Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Return to Lima Dust.

Clima fact #1: the annual accumulation of Lima dust is comparable to the annual accumulation of Lima rainfall. Only, Lima rainfall is a misnomer. It doesn't rain. Lima dampfall is more accurate. A humid coastal fog that mists a gauge to the tune of 10mm each year. Had we left our cycles in store, I'm certain they would have become ghostly apparitions under their soft focus of camouflage dust.

There is the suggestion that, when the Spanish conquistadors considered establishing a town, the indigenous peoples suggested this piece of coast as suitable, knowing full well that it has a depressing micro clime heavily prone to fog.

Less than half an inch of annual damp, and yet when we cycle out of the city in the quiet of a Sunday morning, we're navigating around puddles that are now churned into a grey glutinous paste. Our polished bikes spattered, the chains crunching with objections.

Clima facts: El Niño is a weather event that returns to the Pacific every five or six years. The temperature of the normally cold coastal waters rise half a degree and precipitates a domino effect of weather events around the globe. (Hurricane Patricia's strength and potential violence is credited to the effect). Locally it increases the dampfall on the north Peruvian coast. Hence our gyrations around city puddles and the lethal surface of the plaza in Chincha Alta that evening.

Lima traffic has a reputation. I still well recall our first encounter thirteen years ago. A mixture of jet lag, dark time and culture shock resulted in what felt like a dodgem alley. It looked manic. With some more visits and further exposure, that initial memory has only been enhanced. Pedestrians still have no rights. We need to get out of the city. There's one golden opportunity. On Sunday mornings, one of the major thoroughfares is closed to motor traffic. Which with the judicious use of a map, side streets and a degree of luck allows us a quiet escape. The same cannot be said for the end of our day.

We're back to jousting with tuktuks and El Niño. The grey light resolves into damp. The collectivos, the lorries and the buses resolved to a period of inactivity. Rush (3) hour. We're the fastest moving transport. We've made it to the plaza, an area of highly polished concrete, that has a film of talc dust and low friction mist and on it. My bike, now being pushed, is disinclined to remain upright.

The bicycle riding aspect of our travel has started. We've escaped yet another South American capital. Lima is behind us, only I suspect El Niño will be in front for some time to come.