Tales of Lima 4 –  Forty Years in Peru! How it Started!

First Experiences

How did I end up living in Lima for so many years? Some people have asked me that question over the last couple of weeks. I guess it has to do with my passion for travelling which began when I was very young.  My first trip abroad, was to Austria when I was seven years old. I remember we flew in a Sabina DC3 to Ostende in Belgium and  then took  a steam-train through Germany to the Tyrol.

Sabina DC3 – My first flight from Southend to Ostende.
Walking round Innsbruck with my mother. We lived in Scotland, hence the kilt.

By the time I was ten, I had planned my future dream trip to Istanbul. I  knew all the towns on route, and all the roads and intersections. There were no computers in those days so this involved studying the Atlas, and taking books out of the local library.

Trial Run

My first independent travel abroad was when I was 16. I hitch-hiked with a friend around Belgium and Holland. This was in preparation for the  Istanbul trip which I was planning to put into action the  following year. Hitching was good and easy. We could see that it was going to work.

Exploring the streets of Amsterdam.

Taking on the World at Seventeen

The year passed rapidly. I worked stocking shelves in the duty-free shop at Gatwick Airport during week-ends in order to get the money together. Finally the school holidays came and it was time to leave.

Leaving home with destination, Istanbul

Six weeks later we arrived back in England, safe but skinny. We made it to Istanbul via France, Italy, Yugoslavia and Greece, and then returning through the then Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe. Our best ride was from Munich to the the UK on our return journey, in a brand new BMW. Last year I went back to the Balkan countries  re-tracing some of my historic route …… ah, the memories of youth! This time I was able to enter Albania. We did get as far as the border during this first trip but were turned away, as Albania was then a closed country.

This mosque from Sarajevo always stuck in my mind. I took this photo last year. It looked just the same as I remembered it.
This post-card which I sent to my parents had a picture of the mosque on the other side, exactly the same as the view in the photo above. No lnternet, no computers, no digital cameras in those days. And international telephone calls cost a fortune.
Istanbul – We made it.

My reflections on this epic juvenile trip.

  • I was so incredibly naive at 17. Too naive.
  • I learnt how to survive with virtually no money.
  • I had some beautiful moments that I have never forgotten.
  • I found that most people are incredibly, amazingly kind and friendly.
  • I had some really hair-raising experience.
  • I found that a very small minority of people can be potentially harmful.
  • I KNEW from that moment I would always be a wondering wanderer.
Setting off to camp in the Transylvanian Alps with Romanian friends we met in Brasov. Me, second from the right, yes, the handsome one! One of the few photos I have of the trip.

So I then studied at University and became a teacher, but never stopped travelling. In the long summer holidays, I was off … around Europe, S.E. Asia, North Africa etc. However, after a few years my feet were getting pretty itchy for something more.

My last class before leaving on the trip.

South America, Here I Come!

It was now 1978! I was 24 years old. It was now time to resign from the world of work and get back on the road again, floating like a feather in the wind. This time it would be South America. I had made  enough money to cover a one star hotel and a plate of chicken and chips each day for at least a year of wandering around.

The first stop, was Quito in Ecuador. All was going to plan.  The small towns, the mountains, the snow- capped volcanoes, the markets and most important of all, the many interactions with the local people met on the way. 

Village near Cotopaxi. The animal market.
Cotopaxi – Got well above the snow line but hard going due to the altitude.

I eventually crossed the border into Peru and  began travelling down the coast, Tumbes, Piura, Colan, Talara, Trujullo . It was there I had my first problem.

Beach at Colan.

The Inca Quickstep or Montazuma’s Revenge

I  started to feel tired, I was sick every time I ate and had constant pain in the stomach with regular bouts of diarrhea. I decided to head for the big city to see a  doctor and  to hole up for a week or two until I felt better. I made my way to the bus station in Trujillo in order to take the Roggero night bus to Lima.

