Published: July 21st 2012July 21st 2012 Day 278 Sunday 15th July
The artisanal crafts market
We are Skipping town today so we are up early and down having our breakfast at 7. Probably could have slept in later as our bus wasn’t due to leave till 11 but it is always good to get an early start on the day. Packing was a breeze for me (Scott) but Shelley had her usual panic attack and three attempts before she got it right. Checking out was a breeze and was sort of glad to get out of the place, and we walked the two blocks to the bus terminal. We are travelling with Cruz Del Sur today which is regarded as one of the best companies in the whole of South America. They have multiple different classes of travelling, from Economico, Imperial, Especial, VIP, Super VIP and a dozen others. Today we are travelling “DIrecto”, please do not ask me what the difference between all the classes but we know that the top of the list (don’t know what that one is called) but it comes with full reclining seats that turn into beds and has waiter service.
Today’s bus started with the usual casual bag search and metal detector
Riot police getting ready for the riot
followed by a guy walking down the bus videoing everyone, which was a first for Peru. We were underway at a bit past 11 and were soon sweeping through the most amazing countryside. The area was just a series of low rolling pastoral hills surrounded by the huge jagged snow peaks of the Cordillera Blanca. These mountains are so pointy and broken that they resemble the mouth of a champion boxer, the tectonic forces here are massive. After travelling through this surreal landscape for an hour we started our descent down to the coast. It was a 3 kilometre drop from the mountains to the sea and so therefore the road was extremely steep and windy and had Shelley feeling fairly green for most of the time. Along the way we got served a chicken lunch, which was surprisingly good and then later in the afternoon we all had a game of bingo. Lucky for us the waiter/conductor/bingo operator read the numbers out in English as well as Spanish otherwise we would have had a hard time playing. Just before hitting the low coastal region we sank through the grey cloud cover that envelopes this region during the winter months
And the band played on
and we said a sad goodbye to the blue sky for a while. From April to October this coastal region including Lima is shrouded in a sea fog called Garua that rarely lets up, and gives everything a very dull grey feeling.
Around 6pm we hit the outskirts of Lima and our bus took a huge ring road around the town and dropped us off at their terminal at 7pm. The Cruz Del Sur bus terminal is a slick secure terminal and once we got our bags we had guys running around who organise taxis for everyone. Like most of the taxis we have got in South America the driver was a friendly guy who wanted to push the limits of his and our Spanglish with conversations of what his town had to offer and his knowledge of Australia. Because we are in a large city we have splurged on a great hotel that is located in the Miraflores area of Lima. This is a trendy modern part of the old town that is filled with a great mix of backpacker hostels, modern hotels, bars and restaurants and is located right on the coast. Our room is small but
Shelley at Plaza Mayor
has all the mod cons and the place has a great feel about it, so we straight away felt like we had made the right choice.
We dropped off our bags and walked the few blocks to a place called “pizza street”, which as you could imagine is filled with pizza restaurants. The touts out the front of each of the 20 odd restaurants are fairly persistent/annoying and as usual we went for the one where the guy didn’t bug us. The pizza wasn’t too bad but a bit over priced but it went down well after a day on a bus. Day 279 Monday 16th July
Today was one of those days where by the end of it you kind of wished that we had just stayed in bed and pulled the cover over our heads and not moved. Not saying the day was a disaster it is just that nothing went right or as the way we had planned. The day started with the realization that we were once again staying in a hotel that was in the process of being extended, with the soothing sounds of angle grinders and hammers to ease
Some dead guy's skull...well i hope he is dead
us from our sleep. Thankfully the hotel breakfast was superb so it kind of made up for the abrupt alarm clock. Today we planned on just to stick to the Miraflores area and check out the shops and take it easy as well as doing some chores.
