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Published: July 26th 2008
A llama or an alpacka or ...?
We can´t tell the difference between the various animals in this country yet. Still we can´t resist putting this photo on the blog
Lima and the coast south of the capital
The long vacation trip of this year goes to Peru with a short detour to Bolivia. Our plane landed in Lima so therefore it was quite natural for us to start the trip there.
Our guidebooks tell us that it wise to not display that we are tourists because occasionally tourists are targeted for robberies and bag theft. So when arriving in Lima we decided to dress down, not have our cameras out and also keep the guidebooks and maps in our bags. After less than 5 minutes we met two construction workers on their way to their job. They happily greeted us with "¡Hola, gringos!" (which means "Hello, foreigners!"). We might as well face it that there is no way we are ever going to blend in here. Lima
is the capital of Peru and also the largest city in the country. Lima feels a lot smaller than its actual size. We were surprised to learn that more than seven million people live there. When we arrived in Lima we instantly felt that we liked the city and in the days we were there we had no
Huaca Huallamarca is a more than 1500 year old pyramid in Lima
reason to change our opinion. The only thing we didn´t like was the pollution. In the days we were there the smog
didn´t lift once.
We spent a day visiting the tourist spots in Lima. Not far from the hotel we were staying in there were two interesting pyramids Huaca Pucllana and Huaca Huallamarca. These pyramids are thought to be between 1500 and 1800 years old so they were built before the Inkas came to power in Peru. They are built with a kind of soft clay bricks knows under the name adobe bricks. More than 1000 years of neglect have not fared well with this material so the parts of the pyramids that have not been restored look more like a heap of dirt than a pyramid. In fact, for a long time people living there thought it was
a heap of dirt.
After the visit to the pyramids we walked to the the centre of Lima
. We there went to a Plaza San Martín. There we wanted to see a statue we had read about in our guidebook. The statue shows Madre Patria, the symbolic "mother" of Peru. To make the statue more impressive they wanted Madre Patria to
We found this wall when we walked to Lima center. We don´t believe the building has anything to do with the Spanish painter though.
have a flame in her hair. The artist who was hired to make the statue made a tiny mistake when he read about what they wanted to have. The word "flame" is in Spanish "llama" and that word has a double meaning. It also means the animal llama
. So the artist put a llama in Madre Patria´s hair. The llama was never replaced by the flame so she still has a llama in her hair. Take a look at the photo of the statue and you´ll see it.
In the historical centre of Lima there are lots of interesting buildings. We had a look at a church, the cathedral, the government building, the bishop´s palace and several colonial mansions. Out of these buildings you can see a photo of the church, Iglesia de San Agustín on the blog. The others we decided not to publish any pictures of since they anyway would be "just another building".
On this blog we try to show what "makes a place special" rather than "what makes a place look like any other similar place". In Lima the thing that sticks out are the wooden balconies. They are all over central Lima. They
She´s got a Llama in her hair
The word "llama" can in Spanish mean both "flame" and an animal. They wanted Madre Patria to have a flame in her hair but she got a llama.
are a bit special in the sense that they are almost completely covered with the exception of small slits. These slits made it possible for people to peek out but it was impossible to look in. This was very fashionable in the colonial days.
For a change we are only travelling in this vacation. We are also here to see our sponsored child. A year ago we signed up to be sponsors for the NGO SOS Children's Villages
. This organisation takes care of children who for one reason ort another can´t live with their parents. If you are a children sponsor of this organisation you are assigned a specific child. Our child is named Aldo and he is four years old and he lives outside Lima. We took one day off our travels to go and visit him.
We don´t have any previous experience with SOS Children's Villages but now that we have visited them we are convinced that they are a good organisation. We are highly impressed with what we saw and we will support them in the future. We could see that the children are well taken care of, they get good food (we know. We tried it)
Iglesia de San Agustín
Iglesia de San Agustín, a church with a lovely facade
and they have a playground and even a soccer field and a basketball pitch. In the village nine children live with one "mother" in each house. The children in a house are really like a family. They are like brothers and sisters to each other and the "mother" act like any other mother would. She lives in the house with the kids and she takes care of them just like a mother would. SOS Children's Villages also ensures that the children gets a good education and, if necessary, professional healthcare.
In the day when we visited Aldo and his "siblings" in the village we played games with them, we played football/soccer, though Aldo was a little bit too small to really play with the football.
As we mentioned above they have a mother in each house. But there is no father. So there is a shortage of father figures in the village. When we arrived the children in general and Aldo in particular started calling Ake dad. Being called dad really scares the beejeepers out of Ake.