The Unbelievable Meeting

To  my utter astonishment, turning a corner I  came  face to face with two old friends. I had last seen Dermot and Anne  in Switzerland a year before. I remembered them vaguely  saying that they were thinking of joining an archeological dig in South America…..and here they were, in front of my very eyes.  They told me that they were working on the ruins around Chan Chan and were travelling to Lima  to attend a friend’s  birthday party,  They were travelling to Lima on the same bus.

Side note: This is just one of the many weird coincidences I have experienced since travelling, but that is another story. The World is a small place!

On arriving in Lima they kindly directed me to a cheap  backpacker’s hotel, the Hotel Europa. They had already asked the hosts if I could accompany them to the birthday  party in the evening.

The Hotel Europa in the centre of Lima as it is now. It hasn’t changed much!

I was travelling ultra-light, basically with only a small bag, now known as a “personal item” by the airlines, which contained a toothbrush and a change of clothes. As the clothes in the bag were dirty, and the ones I was wearing, even dirtier, I decided to take them to a local laundry. At 7.00 in the evening I went to collect my clean “party” clothes from the laundry. I had made the assumption that they would come back nice and dry. They weren’t! Facing whether it would be more embarassing to turn up to the party in dirty clothes or wet clothes, I opted for the wet option. Surely they would dry out on the way there in the bus. They didn’t, which meant, on arrival at the plushly decorated flat, I  had to do  a fair bit of standing around rather than risk leaving a tell-tail damp mark on the upholstery.

The Wrong Song

Someone started talking to me about music. I mentioned that I was a singer/ guitarist too. I was  surprised when he then  produced a guitar and placed it in my hands.  Unprepared for this, I foolishly decided  to play the George Melly song “The Peanut Man”. After all, it had slways gone down well in gigs back in the UK. The song goes like this”

Nuts, nuts, whole nuts.  Get them from the peanut man. / Nuts, nuts, whole nuts. Get them when you can. /    See that man over there, / He got small nuts but he don’t care.

After a few verses and a loud dramatic and energetic finale, there was a polite but subdued patter of applause. My guitar friend then suggested that for the next number, they would all sing me a song. I can’t remember the name of the classical piece they sang but it was a perfect, powerful, beautiful, harmonious and professional rendering. Yes, they were  all members of a  renown national choir. I stood in my wet clothes. I wanted to disappear. I couldn’t decide which was most embarrasing,  my inappropriate, irreverent jazz song, or my wet clothes.

Coro AAA, Lima

However, all was not lost. After some more rapturous singing, (by them, not me) the atmoshere relaxed with guests chatting and dancing. A charming young lady tried to teach me how to dance “Afro” which basically meant wriggling and twisting my body in one hundred different directions at the same time. My inept “gringo” moves, created much amusement adding yet another embarrassment to the already long list.

However, maybe  out of either pity or simply faulty judgement, my dance tutor offered to show me around Lima the following day. About a year later she became my wife and our union lasted for twenty-five years.

From an early photo album.

So that was how my passion for travelling evolved, and explains how I arrived in Lima. The first film we saw together was “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, In Spanish, this title was translated as “Atrapada Sin Salida” (“Trapped Without Exit”) Was this then to be my fate? Would I survive in this new environment? Would I get to travel on the road again?

This and more will be revealed in the next Episode!!!!!!

Here, a link to my post on my visit to the Balkans last year revisiting places from the above mentioned trip. It appears I was safer on the first trip!

31 responses to “Tales of Lima 4 –  Forty Years in Peru! How it Started!”

  1. Interesting history of your life and travels.


    1. Thanks Tim. The world was different in those days. And travelling so different without the aid of technology and all the information you can get from it. We just had a large foldable roadmap of Europe and nothing else. In those day hitching a ride was pretty easy.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. We made our ways driving around Spain, Italy and France with paper maps. They got was where we wanted to go.


