Friday, 26 May 2013
I finally arrived at the hotel just after 11pm, after a 23 hour journey from home, across different time zones, 7 hours back in time. My arrival at Aeroporte Internacional Jorge Chàves coincided with the anticipated arrival of some sort of teenage celebrity. If I wasn’t so tired and my Spanish so
non-existent poor, then I may have tried to make an effort to find out who. But there were teenagers with balloons everywhere in the arrivals area, on the galleries singing very excitedly. Unfortunately, this made spotting the guy with the G Adventures sign a bit difficult… So after walking up and down through the throng of teenagers chanting and singing, I decided to phone the hotel, whom claimed not to have any knowledge of a pick-up, but after the second phone call offered me the number of the emergency contact for G Adventures, which number did not work. Thank goodness, after some time I finally spotted an equally nervous young man with a G Adventures sign, desperately trying to find me.
After finding a taxi and starting our journey to the hotel, with two other G Adventures travellers, who had to be dropped off at another hotel, I started relaxing and the first thing I thought is, that this could be Africa! The traffic at 11pm at night, with cars hooting and people stopping anywhere on the road, made me think of Africa and in particular of Egypt. The taxi driver had to negotiate his way around traffic circles, past cars that stopped in the middle of a busy road to talk to a pedestrians, and it was clear why so many of the cars looked dented and old!
After a while, the road started meandering along the coast, and I had my first spotting of the Pacific Ocean, or like the taxi driver exclaimed, ‘Pacifico’, like it was a sweetheart that he was introducing to us. It was dark and I couldn’t see much, but the dark expanse of water with lights from ships in the distance fascinated me. Finally, we reached the hotel, and I checked into my room with a sigh of relief. This was going to be a great trip!
Saturday, 27 May 2013
After a fitful night of sleep, I woke up early with a rumbling tummy. Travelling over time zones, eating breakfast at lunch time, a light lunch in early afternoon and an early dinner, it took me a while to work out that I had last eaten around 17:00 local time, so no wonder I was hungry…! I also regretted not listening properly to what time breakfast was being served, and decided that 8:00 was a safe time. So, I sort of twiddled my thumbs, read a bit and assured everyone back home that I was safe and sound, until I could finally head off to the breakfast room. Which, unfortunately was a bit of a disappointment. Yes, maybe I should not have been so adventurous and shouldn’t have ordered the Peruvian breakfast and laid low on the (strong) coffee, but nevertheless, I got something in the stomach.
By 9:00am I was ready to hit the streets of Lima, or the Miraflores district in any event. For starters, I needed to go and buy a converter plug, because my googling clearly let me down and the plugs were all American and Japanese in the hotel, as opposed to the European plugs I was expecting. And I wanted to buy a data card for my iPad, so save on roaming charges (even though the hotel had excellent wi-fi).
Wary of the fact that I often get lost, I had a quick squiz at the map and hit off in the general direction on the major streets on the map…which I assumed led to the shopping area. Which it did….except that the only shops open at 9:00am in the morning were pharmacies. It appears that the other shops in Miraflores district only opens at 10:00am on a Saturday morning. So, I did a walk around, discovered the John F Kennedy park, which had free wi-fi (free wi-fi is a strange phenomena for someone from South Africa, I would have you know), and was transported back to the 80’s after hearing Modern Talking’s Brother Lois being played super loud from a passing car.
I found the converter plug fairly easy, but the data card appeared to be a bit more of a challenge, especially if you cannot speak Spanish. I headed back to the hotel, not sure what time my friend Ingrid and her husband were arriving from Quito. They arrived just after 11:00am and we decided to head towards the beach area for a spot of lunch and a bit of sightseeing.
