We’ve arrived! Getting into Lima just past midnight we were happy to be dropped off right outside the door of our hostel, and offered welcome pisco shots…
we were sensible enough to decline the pisco shots, in desperate need of a drink of water instead (it is apparently unsafe to drink the water in most of South America, neither of us were willing to risk another round of Dr. Deb’s trusty travel pills). After checking in and sorting out what was going on, we discovered that the hostel was separated across two locations, our room was not in the hostel we had checked in at, but six or so blocks away. Thankfully, after an hour or so of sorting things out and finding a car to drive us, we were on our way to a proper shower to wash off the previous days’ sand experience, and a bed
Waking up to beautiful, ummm… cloud, we were welcomed to Lima. Lima is the largest city of Peru and is on the coastal part of the country, which means another week of zero altitude for us, hooray! Lima is pretty much a desert, although it lies on the coast so has an interesting mix of hot and cold all at once. Basically, the winds off the desert meet the winds of the Pacific Ocean, resulting in Lima pretty much having constant cloud cover as well as very little variance in temperature.
Slightly exhausted from the previous week of early mornings, terrifying sand dunes and buses we decided that we were going to take it easy for a little while. Lima has quite a number of things to do, including local breweries. Before hitting any of the breweries we decided to be sensible and grab some coffee from the large Larcomar shopping centre that hangs over the cliff of Miraflores. The shopping centre is almost completely built underground and info the cliff, with a park on top, so until you walk right to the edge of the cliff or stairs you may not even know it is there.
The Larcomar shopping centre is very fancy, it’s one of the few places in South America that we have seen very western type shops, including a Nike store, Nine West and an UGG shop - not quite what we were expecting. The area also has some really cool buildings, setting itself apart from the rest of Lima; there is much less historic Spanish influence here and a lot more modern reflective glass buildings.
James’ favourite pastime
Discovering the restaurants in the shopping centre were reasonably expensive, and after James had been dragged into every shop possible, we decided it was time to head to one of the little microbreweries about 1km up the road. Craft brewing in Peru has become a very large industry in recent years, mostly because of the tourism and immigrants from America - Peru is much cheaper to set up a business in than pretty much all of the Western countries. This hasn’t helped us in our quest to master Spanish; however, the people in Peru speak Spanish much, much slower than other countries we’ve been in, and pronounce their words properly.
We’ve ended up at a craft brewery called Barbarian, where we tried a few of their beers and enjoyed the local snacks (the not popped popcorn stuff). Chilling out for the rest of the day we eventually made it back to the hostel and cooked ourselves dinner… not a very exciting afternoon as some of the travelling had taken it’s toll on us, and neither of us had quite completely recovered from being sick.
Being allowed a sleep-in past 6am was complete and utter bliss! Both of us became normal human beings again, no more tired eyes! Hurrah! After getting ourselves organised, and after James had hit is head on the ceiling hung TV for the umpteenth time, we headed out a few blocks up the road to go and join one of the many “free” walking tours the city offered. Making our way to the meeting point up near McDonald’s, we came across a park completely covered in cats. There were cats everywhere; apparently the government has a program to de-sex, feed and care for them… SO MANY CATS!
After making it past the cat scenery we met up with the walking tour group and headed to our first stop, a coffee shop with free coffee; these people know how to please tourists first thing in the morning! It was then off to the train station to go to the historic centre of Lima; one really useful thing of this tour, we were shown how to use the metro system with the cards and stations. Using buses and stuff shouldn’t be too hard, but having an idea of where to buy tickets and where to go is really practical information, many of the walking tours don’t do this!
Seeing through walking
Our first stop was the Plaza Mayor, where there is the main cathedral, the presidential palace, and the archbishop’s palace along with a myriad of other buildings. The plaza was huge! Smack bang in the middle of it all was a giant fountain, which we couldn’t get close to because there was a police guard; we’re not entirely sure why but they were there nonetheless.
We were taken around the historic centre and learnt about Simón Bolívar and San Martin. For anyone who has been to South America, you should know who these people are, or at the very least know that EVERY South American city settled by the Spaniards has a street named after these two men. Every city we’ve been to also has a statue, or multiple statues of Simón Bolívar on his horse; Lima was no different.
While on the tour we were fortunate enough to be close enough to the Presidential Palace to see the changing of the guard, it happens every day at 11am. Having never seen a changing of the guard happen before, we were treated to quite the show. Old mates were up there with their trumpets, the band of hatted men and their instruments came out and walked around the front of the building, then as quickly as they came out, they disappeared.
