Couch Surfing

Couchsurfing in Lima Peru

Couch Surfing provides a service that allows backpackers to contact locals to ask for a place to crash. Couchsurfing has probably caused the closure of more than one hostel in the world. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll always need hostels, but couchsurfing offers backpackers that unique experience they’re all aching to have. Sometimes, your couchsurfing experience is much more than you expected. That was my case in Lima, Peru.

Arriving to the House

I arrived to Lima hitchhiking from the east, down from the great big tops of the Andes to this coastal Peruvian megapolis. I had written down the address of the house of my hosts and how to get there on a page in my pocket notebook. Big cities are daunting tasks to conquer, since often you arrive without a single reference point. A good couchsurfing host gives you directions that are easy to follow, and makes it clear to you whether it is okay that you come to their door at any time or not.

Couchsurfing the City of Lima

Lima is a city of 8 million people. Most of the year, grey skies are all the eye can see. I immediately thought, “Okay, well, I’ll just stay two days and then be on my way to Cuzco.” Little did I know that I was in for a big surprise.

On Lima’s 'Metropolitano' public transit system it was more or less easy to find my hosts’ house, albeit I found it without street names or numbers. In Latin America, streets sometimes exist without names.

Meeting the Hosts with the Most

The House

I met my hosts Camilo and Franco, two Peruvian guys living on the cheap and hosting without stop. They each had cell phones, which made contacting them convenient and quick. They worked all day, but instantly gave me a key to the house so that I could come and go as I pleased. With couchsurfing, absolute strangers tend to trust each other enough to allow them total access to their most private of spheres: their home.

They greeted me immediately with smiles and questions about how my hitchhiking had gone that day. A good couchsurfing host might have hosted hundreds of people throughout their time using the website, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve lost their sense of small talk, a very important aspect of travelling.

Hosts with International Guests – The Melting Pot

As it turns out, I was not the only one in the house. We opened the door on a scene that at first caused a shock. There were about a dozen other guests in the house! Sometimes hosts restrict themselves to only host a few people at a time, down to one at a time. Sometimes they only host once a week or once a month. However, this couchsurfing experience, I could tell, was going to be a new adventure of the awesome kind.

Everyone in the room was the type of traveller who is comfortable sleeping in the type of disorganised and crowded space that Franco and Camilo’s house offered. The scene looked very uncomfortable, but when it comes to a couchsurfing experience – the backpacker is always looking for the craziest, unique one! There were Argentinians, Germans, Mexicans, Americans, French, and English. It was a true melting pot of global citizens!

Sharing Facilities – One Bathroom for Ten

When you find yourself like I did in a place with so many people, you need to immediately take note of the facilities. There was one bathroom with one cold shower. With so many people, the bathroom was occupied half of the time. I 'went' when I didn’t have to just to get ahead of the crowd. In fact, one of the Germans waited so long that he ended up deciding to relieve himself into a plastic bag! You won’t get to tell that story if you spend all your time in hostels.

Sleeping Arrangements when Couchsurfing

Sometimes, you get lucky with your couchsurfing experience and get a room all to yourself. For me, the case of the Lima house was quite distinct from other couchsurfing experiences. There were three mattresses lying on the floor, and everyone was sprawled out on them or on their own personal mats. There was a little bit of floor space, and as a backpacker I was completely comfortable with the notion of the ground. Franco had rightly warned me that I could very well end up on the floor. A good host will always tell you how you will be sleeping.

Backpackers and Communal Cooking

The Food

With such a packed house, and only two burners on the stove, communal meals became the only option. Not every host has the amenities to facilitate cooking, and some hosts don’t allow you to cook. Franco and Camilo were very open to letting us use the gas and oil, as long as they were included in the feast. So, all the guests in the house would share responsibility to cook. And what a great way to get international exposure! We ate Mexican tortillas, American hamburgers, Argentinian pizza, and Peruvian soup.

Entertainment for a Dozen Foreigners

It is impossible to imagine all of the different types of possible couchsurfing experiences. It is very rare that you find a house with so many guests and with hosts so open to guests doing pretty much whatever they like. There was only one thing to expect: craziness! My hosts had a hookah from which we all puffed smoke, and on more than one occasion, the beer and Peruvian pisco liquor got to flowing. I learned much about other cultures' types of parties.

Trying to Leave a Great Host

When all had been said and done, I had seen a whole month pass by at Franco and Camilo’s. Rarely do hosts let you stay so long! I only got to know a few parts of Lima, like backpacker haven Miraflores, and had only visited the Museo de la Nacion. However, I got a wealth of cultural input just by sitting around and sharing with other couchsurfers in the Lima house, and most important were the lifelong friendships I gained.