A Travellerspoint blog

Peru

Last of Lima

We split a cab to the airport from our hotel. The cab driver doesn't care how many people share, so we made 5 of us fit. The tab was 9 sols ($3) split 5 ways- the cheapest taxi I've ever taken. We flew to Lima and got a pretty good view of the Andes from the plane. Upon landing, we did my favorite activity- took the bus! We took the bus to Miraflores, the wealthier part of town. It was about a 45 minute ride for 2 sols (66 cents). It was just as fun as riding the bus was the other day. The novelty still hadn't quite faded for me.

In Miraflores, we walked by the shore. We saw surfers in the waters below, and hang gliders take off from the cliffs. We wanted to hang glide, but the price was high and they didn't seem to want to negotiate. That was ok as the next few guys had problems and couldn't get into the air anyway. There are several very nice parks at that end of town and we just wandered for a while, enjoying the clean air. After lunch, which featured a pisco sour, the local drink (very sour), we grabbed another bus back to our hotel. We took a quick break and were off to see the Cathedral we had missed the other day. The cathedral was a pretty standard Spanish-style cathedral. It wasn't as impressive as the one in Cusco, but it was ok. On the steps of the cathedral, we met Xonathan. He said he needed to practice his English and didn't seem shady, so we talked to him for a while. He took us to the grocery store so Jen could get food for the next week and I could get snacks to bring back to my family. We also picked up a fruit called tuna for ourselves. We went to San Martin Plaza to eat our tuna. It turns out to be a very interesting fruit. It is spiky on the outside. The next layer in tastes like a melon that is bitter. The inner layer is the tasty one, but it's all seeds. Apparently you're supposed to eat them. We mostly just made a mess. When we were done, we headed back to our hotel again.

We wanted to go to services that night, but didn't know where the shul was. We were waiting on an email, but it didn't come until after we left Lima. Instead, we went wandering for food and in search of a fountain park. The park definitely delivered. It has a Guiness Book of World Records record for the most fountains or something like that. But these were not boring fountains. The water sprayed in various shapes and was lit up with various colors. There was a water bridge to walk under and a water game to play. One of the fountains squirted to the beat of a techno song laying in the background. Once an hour, they put on a show with music and lights at the Fantasia fountain. During the show, the water danced around to the music. They played everything from Mozart to Backstreet Boys. At one point, the water was sprayed into a screen and they played a moving slide show of scenes of Peru while playing what sounded like a traditional Peruvian song. It was pretty cool. We expected to only spend a half hour or so at the park, so we had originally decided to get food after. By the time we were done though, we had spent a couple of hours watching the water and were pretty hungry. There really wasn't anything on the way back to the hotel that was open at that time, and we had seen a card at the hotel saying they would make pizza, so we figured we'd just go back and have pizza. Unfortunately, we didn't notice that on the card it says the kitchen closed at 8:30. Still, it was relatively easy to convince the person in charge to serve us breakfast that late at night. I was very pleased as they didn't have to do anything at all for us, but they were nice enough to heat up some bread, pull out the butter and jam, orange juice, and even make us coca tea.

I went to bed pleased with all I had seen and done on the trip. While I wish I could have seen more, I was ready to be able to drink from fountains and eat salads again. I left the next morning for home, not too disappointed to be going, but most certainly very happy with my visit in Peru. I highly recommend it.

