A Run Ashore in Lima 1950 - 1951
Lima-A memorable run ashore
Members of the Ship's Company who were on the 1950/51 West Indies Commission, may remember that we were in Callao, the port of Lima, Peru in April 1951. There were a number of events arranged for members of the Ship's Company, one of which was a trip on the Trans-Andean Railway. This railway is the highest standard gauge railway in the world rising to approximately 15,000 feet. The trip was not organised to go that high but to a mining village, the name of which I do not remember, at 12,500 feet and expected to take 12 hours or so. I was one of those lucky enough to have the opportunity to go on this 'banyan'.
My memory never was very good, and has got worse lately, but as I recall it:
There were maybe 15 or 20 of us, who went into Lima around 7 am to catch the train. I do not remember much about the train but I do recall the journey, a couple of hours or so through the coastal plain to the foothills of the Andes. The track wended its way up through the foothills and there were many occasions when one could look back and see the track doing several loops as it increased in height. The terrain became more rugged and I remember well corning out of a tunnel across a ravine and into another tunnel the other side. The vivid memory of that bridge. It seemed to be narrower than the train - at least I could see nothing out of the window other than the ravine below. And at the bottom lay a rusty old engine!
At the train station which was the end of our outward journey, we left the train and a small group of us, perhaps six or eight, were met by two couples who lived in a mining facility who took us to their Ranch. Of the two couples one was a Canadian, one Austrian, one I do not recall and the other a girl from Croydon - just 13 miles from where I lived at the time! We were provided with snacks and drinks and I remember thinking that whisky at 12500 feet seemed a pretty powerful drink. We sat about and chatted, time passed and we began to realise that we were getting late for our return trip. At that time there were two trains each way each day and our train, as the last back that day. W e were hurriedly put into the back of a Land Rover and taken to the station, only to find that the train had gone - we had missed it.
Our hosts put us back into the Land Rover and took us the nearest small town. That was a hair raising ride. The road was a narrow track with a sheer cliff face up several hundred feet on one side and several hundred feet down on the other. We arrived at the village and were relieved to get out of the truck. Our hosts put us onto a local bus, kindly paid our fare and explained to the driver that we had to get back to Lima.
We set off and quickly wished that we were back in that Land Rover. Again sheer cliff faces on either side in a ramshackle old bus with a local driver with the locals - and I suspect their chickens although I don't actually remember that!
After some while we came to a sudden halt to find a stationary train right across and blocking the road. It had hit a lorry which was now close to the brink. It was our train. As you might guess, after our experiences on the bus we all quickly got out and back unto the train, as the lesser of the evils. From there we had an uneventful journey back to I.ima and the Superb
I wonder if there is anyone reading this who was also on that trip or did the same one on another commission.
A few days after this I was PO of the Shore Patrol. The patrol consisted of eight or ten British matelots with the same number of Peruvians, the latter being armed. We also had an Officer of the Patrol, the only time I came across this. He was our Gunner complete with black gaiters and sword. We were not totally unarmed! Our orders were to patrol the red light area of Lima - an educational experience in itself. Now at one end of the street ...........Ah! but that is another story for another time ...............
Kindly reproduced by permission of SO