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Published: March 13th 2017
Landing at Lima was an experiance. It was the middle of the night, and the city was lit up as far as they eye could see. At this point it dawned on me just how absolutely vast Lima is. We arrived at 1.30am. I'd wanted to save some money by hanging around the airport until morning. But David was keen to book a hotel. Given that we only had four nights / three days in Lima I did see the sense in not spending the first day grubby and exhausted. So we booked a hotel, and also their airport transfer service to avoid searching for a taxi in the middle of the night. Once we'd got through security there was Luis waiting for us with my name on a sign. It was nice to be able to bypass the taxi's.
Half an hour later were at the hotel - Casa Bella in the Miraflores area of Lima. It's a bit shabby-chic. I'll be honest, it needs a spruce up. Nonetheless I found it absolutely charming. Normally I prefer plain and minimal, but I enjoyed the cosy, homely feel of the place very much. But no time to
appreciate that. It was 3am and we fell straight into bed.
We both slept pretty well, and were reluctant to get up for breakfast the next morning. But when you are on a budget you don't turn down free food. It was a bit of a struggle but we made it down at about 9.45 just before it finished. Nothing special, but enough to start the day. I must admit that I still begrudged paying for a night but only staying for half! But it was nice to start the day rested and showered rather than knackered and skanky.
It took us some time to get up and out (the cleaner was clearly getting annoyed). Although it wasn't all laziness as we did get our next few hotels booked. Given that we didn't leave the room until nearly noon, we decided to stay in the local area of Miraflores. We found it to be very pleasant, clean and modern and, being by the sea, with a distinct holiday vibe. It was hot, about 32 degrees at a guess, but bearable due to the sea breeze
There were a few people begging / selling, as is the norm.
Now this does get annoying. But you have to remind yourself that people are poor and just trying to get by. There was one exception to this. I was just buying a couple of ice-cream's when a (white) South African woman approached David and started complimenting him on his hair. I've heard it all before so it didn't seem odd. But then she came out with a tale about how she had been robbed and her money and passport had been stolen. She was now trying to raise enough money to get to the nearest South African embassy which was in Quito (Ecuador). We've heard similar stories before and had no doubt this was absolute bollocks and she was a scum-sucking scammer. David pointed out there was bound to be a SA embassy in Lima, she insisted there wasn't. But even if this unlikely story was true (it wasn't, we've since checked) why could she not just get money wired to her? Or her bank to authorise funds via a local bank? It was all a load of crap. So we said we couldn't help and walked away. At which point she went nuts, shouting something or other after us.
That just made us more certain she was a scammer.
Before going back to the hotel we popped into a supermarket for some supplies (No, not beer thank you, water, coke and fruit actually). Then headed back to our room. Not the fullest of days, but at least we had our bearing and were getting used to Peru. After relaxing back at the hotel we went out for dinner, chosing La Casa de los Anticuchos, a ten minute walk away. We knew that their speciality was (obviously) anticuchos, which is meat on skewers, usually beef heart. We didn't much fancy that, but presumed there would be lots more to chose from. A quick look at the menu outside seemed to show lots of variety so we went inside.
The owner was lovely and he soon realised we might need an English menu. He looked and sounded remarkably like a Peruvian version of our friend Big Gay Paul. Once we had the English menu we realised that over 85% of it was heart or tripe related. There was no way I was going to just leave, and hurt the nice man's feelings. Luckily there was a couple of things
I could chose from. I admitted that I just wasnt brave enough and would have the steak. David however suprised me by going for a platter of a variey of meats including the beef heart (but not the tripe). He figured it was worth trying and if he didn't like it he'd just eat the rest. Turned out it was his favorite bit of the meal! Like tender, slightly spicy steak apparently. Given that he only had one skewer I wasn't mean enough to try any (shut up, that's the only reason). David had an Inca cola with the meal which was not cola at all but a greeny-yellowy Haribo tasting concoction. He loved it, and in fact has been drinking it at every opportunity since. It turned out to be a really good evening, made better by the owner's welcoming attitude and David trying something new.
We got up a little earlier for breakfast the next day. David then spent the morning trying to call his sister, who was getting married the following day. He finally got through just before we were about to head out. When you are travelling there is always going to be things you
miss. But I must admit missing your sister's wedding is not exactly ideal. :-(
Our second priority that day was to pick up some anti altitude sickness drugs. You can buy Acetazolamide over the counter here. We were in two minds about whether to take them. We'd much rather acclimatise naturally. But our route has meant flying into Cusco, which is higher up than Bogota. This is the worst way to arrive and does not give your body a chance to get used to the altitude. We just hope that the meds, taking it easy, no alcohol, and the fact that the following day we'll be moving just a little lower (to Ollantaytambo) will all help in minimise any effects.