The beach at Miraflores

The beach at Miraflores


A park near Larco Mar

A park near Larco Mar


Pyramid at Fountain Park

Pyramid at Fountain Park

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Machu Picchu

We got up pretty early because the guide had warned us that you have to get in the park early in order to climb Wayna Picchu. The first people in line for the buses had been there since 4am. We didn't get in line until 4:50, but we thought we would be ok. When the buses arrived at 6, we ended up on the 4th bus, so we assumed we would be one of the first 200 people in the park (50 people per bus). I felt bad for the people behind us as they thought their Machu Picchu ticket also got them on the bus. Instead of being one of the first 200 on the buses, they had to get into a different line to buy a ticket and get behind the hundreds of other people in line. The bus drove us up a winding road that ran through the forest on the mountain. It was pretty dark outside, we were rounding reasonably sharp corners, and we could tell that there was a reasonable drop off the side of the road. Fortunately, the road was designed for buses, so I think even people who are nervous about not being in control when being high up might be ok. We got to the top of the mountain and were pretty surprised to find the line much longer than it was for the bus. First, there is a very expensive hotel right at the gate to Machu Picchu. People who stay there can get to the gate early without getting up at 4 like the rest of us did. Second, some people got up even earlier than us and climbed Machu Picchu in the dark, through the forest. We didn't realize that was even an option, but now we were worried. The Peruvian government limits the number of people who can climb Wayna Picchu to 400 per day- 200 at 7am and 200 at 10. After seeing Chichen Itza, I understand why they want to limit people and preserve the mountain. However, I really wanted to climb it and I wasn't so sure that we would be before 400th in line. The people behind us were just as worried as two of them started to fight over their spot in line before their friends stepped in and stopped them. When the gates opened, people pushed through and the race started. The tickets to Wayna Picchu are distributed at the opposite end of the park as the entrance. Everybody who wanted a ticket was running right past the gorgeous ruins that were the whole point of why we were there. The irony wasn't lost on us. I did briefly stop to grab a couple of photos when we got stuck behind some slow people. We passed a few of the slower folks, but when they blocked both "lanes" I started feeling road rage. The whole concept was a bit ridiculous. Eventually, we made it to the line, hoping that there were still tickets left. By the time we got up to the front, there were maybe 20-50 tickets left. We made it!! We celebrated and felt like winners. I don't think I celebrated that hard at the end of the triathlon the weekend before. It was kind of pitiful. Now that we had our tickets, we went back to see the ruins. A bunch of people were perched in good places to see the sun rise. I think that we were definitely more than 400th into the park, but fortunately some people just wanted to see the sun rise and not get tickets to climb. We saw the sun come up and quickly dry up all of the morning mist that had coated the mountains. The ruins looked completely different before and after the mist.

We headed towards the entrance to meet up with our tour group. Our guide took us to the top of the city and began our tour. He did a great job explaining the ruins and their history. First off, he explained that when Hiram Bingam came a hundred years ago, he was looking for El Dorado and instead found a city in the cloud forest. Nobody knew the name of the city, but the mountain was called Machu Picchu, so that's what they called the city as well. The original "archaeologists" were locals who were paid 33 cents per day (which was more back then) and an extra day's pay for any mummies or artifacts they found. Since then, real archaeologists have done work on Machu Picchu and the current theory is that it was a city where the nobility, scientists, and doctors when to get educated. We passed the guard house and entered the city through the main gate via the end of the Inca trail. We walked along some of the terraces. The terraces were "farm labs" where they could harden crops and breed them so that the would grow better at higher altitudes. There was also a big field in the middle of the city where the Incas kept the livestock. Today, the government has stocked it with llamas to keep the grass short. The guide explained to us how the city was built from the white granite quarried from right underneath where a building made from those stones would then be located. We saw a stone that had begun to be split, but was still in the middle of the process. The guide explained the differences between houses (made with stones and mortar) and the important temples (made with the same tight-fitting lego-style stones we saw at Coricancha the day before. There were stones and windows in the temple and some other buildings that were aligned so that at the solstices the sun shone just right on them. This would indicate to the ancient people that the growing season was starting or ending. Our guide had a lot to tell us about all of this. He was actually quite knowledgeable about the ruins, but I guess that's his job. The end of the tour left us near the foot of Wayna Picchu, which we were excited to climb. The climb was supposed to be an hour, but the altitude + my asthma meant we had to take a few more breaks. My muscles were doing ok, but the panting was a bit much. Normally, when I'm running, I just keep going, but I wasn't about to risk anything halfway up a mountain in the middle of nowhere. As we climbed, we enjoyed the view of the river below and Machu Picchu. The city kept getting smaller and smaller until we couldn't see people anymore and the buses looked like ants. The trail was pretty rocky and not easy. There weren't stairs and railings like trails in the US would have had. As we neared the top, people on their way down kept telling us "it's not that much farther," and "great job." It was nice of everybody to encourage everybody else like that. Towards the very top, there was a cave to duck through, some very steep stairs to climb, and finally, a man waiting at the top to take our picture. Then, it was time to climb down. Let's just say that on one of the large drops I used my long legs to reach. I was glad I had some duct tape on me and another pair of pants back at the hotel. On the way down, somebody who had taken the long path to the caves (that trail is supposed to be more like 2+ hours each way, so we had taken the short one) told us that it totally wasn't worth it. It made us feel better about our choice, especially since it was too late to go back and try the other path as well. We rested at the bottom, feeling very accomplished. That's when I noticed that despite wearing a thin long-sleeve shirt, I had gotten quite a bit of sun on my arms through the shirt. I also ended up with a bit of a suburn on my scalp through my hair because I was wearing a visor and not a hat. Hint: use sunscreen AND clothing to protect yourself when the atmosphere isn't.