      2. Yes, they did, but everything was so time consuming. Finding the right bus, navigating round strange towns with no information, looking for hotel. Usuallynaroundbthe bus terminals, going from door to door until finding one at the price. I love Booking.Com!


  2. Thanks for telling how you got there, bronlima. 🙂 Nice story.


    1. As I thought about the past, it was amazing how many forgotten memories popped to the surface. The brain is like a hard disk. All your necessary daily files are easily accessible, but tucked away deep inside are the hidden fragments of our passing years. A little search, and the long, lost experiences open up once again.


  3. You are a traveling boy! Thank you very much for sharing your story, it has been very interesting to get to know you a little better.


    1. Gracias Ana. It brings back so many memories. I had to open a large box full of old photos, documents, letters, leaflets, tickets, newspaper cutting etc, while preparing this. Just like travelling back in time!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A very entertaining story! I had wondered how you ended up there.


    1. There is more to come…..After a year or so I returned to UK for about three years. But within three year I was back again and here to stay.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Did you ever have moments of homesickness?


    1. Luckily, I have always been able to make regular visits to UK. Now that I have retired, I am planning to spend regular time between both countries. The thing I most miss, is the changing of the four seasons. But also some food things …… English cider and Coleman’s mustard for instance haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. We rented cars, and slept in them when needed. Cars made exploring much easier. And getting lost much easier, too.


  7. The Internet is great for finding places to stay. I found a great apartment a block from the Opera and a kilometer from the Louvre in Paris in 2013, and a cool hotel in the roof of the hospital next to Notre Dame in 2018. My chance of finding either place before the Internet would have been zilch.


    1. I use Booking.Com a lot now. I wait until early afternoon, once I know where I am going to be, find a place and click. Waze does the rest! But in the past ………aghhghhh.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The apartment by the Opera in Paris took some negotiation over the phone and money transfers to secure it. I’m happy I took the time and risks, the apartment was so perfect, and a really good price for the location. The hotel was easy to book once I found it. We there in July 2018. The hotel had air conditioning, and the staff let me into a vacant room and opened the skylight so could get photos of the statues on Norte Dame that were impossible to get from the street. What a luxury.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. So, I get how you got there…I wonder why you, of all people, are meant to tell the world about this place. Seems like it is time to light this candle up!!!


    1. I love this place, but it is not without its problems. Great people, but there are many who don’t have their basic needs covered and progress in this area is so slow, not helped by the corruptness of governments. You can light a candle but a few others would prefer to light a stick of dynamite. I choose a candle, of course-, which one hopes will somehow eventually light the way ahead.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Geoff, amen brother, amen. But what are we to do?


  9. Wonderful, wonderful piece Geoff. I adore these old photos, the one of you in Innsbruck with your mum is just fantastic. Tell me more about your friend on the Istanbul trip? Did you keep in touch over the years? Is he still around? It’s amazing (and amusing) to see all the shots of you over the years and how your look changed. You moved to South America the year I was born. I read with interest about your encounter bumping into people you’d previously met on the road. The same thing has happened to me several times. The most memorable came when I was wandering the streets of Luxembourg when I bumped into a guy I used to work with in Doha. We weren’t very close friends and hadn’t kept in touch, so it was a truly surreal moment. “Rob!?!” “Leighton!!?” Thanks for sharing the story of how you met your wife. The photo you took on that first day is such a wonderful moment. I have so many questions, but don’t want to pry. This was a great piece Geoff. I spend so much of my time wading through generic guff on WordPress, I am always happy when I come across words and photographs that come from the soul. I was always try to put a bit of that into every article I write, even if it’s just a report on a museum, park or church.