Next place we went to was Pisco
. One year ago Pisco was hit by a major earthquake
. Pisco was one
Traditional balcony in Lima. The narrow slits made it possible for people to peek out but it was impossible to look in
of the most severely damaged cities in this earthquake. The city was almost wiped out from the face of the earth. 80% or more of the houses in the city were flattened or severely damaged. Hardly any house was left unhurt. The local cathedral collapsed in the middle of the evening mass killing 148 people. In total between 400 and 550 people died in the city. Today there are very few houses standing in Pisco and of those that do more than half are abandoned awaiting demolition. Many shops are housed in temporary sheds, the local hospital is housed in tents and most private homes are only simple sheds. Much of the telephone and electricity wires and the piping have been replaced so almost every street in town has been dug up. They have in the last 11 months managed to remove most of the rubble from the collapsed houses but it is still easy to imagine the devastation that was from all the empty lots where there used to be houses.
Peru is very prone to earthquakes so today houses are built with safety zones. These are marked with green stickers. We noticed one house, formerly a bank,
SOS Children village
Ake was popular in SOS Children village. The children called him "Papito" ("dad")
where only parts of the house had collapsed. The surviving parts were the safety zones.
There is a drink called Pisco Sour
. It is likely not
named after the city Pisco, but still we had to have a Pisco Sour each now that we visited Pisco.
Outside Pisco are two very popular tourist spots named Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Reservation. To see them we had to take a tour.
The tour started with a visit at a site known as Candelabra. Candelabra is a huge geoglyph (painting on the ground) created in loose sand on a hillside in Paracas National Reservation. The origin of this geoglyph is unknown but it is believed to be at least 500 years old. It is remarkable that it has survived that long since it is made in loose sand. It is due to the fact that it never rains in this part of Peru and that the part of the hill where Candelabra is placed is hidden from winds.
The next part of the tour was the Ballestas Islands. The islands have an abundant bird and animal life. On the tour we saw several kinds of birds, Humboldt Penguins and
SOS Children village
SOS Children village has a nice playground for the children to play in
Sea Lions. The islands are protected so we were not allowed to go ashore. One species of bird produce large amounts of guano (bird droppings). The guano is an unusually good fertilizer so the guano is valuable. So every fifth year an exception to the rules on not entering the islands is made in order to harvest the guano that has been accumulated on the islands.
The last leg of the tour went to Paracas National Reservation. It is a desert area that is considered the second driest spot on earth, beaten only by Atacama Desert in Chile. The desert is totally barren from all life. Not a single bush or tree can be found there. The dry dead landscape is a nice scenery in itself. But backed by the blue ocean water it allows for very dramatic pictures to be taken.
After Pisco we went south to the city Arequipa
. Arequipa has a very interesting Colonial City Centre
. The buildings are mainly built in a classic European style but the builders have also incorporated local traditional building styles. The stones used for the buildings are a local volcanic rock. This rock is white and therefore Arequipa is dominated by
SOS Children village
Aldo plays football/soccer with Ake. Though Aldo is a little bit too small for the football
this white colour. Sometimes Arequipa is also referred to as the White City.
Arequipa City Centre is a Unesco World Heritage. The colonial buildings in the city centre are one of the reasons for this. The other is Monasterio de Santa Catalina
. This monastery is the size of an entire city block. The monastery has been in continuous use since it was founded in the year 1580. Today a small section is used for the few nuns living here. The rest of the monastery is open for the public. The monastery is like a miniature city with small squares, streets and living quarters in between.
There are a few sites we have visited in the days we have been here but we don´t have any photos from. The reason is we weren´t allowed to take photos in these places.
In Lima we visited Monasterio de San Fransisco
. In this monastery there were two things we would like to mention here on the blog. In the basement there are catacombs where maybe as many as 70000 people have been buried. The bones from these bodies are on display. Since we have a bit of a morbid personality (especially Ake) we actually enjoyed walking around
Devastation in Pisco
80% or more of the houses in Pisco were flattened or severely damaged by the earthquake in 2007.
among all the dead bodies. If you want to get an idea of what it looked like you can follow the link above. It leads to the Wikipedia page on Monasterio de San Fransisco and there is a photo from the catacombs there.
In the same monastery they have a painting showing the last supper. The painting is rather straightforward. It shows Jesus and the 12 disciples having their last meal together. But the painter has added a few rather unusual details to the painting that makes it special. Behind Judas in the painting it is possible to see a laughing little devil. On the table you can find a dish that we can be pretty sure was not present during the original last supper - a roasted Guinea pig
. It is not so strange as it may sound at first. Roasted Guinea pig is a delicacy here in Peru and is often eaten at important occasions. In the painting you can also see that the wine is drunk from golden Inca cups.
In Arequipa we visited a museum dedicated to Juanita - the Ice Maiden
. Juanita is a well preserved Inca mummy found on the top of the Mount Ampato in 1995.
Devastation in Pisco
A pile of rocks formerly known as the cathedral.
Or not jokingly: 140 died here
The mummy was put at the mountain more than 500 years ago as a human sacrifice. The body has been frozen ever since then and is very well preserved. Around 50 similar ice mummies have been found on mountain tops in the Andes but none is as well preserved as Juanita. If you follow the link above you can read more about Juanita and see a photo or more of her.
This is the end of this blog entry. Now we are heading on towards Cusco and Machu Picchu. We will tell you more about what we did there in the next entry.
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