Tuesday, 28th October
I awoke to scenes of the Pacific coast out of the window as the sun was coming up. You could see fishing boats out in the surf making the morning’s catch in the half-light. It makes quite a picture. We had a good nights sleep, well good for a bus that is. It was comfortable and they didn’t play movies too late although they have chosen some odd ones on the bus rides we have been on so far. This time it was a double-feature with cancer the main theme in both. Pretty depressing stuff, just as well they were in Spanish so we couldn’t follow them too closely. We were fed breakfast, just a jam roll and cup of coffee, as we rolled into the outskirts of Lima. The traffic is super busy here and we are arriving into the centre at around 9am, but then you get the impresion it’s always busy here. We stop and start our way to the northern bus terminal (Plaza Norte), the first stop for the bus. We stayed on the bus and continued on for another hour or so as we made our way through central Lima to the second and last stop, the Javier Prado ‘Tepsa’ bus terminal. We were told this was better for us as we are staying in a suburb to the south of the city, by the coast, called Miraflores. The ride across the city was interesting, and a good way to get to see parts of the city that you wouldn’t otherwise go to or necessarily want to go to. The cab we took from the bus terminal to our hostel had seen better days but it got us to our destination through the rush hour traffic in one piece. We had arrived at Parque Kennedy (named after JFK), in the heart of the Miraflores district, where our hostel, the ‘Flying Dog Hostel B&B’ is lcoated.
Lima is located in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers, in the central coastal part of the country, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The population of the urban area is around 9 million, and is the most populous metropolitan area of Peru, and the fifth largest city in the Americas. It houses around one-third of the total Peruvian population and being in a desert, Lima is the world’s second largest desert city, after Cairo, Egypt. It was founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro on January 18, 1535, as ‘Ciudad de los Reyes’. It became the capital and most important city in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru and following the Peruvian War of Independence, it became the capital of the Republic of Peru.
When we get to the hostel, luckily we find our room is ready so we were able to check-in, dump our bags and shower before heading out for a coffee. There are loads of cafes and places to eat around about, this is a bit of a hotsopt for ‘gringos’ apparently. Kirsty found a nice cafe (‘Kulca’) for us to stop at close to Parque Kennedy where we could figure out what we do with our day. We don’t feel that bad from the journey having had a good nights sleep. After a coffee we settle on a place found through Trip Advisor for lunch. They do a set lunch of the day and when we arrive at ‘El Fogon’ it’s clear they are popular with the working crowd. We get overtaken a couple of times in the queue for tables before we realise we have to be more assertive as otherwise people will just stride on through to take the next table. We got seated and both had a large plate of ceviche to start then I had some fish and prawns for the main and Kirsty has a pork dish, both served with rice and a fermented maize drink, ‘Chicado Morado’. After a quick and filling lunch we drop off Kirsty’s new hairdryer (the old one blew up) back at the hostel after checking out Parque Kennedy and the multitude of stray cats (see pictures) and then make for the coast. We are only a couple of hunded metres here from the Pacific Ocean and when we get there are reminded of Brighton beach with all the pebbles. It isn’t a sandy beach here. There aren’t many people sunning themsleves but a lot of people in the sea surfing and people paragliding overhead. You can see all along the coastline here and the shapes of the Lima skyline on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. We found a pier with a fancy restaurant that we might visit tomorrow for a Pisco Sour in the sunset. By now though we’re both feeling pretty tired, maybe from the two overnight buses, so we head back to the hostel to have a sit down and figure out what to do with our onward journey. We have to figure out Machu Picchu somehow and we decided on booking another overnight bus to Cusco (21 hours away) for the day after tomorrow. From there we will skip through a few villages in the ‘sacred valley’ and check out Machu Picchu. Pleased that we have that out of the way we decide to head out for dinner but before we get somewhere we are leapt upon but an eager bar owner so we opt for a drink in his bar first. After the Pisco concoction we are served we aren’t terribly hungry so we just snack on the food stalls in the Parque Kennedy that have set up for the night. I have a deliciuos roast pork roll and Kirsty has a desert. Whilst eating my roll I have around seven cats staring me down for a morsel. This park is full of cats, everywhere you look there are cats, asleep in the flowers, in the shade of a tree, even on benches. They seem well looked after with people feeding them and there are water bowls laid out. It’s quite odd just how many there are and they don’t look mangey. They seem content with their life stuck in a small park surrounded by the hustle and bustle of Lima. We head back to the hostel and have a game of table football before bed.