    1. Thanks so much for your comments. Feel free to pry, that helps me bring up the memories in my mind. Funnily enough, I never saw Pete, my travelling friend afterwards. He was not a close friend, but was one of the few whose parents allowed him to go on the trip. My parents agreed for mentoring go as Pete was a year older than me. Pete, however was a loyal follower but left all the decisions to me. The first ride we got after crossing the Channel was in an open pick-up. On climbing out of the back, Pete lost his glasses. As a result he only half saw the things we did on the trip and was unable to read anything. Just remembered this as I started writing these words. Travelling at this tender age certainly makes you grow up quickly! As for coincidences, will eventually do a post on this. It happened a year after my trip to Istanbul when I went to Poland to try and find the Polish family who hid my father when he escaped from his German captors during WW2. So many things to do. Meanwhile, as always, looking forward to your next post!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. You’ve certainly led a colorful life filled with so many adventures around the world! It’s incredible to read how, among all of the places you visited and could’ve settled down in, you ended up in Peru and are still in love with it 40 years later! It’s incredible you started your overseas adventures so young as a teenager– personally, I didn’t start mine until my early twenties. I also wonder to myself if my love for travel will only amount to the abundant adventures I had in my twenties, but I also tell myself that, as I approach my thirties, that there’s still so much ahead of me, and to keep going, keep exploring, inspired by adventurers like you. A wonderful, inspiring story, Geoff!


    1. Thank you so, so much Rebecca. Your comment is greatly appreciated. You have years and years of adventures still ahead of you, I am sure. Wow, I wish I was still in my thirties! But well, with good walking legs and eyes wide-open there is always so.much to see. At the moment I am in the fascinating towns of Mejia and Mollendo in the south of Peru. Camera still clicking away!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m so glad I’ve finally caught up with this post, Geoff. I didn’t know what I was missing. What a fascinating story of how you fell in love with Lima. Your photos are wonderful, too and really show the character of the places you visited. You were brave to embark on a travel adventure and to set off on your own at 16. I feel like I’ve been on a long holiday with you, having read your accounts and seen your photos. You were so young on your first flight, too. I didn’t get to fly until I was 19 in 1977 and on my honeymoon (now divorced, but that’s another story!). That was the one and only time I’ve flown anywhere! I’ve led a very sheltered life compared to you on your numerous travels. I really felt for you when you became unwell for a couple of weeks. There’s nothing worse than being ill and away from home. I had a sickness bug at age 12 while on my school exchange trip to Germany (no flight, just the ferry and a lot of driving through Holland and Germany). Having read this piece more than once, trying to absorb as much of the ‘story’ as possible, I could almost feel what you felt like in those wet clothes. Eew! How uncomfortable for you and embarrassing, too. And how lovely that you met and married your wife during your travels.

    I can see you have written part five of this ‘story’, and I am eager to read more of your life’s travels and experiences. I’ll try not to leave it so long before getting to it this time. This was such a fascinating read, Geoff.


    1. Sorry to be answering so late. At present travelling in the south of Peru and a bit behind with mail. However have managed to view your latest posts! Lots of photo clicking and thus more material for future blogs. However I hope to have the follow up to this soon which will be about getting used to life in a new, strange city.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi, Geoff. Please don’t worry about being late replying. I’m nearly always running late responding to my readers’ blogs, too. I follow so many people sometimes it’s challenging to keep up. Still, I do enjoy reading every piece of other’s work. Thanks for viewing my recent posts when you’re so busy. I’m glad you’re taking many photos to share on your blog when you return. I’ll look forward to seeing them. I still need to catch up with your last post. Have a lovely rest of the time on your travels.


  12. Sent you an email, Geoff. Thanks!


    1. Just sent reply. Hope info is useful!


  13. […] Tales of Lima 4 –  Forty Years in Peru! How it Started! […]


  14. Well told! I like the mix of old and new photos and the mix of anecdotes and bigger-picture tales. The Sabena plane brings back memories of getting dressed up for a plane trip, unthinkable now. I think it’s great that you’re putting this together. 🙂


    1. When sitting down and thinking about the past, it is amazing how many memories come to the surface. So many places, but more important the people who cross our paths as we journey along…….. ah ….. the memories!!!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

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