When I booked a tour to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, it included a stop over in Lima, Peru before the tour started.
The itinerary was not that detailed. Day 1: Meet at hotel in Lima. Day 2: Half Day Tour of Lima. Free time. Day 3: Depart for Cusco and Inca Trail.
Our city tour was basic, hitting on the highlights and then ending at an outdoor shopping center in Miraflores. We were offered rides back to the hotel, or we could depart and explore from there on our own. My companion and I saw a restaurant on the beach, just down the hill from the Larcomar Shopping Center and decided we would head to La Rosa Nautica for lunch on the ocean.
The entire area had me laid back. It looked and felt like Malibu or Santa Monica, so I didn’t have my wits about me when I suggested we take a bushy path down the hill to the restaurant recommended by our guide instead of taking a cab all the way around.
It looked fine, it was just a kilometre away, and there was a trail to take you from the cliff of Miraflores down to the Circuito de Playas which we would cross to get to the pier.
Once we got to the bottom of that trail and crossed the highway, we started walking to the restaurant when we were approached by two men, one with a gun, the other a knife. The gunman flashed the piece on his belt and started yelling at us in Spanish. I’m assuming he wanted what we had which amounted to a backpack filled with passports, and jackets, a camera, and the money in our pockets.
I handed him the money and said that was all we had. He pointed to my wrist, and I gave him my Polar training watch. All the while he was barking at us in Spanish, I was responding back in French. It was bizarre. Cars were passing along the busy highway, some honking, but none stopping.
He pointed to a gold ring on my finger and asked for that as well, but I balked. This was a ring my grandmother gave my grandfather for his 21st birthday, and one they gave me for mine. I was not letting it go. The delays became frustrating for the bandits, and they eventually crossed the highway and back up the trail we had just descended.
Pulses racing we flagged a cab and asked to be taken back to the hotel instead of the restaurant. In the end it cost us about $100, a watch, and a pair of hiking shoes. I kept my backpack, didn’t lose the passports, nor my grandfather’s ring.
We were lucky.
Miraflores is a beautiful area. Lima is a wonderful coastal town. Tourists with big back packs would best avoid the trails leading down to the ocean. If you don’t want to get robbed in Lima at gunpoint, and knifepoint, the Larcomar Shopping Center overlooking the beaches is just fine, thank you very much.