So 30b430 has finally begun!
Waking up in my hostel in Lima on the first day of my solo trip felt very strange. Staring down the barrel of the next nine months suddenly felt very daunting. Even though it´s something I´ve been planning for a while, to actually be here living out those plans still doesn´t feel real in a way.
But it didn´t take too long to slip into the ´traveller´way of life and I´d soon met people in the hostel and set out to explore the city.
So what to make of Peru so far? At the moment I´ve only spent time in Lima, which like many South American cities, is a place of contradictions. On one hand there are towering office blocks, five star hotels and mobile phone shops, Starbucks and McDonalds on every street. People walk around with phone which are ten times more expensive than mine (not difficult, I know, for those of you who are familiar with my pink ´brick´) and drive flashy cars.
But there is also crippling poverty and many people live in slums or are forced to beg on the streets. Unemployment is off the scale but it is amazing to see the creative ways people try to make their living. Dragons´Den eat your heart out. Street vendors sell just about anything you can think of, men sit on wooden boxes to polish the shoes of passersby, I even saw a family who charged 20 centimos (about 5p) for people to weigh themselves on a set of scales in the street.
Lima itself is, again, like many big cities. There are some pretty buildings, but there are plenty of ugly ones too.
But what has been my overwhelming view of Peru so far has been the kindness of the people here. From Kiko, who sat next to me on the plane over, who gave me the Paulo Coelho book he´d just finished reading to Louis, the businessman who walked me to where I needed to go in the centre of Lima, everyone has been so friendly and helpful.
If people see you looking lost, they´ll stop and ask whether you´re ok. When I gave my seat to a granny on the bus she offered to hold my shopping bags on her knee.
And although I have seen little of the country so far, I think it is this which makes it such a special place.