Back to sea level after two months in the mountains
Lima is very different to the rest of Peru. With 8.2 million people it's by far the largest city in the country (next biggest is Arequipa with 760,000), and after spending so long in the lovely city of Cusco, arriving in the capital was a complete culture shock. Two days isn't long enough to fairly judge a city the size of Lima, but in a country with so many other attractions, two days was plenty for us - I think we were both relieved to move on from Lima to the mountains of Huaraz.
We travelled direct from Cusco to Lima on an overnight Cruz del Sur bus. The bus left late, at 4pm instead of 2pm, so we missed out on the supposed excellent scenery between Abancay and Nazca. After the movie the whole bus played bingo, and I made a bit of a fool of myself, erroneously thinking I'd won and shouting out "Bingo"! As ever it was difficult to sleep on a night bus, so we were a little bleary eyed when we arrived at midday the next day. We got our first taste of Lima's high
prices at the bus station when we were informed that a taxi journey to Miraflores (about 4km away) would cost 12 soles. As 12 soles will often take you hundreds of kilometres in a bus in Peru there was no way we were going to accept that! We finally settled on 10, still feeling ripped off! If there's one thing Lima has no shortage of it's taxis. As Lima's attractions are spread out over a large area, and there's no subway, you end up taking plenty of taxis. Most of the taxi drivers we spoke with over the next few days were very elsewhere in the country and all had bad things to say about Lima. They were very quick to recommend their hometowns, however.
Most of Lima's oldest attractions are found in the historic centre, while many of the best hotels & restaurants are in Miraflores, an upscale district about 5km south. We stayed in a hostel in Miraflores, close to the Canadian Embassy. When I saw the hostel from the street, it resembled an embassy, what with its high walls covered with barbed wire. But it was pleasant enough inside, and well set up for backpackers with
a kitchen, cheapish rooms, book exchange, free internet, table-tennis and even scrabble. With all those distractions there was no need to even leave the hostel!
In some ways Miraflores is more European than South American. We saw our first Starbucks of the entire trip (after 8 months in South America), and there seemed no shortage of expensive coffee houses or upscale restaurants. We even picked up a day old copy of the Guardian newspaper; the guy selling them had a huge stack of papers, he asked us which country we wanted and then gave us a choice of 3 or 4 British Papers. I was tempted to ask him if he had the Kilkenny People too!
Our favourite sight in Miraflores was Parque del Amor, which is like a minor version of Gaudi's Parque Guell in Barcelona. It overlooks the ocean though the constant clouds over Lima's skies meant the views were limited. This area is very popular with paragliders and we could see them taking off from the landing area nearby. Confusion with llama
The second day found us in the historic centre of Lima, 5km north of Miraflores. This area is much less "European" than
Miraflores, but contains the cities most important sights, such as the Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral. The main attraction in the cathedral is Francisco Pizzaro's tomb. Pizzaro founded Lima in 1535 not long after his arrival in Peru and the defeat of the Incas. My favourite site in the old town was the llama statue in Plaza San Martin. In the 19th century, a statue of Lady Liberty was commissioned from Madrid, for Plaza San Martin in Lima, and made by a Peruvian from the highlands. One of the requirements was that a llama be carved above the head. But llama has a double meaning: to the Spanish it meant flame. But, as can be seen in the statue, it meant something very different to the local sculptor!!
From Lima we moved northwards to Huaraz, gateway to the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. As I said before we didn't really have enough time to properly explore Lima or to fairly judge it. But our time in Peru was already running short, and spending time amidst the scenery of Huaraz was a more attractive proposition than the crowded, chaotic capital.
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