What a city Lima was. It
was my first time in South America and I was in 7th heaven with all the
things to see. It would be several days before I could get a flight
over the Andes so I could play tourist for a while. Decair of Peru
had a villa where everyone stayed and which also held their offices.
The boss took us all out for dinner that very first night and I got my
very first taste of Peru.
Lima was a very clean city and the people were extremely friendly to us. Everything was extremely cheap to us because the pay was so low down there. I was told a surgeon at the hospital would make only $300 a month yet that bought him a nice villa with servants. Of the four monthly checks we were given we would have only the smallest (a $300 expense check) sent to Lima and we could live like kings on just that.
A nice Lima street sandwich was about a nickel and a taxi was about 7 cents. Best yet was the ladies, I don't know if it was the water or what but they seemed to be almost all 10s on the beauty scale. Platform shoes were in with the ladies as well as mini skirts. Young ladies were constantly coming up to us on the streets, after they heard us talking, and introducing themselves to us. They didn't see many tourists and wanted to try out their English on us. I quickly learned that Americans were looked up to because of all their knowledge, wealth, freedom, and the fact that they didn't need to take a siesta during the day. Most work stopped in Lima from about 1 PM to 3 PM when naps are taken because of the heat.
Because of the heat Lima came alive at night. Several of us took in the nightspots in a section of town that was called "Mire Floras" I believe. In English it translated to "many flowers". There were dance clubs all over the place and they stayed open till the wee hours of the morning. In the dance clubs there were people of all ages from little kids to old people and it was custom to dance with anyone and everyone, no questions asked. I'll say it right here and now, I never saw any of the locals' drunk. They were all as friendly as they could be and they could hold their liquor well. When they had too much they would just go to sleep right where they were.
The young ladies we met filled us in on life in Lima. Most lived 6-8-10 to an apartment because it took that many to come up with the rent. If you didn't do that it meant you had to live at home where apparently there was a drastic difference between life styles. The Catholic Church was extremely influential there. Some of the ladies we met had to work two nights a week at the government run tourist brothels. The added income was a necessity to stay in the apartments.
While in Lima I met a very special young lady whose memory remains with me yet and still brings a smile to me. I had gone to the American Express office in Lima to make arrangements for my card billing to come directly to Lima. The lady who handled that department was very attractive, single, and could speak very good English. Her name was Danyela Rao. I explained who I was and what I was doing in Peru and asked her if she would mind showing me around a little. She agreed and we made arrangements to meet later that evening at the main pizza place in "Mira Flores". I got there first and was seated at one of the outside tables when this big black limousine pulls up and out comes Danyela and two other men. I don't remember if they were her brothers or if they were body guards but they were of good size. Needless to say the limo and the gentlemen with her became our first topic of conversation. Seems Danyela's father was the United Nations Ambassador to Peru and was originally from India. I was being checked out. As memory goes I believe they were with us on all our dates but one. Somehow Danyela got some time off and we went to the Lima beach without those two gentlemen. We only had a few days together but her memory was burned into my heart. It is a shame there are seemingly so few people like her around and even more of a shame that they spend but a few days in our lives. She was special and she was "quality" which emerged from her naturally. We continued to write for several years until a young French man came into her life and took her away with him to Paris.
I took two tours while I was there. One was an overview of all of Lima and the other was a tour of the dungeons that had been found under several of the Catholic Cathedrals there. Boy! did the dungeon tour ever surprise me, being raised Catholic. Seems that way back when, those that spoke against the church sometimes ended up missing. Several of the huge churches had a secret passageway leading to a hidden dungeon below the church. In the dungeons were torture racks and all kinds of pain tools including iron helmets that would isolate the head for eye and ear tortures. The cells were simple silhouettes chiseled out of the wall that were then barred in. You had a few inched at best on three sides. Some had you standing and others had you sitting. Each prisoner had a white robe to wear and a tall pointed dunce cap. Both cap and robe had from one to four stars on them that indicated the level of daily torture you were to receive. Oh the stories those walls could tell.
One of the definite high points of the trip was the "Banos Turkos" or "Turkish Bath". Ever since a kid I have heard about them via the movies and here was a real one. Larry Fisher, the lead mechanic, and I went twice it was so nice. It didn't cost very much to get it and you would spend the afternoon there. When you checked in they gave you a small wrist strap that had a key and plastic number card if I remember correctly. In the locker room you changed and flip flops and towels were waiting. There were young towel boys all over the place because you went through a lot of towels.
The building had seven steam rooms that increased in temperature. On the bottom floor there was a small pool that was about 4 ft deep with lounge chairs all around it. There was a small bar that had some food but mostly a hodge podge of drinks. If you needed anything you called over one of the towel boys and he got it for you and it was credited from your tag number. About 3/4 of the men wore towels. Two men in particular did not and their reason for such was obvious. They were the kings of that hill by far, by very very far.
After the first steam room there was a small shower space where you would stand under a huge shower head that had to be a good foot across. You would then pull on the chain and cold water would come down and wash the sweat away and close your pours. You would then go on to the next room that was about 10-12 degrees hotter or go to the pool for a rest. Larry lasted about four rooms but I had taken it as a challenge and went through them all while Larry waited for me at the pool. Each room got smaller and smaller as the increased temperature weeded out the weak of heart. The last room had space for only 6-8 people and at the far end was a steam rack that had eucalyptus leaves on it. You knew it the instant you got in that the eucalyptus was there. It only took a couple of minutes in that room to give you a week's worth of sinus relief if you had any going in. I had made it through all seven rooms and I guess Larry knew it from the smile on my face. I had lost 42 lbs in four hours, nah, only kidding but I do wish I had weighed myself going in and coming out.
There was still more to come. There was a sleeping room that was rather dark and had about twenty leather type racks that you could lay on for a snooze. Larry and I got the last two, which put me next to a curtain. In a few minutes I could hear a man and a lady on the other side of that curtain. It apparently was a massage section so I turned around on the rack and pulled the curtain back an inch or two from the wall so I could take a peek. The man was facing the other way but the young lady spotted me and smiled. I winked back and slid back onto my snooze table. They were talking about something and sometimes got a little loud when the lady laughed. Larry burst out with a "Keep Quiet" and I quickly reminded him that we were guest in this country and that there were only two of us. The lady then peeked around the corner and smiled while putting her finger to her mouth in a "you be quiet" gesture. They got a little quieter, at least enough to make Larry content. Now off to the jungle.