We crossed the ruins and took the bus back to our hotel. I changed clothes, got cleaned up a little, and sat. We relaxed in one of the plazas for a while until it was time to catch the train. We reversed our journey- took the train to Ollantaytambo, the bus to Cusco, and walked up the stairs back to the hostel we had stayed at the night before. The stairs were even rougher after climbing Wayna Picchu than they had been the other day. We were a little disappointed that the hostel had run out of towels, but I had no problem passing out as gross as I was. We did get towels in the morning, but it would have been much nicer to get them at night. (How do they run out of towels when they know the tourists have climbed a mountain?- Seriously.)

Tomorrow" Back to Lima

stairs at the top of Wayna Picchu

stairs at the top of Wayna Picchu


Machu Picchu from Wayna Picchu

Machu Picchu from Wayna Picchu


Stairs down the top of Wayna Picchu

Stairs down the top of Wayna Picchu


The line at 5am

The line at 5am


Machu Picchu in the mist

Machu Picchu in the mist


Machu and Wayna Picchu

Machu and Wayna Picchu


Machu Picchu terraces

Machu Picchu terraces


The National Geographic shot

The National Geographic shot


Llama on the lawn

Llama on the lawn

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Car, bus, train, foot

We were met at our hotel by our tour operator who walked us down the stairs to a car, which took us to the Cusco bus station. She gave us all of our tickets, explained who we needed to meet and when, and we were on our way. The bus drove us out through the Cusco suburbs and then on through some farmers' fields. We got our first glimpse of a snow-capped mountain from the bus. The bus ends at the train station at Ollantaytambo. We then got on a train to finish the route to Aguas Calientes. The train passed some desert/scrubby terrain full of cacti and other brush-type plants with very few trees. After a while, the scenery switched to forest without cacti, but with trees instead. Overall, the ride was very comfortable and relaxing- probably a better first-day-up-in-the-mountains activity than all he walking we did. The train ends at the Aguas Calientes train station. We were met by a guide who walked us to our hostel. There aren't any cabs (or any kind of car as best as I could tell) in AC as the whole town is made up of 3 short parallel streets. One of them is walkable and where the trains rest. One of them is where the buses to Machu Picchu drive. The other is only open to pedestrians, I think. The whole town is just a big tourist stop- the streets are lined with hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, and money changing shops. I'm not sure I saw a single building not aimed at tourists. The Spanish influence is clear here, even though they weren't in charge when the town was developed. The town still has a main plaza where they're building a new government building and where the church is. There are several small parks. One thing I noticed consistently throughout both Panama and Peru is that their parks are designed with a different purpose in mind than ours back home. In the US, parks are designed with baseball fields, soccer fields, swing sets, skate ramps, maybe even hiking trails or fishing lakes. The parks are designed for activities. In Panama and Peru, the parks were small segments of the cities with benches and seemed to be designed for just sitting and enjoying the moment of calm among all the hustle and bustle. I think it's quite a social commentary that even our spaces designed for relaxing are designed for organized activity. We sat in one of the small AC parks and just admired the river that ran along the edge of town. It was very calming. We need more parks like that one. After a while, we did get up and move on to lunch. After my previous negative experiences, I was even more determined to enjoy Peruvian food than ever. I got my wish at "Restaurant Pizzeria Chaski." All the restaurants aimed at tourists seemed to claim to be pizzerias, but not all of them actually had pizza. Chaski did, but they also had "typical" food. I got a soupy risotto of quinoa and vegetables. The sauce was flavorful and very good, the veggies were delicious, and the cheese, while from the same family as the cheese I had the day before, was much better. Additionally, I got hot chocolate. I think that they used a process closer to the one we use for making coffee as the chocolate had a very different flavor from the processed taste of every hot chocolate I've ever had before in my life. (I didn't even realize how un-chocolatey and processed everything I had before was until I had this cup. It changed my whole perspective on chocolate.) Since we weren't going to the hot springs in town (the only real thing to do), we went on the internet (S/3 or $1 per hour), took a nap, and went souvenir shopping. For dinner was relatively uneventful other than being rushed as we had to meet with our guide. He was 45 minutes late, which, while a very cultural thing from what I understand, was a little disappointing as people in the tourism industry should understand that 45 minutes is a lot for people from other cultures. He did walk us to the mini-grocery store when we were done though, so we were able to stock up on snacks for the following day. We went to bed without a headache and ready to get up early to see Machu Picchu.

