Limon y Lima

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The bus station in Huaraz was like a trekking reunion: Ty and I had booked our bus independently but there now were Cristina, Virgilio, and the Israelis all heading to Lima on the 10:30 CIAL overnighter. We arrived in the Peruvian beachfront capital at 7:30 the next morning and split a cab with Virgilio and Cristina to a place she knew was 15 solas including breakfast: a bargain in pricey Lima. We got there and instead it was 22 solas without breakfast and after some negotiating but the place had something I was willing to pay a lot more for: a fully-tuned upright piano. In all my years of traveling I have stayed in more hostels than I can count and this is only the third to have a piano in it. Moreover, it is the first to have one that is in tune. Sure, when we got upstairs to our room the bathroom floor was covered in soggy toilet paper, a pool of water, and a cigarette butt, but there was a piano! Sure it was mostly Israelis who, when they travel in packs want nothing to do with you unless you speak Hebrew and thus we weren’t likely to meet other cool travellers, but there was a piano! In the end, the hostel actually wasn’t that bad in other respects either and we were hardly there besides which. I also got my laundry done, desperately needed, and slept pretty well. After settling in, Ty and I took off to find a spot for an early brunch and to try and find a cooking course for some Peruvian tastiness back in Canada/the US respectively.

Our walk took us along the coastal cliffs of Lima and some very beautiful scenery. Green and well-manicured parks, sheer drops into the ocean, locals running and walking and sitting everywhere, and dots of many surfers braving the polluted waters to catch the waves crashing below. Further along, even the skies were getting crowded with people who had donned paragliders and were soaring on the coastal updrafts. All of which was great, but we were getting hungry – especially Ty. We finally found a place to eat only to find out they weren’t serving anything remotely lunch-like until 1:00. So we grabbed a drink, chocolate, and an ice cream sandwich from a nearby convenience store and continued our walk to the cooking school. Unfortunately, the one we were directed to was geared at professional chefs and was a pretty internationally known brand: Cordon Bleu. So we continued on our walk to where some other schools might be found and up towards Kennedy Square and the Inca markets there. The square had a lot of big-name chains for your shopping delight or fast-food cravings and the market had all the usual market accessories: woollen this and that, paintings, pottery, and trinkets. From there, we walked all the way across town to a park and sat there watching the locals for a while before finally heading back to the hostel.

From there, we had to grab some dinner so we went hunting. Eventually we found a place that looked pretty good and, if nothing else, had really friendly service. Lima is famous for its cuisine and we didn’t pull any punches. We ordered the most expensive platter of ceviche we could find and then some skewered chicken and vegetables. The ceviche was a lazy-susan tray of octopus in a pureed olive and lime sauce, shrimp in a red-picante cocktail sauce, corvina in a traditional lime-onion-garlic sauce, and squid in a yellow-aji sauce. In the middle was a heap of battered shrimp and kalamari to dip in the remnants of whichever sauce you liked best. It was all excellent. The chicken skewers were likewise good though not on par with the ceviche. The restaurant was actually pretty dead – especially for a Friday – but our server was really friendly and spent a lot of time chatting with us and we made a date to go out with her and some friends dancing the next night. Then we had to run as we were already late to meet a Brazilian-Peruvian girl Ty knew from his travels in Columbia back at our hostel. Lima, it seemed, was going to be a great time.

She, that is Mara, was waiting for us when we got back to the hostel. We quickly changed into some warmer ‘going-out’ clothes and jumped in her car. She was a bundle of energy and pretty funny from what I could hear/understand in the back seat. She took us first to a restaurant/bar out on a pier on the coastline and we didn’t stay long as it was a bit of a stuffy atmosphere not to mention there were no seats to be found. She brought us up to some other bar that was likewise a bit upscale but full of younger wealthy locals than the first place and we met some friends of hers – or at least we thought they were friends. We later discovered she passingly knew one person at the table, but that didn’t stop us from joining them and having a great time. A really great time, actually, as they were all really friendly and hilarious and most importantly patient/amused with our Spanish. We were also introduced to a local drink, the Pisco sour, and then some great Peruvian beer after that. I have already been warned about Bolivian food and drink so I have been soaking in the amazing items on offer wherever I can here in Peru. Eventually it was time to get home – it had been an early morning and a bus sleep just isn’t as restful - and a couple of the locals negotiated a cab for us and sent us on our way before jumping in the next cab themselves. They had invited us to a party at their place the next evening, which was also pretty awesome.

The next day we headed to the centre on a bus and en route passed by a few of the bus lines with service to Cuzco. Ty and I split up to compare times and prices and I found a man on the street selling pomegranate! This city just kept getting better and better. We bought our tickets for the next day to Cuzco, leaving at 3 PM and supposedly arriving at 11 AM the next morning (a 20 hour bus). Then we taxied the rest of the way to Plaza de Armas just in time to catch a parade going by for Cross Day, some sort of religious celebration here that the Catholics used to win over the natives by tying the Christian cross into the Southern Cross constellation, which the Inca worshipped. From there we walked around the centre which was pretty decent and certaintly worth a visit. They have a fountain park not too far away from the centre that I really wanted to photograph at night as I’d seen photos and it looks beautiful but as you already know, we had other plans. Mara, who had been meant to meet us for lunch (but showed up late and didn’t feel up to it), was supposed to meet us at 3 to go to the party at 4. So we had to truck it back to the hostel only to have her not show up at all. No problem, I played piano for an hour or so then we called the friends who had invited us to the party and made our way out to their place. We waited to be picked up at a mall with a tasty bakery and both had a piece of cake to quell our stomachs while we waited with wine bottle in hand.

Mery and Rodriguo picked us up and brought us back to their place where we met a friend and the beer flowed freely. I don’t know how, but they never seemed to be in danger of running out. We had a great time visiting with them, practicing our Spanish, and I wish we had more time to hang out with them. We moved from beer to drinking Pisco straight-up and then some other liquer that was sweet and strong and had a faint taste of apple and a consistency of warm maple syrup. Delicious. Then we went out for... Chinese food; not my choice especially in a city like Lima, but we were guests after all. Moreover, and over our arguments and protestations, they insisted on paying for it which, considering we had only met them the night prior and surely come very near to depleting their beer reserves was exceedingly generous. More and more I find the people here a lot more warm and friendly than their Ecuadorian neighbours (who weren’t exactly terrible to begin with). It was home time yet again and we said bye to our new friends. So many travellers you meet skip Lima and I could only think what a shame that was as Ty, Virgilio, and I headed for the bus terminal the next day at 2:00. Cristina was already gone, making a beeline for Chile and Virgilio was on a different bus but also heading to Cuzco and all of us were leaving Lima too soon. Not for the first time in Peru, I found myself saying that I’d probably be back someday. At least I hope so.

Lima Photos

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