First on the agenda was looking at getting the lens on our camera fixed. It has been giving us trouble for about 6 weeks and is slowly getting worse. Had a guy at a small camera place at Huaraz look at it and he kindly offered to pull it to pieces to see if he could fix it but we sort of got the feeling he didn’t know anything about SLR lenses and we had this mental image of him handing back the lens along with a bag containing the pieces that were left over and he couldn’t remember where they went. Since we were in a big city it was a great chance to track down a professional and get it looked at. The Lonely Planet had a place on the other side of Miraflores so we headed off on a 45 minute walk, but when we got there we discovered
that don’t do camera repairs but that kindly directed us back to a place near our hotel...oh well I guess we needed the walk. When we got to the camera repair place the guy there gave us the good news that yes our lens was stuffed and needed a new part and then gave us the even better news that you can’t get parts for Sigma lens in the whole of Peru. He did suggest we could buy a new lens at the nearby shopping centre, which was our plan B. Found the “Ripley” department store and the camera section, which although small had a selection of lenses we could chose from. Spotted one that was similar to ours and asked the question “Quanta Questa, por favor” (How much, please). The sales assistant looked up the price and told us back in English “thirty one hundred Sols”. It is sort of funny when you hear English when you expect Spanish and it takes that extra couple of seconds to compute and then it took a couple of more seconds to do the maths 3100 divided by 2.5 that means the lens is about A THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!!! No wait a minute
I have got that all wrong, where’s my calculator, OMG, it is over a thousand dollars, no I must have miss heard him “Quanta Questa, por favour?” But from the grimace on the young sales assistants face you just know you have heard right. The guy repeated the figure to us like he couldn’t believe it himself.
Went to plan C, which was a confirmation on the Sigma lenses and found yet another camera repair place close to the first one where a guy confirmed our worse fears. Yes our lens was stuffed, no you cannot get Sigma lenses fixed in Peru, and yes only the very rich can buy SLR cameras and lens. This at least answered our question why all the locals seem to only use the camera on their phones. For the moment the lens is still working so we will put up with it and when it does finally crash we will fall back on our cheapie camera. We went looking for a Lonely Planet on Bolivia only to discover that they, like cameras are expensive in Peru, and are in fact dearer than in Australia. We also went looking for a great book of
photos by Martin Chambi which contains photos of Cusco from the 1930’s , but after quite a few book shops we only found it in Spanish. Note we later checked Amazon on the net and can get the book cheaper and delivered to Australia rather than us having to carry it all the way home.
After the mornings disappointments we stopped for a bite to eat at a café and discovered that we could add milk shakes to the list of “only for the rich”. The average price of a milk shake is twice that of a beer so we sort of guess that Peru doesn’t have a dairy industry. After our feed we wandered around town some more and discovered an area of Miraflores that was packed with “Artisanal” (craft) souvenir shops. We haven’t bought a lot of stuff like that for a while so it was great to wander around them and we surprised ourselves at how much we picked up and most of the stuff wasn’t too badly priced providing you could haggle them down a bit. Wandered back to the hotel before heading out for dinner and then afterwards went to a bar for a
Plaza San Martin - with a Llama on her head
few drinks. The bars up near the restaurants are really expensive but in the back streets they are a lot cheaper and have great deals of two drinks for one all night. Whilst here drinking Pisco sours and chewing on a bowl of roasted corn kernels Shelley broke the crown on her teeth. I am unsure how she did it on those soft snacks, I mean if she had just whipped off the cap off a beer bottle I could understand, but corn kernels!! Thankfully she wasn’t in pain and the Pisco sours we were drinking helped. Despite Shelley’s warnings of being careful with having too many Piscos I managed to twist her arm on staying for more…silly man. They are an easy thing to drink and the full kick doesn’t really seem to hit you for a while but luckily for me that was after we had got home, but my main problem was the killer hangover the next day. Day 280 Tuesday 17th July
Never, ever going to drink again, well at least not those bloody Pisco sours, god they make you crook. Charlie who we met in Huaraz warned me that Pisco sours
Buildings in Plaza Mayor
were like Women’s breasts, “one isn’t enough, two is just right, but any more and it is more than you can handle”. The problem with them is they taste so good and go down well and if you get someone that makes them strong like we did last night they are lethal. Well I woke up crook as a dog, but Shelley the experienced “Pisco kid” was fine and only kept laughing at me for being a wimp. Took a long while to get me moving today but had to so we could get Shelley’s tooth fixed. Luckily for us the woman at reception gave us a recommendation for a place two blocks away. Had trouble finding it but the local street security guy was able to point the place out to us. A lot of the more affluent suburbs in the bigger cities in South America will often have a privately hired security guard wandering around keeping an eye on things. Sometimes he will reside outside just a couple of shops or hotels but more than often will patrol a block or just a section of a street. Seen these guys occasionally in Buenos Aires and Rio but were
Palacio de gobierno
all over Quito, Bogota and now Lima. Generally they are armed with nothing more than a smile and a nasty looking club whilst others carry around hand guns, shot guns and even machine guns. One of the more surreal sights was at a swish looking little café in Medellin Colombia that looked like one of those lovely little places grandmothers go to have a nice cup of tea and cake and it had a guy pacing up and down out the front in a flak jacket and a shot gun big enough to take out an elephant. We sort of guessed that the cake industry in Colombia was a tough business to be in.