Snow-capped mountain from the bus

Snow-capped mountain from the bus


Ollantaytambo station

Ollantaytambo station


Park in Aguas Calientes

Park in Aguas Calientes

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

A most exhausting birthday

We woke up super early to catch an early flight to Cusco. The rules about how early you need to be at the airport for a flight are different in Peru, and I'm very glad the Posada del Parque people made sure we knew this. The line gets very long and sometimes they won't let you check bags if you get to the front too late. There was a fee to exit the airport, which I thought they should just put in your ticket price, but whatever. We paid it and flew to Cusco. Even though I feel like a giant compared to everybody there (even the men), there was drastically more leg room on my South American flights than there were on my flights internal to the US. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to spread out. We got to Cusco and the first thing I noticed was how clean the air was. Especially compared to Lima, the air felt very fresh. It didn't hurt that the air was crisp with the cold of morning either. The driver drove us through the streets of Cusco and stopped next to some stairs. Not all of the streets in Cusco are designed for cars. Some of them, like the one our hostel was on, had stairs, or were mostly stairs- so we had to climb them to get to our hostel. In the morning, it was no big deal. After we dropped off our bags, we headed into town. At one of the plazas, we ran into some guys selling art on the street. One of the gave me the story about how he painted this stuff himself. Sorry, I'm not that dumb. I know that somewhere there's some factory where these painters paint the same thing over and over and then the English speaking guys take the paintings and sell them. I looked, but wasn't really interested in what the first guy had because the colors weren't bright enough for me. While he was peddling and trying to negotiate with me, an old woman was waiting with her fully grown llama (or alpaca, or vicuna, I'm not really sure). She asked if we wanted to take pictures with her and the llama. We did, figuring on giving her a couple of sols, but didn't negotiate ahead of time. We took pics and she wanted 10 sols apiece. I think we ended up giving her 8 total, which is much higher than the 1 sol that was the going rate. However, I don't really feel that bad as I didn't see her around town the rest of the day. Maybe we gave he enough that she was able to go home and rest. The rest of the day, all these young ladies with their babies in a blanket on their back and a baby llama in their arms wanted to get paid to take a picture with us. To be honest, I was happy we got the old lady and fully grown llama instead. On the way to the Inca museum, we did a little price checking so that we could negotiate later for better souvenir prices. The Inca museum had some neat artifacts- pots, tweezers, arrow/spear heads, etc. The permanent exhibit that stands out though is the mummy exhibit. Somebody found some Incan mummies and placed them in the museum behind some darkened glass. You can peek through the clear parts and see the mummies staring back at you. These aren't wrapped mummies like the stereotypical Egyptian ones, these are mostly just bones that have been preserved in clothes or a pot. The other exhibit that stood out was a temporary one (I think). Some lady was running a "tapestry learning center." On display were several exquisite tapestries that had been hand woven. According to the guide (Spanish only), the tapestries took 2-3 months each to make. She explained the symbolism of each item in the tapestries and helped us to find the pictures. (Imagine if Picasso drew a condor and then somebody wove it into a big rug. The body parts were all over the place, but it was gorgeous.) As the weather warmed up a bit, we headed over to meet our Machu Picchu tour people. I was really glad that we did an organized tour, but we'll get to that later. We foraged for food and ended up going to the first place that had vegetarian food and accepted credit cards. I was excited that they had plenty of "typical" Peruvian food that was also vegetarian. We split potatoes with huancaina sauce as an appetizer. Apparently the bitter curry-type sauce I got last night in Lima was huancaina sauce, the national sauce. It has yellow peppers, cumin (that's where I was getting the curry flavor from), and who knows what else in it. The potatoes were good once the sauce was wiped off, but that was a little difficult to do. I got choclo con queso as my main dish. Choclo is corn on the cob. However, this isn't sweet corn. The corn has the flavor of potatoes, the dryness of potatoes, and the chewiness of overcooked corn. I was trying really hard to eat it, but after a while my jaw hurt. The cheese it came with had the flavor of the cheap feta from the dairy aisle of the grocery store, but the texture of thick jello. I was trying so hard to like Peruvian food, but at some point I just gave up on my lunch. I shared some of Jen's pizza that, according to the menu, had "special sauce." That "special sauce" was ketchup. What was actually a little more annoying than not-so-great tasting, hard-to-chew food was the constant stream of vendors. This restaurant was on a plaza. As we ate outside, tons of street vendors came passing through, trying to sell us hats, bags, flutes, CDs, postcards, pins and other souvenir crap. I really didn't want to be bothered during lunch. There was this one guy selling postcards who I had bought from earlier in the morning and he just kept asking me to buy more. By the end of the day, I must have told him no a dozen times. We made our way over to the Cathedral, which is on the main plaza (as it is in most Spanish towns). This was a pretty interesting cathedral. In addition to the requisite gold and silver all over the place, it contained the cross first brought in by Pizarro and his men. It has a statue of a black Jesus, and a painting that showed Judas as moorish. (Clearly this was designed to teach a political lesson.) The last supper painting in the cathedral is humorous as the meal being served is guinea pig (cuy), a Peruvian staple for festive meals. The cathedral had a lot of similar examples of how the Catholics attempted to convert the indigenous people by reconciling the religions and trying to convince the people that it was all the same. My favorite reconciliation is a statue of "Jesus the earthquake god" and a shrine to "Jesus the river god". On the one hand, the bible does refer to Gd as having many faces: Creator, King, Judge, etc. On the other hand, most of those are metaphorical roles related to people's souls as opposed to nature gods. But I digress. In any case, the cathedral is worth going to.