Toward the end of the tour we were taken into a few of the souvenir shops to try Peruvian chocolate, and then on to the Pisco shops for Pisco tasting. After that we headed toward another of the city’s churches and learnt about the one-eyed woman. Back in the day women (and some men) would dress very modestly but cover the head with a black scarf, revealing only one eye… This created a lot of mystery and caused men to chase after them to find out what was going on under the scarf. Sometimes it was a little surprise for the man to find out that the woman with the scarf was in fact a man too, or severely deformed in some way. It was pretty much a way to help the ladies who may not be the errr ‘cream of the crop’ to get married.
After the tour, we were a bit hungry, along with a few others from the group at a restaurant near the plaza. Settling for one of the $5aud menu del dias we were given a huge amount of food, consisting of the usual double-carb of rice and potatoes along with some mystery meat, and corn soup. Since we didn’t have anything planned for the rest of the afternoon, we decide to head back to Miraflores and visit the bar of Nuevo Mundo, a local micro-brewery that we had tried a few beers from in our travels around Peru. There were a few to choose from, some good and some fairly average. While the mass-produced beer in Peru is fairly terrible, the choice in craft beers is quite nice.
After downing a few beers we decided we should get ourselves home at a reasonable hour and probably do something crazy like cook our own food instead of eating out. Two nights in a row we’ve had a home cooked meal! It had been a while since we stayed in a hostel that had a kitchen; it was time to get the culinary skills in action. Deciding not to get too adventurous (especially post-beer) James got to work on making French onion soup with some crusty bread, if you ever need an easy and cheap (but not quick) meal, make that :)
Saturday morning rolls around and it was decided that we needed to spend some time apart from each other. Living in each others’ pockets in confined spaces for a while can cause some unnecessary and ridiculous arguments, and of course both of us are always correct. James decided to chill around at the hostel for the morning while for Dee, it was time to go shopping! Back down to Larcomar Dee toddled, straight into a little restaurant looking over the ocean, who offered cocktails at reasonable prices. When one is offered a drink it is impolite to refuse right?
After enjoying a nice refreshing cocktail and enjoying the view of the cloudy sky offered by Lima, it was time to consider some lunch and suss out where James was hiding. After finding James we wandered through the Larcomar precinct, stumbling across a pop-up cart festival arrangement thing, which had a few of the local microbreweries showcasing beer. Stopping for a quick thirst-quencher, we wandered our way around to find some food and then hang out for the afternoon; it was at this point that Dee found the left over candle from the sandboarding experience in her handbag… you know, just in case we needed some more candle wax?? There might also be a little bit of sand hanging around in our shoes too.
Love is in the air
Sundays in Lima are like everywhere else, most places are closed all day, with some opening up for a few hours across lunchtime. We decided to spend the day walking along the beach and checking out the parks. Our first stop was the Parque de Amor (Park of Love), where there is a giant sculpture of people kissing in a certain pose. There is a record for the longest continual kissing in that pose, and at one stage the record was held by the mayor of Lima! The park is surrounded by beautifully tiled walls and over looks the grey ocean. Heading down the stairs toward the water we started our walk along the beach. With the lack of sunshine offered by Lima, the beach just didn’t seem quite right… there was also a distinct lack of sand - I’m sure we had enough in our shoes still to help in that department. The beach was lined with small smooth rocks, and a large amount of washed up sea life, including urchins and cucumbers, as well as the occasional crab.
Though the beach wasn’t one of the nicer ones we’d seen on the trip, it didn’t stop the locals from going surfing, or trying to con the tourists into going surfing. Given Dee’s lack of stability on land trying to walk (she’s only fallen over a few times on the trip), it was decided that we might leave the surfing for another lifetime. The beach is only a narrow strip along the coast, and there is only the highway separating it from the long set of cliffs (due to erosion). The Larcomar shopping centre is built into one of these cliffs, and from the beach, it actually looks quite unstable and like it could collapse at any time. Since Peru suffers a lot of earthquakes, there is also a risk of tsunami here, and every 500m or so there is a big sign showing where the evacuation routes to the top of the cliffs are in case the warning sirens go off.
We were walking along the beach to find the small market area James went to on his first morning in Lima last time, but it turned out to be a lot further away than we thought. After walking down the beach for about 3.5km, we decided to give up finding it, and head up the stairs and paths on the cliff, into the Barranco suburb. Like Miraflores, this suburb is a wealthy one, and has a lot of old buildings that have been turned into embassies, and similar places.
