We love it here. There’s something about the people, the culture, the food…let’s just say it hits the spot.
This morning, having showered, changed and made ourselves ready for the adventure, we set out on foot to explore. First thing we saw was this bus advertising the Rolling Stones concert next month. Jose, who’d met us at the airport yesterday had been full of it – I mean, the Rolling Stones! Playing Lima! Who’d have thought it? Well, I’d have happily bought a ticket and looked forward to being there, as I’m sure, many of the Limeños have done already.
Our first mission was to buy sun cream. Stupidly, it’d been at the bottom of the priorities until we got here and found it hot and sunnier than we’d anticipated. We dropped into the nearest Inkafarmacia and hit upon what looked like a good buy – special offer, 20 Sol for the Eucerin 50+. Except that, when we left and thought about what we’d just paid, we realised that it’d actually been $20 for that small tube of cream. Hang on! Surely, the saleswoman we’d spoken to had asked “Sol or Dollars?” and we had clearly answered “Sol”? But a bit of bad communication had crept in and feeling very shortchanged, I hot footed it back to the shop and asked for a refund. Not the best way to begin our fun day in Lima?
The rewards came thick and fast as the morning wore on, however. Beautiful colours and fantastic spirit was evident in the domestic buildings we found ourselves walking through to reach our destination.
Jose had told us of the upcoming national election for president in April and explained where things stand right now. I believe he said the PPK party candidate was currently #3.
As we neared what we thought was an Inca pyramid site, the residential neighbourhood grew a little smarter; a little more kempt and the streets were lined with these beautiful trees which we’ve seen before but still have no idea what they are.
The smarter the neighbourhood, the stronger the security. All the homes in this area had secure railings and gates bordering the street, even though they looked fairly modest family houses. For us, this seemed quite forbidding but yes, we’ve seen it elsewhere in this part of the world and I assume, it’s far from unusual.
There, at the bottom of the street was the pyramid we’d read about. Nearing our goal, we looked for the entrance.
The name Huaca Pucllana proved virtually impossible for me to remember, let alone pronounce, but we made it here and bought our entrance tickets without further ado. An English guide was just leaving, we were told and sure enough, an young woman was standing, ready to greet us warmly as the only members of her group. Or? Maybe she was there to merely speed us through the first section so she could hand us over to the already established, larger group who had begun their tour some ten minutes earlier?
This wasn’t quite how we’d expected to see the site, in a large English-speaking but multi-lingual group. And it was hot.
You know that sunscreen we returned to the shop earlier? The $20 we were charged would have been money well spent here, now we thought about it. But hindsight is a wonderful thing, don’t you find?
Regular readers of this blog will know it doesn’t rain in Lima. So the earth is as dry as dust and that on which we were walking had the most incredible collection of footprints I’ve ever seen. My photography skills were insufficient to capture it in a photograph, but believe me, the detail and variety of pattern was stunning. Whilst adding my Birkenstock prints to the collection, I considered the scope for a little countercultural subversion perhaps? A simple textural message imprinted on the sole of a shoe could spread rather effectively, lasting for who knows how long in this dry climate?
Radical thoughts aside, we did our best to listen to our guide Percy’s explanation. Yes, I know he was probably not called Percy at all, but there wasn’t time to clarify or to get an accurate spelling. So, Percy he will remain in our memories and in this record. The pyramids weren’t pyramid shaped at all, but were flat structures with sloping sides built of individual hand crafted bricks. Oh, and it wasn’t an Inca structure either, but a pre-Inca civilisation of Lima people who were pretty good at making these hand crafted clay bricks by the thousand. Or hundred thousand.
Percy was doing a pretty good job of keeping us all on focus here, but the heat was getting to my hero and I and we were beginning to feel like breaking free. We hadn’t bargained for being led in a herd around the ruins; in fact, we’d rather relished the last opportunity to be independent spirits in such a place. Still, we stuck with it for now.
We liked the design taken from a shark which had been found on a vessel on the site and was now used for a decorative motif on some signage.
I liked the reminder of a fruit we’d encountered on our last visit here but hadn’t seen – or thought of – since. Lucuma.
And of course, we enjoyed meeting and discovering the differences between the llama and the alpaca. No vicuna or guanacos here, because they are too unfriendly, according to Percy. “Did you know,” he asked us, “that when they spit, they spit vomit?” Well, no, we didn’t, but perhaps that was enough to reduce any disappointment there might have been at not seeing one up close!
“OK”, said Percy, ”let’s climb the pyramid now”. My hero and I looked at one another, each one a little pool of melting, sunburned flesh and decided that maybe it was not what we wanted to do right now. We quietly hung back from the group and made our way back to the entrance where we hoped to find the restaurant open and serving lunch. Or at least, cold drinks.
Sadly, it was closed for another hour, so instead, we took a quick look inside the very small museum and spotted this beautiful piece of weaving from around 400AD – remarkable, really, don’t you think?
We made our way out and headed back the way we came, resisting the temptation to do any kind of a deal with these ice-cream ladies chatting on a street corner.
We also resisted the concierge’s advice to shop at the “Indian Markets”. They fell into the “tourist tat” category from what we saw and were not really what we’d come to see.
But Manolo’s churros definitely did look tempting.
Especially the dulce de leche variety With a glass of chicha morada and a couple of churros filled with that wicked dulce de leche, I was ready to take on the rest of the afternoon!
When we got back to the hotel, we soon found how the travelling companions had spent the day – sitting at the window waving to the hang gliders who were passing at tenth-floor level right outside our building!
After a nap (!) we explored the Larcomar shopping centre over the road. It proved to be more than met the eye, for it continued down the cliff side through several floors of interesting shopping and lively food and drink offerings.
We’d been recommended Mangos, which is the place clinging to the side there with the cream umbrellas, so we headed there first and booked a table for dinner at 7. It was now 5.
We mooched a bit before popping into Popular for a Pisco Sour. Or two.
Oh, and to soak up those pretty strong snecklifters (a term used by my Daddy to describe the first drink of the evening) we ordered some food.
Which happened to be totally yummy.
So when we went crawled up to Mangos, where we’d booked our table, we were already feeling rather beschwipst. Perhaps it’s telling that I only know a German word for that state?! As we announced our arrival to the hostess, we were greeted like family – well, after all, we had booked a table, hadn’t we? And sure enough, we were shown to the best table in the house (from our point of view), right there on the cliff side, with the best view of the bay.
We’d been recommended to visit Mangos for the traditional Peruvian cuisine which we know and love, so even when the causa turned out to be a little deconstructed, so to speak, it tasted so good that we were far from disappointed!
And our lomo saltado was served in traditional Pervian style, with rice and chips!
Sad to say, I’d met my match. There was no way I could finish such an enormous portion. Our waiter smiled indulgently. Clearly, we weren’t the first to fail. He brought the bill, which came to the magnificent sum of 115 soles. That’s less than £30 in total. Including another two Pisco sours too (!) and a couple of bottles of water to offset the damage As we left, he shook our hands and wished us well.
The warmth and friendly attitude of the Peruvian people is remarkable. We love it.
When we got back to our room, on the other side of the road, we had “been turned down”. Whoever had drawn the curtains had left the travelling companions with a small breathing space – so thoughtful! So sweet!
They had also left each of us a small gift in the form of a dancing doll with a little explanation.
Peru – more specifically, the Peruvian people - are really very special. I could keep coming back here time and again for that very reason. Sadly, we’ll leave Lima tomorrow, but bound for a couple more Peruvian ports which makes me very happy indeed!