After that, we entered Coricancha (also spelled about a dozen other ways). This used to be a gold-laden temple of the Incas, but a lot of the gold was used to ransom an Incan king and then the Spanish converted it to a catholic building anyway. We saw examples of how the Incan workers built the temple with stones that fit so tightly together and no mortar (you couldn't slip a piece of paper in between them). They used a "lego" method where one stone would have a peg and the other a hole, then they would stack. Coricancha also had some beautiful gardens.

We stopped in a free art exhibit that was much more interesting than the old Spanish art, in my opinion. One of the works was a barbie wearing Incan silver. Another was a statue of a street vendor selling all the souvenir crap. I also stopped in an art store and negotiated to get two paintings for a reasonable price (S/200 for the pair with a paper showing who the artist was). However, the girl running the store didn't know how to work the credit card machine and really really wanted me to pay cash (which I didn't have). I agreed to come back later when she had the machine up and running and she'd waive the 10% extra. After our failure to eat a decent lunch, we were desperate for dinner and stopped in at Witches Brew. The decor was nice and the food (I had spring rolls and eggplant parmesan) was decent too. I was pretty excited about being able to have real veggies. I really wanted to go for the Peruvian food, but knew that I had to make sure to eat something, so I played it safe. The food was different than it would be in the US, so I was somewhat gratified that it wasn't a complete cop out. We had been traipsing all over town, up and down hills, without really realizing it. The plazas were beautiful and we did plenty of sitting in them. We people watched, rejected street vendors (BTW, some of the street vendors with carts sell TP, which I found amusing), and took pictures of birds, but maybe not enough. They encourage you to rest your first day at altitude for a reason. I had been given sorroche (altitude sickness) pills to start taking a few days ahead of time, had been drinking plenty of water, and had a small headache. I had also been slightly nauseous since I started taking them, but nothing worth worrying about. Jen didn't have pills. She was doing much worse than me from a headache standpoint and also from a stomach standpoint.