A bit of research had shown that Lima has a bus system similar to Bogota's Transmilenio, albeit much less extensive, called the Metropolitano. The nearest stop to us was a 25 minute walk away. But we didn't really want to get a taxi and the local buses are just confusing. It was a bit of a hot walk but we made it, and managed to buy and charge-up a card. We just needed one card for the two
of us, like Bogota. Also like Bogota, the bus was packed. No chance of personal space, let alone a seat. Still, it took us where we wanted to be quickly and cheaply.
Not long after getting off the bus we crossed a road flowing with water. Strange as it had not been raining. Around the corner we discovered why. A large building was smoldering away as numerous fire engines doused it in water It looked pretty bad from where we were, although we looked it up later and nobody was seriously hurt.
After that bit of excitement we wandered around the sights of the Centro Historico. All very interesting to for a wander, although nothing totally stand-out. Plaza Mayor was nice, and where we bought the most amazing ice-pops we've ever had. Sold by a woman pushing a cool box around, they were made with fresh ingredients and tasted delicious. I had passionfruit and David coconut. We then had a look around Chinatown, which was a bit disappointing. Then it was a crowded Metropolitano bus back to Miraflores.
Before going back we needed some cash, but the ATM that had worked yesterday now wouldn't let us have
any money. I forsee that withdrawing cash in Peru is going to be an ongoing pain. Especially as even the ATM's that do take our card only let you withdraw around £100 at a time. One bank lets you withdraw £175, but we didn't have much luck with them. Credit card use doesn't seem over popular either, most people charging a fee.
That night we ate at an Lebanese restaurant called Tarboush. We wanted Peruvian, but the places we looked at seemed expensive. We got the last but one available table, and a queue soon began to form, a good sign. David was starving so we ordered starters of falafal as well as hummous and pita. They were delicious, but practicaly meals themselves. The mains, chicken for me and lamb for David, were good but maybe not quite matching up to the starters. Or perhaps it was just that we were not as hungry by that point. Anyway, a good meal and I'd recommend it.
The next day we had breakfast (which was getting a bit dull by this point) and then slogged along in the heat to the bus stop again and caught the busy bus up
to the Museo de Arte. We'd hoped for a bit of modern art, but to be honest this was minimal. But suprisingly we really enjoyed all the pre-colombian displays. Although we've seen a fair amount of this sort of thing before, the quality of the exhibits on show here were a cut-above. Worth the 30 soles entrance. Afterwards we wandered through the park and down to the next bus stop for another crowded journey back to Miraflores. There we did a bit of fruitless shopping, looking in vain for some trousers for David and trying and failing to withdraw any cash from the numerous ATM's we tried, including one that had worked for us in the past. We had got some earlier in the day but knew we'd need more for the hotel. As I said, withdrawing piddly amounts of money at a time from the occasional ATM that will deign to allow it is going to get annoying. We finished off with a stroll along the coast before going back to the hotel.
Dinner thay night was a sandwich at the highly regarded La Lucha. It was very busy but with a high turnover so we luckily got
seated before our sandwich was ready. It was very nice, and suprisingly filling. David's credit card was declined, not that unusual as it's not worked everywhere in the world. But we had a nagging doubt something was wrong so popped into a supermarket to pick up a couple of things and test it. Still no luck. Even though it had worked twice earlier that day we were concerned enough to contact the bank. Yep, it had been blocked, even though it is currently flagged for worldwide use. Still, it was all sorted out quite quickly.
We were bored of the hotel breakfast so, against our instinct, we opted for an extra hour in bed. We then had a couple of hours to get showered and packed up. We'd booked the hotel transfer to the airport again. A couple of quid more than a taxi but so much easier and no chnace of getting ripped off. Anyway, a lot of the taxi's here look like old demolition derby cars. It turned up early, as they always do, but we weren't ready and said it would have to wait. Unfortunately when we did come to check out the girl on reception
had no clue how to work the credit card machine, so that took a good 15 minutes of faffing. Felt a bit sorry for the driver, but it wasn't really our fault. Luckily we'd allowed bags of time and got to the airport with enough time to have a large Papa John's pizza (which was yummy) before going through, and then a coffee before boarding.
I'm not sure what to say about Peru yet. It seems nice enough, but I don't feel I'm getting to know it. Capital cities are always a bit different to the rest of the country. The difference between Lima and Bogota is twofold. For a start the area of Bogota we stayed in seemed quite residential, whereas Miraflores seemed quite touristy. Also, the rock bars of Bogota gave us somewhere to call home. We didn't get around to trying the rock bars of Lima as I've been a bit poorly so am on a healthier eating / no booze mission for a little while. Still, we did enjoy it and are looking forward to the rest of our time here.
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