En route, at Lima airport, someone is bored and devises a game of musical chairs. We are made to change gates twice as all the planes arrive at different locations to those indicated on the board. There are swarms of people crossing paths as they up sticks and trundle their belongings across the terminal in response to whoever is barking orders over the tannoy.
You get a good view of the city and the even bigger, (longest in Europe) Vasco da Gama Bridge as the plane lands. The tower is suitably photogenic and the monastery is one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings I have ever seen. The tracery is absolutely exquisite. Our bus tour guide tells us that JK Rowling lived in Lisbon for a while and probably based Harry Potter on the city. I bite my tongue.
I'm supposed to be on a group tour for two weeks, but there is only one other person in my group. He clearly has Aspergers and it's like travelling with a very self centred demanding child. I think he's also gay. Surely my luck has to improve at some point?
Once we are at the crater rim the absence of trees on the slopes of the mountain provides fantastic 360 views of the area, and the caldera is full of smoke and gas. The car park where we have left the bus has signs that read: ‘Park your vehicle facing the exit’
It growls gently until I drift off to sleep, but next morning I’m awoken by a huge roar. I leap out of bed, wrap a sheet round me (too hot to sleep with anything on) grab my camera and run outside for my own private eruption performance, complete with puffs of pink ash, which lasts over half an hour.
Then a hot and sticky walk round 'Casco Viejo', the heart of colonial Panama City, all Spanish plazas & colonial buildings. Some are picturesquely semi-ruined, the gaps in the walls framing the sky. There are scatterings of little shops selling (of course) Panama hats, which have at least, to be tried on
The gaudy, bewigged saints, Jesus and Mary, have been removed from their dusty niches in the cathedral and are out parading the streets, hauled by struggling youths in purple Ku Klux Klan style hooded robes.