Anyway the dentist we went to was fantastic but could only partially help me (Shelley) a new crown would take 7 days. After an x-ray she polished the jagged edges and said it should be OK till I get home, but I need to be careful and chew on the other side. The dentist only charged 50 soles ($AUD20) and gave me a hug and wished me luck for the rest of the holiday. Just wish she would move to Australia where I am looking
Palacio de Arzobispal
for a new dentist. The place is called Odonto Estetic (www.Odontoesteticaperu.com) in Miraflores and although I did not get anything major done I got a good feeling from her, well as good as you can from a dentist with a drill.
We stopped at an Arabic Restaurant for lunch which had nice food but not quite as we know it. Then onto my next adventure my hair needs to be done again so headed to a hairdresser we had seen yesterday. I am always apprehensive because not only do I get it cut but also coloured and this could be a disaster, well it turned out okay. The one in Bogota was definitely better but this is still good I have been lucky so far on the trip as I have not been able to get recommendations so it has all been pot luck. The girls even offered to dye Scott’s hair but he declined.
Tonight we went to an Italian Restaurant that looked promising as they said they handmade all their pasta and the décor looked the part, well that is where it ended. The meal was so bland and boring that we just looked at each
other and laughed at how bad it was. The waiter fussed over us checking that everything was OK, we did not have the heart to say NO. Day 281 Wednesday 18th July
After breakfast we grabbed a taxi to the old central part of Lima and our taxi driver gave us the rundown on the sites and places we should go including a place for lunch that he used to go to when he was a boy. This place El Cordano has been going since 1905 and is mentioned in the Lonely Planet so we pencilled it in. The traffic in Lima is horrendous and it took us for ever to get near where we wanted to be dropped off, then it just stopped the road was blocked and there was a detour. We decided to pay and just walk the remaining two blocks to the Plaza Mayor. It was now nearly 11.30am and at 12.00 noon there is a changing of the guard at the Palacio de Gobierno which is located on the plaza. The Army band started at 11.45 with pomp and ceremony and at 12.00 the troops started to move well more like
a slow motion march. The policeman in front of us obviously had seen it a hundred times and could not stop fidgeting and tapping his foot to the music. Then the school children also in front of us poor little things were just bored and more interested with what was in their backpacks and elsewhere and continued to step over the line that no one could cross as their exasperated teacher tried to contain them. With all this going on we had to keep reminding ourselves the reason we are here is the changing of the guard, but lucky it was all in slow motion so by the time we looked back up they had not moved much. It is done with skill but because everyone is positioned across the road and there is a huge heavy iron fence in front it does block the visibility and drama. The security regarding the whole thing was a little over the top with everyone pushed across the road and full riot squad police (with shields and machine guns) being positioned at the end of the street. I wasn’t sure if this was all in case someone attacked the marching band (perhaps due
Remains of dead saints in the Iglesia de Santo Domingo
to a pathological hatred to the concept of moving music) or if they were worried about some sort of crush of hysterical teenage girls along the lines of “Beiber fever”. Both seemed fairly remote so it did seem a tad over the top.
We looked around at the old buildings near the square and then over to the pink Iglesia de Santo Domingo to check out the resting place of three Peruvian saints. I found out the church has great acoustics when I dropped my lens cap and it echoed throughout the church and everyone turned to stare. The next stop was for lunch at El Cordano which is full of character and does not look like it has changed since it was built in 1905, there was even one of the waiters that looked original and moved as slow as the precision guards. The only thing that has changed is the clients which are now mainly tourists, so yes it is a tourist trap. We had a sandwich as the taxi driver said they were huge and we would have trouble finishing them, well he was a boy when he last went. The roll was as small as
Iglesia de San Francisco
my fist, tasty but not great value at 17 sols. The other meals did not look great but the beer was cheap so maybe the best choice would be to just drop in for a beer.
