|April 14, 2010
At about 4am we decided to check in and get rid of our bags so we left through the arrivals area of the domestic terminal. Even at 4am we were greeted by a taxi driver asking if we wanted a lift. We got checked in and went straight through immigration. We tried to get into a lounge on the international side but we had to wait until 5.30am to do so. Once it opened though we greedily tucked into an impromptu breakfast before our flight an hour later. On board the plane I crashed immediately but was woken by the stewardess when breakfast came around. Despite my free food from the lounge I still ate my breakfast! After all, it was free! I slept most of the flight and awoke about 10 minutes before we landed in Lima.
I wasn’t looking forward to Lima a whole lot as I didn’t like it much the last time I came here. However, things seemed much cleaner and better organised than on my last visit, from the immigration area to outside the airport to the highway running past the airport itself. Our taxi ride from the hostel was there to meet us and after walking past lots of nice, smart cars in the parking lot we arrived at a clapped out old banger and guessed that was our lift. You get warned about bags being stolen from out of the backs of cars in Lima but there was little chance of that for us – our driver couldn’t even get the back door open without a struggle!
We were staying at The Condor’s House in Miraflores, a suburb of Lima. It was really pleasant driving around and is much different to the Centro where I was before. This area is full of bars and restaurants and is a popular spot for backpackers – it is obvious to see why. Our hostel is down a nice, little side street and we have a large double room overlooking the road. The staff here are really friendly and helpful and after dumping our bags we headed out for some lunch and a look around.
We found a small café called Hot and Cool where we got a chorizo and cheese sandwich and a refreshing fresh lemonade. Elizabeth and I both added some “picante” sauce to our sandwiches and it really added a kick to them! We also stopped at the local supermarket and got some snacks and drinks. The place was huge and looked quite posh with the ready-made salads and fruit looking particularly appealing. For now, we settled on some crisps and sweet bread and plenty of fluids.
We both slept back at the hostel but I was conscious of over-sleeping and not being tired tonight so I eventually went downstairs to check some stuff on the internet. We had wanted to do a day trip to Pachacamac whilst here in Lima and we had also noticed the hostel advertising a deal for a tour to Machu Picchu. We hadn’t intended booking anything for Machu Picchu until we got to Cusco but given this tour was $125 less per person than anything else we’d seen we decided to find out from the hostel what it included. Elizabeth came down a while later and we got the guys at the hostel to book both trips for us and it felt good to have everything organised.
After a bit more lazing around and planning our day for tomorrow, we headed out for some dinner. We had planned to eat at a funky sounding vegetarian café but when we got there it just looked like a shop so we decided to have a look elsewhere. I later noticed a rooftop terrace so we might go back there if we get a chance. Directly opposite we stumbled upon a place called Gloton which looked like a local pizzeria. In fact it did everything from sandwiches to burgers to salads to pasta. I’m not sure there were even pizzas on the menu but that was OK as I quite fancied a burger! This place was packed with locals and every table inside and out taken and we were lucky to get seated. The restaurant also had a drive-in type service where cars pulled up and the waiters took the order and they ate in their cars – I’ve only ever seen this before in films about the 1950’s! Along with a couple of excellent Cusqueña beers our food was really good and cost around $16. Considering even what we spent in Chile on food, Peru has been much cheaper already!
April 15, 2010
Today we headed into the Centro and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. We started out at a museum a little way outside the city. This museum was the Museo de la Nacion. We took a taxi there and agreed a price before getting in. When we got to the museum though the taxi driver had magically changed the price from 15 Soles to $15 – about 3 times the price. After some haggling I gave him a bit extra but was annoyed at myself for not fully verifying the amount and currency beforehand. I’d forgotten what arseholes Peruvian taxi drivers were!
Anyway, inside the free museum we discovered it was undergoing renovations and only two floors were open. This was disappointing as we couldn’t see a lot of the historical stuff but what we got to see was very interesting. The top floor we visited had a large exhibit revolving around revealing the truth and not forgetting the despicable terrorist acts which were carried in Peru between 1980 and 2000. I’d never realised the country had such significant in-fighting before but the museum told the story fairly well and remained fairly unbiased, refusing to blame the militant terrorist group called the Shining Path for all the trouble, citing government and military over-reactions and revenge as a large part of the problem. At the end were pictures of people who were killed in the violence and these ranged from people who went “missing” at the hands of government orders to those killed by terrorist bombings. It was a real eye-opener and a really interesting display.