As expected in a fancy suburb, there are fancy restaurants; though it was a Sunday so most were closed. Fortunately for us, the Barranco Beer Company was just down the road. Wandering in, we settled in for a couple of craft beers and some giant pretzels before heading back toward Miraflores for chicken wings and a nap.
Water in the park
Lima doesn’t have much in the way of major tourist attractions, despite being the capital. In saying that, the Parque De La Reserva is on of the few really cool things to see in Lima at night. A quick trip on the metro toward the soccer stadium brings you right out the front of the park, where there are a million people trying to sell fairy floss, flowers, llama key rings and food. Heading in to the park there are small bursts of colour and then lots of water… the park is covered with fountains and in the evenings there is a water and light show. The fountains are lit up in vibrant colours and water shoots in every direction, there is also a projected show with music in the background; it was definitely worth the four soles to see!
With Peru being the birthplace of ceviche, we decided we couldn’t leave Lima without having any. Ceviche is raw fish, mixed with corn, chilli, red onion and lime juice; the acidity in the lime juice reacts with the proteins in the fish, effectively cooking it. Many of the touristy spots sell ceviche but it is at a premium price, for a very small amount. The sign of a good place is always one that is busy and has a lot of locals in it; the most obvious place for us to head for a good meal of ceviche was to the local markets. After getting ourselves organised at the hostel, and James hitting his head on the low hanging television again, we were ready to hunt down the best ceviche Lima could offer.
The market in Lima is similar to most of the others we’d come across in South America; stalls and stalls of mystery fruit, mystery meat and shops offering random goods. Unlike the artisanal markets, there are no llama key rings, there is no one trying to offer tours or massages, and very few Caucasian people wandering around. The local markets are probably one of our favourite things to visit, there is always something new and exciting to try, and the meals are ridiculously cheap; even in Lima where everything is four times the price of other places in Peru.
Wandering around we were offered every type of ceviche under the sun; it can be made from pretty much any seafood, however the most traditional is made with Corvina (sea bass). We found a stall, were sat up on tiny bar stools and fed fish soup, then a meal of ceviche for a grand total of $7aud. It was so delicious that we forgot to take a photo, so here is some fish:
Completely stuffed from the ceviche we decided to head back toward Larcomar to try and find some new shoes for Dee… the ones she had were looking a little worse for wear - they had done around 800km of walking. On our way out of the market we stumbled across some middle-aged men crocheting tablecloths and towels (it is not just old women who crochet apparently), and a guy with his own little wheelie panaderia (bread shop) complete with dulce de leche stuffed pastries, for 20c.
Something we have become accustomed to on this trip is that we very obviously stand out to the locals. Aside from the obvious blonde hair and blue eyes sported by James, the somewhat pail skin of both of us, we have generally been at least a head taller than everyone in Peru. Us gringos stand out like a sore thumb, Lima was proving no different… when you’re taller than the average person in Peru, your feet are generally bigger than the average person’s as well. Going in to shops to find shoes for Dee, and heading straight to the men’s section gets weird looks from the sales staff, and then a good giggle because your feet are bigger than any size they stock. No shoes for Dee.
Feeling rather defeated in the search for shoes, we stopped for a cocktail and a quick snack, and then sent James on his way to find a hairdresser. Fortunately for him, the experience was much better than Dee’s, he came back looking rather dapper, no butchered hair in sight.
What to do when there is Pisco
For the evening we thought we might go and suss out the hostel bar, which was in the other hostel building a few blocks away. When we arrived our first night we were offered welcome Pisco shots, we weren’t aware that the welcome shots are a “welcome to the bar every night you need to have a shot”. In short, there were a few people welcomed, and there were a few shots, and a few beers, and a stumble back to the hostel at some hour of the night, via a burger place, and a stack up the stairs… It was also Dee’s turn to hit her head on the television in the middle of the night. The following morning was going to be an interesting one.
Another day, another bus
At some point in this trip, we will learn that trying to pack and catch a bus with a hangover is not a particularly smart idea. The only time either of us seems to get a hangover is the day that we need to pack and catch a bus. Forgetting to set an alarm we woke up quite late (very close to checkout time), consequently meaning that we had to speed pack our bags, checkout and get to the bus station by 11:30 for our 12:30pm bus.
We made it, we found food and Gatorade, and we were on our way… next stop Trujillo.
Go see all the photos from Lima