After dinner, we went back to the art store to pick up my pieces, and the credit card machine still wasn't working. The girl had to run to a different store to get another sales person to teach her how to use it. As she finished the sale and started packing up my art, we were talking and Jen was trying to rest and make the sorroche go away. The girl was asking me about being from the US and do I see any stars? I explained that in DC our "stars" are people like Obama and senators more than actors and singers. Plus, I don't shop at the same grocery stores as they do. It was interesting to hear her opinion of how many stars were in the US. We talked about Michael Jackson, quite the hot topic, and she asked me about my boyfriend, which also seems to be a recurring theme that people there want to talk about. I told her I was single and she was amazed. "In Peru," she said in Spanish with all seriousness "you wouldn't be. The boys here are wolves." I'm pretty sure that was the funniest thing I heard the whole trip.

We headed back to our hostel to get a good night's sleep as we had to get up very early in the morning. The stairs sucked late at night, with a headache, after having walked around all day and not having taken my asthma meds. I was very glad to eventually reach the top and get into bed. My crazy family called me in the middle of night (it was even later their time than mine) to wish me a happy birthday. I appreciated it the next day, but I think I was a little too groggy on the phone to really remember what anybody said. On to Aguas Calientes....

View from our hostel

View from our hostel


Choclo con queso, potatoes w/ huancaina sauce

Choclo con queso, potatoes w/ huancaina sauce


Coricancha

Coricancha


Silver Inka angel barbie

Silver Inka angel barbie


My art

My art

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Lima, the first time

We got up, had breakfast (included with the room), and immediately got started. We began at Exposition Park. I think this might have been a world´s fair park, or something like it. Either way it was neat. There were some pretty neat buildings, some clown statues, and some places to just sit and enjoy nature. I enjoyed it. We kept walking north towards the center of downtown, the Plaza Mayor. On the way, we passed the dingiest Sheraton I´ve ever seen. When we got close, we could tell the inside is neat, but the outside looked pretty shady. I think that´s because all of the cars and buses are sol old and put out so much nastiness that the soot just covers that part of town. There were other buildings that would have looked nice, except that they were also covered in the gray. It really made me appreciate US emissions testing. We passed an Italian Art Museum (I´m not quite sure what that´s doing here) and Plaza San Martin, with the Mercedes Church. Eventually, we got to Plaza Mayor. One of the first things I noticed were the bored cops with the crown control shields. They were prèpared for protests (apparently there had been some earlier in the month that were less than pretty), but there were no protesters. As such, the cops were just standing around, talking to each other in order to keep from falling asleep on their feet. We went up to the Cathedral and wanted to go inside, but there was a mass going on, so we decided to head elsewhere first. As it turned out when we tried to go back later, it was the Pope's holiday and the Cathedral wasn't open for visitors, just mass. We figured we'd try again when we were back in Lima again. We saw the governor's palace, which is also on the plaza and is quite exquisite. On our way out of the plaza, we passed the church next to the Cathedral. It had some really cool door knockers. We enetered the monastery around the corner for a tour. They wouldn't let us take pictures, but I wish I could have. From the balcony, we saw a mass going on, and could see all of the monks dressed in their robes. It was kind of neat that there were still monks using the monastery in this day and age. We also got the opportunity to see the intricately carved choir chairs and the big rotating music stand that they used to use (it was cheaper and easier to have one big songbook than many individual ones). They had a big music book open in the library so that we could see what it looked like on the inside. Along with that, they had thousands of very old books. But, unlike the library in Dublin that protected the books, this library had them open to the elements. The window was open and there was nothing stopping the weather and the birds from coming in. I'm not a librarian, but I don´t think that is the best way to preserve old books for future generations. In addition to the old books, many of their original art on them. There were Moorish-style tile mosaics and ceilings, large frescoes, paintings, and statues. Many of the items were plated in gold foil. Our tour of the monastery ended in the catacombs. The ceilings were low, but manageable and the walls were brick as opposed to dirt. We entered through a side set of stairs, but the original entrances were simply grates in the floor of the church/ceiling of the crypts. However, the grates are still there, and we walked under them. The church should remind ladies in skirts not to stand over them during services. 