On the floor below was a display on the significance of the bull in Peruvian culture and it included lots of different objects in the shape of a bull including bottles and plates and such like. It was quite funny seeing some of the objects but was a pretty weird display! So, that was us done with the museum and we left a little empty – thankfully it had only cost us the taxi ride there!
Outside we got another taxi into the Centro. This journey was about the same distance and we negotiated what we thought was the right price and actually in Soles this time! The driver took us to the Plaza Mayor trying to sell us other trips along the way. He was persistent but we weren’t interested. Once at the Plaza Mayor we arrived outside the Palacio be Gobierno to witness the midday changing of the guard. The city seemed so much brighter and cleaner than my last visit. I didn’t have any bad experiences here last time other than feeling it was just a little grotty but this time it almost seems like a different place.
After the changing of the guard we walked around to the Monasterio de San Francisco, choosing a little café opposite for some lunch before heading into the monastery. We were shuffled straight onto a tour which turned out to be in Spanish so that wasn’t much good. Rather than wait almost 2 more hours for the English one we decided to just carry on. When I came here before we were allowed to take pictures but this time it was completely forbidden – I’ll just upload some of my old ones for you to see! The monastery is really big and the catacombs are really interesting, with the bones being laid out in patterns in many of the areas. It was quite creepy still, but nowhere as bad as some places we have seen since we started travelling.
From there we had a walk around some tourist type shops, picking up some souvenirs along the way, before heading through the pedestrian area of the city. Even this area seemed much cleaner than before and I was really enjoying my stroll through the city. We’d even gone past the Estadio Nacional earlier and despite the renovations it still reminded me of my previous stay.
From there we headed to the Museo de Arte de Lima. When I came here before it was full of horrible religious paintings, typical of many Hispanic art museums, but this time it was completely different. The museum was also undergoing renovations (is the whole city being renovated at once?!) so not all of it was open but around the central courtyard and atrium they had three excellent exhibits. The first exhibit was about pre-Colombian and Inca ceramics. Given what we had seen in Santiago, this was probably the least interesting of the three galleries but was still good. Elizabeth particularly liked one bottle which showed an X-rated scene and it was entitled Fellatio. You can draw your own pictures, should you wish.
The second exhibit was a photography exhibit full of pictures taken by famous photographer Mario Testino. He is originally from Lima but moved to London in the late 1970s to make his name. Since then he has captured on film some of the world’s most famous people and it was cool seeing so many pictures which I actually recognised from advertisements, album covers and the like. His exhibit has been touring the globe and has been to London, Tokyo, Milan and it is great to see an artist return to his original home to showcase his talents. There were loads of pictures of Madonna, Kate Moss and some interesting ones of Princes Charles, William and Harry alongside Diana. They had obviously been arranged in such a way to show the likeness of Harry to Diana (and James Hewitt!) and of William to Charles.
The final exhibit was of a local painter who was not widely recognised until after his death. His family had kept all of his work from sketches to finished articles and it was amazing seeing the sketches and early drafts next to the finished works. You don’t realise how much work goes into painting a picture sometimes but this gave you more of an insight. And again, it was good to see local works given pride of place in a national museum. It’s all well and good displaying works of famous artists from around the world but the least you can do is give your own people a showcase. I felt that this exhibits were really doing that. Hopefully it will inspire people, particularly the Testino exhibit which shows how you can achieve something from very little if you are prepared to put in some hard work.
Our final taxi ride of the day took us back to Miraflores. It was here we noticed how much we’d been overpaying all day as our ride all the way back was the cheapest of the day! The amounts aren’t exactly huge but it is interesting to see how different drivers operate. I actually feel like on the last journey we actually got more of a “local” price rather than the inflated one reserved for gringos.
We got the taxi to Parque Kennedy. This is where our tour leaves from tomorrow and we wanted to make sure we had paid for it ahead of time. From there it was a nice stroll back to the hostel via the grocery store for some dinner. The weather had been lovely today and the city air seemed reasonably clean compared to both Santiago and my memory from the previous visit. This really does feel like a different city to Lima 2006 and I now feel a bit silly for telling Elizabeth how much I hated Lima and was not bothered about coming back! Maybe it’s just the better company I’m keeping this time around!
For dinner we had a variety of different salads and things from the store including potato salad, some chicken and a chorizo rice dish. It was all really yummy and cheap, too. We even got some fresh fruit and with most of it leftover our $11 has done us pretty well and should do almost two meals!
