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Published: February 7th 2017
South America Jan 2017 to March 2017
Blog 1- 27th
Jan was a very long day of travel. We left Canberra and 32 hours later having stopped in Auckland and Santiago we finally landed in Lima, the capital of Peru. What an unusual city. It is right on the coast but is a desert. The clouds come in off the Pacific Ocean and don’t rise until they have passed well over Lima and meet the massive Andes Mountains.
Flying in we were amazed to see Lima was a city in the sand dunes with a narrow of strip of irrigated agricultural land. The soil is clay and has been dug for thousands of years to build pyramids by the Incas along with the modern day box style houses. Oh the dust for those who live in the poorer areas. It just never rains there and water supply is a big problem.
We had no expectations before we flew into Lima, so when we realized that 10 million live here we were extremely surprised. Mostly Lima was extremely clean and safe with a high presence of security. The use of concrete walls and electric fencing surrounding the
houses in the more affluent areas did not seem to fit the minimal crime picture but we were assured crime in Lima has been cleaned up since the from the period 1960’s -1990 when terrorists were very active in Peru. Even though crime is now reduced, we were advised to take care and not to walk to some areas after dark.
Day 2 – Today began with a half day city tour of Lima. From our Arawi hotel in the trendy and modern district of Miraflores, we drove to the Amore Park in the Miraflores District overlooking the Pacific Ocean – the mosaic blue tiles were very Spanish - check out the photos and the park area.
From here we drove to the Huaca Pucllana archeological site where we stopped for photos. We were very surprised at the size of the site which was built around 500 AD. The whole place was made of large adobe bricks which were made from the clay hills that we saw as we flew in. Unusually the pyramid was built with vertical bricks instead of our traditional horizontal style. Apparently, they used this style to ensure stronger resistance to earthquakes.
learnt that archeologists have discovered many female corpses from sacrificing rituals inside the pyramid during excavations. In Lima’s ancient culture the sacrifice of women occurred because of their ability to give life. Hence their sacrifice would please the gods (oh to be a bloke then!!). Recently an undisturbed grave was found containing four well bundled mummies from the Wari culture.
Then we drove to the UNESCO listed old city area of Lima. This was an interesting walking tour. Lima was settled in 1537 by the Spanish and was regarded as the capital of the new world. Interestingly Lima makes majority use of gas for all buses, cars and trucks so it is a very clean city. Most of the cars are Japanese - not European or US because it is much easier to convert the Japanese cars to gas.
We visited the Plaza Mayo, the main square which is surrounded by the Government Palace, the Cathedral and the City Hall. At the center of the square is a lovely ornamental bronze fountain made in 1650. We then drove to the San Martin Square, another lovely square surrounded by beautiful old buildings, some dating back to the 1600's.
We then walked to the Church of San Francisco where the large courtyard was filled with long queues. It was the Blessing of the Flowers day when local people bring flowers to have them blessed and take them home to help those in their family who are sick. We were amazed at the crowds. Skipping the queues, we followed the guide into the Church to see the beautiful gold leaf alter and many chapels covered in artwork.
We then walked with our guide to the Cathedral's catacombs. What an experience that place was! We quickly learnt that the many devout Catholic families of Lima (about 70,000 people) were buried here in the underground tombs and the process was overseen by the priests. After 25 years in your allotted plot they dug up the bones and tossed them into one of the seven ossuaries. Recent excavations show each ossuary has piles of bones, 7 metres deep. Families could not visit the underground graves but had to go to mass to be with their lost members – good way to make sure people kept going to church!! There were tunnels everywhere and we found the whole process seemed a little creepy
but it was quite an insight into the lives of the devout Catholic settlers of Peru.
Walking on we came to the Santa Rose passage and its amazing collection of old buildings designed using many different old European architectures. Some of the buildings had large cracks from the many earthquakes that occur in Lima. Returning to Miraflores we visited a shopping centre and had lunch overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Here we had our first introduction to the amazingly different types of drinks on offer in Peru. Beers, chichi (made from the water of boiled black corn), lemongrass lemonade etc and they are so refreshing.
So our day finished with a terrific seafood meal at the famous Cale Seafood Restaurant. Quinoa crusted salmon, prawns, ceviche (raw fish) all super yummy. And to top it off we witnessed a wedding proposal where the young man proposed on bended knee with a box containing a lovely ring. We clapped and cheered and ended up being part of their family’s celebration night. It was a terrific day out in Lima.
Day 3 – Today we travelled 30 kilometers south of Lima to visit the Pachacamac archeological site. Around 200AD Pachacamac was
a hub of culture, trade and pilgrimage for early Indigenous Peoples. Then in about 1470 the Inca Empire invaded Pachacamac and took over the site. This all changed again when the Spanish arrived in the 1500’s, stole all the gold etc and that was the end of that!!
To date, a number of pyramids have been uncovered from the desert sand - the largest being the Temple of the Sun made from hundreds of thousands of adobe bricks. We drove along the dusty roads around this 55 hectare site. There are guards standing atop each of the sites trying to protect the ruins from scavengers etc. Sadly there is a conflict between the archaeological site and the poor people living in lean-to shacks that are beginning to encroach on the archaeological site. The Japanese are doing the excavations and have built a beautiful new museum to look after the artifacts – Peru doesn’t have the funds to do this.
Our next stop was at the Mamacona Hacienda where we watched a display of Peruvian horsemanship and Spanish dancing – very interesting. They served traditional Pisco Sour cocktails and giant hot potato chips during the entertainment. The horses are
quite spectacular and the master horseman was excellent. The horses are an old breed with big hindquarters and they throw their front legs in a circular fashion. We all had a turn at riding a horse and as the photos show the stirrups were very different to what we are used to! Then came the banquet feast in the gardens which were really something given we were in a desert. Of course the drive back to the hotel was quiet as we all snoozed after a hard day’s work!
Day 4 – The main activity today was a visit to the Larco museum. Lima is so full of surprises and this museum was really special. It was a great place to learn about the history of Peru and Central America along with the many peoples and culture from approx. 6,000BC.
The museum itself is housed in a former mansion and built on the site of a pre-Columbian temple. The collections cover approx. 3,000 years of ceramic, textile and precious metal artifacts. There are also mummies that show off the different ways ancient cultures, including the Incas, preserved their dead.
The most prized possession in the museum is
a textile that was over 3000 years old. Imagine any textile made today lasting 3000 years!! In addition to all the objects on display in the main museum, we were able to view thousands of pots in the shapes of animals, plants and people in separate store rooms. There's a special room devoted to the erotic archaeological treasures. These are not your run-of-the-mill phallic symbols, but a collection of ceramic pots portraying a variety of sexual positions and acts — the Kama Sutra in clay, basically. Many such erotic pots were destroyed by Spanish conquerors, who were mortified by the explicit depictions, which makes this collection all the more important. We were stunned to see they even had a section for erotism for the dead – go figure that belief!!! We also saw artifacts with the same artwork as that of the Australian aboriginal people. In fact there is belief that our people travelled at some time across the Pacific to South America.
After yet another lunch in another set of spectacular gardens we drove to Lima airport for our one hour flight to the city of Arequipa, the gateway to the high Andes mountains and eventually Machu Picchu.
The last 20 mins of the flight was in thick cloud and we were all very happy to finally see the lights of the runway – we had arrived safely in Arequipa.
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