Lima – 23rd – 24th March

For the last leg in Peru, we’d got a couple of nights in Lima as we made our way north to Ecuador. Arriving late on Thursday night, our Airbnb had arranged for his brother to pick us up from the airport.

Lima is absolutely massive as a city and home to about 13 million people. It’s also nicknamed the “Grey City” as it often finds itself under a grey cloud of mist arriving from the Pacific Ocean. We were staying in Miraflores, a suburb close to the sea. But the main heart of the city sprawls about 10km further north.

To start the day we were conveniently staying right by the starting point of the free walking tour hosted by Elvis. As we waited to start Phil got chatted up by her second elderly gentleman of the trip (called Angel), a waiter in a restaurant referring to her as “Miss Inglaterra”. She’s a real catch…

The first hour of the tour wasn’t really a tour, but more of an experience. A brief walk to catch the Metropolitana (not a tube, but a bus operating down a massive dual carriageway with its own bus lane) into downtown Lima.

With the roads gridlocked into and out of town, Elvis was probably right when he said this is the quickest way to travel rather than a taxi. Nonetheless, it all makes for a pretty uncomfortable journey, with everyone piling in, getting trapped in the closing doors and becoming acquainted with some delightful smells from armpits. Consequently I opted for the old phone down the pants technique so hopefully people brushing past didn’t think anything untoward was going on down there…

After finally arriving in the city centre, Elvis began the tour, which would prove to be a tricky one for him to manage. He warned us at the start that the authorities often close streets for protests which seemingly happen pretty often given the various metal gates around each street.

We’d picked a perfect time to do the tour – president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski had resigned the previous day, amid a cloud of accusations of corruption. Today the former Vice President Martin Vizcarra was due to take over and be inaugurated by the various bodies. As such, the main Plaza Major was closed, and police and armed forces with riot shields and guns were everywhere. Quite a strange sight compared to what we usually witness back home.

Despite arriving at many road blocks, Elvis led us through the streets to various churches and plazas to explain the history of the city.

We finished up around three and half hours after leaving Milaflores, by which point we were absolutely starving, so went for a menu del dia by the main square for the princely sum of 10 soles (about £2). After gaining independence from the Spanish, African slaves were replaced by cheap Chinese labour. And you can tell a lot of that in the food. The rice coming with my chicken definitely had a Chinese feel to it.

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Post a pretty good feed, we were able to get a bit closer to the previously closed main square. Then it was back on the Metropolitana towards Milaflores to visit an archeological site called Huaca Pucllana.

It’s incredible to find such a sight in the middle of the houses and high rise buildings around it. Made out of mud bricks (called “adobes”), the site dates back over a 1,000 years and was used by the native people known as Lima’s.

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Until 40/50 years ago, the site was just a big hill of dust that children used to play on. Our guide even told us that her friend’s mom found some bones there one day which she still keeps in her front room. Amongst other remains that have been found like pottery and tools, they’ve also found evidence of three types of shark, which they believe to have represented the Lima people’s divinity – the sea.

For the evening we had the pleasure of another return trip on the Metropolitana to the National stadium. Unfortunately, although Peru were playing a friendly against Croatia, it was taking place in Miami – so no football. But at the same stop is the Parque de la Reserva, home of the Circuito Magico del Agua – a park with thirteen fountains where they put on an illumination show in the evening. Apparently they take their inspiration from the old illuminations at Walsall Arboretum…

It was absolutely fantastic though – a beautiful park and a welcome change from the city smog, especially as it’s free for kids and only 4 soles for adults (about 90p).

On the way back to Milaflores the Peru match was in full flow, with the team 2-0 up. It was incredible to see how excited the nation is for its first World Cup in 36 years. All throughout the day people were in their red and white shirts, including all the staff at the supermarket checkout. As we walked back through to the Airbnb everyone was watching the game. Literally everyone. All for a friendly which we regard as completely pointless back home. Hopefully they do well in the summer.

To round off the night we nipped into an Arabic restaurant (Tierra Santa) for a lamb shawerma, which was absolutely top drawer.

Our flight to Guayaquil in Ecuador the next day was at about 5pm. But with the unpredictable traffic en route to the airport we only had until just after lunch to explore a little more of the coast.

Walking about 15 minutes south of Miraflores you reach the edge of the cliff that looks out onto the sea. When we arrived the view was completely hidden behind the most, which luckily lifted a little later.

All along the cliff runs a walking and cycling path, with a number of different parks including Parque Antonio Raimondi, Parque del Amor, and Parque Intihuatana. As with the park the previous night, it gave a different perspective to Lima, and we felt much more relaxed strolling through the parks which were full of people either working out or walking their dogs. And as requested by mother hubs, we also found Paddington Bear (from “deep darkest Peru“) for a quick picture.

To finish off our time in Lima, we headed back into the centre of Milaflores to see Parque John F Kennedy, home of a number of adopted cats. Before we jumped into our Uber to the airport, we just had time for Phil to grab a McFlurry and I managed to sneak another shawerma in…

Next up are the Galápagos Islands which we have been incredibly excited about since we started planning the trip last year. The stories of people who’ve been there who we’ve met on our travels have only heightened this excitement. So we head to Guayaquil tonight, and take a flight first thing tomorrow morning to the islands. Oh and I’ve just spoken to my sister before we boarded. Apparently I look like a homeless person….

Paul

Songs in my head the last couple of days:

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