April 16, 2010
Today we took a tour out to a place called Pachacamac, which is one of the ruins within the city boundaries of Lima. The drive to the site was actually interesting in itself. It took us along the coast around Miraflores and through a number of different districts. You got to see many of the poorer areas built up on the hillsides as a result of migration from the countryside into the city. Given the stuff we had seen yesterday about peasants escaping the terrorism by heading to Lima, it was apparent that these areas were where they were housed.
We had a short stop at a nature reserve, the only one within the city of Lima. It was a huge marshland area which has been protected by the government but really it wasn’t anything special, the constant noise and pollution of the highway running through the centre pretty much ruining any sense of calm and tranquility for the animals who live here! There were lots of birds around but little else.
We finally reached Pachacamac and the site was a massive. It is a really dry, dusty area so it reminded me a lot of some of the Egyptian sites we went to where an old pile of stones seemed to appear from the desert! It was interesting to walk around the site and see the area where women used to be sacrificed as well as the impressive building the women were housed in prior to that. Women were sacrificed to the gods as sacrificial offerings are supposed to be of important and significant items. Women were thought to be more sacred than man due to their abilities to create life. It was quite funny hearing it described how all the women would be trained and the most intelligent would be taken into a separate area to live until finally they were chosen to sacrifice. The sacrifices weren’t common and would only take place on extreme occasions and may only have occurred every 15 or 20 years or so.
We were back in Miraflores by mid-afternoon and had time to go and put our laundry in. We had a fair bit having not done much for about 2 weeks so we thought now would be a good time before we really started to smell! We finished off our stuff from last night for lunch and lazed around all afternoon, something we’ve become a little too accustomed to of late!
For dinner we headed out to Parque Kennedy which is surrounded by a number of bars and restaurants. After looking in a couple we picked one which offered us a free beer with dinner. Elizabeth had the “lomo saltado” which is a beef dish with onions, tomatoes and fried potatoes. It was really yummy. My “pollo y salsa curry” was not so much. I expected a spicy tomato sauce with my chicken but it was actually a mild creamy curry sauce with bits of peach and pineapple in it. It was quite a weird taste and I wish I’d gone for the lomo too!
April 17, 2010
Our last day in Lima today and despite it being a lot better than last time we were still finding there wasn’t a huge amount of stuff we wanted to see or do here. There seems to be lots of much cooler things to do around the countryside and outside the cities but our time is a bit limited here so we have to work with what we’ve got.
We headed to one of the adobe pyramids which is actually in Miraflores and is called Huaca Pucllana. We could see the large site from the road as we circled looking for the actual entrance and the central pyramid looked impressive. Inside we had to wait over half an hour for an English tour guide. The only way around many of these ruins now is with a tour guide due to the amount of graffiti and people scratching their names on rocks. Even our guide said yesterday that Peruvians are still being educated on how to care for their treasures. Maybe when they are done they can go and teach the Egyptians! While we were waiting there was a group of school children waiting for a tour too and a load of the girls wanted their pictures taken with us – it was so funny seeing them ask but we happily obliged!
It was interesting seeing the locals working on restoration of the site and the guide even stated they were deliberately making the bricks differently so you could tell which were original. It was also amazing that they had built the walls and the large pyramid in such a way as to make sure it would withstand earthquakes, with small gaps in between each brick to allow it to move around. They also made some walls with bricks at a slight angle to make them even more flexible. Given how devastating earthquakes can be even today, this kind of ingenuity is almost unbelievable.
For lunch we headed back towards the vegetarian restaurant we’d tried to eat at on our first night here and we were pleased to find a lovely little café and courtyard out the back of the shop. We both ordered burgers and they were really good – topped with cheese, tomato and guacamole. Even without meat they still tasted good!
We wasted the afternoon lazing around before heading out to pick up our laundry and pack up for our flight to Cusco tomorrow. Lima has been much more interesting than first time around but I’m still not sure you need any more than two or three days here!
For dinner tonight I finally had my own lomo saltado and it was lovely. The meat was really well spiced and although the waiter was rude at the end it was money well spent. I asked for the bill at the end but rather than give me anything he asked for the money I had ready to pay and just went off, only presenting the bill when he returned with my change. I kind of wanted to check the bill before I paid but thankfully it was alright and thankfully the waiter’s rudeness saved me giving him a tip!