Wednesday, 29th October
Our hostel does a free breakfast served around the corner at a local cafe so after showering we get our breakfast vouchers and head out. The cafe is actually an ice-cream parlour so it feels a bit odd to be sitting there eating egg and toast. We both feel a bit dopey today so after breakfast we opt not to go to a museum as had been our original plan and instead decide to walk around a bit and check out some of the nicer suburbs of Lima. Without going back to the hostel we head off from Parque Kennedy along one of the main roads but are soon wanting to find a side road to walk down as the pollution from the traffic consumes the air. We wound our way down small residential streets with the odd commercial strip towards the Pacific Ocean. We find ourselves coming out onto a park next to the ocean on top of a cliff. This park extends quite some way along the coast and has a walkway to follow, away from the traffic. We walk along this walkway from the lighthouse at one end to a shopping centre built into a cliff-face at the other end. Along the way there are plenty of people out doing their jogging for the day and stopping off at outdoor gym equipment do to some pull-ups or something similar. Lima seems like a very active city, at least in the suburbs we have visited, with people out jogging, playing tennis, surfing and so on. The shopping centre is pretty high end and not really one for wandering around, not that any are in my opinion but as we have been travelling I do enjoy from time to time to walk around these places and get a feel for what people are doing. This shopping centre seems to be here for rich tourists and locals though so not that interesting. From the shopping centre we walk on, along the coastal path on the cliff edge to a suburb called ‘Barranco’. This is next to Miraflores and is similar in that it’s safe to walk around, has nice restaurants and cafes dotted about the place and nice houses to look at. We found a nice cafe to stop and rest our legs at (‘Bodega Verde’) where Kirsty had a Rooibos tea, myself a coffee with a brownie. When I ordered the brownie I was expected a cake-sized piece of brownie. What I got was an inch-cubed chocolate covered brownie. Still nice but underwhelming. We were feeling hungry for lunch by now so walked on in the hope we might come across a decently priced restaurant in this rich neighbourhood. We found the main square of Barranco and around here there were lots of restaurants doing their set lunch of the day. We opted for ‘La Roble’ (means ‘the oak tree’) which had an oak tree growing inside, to have our lunch. It was tasty but as with all food in Central and South America a bit salty to say the least.
After lunch we decided to walk on as we had enjoyed a day of walking aimlessly, something we haven’t done for a while. These suburbs of Lima are good for that as they have the occasional cafes to stop at, nice houses to look at, parks to walk through and most importantly they are safe. We walked along some different roads, winding our way all the way back to the pier that we stopped at yesterday but didn’t go inside – ‘La Rosa Nautica’ for a couple of Pisco Sours overlooking the ocean and watching the surfers do their thing with the sea birds out feeding. This is a fancy restaurant and we just stayed in the bar area enjoying a coupe of drinks. To start we both had a Pisco Sour, mine was a coca concotion and Kirsty’s a passionfruit one. From there we had the ‘touristic’ version. Cheaper but still good. This was a bit of an extravagance on a travellers budget but it was so nice to sit in a fancy bar, on a pier, on top of the Pacific Ocean enjoying a drink and a sit down looking out over the water and waves towards the city. With a couple of sours under our belt we walked back to the hostel, arriving ater the sun had gone down and with sore feet. For dinner we opted for the roast turkey rolls from the Parque Kennedy vendors again followed by a desert of rice pudding and fruit compote. There is a really nice culture here of people going out and socialising in the small parks over a bite to eat from these food carts. We have really enjoyed this ourselves the last two nights. Whilst we ate our turkey rolls (Kirsty had one too, tempted by the goodness, despite the gluten content) we were harassed yet again by the stray cats. I gave in and fed them some scraps after we were done. We have noticed a sign close by the park saying it’s illegal to dump cats in this park so we think they might be unwanted pets left here. They all do seem very healthy and looked after. Once back at the hostel there’s not much going on so we head to bed.
