I had no idea what to expect from our time in Lima. It’s usually used as a stop-over by tourists on their way to Machu Picchu, but we quickly discovered that it is a destination worthy of a visit in its own right.
We arrived at about 8:00pm, and the traffic from the airport was insane. Buses, taxis, trucks, and cars of all shapes and sizes zipped in and out of non-existent lanes, and the night was filled with the sound of horns blaring. The billboards and advertising along the way made us feel like we were back in civilization (i.e out of Cuba!), and I was in awe of how big the city was. There are about 10 million people living in Greater Lima, which is roughly the size of Melbourne and Sydney combined. The taxi driver got lost along the way to the hostel, so we had lots of opportunities to take in the sights. He seemed happy that we could speak a bit of Spanglish, and chatted to us about Lima, and how crazy the roads are.
According to the Lonely Planet guide, Miraflores is a decent area to stay in, so that’s where we booked our hostel. Lima has a bit of a reputation for being a bit sketchy out near the airport and city centre, but Miraflores and nearby Barranco neighbourhoods are said to be a lot safer, and therefore popular with tourists, and that’s exactly how we experienced it. Wealthy areas, safe, lots of restaurants and cafes, a bit pricey but good quality.
The foreshore was a real surprise, and great for a late afternoon stroll. It was incredibly hot while we were there, so it was lovely being close to the water. There were surf schools up and down the beach, all wanting our business, but we’d read that the water isn’t super clean in the wet season, so stuck to wading and sun baking. There was a massive shore dump while we were there, so we sat up on the pebbly beach and waited for the big waves to splash us as it thumped in. The water was freezing, and often the waves would send pebbles flying into you. The tsunami evacuation route signs got us talking about how we’d escape should we witness the tell-tale outgoing tide of water, but we pretty much agreed that we’d be stuffed and escape would probably be futile.
One of the most popular dishes in Peru is ceviche. I didn’t take a photo (weird right?), but it is similar to a marinated sashimi. Piles of mixed fresh seafood, fish, octopus, prawns, and typically dressed in lime and chilli. I am only a recent sashimi convert, but I really enjoyed the ceviche that we tried. It wasn’t cheap, and the octopus tentacles were purple and pretty creepy, but overall it was really tasty. I would recommend just trying an entree though – Pedro and I had a main each, and there is definitely a limit to how much raw fish a person can consume in one sitting!
One of my favourite places in Lima was the J.F.K Park (Parque Kennedy). It was surrounded by restaurants and shops, the park itself was well tendered, and it was full of cats! Signs around the park warned of heavy fines for abandoning pets, but the cats in the park looked happy and healthy and both the tourists and locals seemed amused by their presence. There were popcorn stands, a craft market, free wi-fi, and an excellent place to people watch. We got told off from a security guard for drinking beer in the park, but we just apologized, and said we didn’t know that it wasn’t allowed, and he let us carry on. It was here that we Skyped our parents to tell them that we were engaged, so it will always be a special place to me. 🙂
There was a cinema that played English movies with Spanish subtitles, so one evening we went to watch Logan. It was a nice treat. Who doesn’t love spending a couple of hours oggling Hugh Jackman?
The free walking tour was solid, and we got to try pisco, the national liquor, and did some chocolate tasting too. Thankfully the chocolate was a lot better than the stuff in Mexico!
Barranco proved to be a great place for a Sunday bar crawl, although it was a rather long walk out there and back from Miraflores, and there were an awful lot of hippies doing yoga poses in the parks. But the weather was perfect, happy hour specials were everywhere we turned, the chips at the English pub we found were bliss, and we discovered a passionfruit version of a mojito. Scrumptious!
We ending up spending five days in Lima, but three days probably would have been enough. I loved our lazy walks along the foreshore, and being able to go to malls and purchase things again (I know – I’m a total consumer). Miraflores was an excellent base while we started making plans for our next move in Peru. A group of South African girls in our hostel mentioned Peru Hop, so we wandered into their office and ended up booking with them. So the itinerary for Peru was then as follows: Lima, Paracas, Huacachina, Arequipa, Cusco. Success!
On the walking tour we had learnt that it rarely rains in Lima, and the city doesn’t have the capability to deal with rain when it happens. Flat roofs, little to no drainage. A few days after we’d left, the north of Peru was hit by extreme flooding, including parts of Lima. It didn’t get very much international coverage, but everywhere we went TVs showed the destruction. Over seventy people died, thousands were left homeless, and coastal towns, including Lima, were without water. Bridges collapsed, roads were washed away, and crops were devastated. Media reports lay blame on the El Nino effect, and reminded viewers / readers that climate change is likely going to make flooding like this more frequent and damaging in the future…