'Nuff said. According to our guide, there are 25 thousand people buried here over 3 centuries. However, when an archeologist went to go dig up some of them, the humidity had gotten to a lot of the bones other than the heads, legs, and arms. So, he took what remained and sorted them into large bins in the floor. The catacombs also have some brick wells designed to help in earthquakes, and these have been filled with the bones of regular people (not clergy) in interesting bone designs. After the dead people, we headed over to see the dead animals at the market. In addition to the standard animals and parts you would find at a market in the US, I was able to identify tripe, some guinea pig (I think) and some other types of meat. They also had veggies and fruits, but we had no where to cook them and were told not to eat things that were simply washed as the water might not be good. Somehow, we still had our appetites and headed over to Chinatown for lunch. Apparently Lima is known for its "Chifas" or Chinese restaurants. It was a little interesting trying to decode the Spanish Chinese. Some things were relatively easy to figure out (wantan=wonton for example), but others were harder. I ended up getting fried rice that was supposed to have tofu in it, but didn't. Basically, it wasn't that different from fried rice in the US except that there were more green veggies and fewer carrots. The real difference was the portion size. This plate was HUGE. If we'd had a place to keep it and reheat it, I could have had it for at least 3 meals. Also, the soy sauce tasted different. I think it was a little fuller and darker than what I'm used to. We somehow managed to drag our gravid stomachs up toward the river Rimac and walked through a park just south of the river. We were very tempted to try to get on the moonbounces and other attractions that the kids were having fun on, but we thought they might frown upon two grown, foreign women trying to play like kids. Peru is very much a cash society. Very few places accepted credit cards, and those usually charged an additional 10% for the privilege to use a card. Even the places that accepted cash didn't want to make you change. We would go somewhere that was S/20 to get in and try to pay with S/50 and they'd ask if we had anything smaller. I never saw a cash register, so I wonder where all the money went. In order to break a big bill as that is what the ATMs give you, we went shopping. Jen negotiated for a blanket and was able to knock the lady down a little from the original price. When she went to pay, the lady asked her if she had anything smaller, and when the answer was no, she went to a neighboring shop to get change. You'd think these people make one sale a day the way they never seem to have money. Along those lines, they also check every bill. They accept dollars as easily as sols, but not if they have even the tiniest tear or are wrinkly. So- bring a big stash of crisp small bills if you want to buy stuff in Peru. Also, we were told not to exchange money with the people on the streets wearing green jackets as they often have counterfeit money. Since dollars are easily accepted everywhere though, we didn't really need to use them. Now that we had change, we went to catch a bus- what an adventure! The buses are more or less large minivans with a higher ceiling so that people can stand. They have a few extra rows of seats because the seats are much thinner, they don't have seatbelts, and they can fit a backwards row in the front. The doors are sometimes standard minivan sliding doors, but are often folding doors like you might find on a closet. The driver drives, slowing down at marked stops and wherever there are people flagging him down on the side of the road. The ticket person leans out the window (it has been removed from the minivan door) or the door (if it is a folding door) and shouts where the bus is going to. If it is your bus, you flag it down and hop on, sometimes while it is moving slowly. Because we didn't know the decoder ring to figure out where the buses went, we always had to ask the ticket person if that bus was going our way. As a result, the bus was always at a complete stop when we got on. The buses are almost like a huge conveyor belt around the city. Unlike many places in the US, you never had to wait more than a minute for your bus. The street was packed with buses and often several going the same way would stop at the same time, all vying for the same passengers. The people getting on the buses were from all walks of life. Throughout our stay in Lima, we rode the bus several times, and it became one of my favorite parts of the city. I got a chance to see little old ladies, business people in