Thursday, 30th October
We wake up, shower and after packing and checking out have free breakfast in the ice-cream bar again. From here we decided to visit the Museo Larco, a collection of artefacts put together by an archaeologist called Rafael Larco Herrera. It is housed in an 18th-century vice-royal building built over a 7th-century pre-Columbian pyramid and showcases chronological galleries that provide a thorough overview of 4,000 years of Peruvian pre-Columbian history. It is well known for its gallery of pre-Columbian erotic pottery. We caught a cab to the museum and are glad we did because it takes easily half an hour in the taxi, so in a bus it would’ve taken over an hour at least I guess. The ride still only costs us PEN15 though (around US$5). We had some trouble getting a cab in the first place with my pronunciation of the museum name causing some confusion and one cabbie point blank refusing to go to that neighbourhood. It was nice to ride through the city again and see different suburbs from the ones we have spent most of our time in so far. The museum was expensive relative to what we have paid on this trip for other museums and galleries (PEN30, around US$10) but you could see why when you walked in. It is set in the most amazing grounds with brightly coloured flowers everywhere and so well looked after. The displays were interesting, giving information in English (as well as Spanish, German and French) which helped us understand what we were looking at.
We spent a couple of hours in the museum, marvelling at the workmanship and skill of the artists who created the pieces. There is a rather nice restaurant at the musum that we had thought we might have much at but we couldn’t get a decent table and after seeing the menu and the associated prices decided to cab it back to Miraflores for a cheaper lunch closer to the hostel. We still had a few hours until we had to be at the bus terminal. We paid the same price for the cab on the way back. I had thought we might be stranded and left having to pay more but it pays to chose a cab in need of some attention apparently. There were some drivers just outside the musum wanting PEN30 (twice the price) for the same ride.
We had seen a vegetarian organic restaurant (‘AlmaZen’) on our wanderings through Miraflores the other day so we headed there for lunch and it turned out to be a good choice. The food took it’s time in coming out but when it did we were greeted with an array of colour and favour on our plates, something we have missed lately. Food is Peru is meant to be good, and we have eaten well but not to the level we were expecting from what people say. We have decided that you need to up the budget and pay for it I think. The cheap lunches of the day are good for the price but despite the ceviche we have had here, they do lack imagination, colour and decent seasoning. This time we had two plates of fantastic food. I had a plate of native andean potatoes, I had no idea potatoes could come in so many shapes, sizes, flavours and textures. Kirsty had a stuffed aubergine. I think we have seen the side to Peruvian cooking that everybody raves about now. After lunch we went to the supermarket to get some snacks, our next bus ride is over 20 hours so we thought some supplies might be in order. Once that was out of the way we found piece of lemon meringue pie, it seems to be everywhere here and they certainly do a good one although could do with more lemon to go with the mountain of meringue on top. We then went back to the hostel to pick up our backs and wait for our cab to the bus terminal.
The ‘Cruz del Sur’ bus terminal wasn’t that fair away but it still took around 30 minutes in the cab to get there. Once we boarded the bus we could see what all the fuss was about with these buses. We had paid a bit more for this bus company as we had heard good things. The seats are faux leather, each seat has a TV screen embedded, like on planes and there are only three seats to a row meaning you get more width. Just as well as we would be on this bus from 5:30pm today until after 3pm tomorrow. I watched a couple of films before we were served dinner then nodded off, or tried to at least.