A Change In Pace: Lima, Peru

I did something quite out of the ordinary this fall – I packed a bag, got on a plane, and flew to a far away place…and never climbed a single thing.

Lima right behind me, the ocean right in front of me.

Lima right behind me, the ocean right in front of me.

I don’t think I posted anything about it, but I took a little micro-adventure in August to see Damien Rice play at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO. I had wanted to go to one of his concerts since my brother first introduced me to his music twelve years ago, and I was not disappointed.  We can agree to disagree, but I think he’s one of the greatest singer/songwriters and performers in the world. I was so impressed by his show that I immediately bought tickets to the next show I could attend…in Lima, Peru.

The kind of sound that he can produce with just vocals and his guitar is ridiculous. Photo credit Tim Dwenger.

The kind of sound that he can produce with just vocals and his guitar is ridiculous. Photo credit Tim Dwenger.

Ok, I COULD have bought tickets to see him again in the USA, as he did still have some shows booked through August and September. I really wanted to go to South America though, and this looked like the perfect chance to get away for a little bit and have an amazing experience. I bought a second row VIP ticket to the show, booked my flight, reserved a room for five nights at a small B&B in Lima, and figured I would just show up and see what happened.

The little patio right outside my door where I would spend each night drinking wine, writing music, and meeting cool people from all over the world.

The little patio right outside my door where I would spend each night drinking wine, writing music, and meeting cool people from all over the world.

My flight touched down in Lima at 0500 on Wednesday, and I caught a taxi to the Wasi B&B in Miraflores (one of the districts of Lima). For $45 a night, I wasn’t expecting much for accommodations, but I was pleasantly surprised. The staff was young, helpful, and friendly, and the place was immaculately clean. Every morning, the owner of the place would make you breakfast to order, and I’m drooling as I type just thinking about the fresh-squeezed mango juice and the delicious homemade bread and jam. My room was small but well-appointed, and I quickly dropped my bags on my bed and headed up to the dining area in search of coffee to fuel the day’s adventures.

I went to Peru with a very simple, three-part agenda:

  • buy a guitar
  • play and write songs
  • see Damien Rice play (and meet him if possible)

With those goals in mind, I set out upon the massive, 9 million person city of Lima.

The weather was the same every day - 72 degrees, grey skies with a bit of mist in the morning, and then sunshine for the rest of the day.

The weather in Lima was the same every day – 72 degrees, grey skies with a bit of mist in the morning, and then sunshine for the rest of the day. And these huge, beautiful roundabouts were EVERYWHERE.

I didn’t really know where I was going, but I figured if I just wandered around for long enough, I would find something exciting to do/see/buy. I was particularly interested in purchasing a Peruvian classical guitar, but I hadn’t seen a single music store after a couple hours of wandering around. Tired from the overnight flight, I stopped at the first cafe I found to refuel with some espresso.

Endless cups of espresso at Puku Puku Cafe.

Endless cups of espresso at Puku Puku Cafe.

Fortuitously, I happened upon the Puku Puku Cafe where I met a guy named Lees. He didn’t speak English and my Spanish was pretty rusty, but he managed to communicate to me that he was a local musician and would take me to his favorite music store after his shift at the cafe was done. I walked down the street for a quick lunch of fish tacos and beer, and then followed my new friend through a maze of side roads and back alleys to a tiny guitar store where I purchased a beautiful, hand-made Peruvian classical guitar.

I met Lees on the first day in Lima. He's a local musician and the manager at Puku Puku.

Lees playing my new guitar between customers at the cafe he manages.

I don’t want to just gloss over the rest of the trip, but to most people it probably would have been pretty boring. I didn’t really see the sights or do the tourist thing. I pretty much just woke up every day at about 0700, meandered up to the dining room and ate a leisurely breakfast, and then spent the day wandering around with my guitar. I stopped for beer or coffee when I got thirsty, ate delicious Peruvian food when I got hungry, and sat down and played my guitar whenever and wherever I felt like it.

With no agenda besides a concert, I spent a lot of time on the beach playing music and watching the waves roll in.

With no agenda besides a concert, I spent a lot of time on the beach playing music and watching the waves roll in.

At night I would drink wine, smoke a cigarette or two, and write music; I wrote what I think is my best song while I was down there. I met some really cool people from Europe and other parts of South America each night, and we had some epic impromptu little jam sessions (the music got better and better with each glass of wine, I swear).

If you smoke, YOUR FOOT WILL FALL APART.

If you smoke, YOUR FOOT WILL FALL APART.

The concert on Saturday night was incredible. I didn’t get to meet Damien, but he DID take one song request and it was mine (there’s evidence of this on YouTube). I left the show wishing I could just make and play music for a living, and fired up to keep playing and writing.

The concert was held on a military base in a beautiful old auditorium. It was a bit strange walking passed MP's with automatic weapons en route to a concert.

The concert was held on a military base in a beautiful old auditorium. It was a bit strange walking passed MP’s with automatic weapons en route to a concert.

Damien's setup and tech. Someday I want someone to set up my guitar and pedal board for me.

Damien’s setup and his tech. Someday I want someone to set up my guitar and pedal board for me. Any volunteers?

I flew back to MN on Monday after five amazing days, and I was already mentally planning a return trip. It’s a cheap, beautiful, friendly place to unwind and relax, and I loved every second of my stay there. A little advice though – don’t assume all bottled water down there is safe. Some of the brands are literally just tap water from one of the most polluted rivers in the Americas. Soooooo do a little research and/or treat your water before you drink, or you might just end up with a serious case of PEBV (Peruvian Exploding Butt Virus).