suits, teenagers, moms with kids, nurses in their scrubs, helpful old men, and well-dressed 20 somethings all ride the bus. It really wasn't that shady. If you had room left on your bus, peddlers would sometimes get on at one stop and then get off at the next. In between, they tried to sell you gum, candy, or other snacks. Room is a relative term. We rode one bus where every seat was filled (including the front seat with the driver), and people were standing all the way from the back to the door. We didn't think anybody else could get on. And yet, at one stop, we got another passenger. Beyond just the adventure of riding the bus, it was cheap and very convenient. Most of our bus rides were across town and were 1 sol (33 cents). The expensive one from the airport on our second day in Lima was 2 sols (gasp!) or 66 cents. For those who weren't quite up for the adventure of the bus, the other 50% of the vehicles on the road are taxis. While they are super expensive compared to the buses, they are still very cheap. Plus, the taxis charge you per ride. If you were so inclined, you could share it with as many people as you wanted to. We got to where we wanted to be in the north part of Miraflores and asked the ticket person for a stop. The bus stopped 2 lanes into traffic, but at least it stopped and didn't make us get off while it was moving. Since the 1st lane was just for other buses anyway, we made it across safely. Our final tourist destination for the day was Huaca Pucullyana. These are some ruins that had been abandoned pre-Inca. When Lima was developing, 2/3 of the ruins were covered in houses before somebody thought to step in and try to preserve them. As a result, there are these ruins in the middle of a neighborhood. The entrance fee came with an English-speaking tour guide who took us around the ruins and told us about the people who used to live there. She told us about their sacrifices, why sharks were sacred and how they made adobe bricks by hand. There were a few mannequins demonstrating some of what the guide told us. Additionally, in one corner of the site there was a little farm. It had a plant section that showed native plants and an animal section where we could see llamas, alpacas, birds and guinea pigs. They also had a native Chimo dog roaming the site. We learned that llamas make a better pack animal but that alpacas have better fur. They are closely related though, as you can interbreed them. After the tour, we took the bus back to the north part of town and had dinner at Roky's, a place that seemed to be some sort of chain diner. It was a little difficult to find a vegetarian meal that didn't have any fresh vegetables in it (like a salad). I was told not to drink the water, which also translates to not eating anything that was washed in it and not cooked. I had to get a little creative, but I ended up getting some pasta, which was not very Peruvian (although the sauce was). They also put this yellow sauce out on the table. I tried some of Jens fries in it and it was bad. It almost tasted like a bitter curry. The fries were good though. Peru has something like 2000 species of potatoes and it was obvious from eating the fries that these were not made of the same kind of potatoes we might find back at home. I like them much better actually. After dinner, we walked back to our hotel. At least where we were in Lima, it really didn't seem that shady. There were plenty of people outside, going about their business. We got back to our hostel* and went to bed.

Tomorrow: Off to Cusco

  • Posada del Parque calls itself a hostel, but really it's much, much nicer. First off, it has a good location in the middle of the north side of the city. It is a block or so from a major road. At the same time, it is on a tree-lined cul-de-sac that makes you completely forget that you are in a busy, polluted city. Secondly, it has a lot of character. All of the buildings in the neighborhood seem to have been colonial Spanish mansions. This one has high ceilings, the original big wooden doors, and is decorated with tons of Peruvian folk art. The place is very well maintained, both from a functionality standpoint, a cleanliness standpoint, and a prettiness standpoint. Beyond all that, the service is great. The people at the front desk were very helpful, whether it was helping us locate attractions or food, calling a taxi, or taking care of our questions. The included breakfast was simple (bread, butter, jam, OJ, and coca tea), but good. They had 2 good computers with free internet. Honestly, it is more of a bread and breakfast or a small hotel than a hostel. I was very happy with our accommodations in Lima.

Art at our hotel

Art at our hotel


Exposition Park

Exposition Park


Cool knockers at church

Cool knockers at church


Bench in Chinatown

Bench in Chinatown


Guinea Pigs- Yum

Guinea Pigs- Yum


Huaca Pucullyana

Huaca Pucullyana

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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