The next stop was bone chilling well actually just a whole lot of old bones at the Monasterio de San Francisco Catacombs. Here you get a tour which takes you through the monastery seeing such things as the geometric dome ceiling which was carved in 1625 of Nicaraguan cedar over the main staircase. This collapsed in the 1974 earthquake and had to be restored. There is also the original library which contains 25,000 antique texts some that predate the conquest. Then it was onto the catacombs which contain an estimated 70,000 burials and is still in use, apparently 2 monks have been buried there in the last year. This whole area is made up of low tunnels which have withstood all the earthquakes unlike parts of the church.
We then walked down the main street mall to Plaza San Martin to see the statue of him sitting on a horse, but more interesting is at the base a bronze rendering of the
Close up of the stonework on the Iglesia de San Francisco
Madre Patria the symbolic mother of Peru. The story goes that it was cast in Spain but something was lost in translation the original concept was for her to have a crown of flames, but word for flames in Spanish is Llama, so some craftsman actually put a Llama on her head instead of flames. A classic case of ensuring your work order is detailed and clearly written. I would just have loved to seen the faces on the guys receiving this statue back in Lima, a true “WTF” moment in history. From here it was onto the Cruz del Sur office to buy tickets out of town and taxi back to the hotel.
It is a shame we have heard that Lima has great food but it has eluded us so far, but maybe it is the price range we are eating in. So tonight we are in search of somewhere different and stumble across a small café a couple of blocks from our hotel and the food was pretty good although I swapped with Scott when it came out. Scott had actually asked for his recommendations on a meal that was “picante” (spicy) and the waiter suggested
Cerro San Cristobal. One of the many hills in Lima
Corden Blu, which is basically a chicken schnitzel with ham and cheese….hmmmm, doesn’t sound spicy to me. Scott ended up just ordering Lomo Saltado which is like a stirfry with beef, tomato, onion, potato and soy sauce and I had something that turned out to be fish and chips with mayonnaise. Day 282 Thursday 19th July
After breakfast we went for a half hour walk through the shopping district to the coast. For some strange reason we both had this perception that Lima was an inland city, and I guess when it was founded it sort of was, today however the city hugs the coast. The coastline around Miraflores is high sandy cliffs that fall sharply to a coastal road and some gravelly looking beaches. Built in to the top of this cliff under Parque Salazar is a shopping mall called LarcoMar, which at street level cannot be seen. It is a fairly small and boring shopping mall but the cafes all overlook the ocean so we decided to hang around till lunch and get the great view over a feed. Most of the eateries here are the chain/franchise type, and most are overpriced. Found one
A para glider near the Larcomar shopping centre
that had reasonable prices till we got the bill and they had whacked on a 18% tax as well as a 10% service charge. The tax and service charges can be common in other South American countries, but this is the first time we have been hit with it here. Came as a bit of a rude shock and have now vowed to be more vigilant when reading the menus.
We should have headed out on a tour of some nearby ruins (Pachacamac) today but we are both a bit “ruined out” and over day tours and figured a day of shopping was more our speed. Unfortunately the shopping mall wasn’t much so we headed back up to central Miraflores for a wander around before heading home and picking up our laundry on the way. Had to do some stuff on the internet when we got back but only had it for 10 minutes before it stopped working. Complaints at reception got me no where until that night when they told us it wouldn’t be back on till tomorrow. WiFi in the hotels has been such a huge problem in Peru and it is getting more sporadic as we
The beach with surfers at Lima
go along. For our last night we had planned on getting a taxi downtown to see a water fountain light show, but Scott was feeling fairly lazy and didn’t want the hassle of haggling over an overpriced taxi so we gave it a miss. Like I said earlier we have been fairly slack in Lima, although the town isn’t exactly packed with sights and it has been nice to have a bit of a breather before pushing on South again. For dinner we headed back to the café we ate at last night and Scott went the “lottery” option of just picking anything off the menu and came up a winner with pepper steak that was mildly "picante".
There are more photos below