was facing the not altogether unwelcome prospect of having a week’s holiday without having to speak anywhere at all!). I didn’t know where to go or who to contact. But all was not lost (and i’m obviously posting this from the conference venue now – more on that another time). A little sightseeing in the city centre of Lima was lovely – and we even managed to get caught up in a political rally for the nationwide Mayoral elections next Sunday. Quite fun (esp as we saw the actual candidate who beamed at me when he saw my camera and naturally assumed that if i was taking shots of him, i would obviously give him my vote – not a chance!).