A looong and cramped 11 hour flight later, I finally touched down in Lima on the 10/06/2013, 5:00am. After anxiously waiting for my luggage, I headed outside to arrivals to meet my airport-pickup and headed on my way to Condor’s house. Lima greeted me with its infamous garua in all its depressing glory; as we drove past the slums and down onto the beach towards Miraflores the garua was so thick you could barely tell where the sea ended and the land started.
But, as – dare I say – ugly as Peru’s capital first looked to me, I sat in the back seat of my Taxi feeling giddy with butterflies. 3 years since I first came across a documentary on Machu Picchu, I had finally landed in Peru and my little adventure had begun. I sat on the sofa in Condor’s House staring at my Lonely Planet clueless of what I should do, or what I should go and see. Lima was not originally part of my dream plan; I decided only to stay there as I thought what the heck – might as well have a ganders of the capital! This kind of unplanned visit was quite unusual for me; I very much like to have a schedule (ish) so I can make the most of my days spent in a new country, but seeing as I already had all that in mind for Cusco (kinda…) I left Lima to surprise me.
The guidebooks and reviews were right, there is not much to see in Lima. My tourism extended as far as the Larco Museum, the beach, and the Cocoa Museum (I will comment on these three in greater detail in another post, but in short I highly recommend them and they are worth stopping in Lima for a day or two to see). The greatest part of the whole 3 days was the hostel I stayed in, or rather the company I had in the hostel I stayed in. The guy at reception greeted me with a warm smile and tales of how he lived in London for 6 months to learn English, how he did not like Lima and much preferred Cusco, and how I should be careful because I look so different… He was sweet, and even though he warned me that not speaking Spanish could be a real handicap on my trip (thus far it hasn’t been), a friendly chat at 6:30 in the morning put any nerves I had at ease.
Later on my first day I met a New Yorker who had been living in Peru for 6 months and was just on his way back to the USA the day before, but managed to miss his flight. One of the first things we talked about was his experience in the Jungle with Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca was something I had read about a lot in 6th form, but until then had almost forgotten about it and pretty much written off ever being able to try it (for the record, I am still undecided as to whether I will or not). In short, it seemed to have completely changed his outlook and attitude towards life, to the extent I would have had no idea he was a mechanic in Queens before he came to Peru. We went to get lunch and hung out for the afternoon. I was introduced to the ambrosia that is Peruvian fruit, and a pretty tasty pastry. He told me about his shenanigans in Peru, which included WOOFING in the Sacred Valley, and volunteering at a wildlife reserve in the Jungle, amongst other exciting things.
The next exciting person I ran into was a lady from Basingstoke, England who has just finished her 2 month tour of the USA’s West Coast and was now about to start her 4 month South American Adventure. We decided to head to the Cocoa Museum together, and indulged in delicious coffee, brownies, cookies, and free samples of Cocoa shell tea and Chocolate Banana paste. Afterwards we headed down the beach as – wait for this – the garua had actually lifted and we could see the sun shine over the pacific. The scene was pretty beautiful (the NYer even spotted a dolphin!), however the shopping centre carved into the side of the cliff was not so pretty. In a city where 1 in 5 people are considered to live below the poverty line, seeing such an obtrusive display of wealth and capitalism did not make us feel easy. In one of the stores, two Andean women sat in the window weaving traditional Peruvian fabric; NY had asked them previously if they were paid and treated well, to which the women answered by looking up at their manager. We headed back to Miraflores centre for some MSG coated dinner (the rice and beans I had tasted suspiciously good…) , and later spent the evening drinking Cusquena and talking to two French Canadians about democracy and free education in French Canada, and a rather tipsy well-travelled guy from Israel who kept trying to persuade us gambling is an investment and there we should have gone gambling with him… The next day I also met some really friendly and chatty girls from Hamburg, and went trouser shopping.
So after all that, would I recommend Lima to a friend? Certainly! My visit to Lima taught me there is more to a great city than just pretty buildings and history. I wouldn’t call Lima a great city, but it did seem to be the hub for travellers to stop off at either on their way out or on their way home, which made for some delightful story telling around the hostel, and it is that that made it an exciting few days that i’ll look back on fondly. What’s the use in travelling and only seeing the stereotypically beautiful things the world has to offer? There is beauty to be found even through fog and behind crumbling concrete, you just might need a new prescription to find it.