Leaving Lima

3 11 2012

Hola amigos! How strange it feels to be on the Internet, to be doing something I would do at home, when nothing else we do is remotely close. But we´re having such a great time!

After my last post, we continued to explore Lima. As night fell, the streets became packed with people. Of course – it was Halloween!! Families were out trick-or-treating, though it seemed like they were begging candy from businesses rather than homes. And no one over the age of 11 was dressed up, except maybe a mask here or there – a nice change from the American custom of girls using Halloween as an excuse to dress as slutty as possible in public and get away with it. After a decicious dinner of lomo y papas (steak and potatoes), we headed home.

It´s funny the things we notice about wandering around the city. Lima very much reminds me of Cuernavaca, Mexico, where I spent 4 weeks while in college. The houses are tucked back away from the roads, hidden behind tall walls and ornate gates or doors. The traffic is absolutely insane. Everyone honks constantly; cars, buses, and motercycles dart from side to side with little regard to the lanes; and cars bully other vehicles and pedistrians alike for right away in intersections. So much mayhem. Shops also seems to be grouped in districts: whole blocks would be jewelry shop after jewelry shop, then suddenly every shop seemed to be shoes. Then we walked through one of the craft markets – so neat! I haven´t bought anything yet, but I can´t wait to get my hands on some of the colorful fabrics and soft wool.

Thursday morning, I jumped in the shower only to discover my face entirely sunburned. I looked like rudolph. 😦 We set out a different direction to see more of Miraflores, and came face to face with a fenced-off section: pre-Inca ruins right in the middle of the city! The place was called Huaca Pucllana, and I loved it. We didn´t pay to go in and get closer, but we could see plenty from the sidewalk. Also inside the excavation site, they had a little garden and pens, maybe to represent aspects of the culture. My first alpaca sighting! I tried to convince J to give me a boost over the fence so I could try to “commandeer” an alpaca to take home, but he was having none of it.

After exploring a supermarket (just like one in the States), we bought our bus tickets for Ica and Arequipa and left to enjoy the rest of Lima. We took advantage of their public transportation and found the Metro station. For a couple soles, we could ride the Metro to the Plaza de Armes, the city center. We crammed into the hot bus with everyone else and held on for dear life as we flew stop to stop. It was a pretty terrifying ride. At the Central Station, a man jumped on and said the route to our stop was closed for the day. Everyone off! We wandered around and got on a second bus, trying to get to our stop. Not happening. A nice employee finally told us that stop was completely closed, go back to the Central Station. We did, got off again, and decided to see if we could just hoof it.

We discovered we could just walk to the Plaza, so off we went. A little hole-in-the-wall cafe called to us, so we stopped for some pollo, sopa, y papas. Potatoes are honest-to-God served with every meal. I´m in paradise. The architecture in this part of Lima is indicitive of the early Spanish rule – lots of crumbling colonial style buildings mixed with the huge, maintained fancy buildings, all crammed in super close together. Then suddenly, the Plaza de Armes opened up in front of us. The mega-fancy capitol building stood at one end, heavily guarded, with a massive cathedral watching over the square to the right of it. Fountains, smooth stones from millions of passing feet, vendors competing for business, and nearly-tame pigeons filled the square. My chin spent a good amount of time on the pavement as I twirled in circles, gawking. J didn´t seem as impressed, but he´s been to Europe, to France and Rome, and he totally doesn´t count.

We took to the streets again in search of the famous Iglesia de San Francisco, a monestary from the 1500´s that J was willing to tour with me. I fell in love immediately, of course, with the ornate decor, the stories of monks and saints, the incredibly old paintings. But the best part of all – the catacombs! As was European tradidition, the church was built with catacombs underneath so the dead could be buried with the closest possible connection to God. The church was destroyed in an earthquake and rebuilt in the 1700´s, and the catacombs were opened to public burials, not just the super rich. The openings and passageways were extremely narrow and low, the “tombs” to the sides. (They were basically just holes were body after body was piled – the less fortunate didn´t get coffins.) Amazingly, the only bones we saw were leg bones, arm bones and skulls – the only ones strong enough to survive this much time. It was so creepy and so cool. The skulls especially.

After a pit stop for some legit chicha marada (a drink made from fermented dark corn), we braved the Metro back home. I rested to recover from a headache while J went searching for a watch, then we had a delightful dinner at this place called Aurelia´s. Delicious Italian food in Peru!

Friday was an early morning. We made it to the bus station and spent about 5 hours rocking gently from the second deck of the bus, watching the Peruvian desert go by. We finally arrived in Ica, down the coast from Lima, and shared a taxi with some other travelers to Huacachina, an oasis in the desert. We found a simple hostel room with a bunch of other backpackers, and booked a trip into the dunes. After finally tasting some ceviche for lunch (I did not realize it was raw fish…) we changed for our journey into the sand. Huacachina is literally a pond surrounded by sand dunes. Huge sand dunes. We loaded into giant dune buggies with others from the hostel and took off. Up and over the dunes, our hair flying, the guides knew what they were doing and showed us a great time. We stopped for what I thought was a photo opportunity, but the guides started pulling snowboards out of the back of the buggies. Sand boarding!! A few of the crazy folks (like J) strapped in to zoom down the dunes just like snowboarding, but the rest of us laid on our bellies to fly down face-first to the bottom. I screamed like a little girl and couldn´t wait for the next one. Every pocket, every ear and nostril and every inch of our clothing was full of sand by the time we finished, several hours later. It was an absolute blast.

After showers, we had dinner in the hostel and made friends with a couple from the UK. Awesome people. We laughed and shared stories from our parts of the world while drinking Pisco sours and munching on pollo and chorizo. Oh, and of course papas! Finally heading to bed, we got a great night´s sleep and have had a nice relaxing morning today. I burned my feet in the sand, ate galletas (cookies) for breakfast, and swung in the hammock. We leave tonight for an overnight bus to Arequipa, a larger city about 10 hours inland. Time to leave the coast. I´ve read all sorts of amazing things about Arequipa, and really can´t wait. We´ll see how the overnight bus goes!

I hope this finds you all well, and I apologize again for the lack of photos. Time is so short and I don´t know that this ancient computer can even read our SD card….

Until next time, adios! (J says hi)





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