Miraflores is the touristy area of Lima, and quite pretty, with a beautiful promenade and touristy shops with a view over the beach, or rather, the Pacific Ocean. The restaurant we chose for lunch, specialised in chicken, but I was like a local version of the Spur restaurant chain back in South Africa, which basically is a cheap Mexican steakhouse joint. My chicken salad consisted of a large heap of chopped up lettuce, with a side portion of chicken. The lemonade was good though…. After lunch, we headed back for a little siesta and only then did I suddenly realise how tired I was!
For dinner, Ingrid and Rob scouted the Tripadvisor and we visited a local Italian restaurant with delicious pasta on the menu. The hostess was a charming Spanish lady who went out of her way to make us feel welcome. We were the only patrons in the restaurant (either because it was early or because Lima residents don’t really eat dinner…), so we got special treatment! The pasta was delicious, the portions very generous and the prices very reasonable. All and all a very good day!
Sunday, 28 April 2013
I went to bed with a nagging thought of going for a run in the morning. We booked a tour which started at 9:00am, so whichever way, I had agreed to meet Ingrid and Rob for breakfast (take 2) at 8:00am. I woke up just after 6:00am, and decided that I would go for a short run. The previous day, we were talking about the route to the beach, as the promenade is quite high up along a cliff and I decided to take the road to the beach and then take the first road up towards the promenade that I could find. What I didn’t realise, was that the first road up towards the promenade was at the end of the the route, on the border of Miraflores, quite a bit further than I had intended to run. So, my 30 minute run, ended up as a 40 minute run, and in the humid climate, I was literally dripping with sweat by the time I got back to the hotel. It was a fantastic way to see the local area, so I was glad that I did it!
After a quick (equally disappointing) breakfast, we met our local tour guide for our day tour to Lima and Pachacamac. We booked two tours of three hours each with the same tour company, Haku Tours. The guide, Edwin, quickly suggested that we would be better off doing Pachacamac in the morning and the old city tour in the afternoon. Something to do with the mist/sand cloud and direction of the sun. And who are we to argue! He suggested that he then takes us to a local place for lunch and continue with the city tour in the afternoon.
Edwin turned out to be an excellent guide, with a degree in Sustainable Tourism. His company supports the local communities and ploughs money back into some of the poor communities. And his endless energy and enthusiasm was contagious.
En route to Pachacamac, a pre-Inca site build in the desert of Peru, south-east of Lima, we drove through a Shantytown, on the outskirts of the glamorous Chorrillos district. Despite the poor state of affairs, I loved the colourful houses and it is clear, that even here, tourism is a very important aspect of the economy.
Pachacamac was pretty awesome. Most of the buildings were built between 800-1450 BC, and there are several pyramids. Not quite the size of the Egyptian pyramids, but otherwise, the sand dunes, nearby residential areas reminded me a lot of Cairo. In fact, there seem to be a lot in common between the Inca culture and the ancient Egyptian cultures.
After our visit to Pachacamac, Edwin took us to one of the local areas for a quick lunch, which ended up being one of the best lunches we had on the trip, and exceptionally cheap.
After lunch, we went for our City of King’s tour, which did not disappoint. A highlight was certainly the Catacombs of the Monastery of St Francis, where there are large and deep holes, filled with bones and skulls arranged in circular formations and sorted by type of bones. It is quite creepy and our guide indicated that this was done by a Spanish priest post the Spanish conquest. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures in the catacombs, but it was certainly a memorable visit.
The Spanish colonial style buildings in Lima are very impressive and you can imagine being in the centre of a Spanish Plaza in the old city centre of Lima. Several buildings still feature the original wooden balconies and Spanish baroque, and colonial style buildings
Our tour eventually ended around 16:30 in the afternoon, which essentially meant we had a seven and a half hour private guided tour, as opposed to the six hours tour we booked and paid for. Fantastic value.
It was time to head back to our hotel for a shower and a meet up with the rest of the G Adventures crew for our tour to the Amazon, Cuzco and the Inca trail!
Lima certainly did not disappoint and the city is certainly more than just a stopover on the way to Machu Picchu!