When I made my plans for Lima, almost everybody asked me why I wasn’t going to Cuzco and then, of course, on to Machu Pichu. Truth is, I didn’t feel like squeezing two additional flights, the discovery of another city and the ascent to Machu Pichu (and consequent decent) into just four days. Instead, I decided to stay in Lima and make the best of it.
A very good decision this was. While most tourists, i.e. the fellows I spoke to, seem to consider Lima only as a necessary stop on the way to Machu Pichu, I found it to be an amazing, rich and surprising city. Lima has much to offer for those with a bit of time on their hands: of course culture but also architecture and nature. While the historic city centre is among the least impressive parts of the tourist trail, the beautiful district of Miraflores, the museums and temples that lie in or just a few kilometers outside the city are absolutely worth visiting.
Personally, I also enjoyed spending some of my time walking around purposelessly or sitting in a coffee shop all the while observing the people and their ways to go about life: the reckless way of driving, the concerted effort of keeping the city clean, the Sunday afternoon walks through the park with the compulsory treat for the kids.
If you find yourself in Lima, I can only advise to pick the visits from the Time’s “10 things to do” that suit you most but also to take a deep breath* and relax in one of the many restaurants and coffee places every once in a while.
*unless you are close to a busy road.
One of the things I really like about staying in a youth hostel is that you get to meet other people as by default. Somehow the common places – the kitchen, the living and TV room – are destinated for people to become momentary fellows.
In Lima, there was the German from Cologne who had taken all his annual holiday to travel through South America. After meeting a Japanese girl on the road, he was busy changing his plans so they could travel together longer.
There was the Canadian, originally from Salvador, who was on his way up to one of the gold mines, working as a safety instructor. Or the Australian girl on her first big trip abroad, alone and without any knowledge of Spanish whatsoever.
There was the very kind cleaning lady who laughed so hard when I spilled water accidentally all over myself. Or the Peruvian family who was between moving houses.
With a few bits of language skills, and sometimes even without (English really goes a long way), it’s amazing how easy it is to get to know people. Not inside out of course. But only getting a glimpse at their lives, their ideas, their problems and their kindness, always leaves me with an impression of gratefulness.
That was the moment when the photo capacities of my little phone definitely met their limits but one thing after another. The Parque de las aguas was yet another Times tip of what to do in Lima and again, 100 points.
The Parque is halfway between the coast and the historic city centre and can be easily reached by taking one of the mini buses that run all along Avenida Arequipa. Just like the taxis, they might not be entirely safe but the biggest threat emanating from them is the way of driving.
While the park itself is old, the water circuits are only from 2007 and they are absolutely beautiful. As I wanted to see the park during the day and at night, I got there around 5 in the afternoon to stroll around for a while and then enjoy the nocturne sight. After spending some 30 frustrating minutes trying to capture at least some of the beautifully lit fountains, I simply decided to enjoy the view.
And link to a Wikipedia picture instead:
Even though it is not exactly in one of the touristy areas, the Larco Museum turned out to be another excellent tip from the Time’s “10 things to do in Lima“. Taking a taxi to get there, I started to wonder during the almost half hour drive what the heck the taxi driver was planning. The buildings got smaller and shabbier as we drove, the potholes bigger.
Finally, he dropped me in an area where I really didn’t feel inclined to walk around a lot even though it would probably have been perfectly safe during daytime. Anyway, all this was forgotten the moment I entered the museum. Inside it is a beautiful building with an even prettier courtyard and an insightful exhibition.
The way the collection is arranged, it guides the visitor through a few thousands of years of pre-Columbian history. It’s fascinating to realize how many more ancient cultures & civilizations* thrived before and even during this time. It also makes the point that the Inka are so well known only because they happened to be around when the Spanish arrived.
The permanent exhibition does a good job in describing the living conditions to emphasize the importance of the displayed findings. What seems nice but not special to modern eyes – say jewellery, pottery or music instruments – all had a carefully chosen space in a strong cultural and religious framing.
Besides the permanent exhibition, the museum hosts one of the largest collections of erotic pottery in the world; some of it is to be seen as well. What I found even more interesting is that visitors are allowed to roam freely the depot of the museum, instead of it being locked away only
to catch dust for experts to see.
Its way too much to visit all at once but still gives a good impression of the mastery achieved at the time.
*Is there a difference?
Depending from which side you approach the Huaca Pucllana – the biggest pre-Inka temple in Lima – looks like a huge pile of dust and pebbles. At closer sight, it is one of the most important archeological sites about the Lima, a culture much more ancient than the Inka.
Huaca Pucllana, as seen from ground level
It’s only possible to visit this monument with a guided tour that includes lots of information about living conditions, agriculture, other civilizations at the time and the history of the building as such.
What impressed me most was that this ancient monument was earth quake safe. Obviously in a region which is frequently struck by strong earth quakes, this was a good idea. It was achieved by arranging the bricks vertically, with small spaces in between (see above), giving blocks of bricks a ‘V’ shape with inverted ‘V’s in between. Unfortunately, the pictures I shot of this structure are too bad to be posted, so please try imagining if you can.
If not the world. Seriously: after living five years in Belgium, I know what good fries should taste like. Eating and enjoying Belgian fries* actually spoiled them for me in most other places.
However, in one of the Sandwich places in Lima, I saw fries and had to try. And a good choice it was indeed. Freshly made, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and served with five different sauces included in the price, they were absolutely delightful.
As were the juices and the sandwiches. So if you find yourself hungry at Kennedy Square in Lima any time soon, look out for Lucha Sangucheria!
After getting used to the traffic in Maceió, I thought to be well prepared for the rest of South America. Wrong thinking…
Peruvians, or at least the people in Lima add a new dimension to crazy when it comes to driving. There seems to be an unwritten law that drivers have to honk every 20 meters or so. Probably at the risk of a motor failure should they not do so. It is also perfectly normal and frequently practiced to open up a fourth or fifths roadway in a street that was meant for three.
And pedestrians are Freiwild*. Even when having green light, they are expected to give way. Some taxi drivers won’t even look at them when turning into a street but simply assume that pedestrians knows what’s best for them: run!
In the end, I’m not sure if it is a good advice to talk to the taxi drivers* in Lima. Well, this is if your Spanish allows.
On one hand, it gave me plenty of insights in city, its people and the many ways tourists get robbed by taxi drivers. Most often apparently by returning them fake bank notes when the tourist is
stupid careless enough to pay with a 100 soles bill.
On the other hand, people in Peru like to talk as much with their mouth as with their hands. That these hands should be holding on to the steering wheel at the moment of talking, does not seem to stop them the slightest.
* The street taxis – those who pull over after a hand sign of a potential client in the street – are generally not considered safe. However, they are cheap. Hotels, museums and good restaurants have licensed taxi drivers. Which obviously are more expensive. In any case, it’s always worth negotiating. Just the mention “es muy caro” got the price dropped by a third or the hotel driver to call over a street cab.
Over the five days in Lima, I’ve been taking both kinds of taxis, licensed and street ones, though the later one not alone at night. I often thought that the way of driving might actually be the most dangerous about them. Indeed, one might get robbed in a taxi but considering how they drive, this seems to me a far more likelier cause of harm.
- Lima, Peru
- On the Pacifique
- Pisco Sour
- Coca tea
- Inca Cola
- In a well designed, enjoyable shopping centre – Larcomar
Image from here
A long time
- since I’ve spoken Spanish
- or have traveled alone
One more time
- the reminder that air conditioning can get a room to an unhealthy and environmentally unfriendly freezing temperature
- and that a well working public transport is worth paying for – in terms of fares and taxes.