“Speak English to me!” Exclaimed the beautiful Peruvian woman somewhat frankly from the balcony of her mansion.
A fairly extreme scramble had left me in her backyard, and I did not wish to retrace my steps.
She had thought that the cliff below her was unclimbable, and wanted to know what in tarnation this gringo was doing in her back yard. Dozens of maids and other workers rushed out onto their balconies, and every dog in the neighborhood was barking.
I had just returned to Lima from a great adventure of skiing on the highest volcano in Peru and had left a day of buffer on my schedule to spend in Lima. This grand city that was once called the pearl city of the universe is a bit less than that now, but it still offers brilliant coastal views, great museums, and some of the best restaurants in the world. My favorite restaurant, El Rustica sits right on the ocean in the upscale neighborhood of Baranco. The cebiche is fabulous and the open air dining let’s you enjoy the smell, sound and sometimes wetness of the crashing waves.
I was staying in the nearby tourist friendly “Mira Flores,” which is a couple of miles up the coast, but the general area is fairly elite, and relatively safe for gingos.
There is a pleasant and safe path that follows the coast and affords spectacular vistas, but it crosses one fairly deep canyon, and the bridge is quite a ways inland. I had taken the long path on a couple of occasions and had also explored a trail that went directly through the canyon. It involved about 200 vertical feet of scrambling and crossing a semi-busy hi way, but it was substantially shorter. I had taken this route the day before and felt safe on it, but this time I decided to follow the hi-way down the coast. This would avoid climbing and descending the big hill, and I knew that the restaurant was near.
The hi way started out with a wide walkway, and it was obvious that others had taken it, so I proceeded anxiously, and could almost smell the fresh fish, as I wandered onward. ! The road that I was following quickly joined the Pan American hi way, and the traffic became extremely dense. The restaurant was now very close, but the path got even narrower, and crossing the hi way did not look like a good option.
I was about ready to turn back or cross the road, when I approached a large mesh fence. The fence had been erected to contain the small avalanches of rocks that were constantly sliding down the steep embankment, but there was a faint trail between the fence and the manky cliff. It looked a lot safer than the road, and El Rustica and the pedestrian bridge that crossed the hi way were now in sight.
But my hopes were suddenly dashed when I encountered an old rock avalanche that had closed the path. The old slide had become infested with dense brush, and the trail suddenly stopped. I tried to bushwack my way through the dense brush and loose debris, but it seemed futile, and I really didn’t wish to retrace my steps.
So, I contemplated my fate for a few seconds. I was reluctantly ready to turn back when I noticed a trace of a trail heading up the steep and manky headwall. The trail quickly vanished, but by now my alpine climbing instincts had kicked in, and I wandered upward. The route, which was probably a first ascent, involved up to 5.7 vine assisted mank and the crux move was a mantle off the remnants of an old retaining wall. It was an adrenaline filled solo, but I finally arrived at a friendly plateau.
I was hoping to find a public trail or road at the top of the cliff, but instead it was the backyard of a luxurious condo building. A 12 foot tall concrete wall protected most of the building from intruders, but a few of the condos had taken advantage of the terrain and had sculpted luxurious backyards that enjoyed the constantly changing vistas of the Pacific Ocean.
Suddenly, one of the dogs started to bark and a few curious servants appeared on the balconies.
“I am a gringo and I am lost,” I tried to convey in my broken Spanish.
The 12 foot wall looked unsurmountable, but I spotted a reasonable route to one of the yards. It involved a 5.3 vine scramble, but I survived and didn’t get shot. Everyone within earshot was now out on the balconies, and the caretaker of the property suddenly arrived on the scene.
My Spanish was good enough to convince him that I wasn’t a danger, but he told me to stay right where I was as he summoned the owner.
After more than a few minutes of waiting, the beautiful woman finally appeared. She told me that what I was doing was very dangerous, and I think she thought I was a bit crazy.
I apologized for trespassing and tried to tell her that I was an experienced climber and Peru was one of my favorite countries, but she quickly instructed her manager to guide me back to the street and retreated back to her mansion.! The path through the luxurious condo was a great adventure and the brief chat with the manager on the way out was very amusing. I left a card with my website for the owners, but I don’t think they bought my book. ! The exit dropped me on a friendly street in Baranco, and a short stroll brought me to my favorite restaurant. It was the best adrenaline buzz of the whole trip, but a great pisco sour calmed my nerves, and the cebiche was worth the adventure.