My journey from Trujillo to Lima was an overnight journey with a bus company called The Continental
which costed me 45 soles. While the bus seemed okay in terms of cleanliness but unfortunately I was given a seat in the lower deck of the bus, which is a smaller area and thus all night I was up due to the snoring of almost three different people seated around me. After some time it became like a rhythmic tune of snores. It was as if all three had decided to time it to make melody out of it and simultaneously were competing on who could be the loudest. Also the lower deck was way hotter with the AC not being very strong. But somehow I still managed to catch few hours of sleep out of the 10 hours I was in the bus.
We entered Lima city
at around 7.30 am
next morning, but because of the crazy traffic, it took us almost an hour and a half more to reach the bus terminal. My first impression of Lima was definitely not good and all I could think about were the number of times I had read online that people found the city very average. But the impression instantly changed as soon as I took a taxi and arrived at my hostel address. The area where the hostel was located was fantabulous. I could not have asked for a better location.
My hostel which was The Pariwana Hostel
was located in the posh area of Miraflores
district. Right next to the Park Kennedy, the hostel was located in the midst of all the shops with top brands of clothes, food joints, bars etc. This part of town reminded me of Singapore and I was extremely happy to be staying in this side of the town. Now I realise that all the people who said Lima was dirty and unorganised must not have been staying in Miraflores. I am extremely thankful to Tripadvisor and Booking.com who I rely blindly on when making my bookings.
Since I was in the hostel by 10 am which was way earlier than my check-in time(1 pm
), the receptionist told me I could leave my stuff in the locker room and to be back by 1. I decided to make the best of my time and went down into the streets to explore the neighbourhood.
I started by taking a walk in the Park Kennedy and the one thing that will not miss your eye if you happen to be in this park is the number of cats that live here. I was amazed seeing that there were cats all over the park. And they seemed to be so comfortable in the habitat that if you happen to sit down in a spot to maybe read or eat, 4 or 5 of the cats would probably come and snuggle up to you. I actually saw some people with cats sleeping on each of their limbs ;). When I asked a local about the reason on why there were so many cats in this area, I was told that one theory is that a while back there happened to be a sudden increase in the number of rats in the city. To control the population of rats, a number of cats were left loose and somehow after the rat issue was in control all the cats made Park Kennedy as their home.Interesting right??
I then decided to walk aimlessly and soon saw the sign mentioning that few km’s ahead there was a beach. So I started walking in the same direction and about 3 km down the lane
, I hit the sands and the waves. I sat sipping a cup of coffee and doing what I do best- taking in the surroundings. It was really nice. I loved this new phase where I seemed to be liking my own company and getting to connect with the inner me(sounds a bit cheesy right?
The people of Lima(actually of most of South America) are very friendly and helpful and would encourage you to try practising your Spanish with them and would never ridicule if you happen to be wrong.
Soon I realised it was almost time for check-in and since I couldn’t wait to take a nice hot shower, I rushed back.
The hostel had an amazing vibe(read more about the hostel in my next blog) and I decided to take it easy today and to get some sleep and then chill in the hostel premises itself. In the evening I enjoyed learning salsa which was organised by the hostel and had a great time.
I was delighted to meet two great girls who I happened to be sharing my dorm with. Katie and Cailey by the end of the two days I was in Lima happened to become great friends and had a great time exploring Lima together.
The next day in the morning, I had read a pamphlet about a Free Walking Tour(FWT) of the city. I had heard about these tours a lot and was super excited to try one of these. At 11 which was the time for the start of the tour, Cailey and I were waiting at the mentioned spot. In about 20 minutes, around 20 people had gathered waiting for the tour to start.All of the people waiting were travellers as well and were from nearby hostels. We mingled around a bit while waiting for the tour to start and made some more friends. One thing awesome about backpacking is that there are always opportunities to meet and make new friends.
Our guides for the walking tour were young, enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable. Jonathan, one of our guides was very funny as well and instantly made everyone feel comfortable.
The tour started in Miraflores and we were all then directed to the metropolitan to catch a bus to downtown where most of the city’s monuments, churches and markets are located. Jonathan also gave all of us tips on how to get a metro ticket without having to buy the metro card(since we would be spending on the card and never using again once we left Lima
).The solution was to walk up to a decent looking person and hand them over the change(2.50 soles) and then say “Señor, Por favor presta me su tarjeta
.”. This means- Sir, please lend me your card. All of the foreigners learnt it by heart and then went up to strangers and used the little Spanish that they learnt and the results for each was different. But it was definitely hilarious to watch.
Once on the metro, it took us around 15 minutes to reach our destinations and then we walked over to the main city square called Plaza de Las Armas(same name as the city square of Trujillo). Here we were given a brief about the various buildings, monuments and structures surrounding us. These mainly were the Cathedral of Lima, Muncipality government estate and few other official buildings. Jon also explained the significance of various symbols that were found in ancient buildings and about the symbols on the Peruvian flag. In the flag, one symbol is of an animal called Vicuña which is found only in Peru and is now close to extinction since they were earlier killed in mass as the wool from these animals was sold for a lot of
money. Also since these animals are monogamous(so amazing and rare in human world) they do not breed a lot thus being the main reason for extinction. The other symbol is of a Cinchona tree which happens to be very important to the country as it is believed that it was the reason for many lives being saved during the plague. The water around the area where these trees were grown if drunk, would protect people from getting infected from a plague. I was so impressed with all the interesting facts being shared by the tour guides, that I instantly decided to take these tours in the other cities as well.
Next we were taken to an area with a huge, elongated painting depicting the ruins found outside the city of Lima. These ruins had a similar history as those of the ones in Trujillo and I happened to answer all the questions the guide had for us since I already had some information on it. NERD ALERT…
Jonathan later took us to the mercado where he took some time in explaining how to recognise the highest quality of a very famous wool sold only in Peru called Alpaca
. The wool from the baby Alpaca was of the highest quality and the most expensive as it was shaved of from the Alpaca only once in a year( only when the weather was suitable for the Alpaca to survive the heat and the cold without their fur
) and then there was the wool of an adult Alpaca(once a wool of the baby Alpaca is shaved, the second shave onwards it becomes adult Alpaca wool
) and finally how to differentiate between the real Alpaca wool and the fake.
Our next stop was the bridge between the old Lima town and the new. The old Lima town is called RIMAC. In fact that is how the capital was named. It was Rimac often mistakenly called Limac and then from Limac came the word LIMA which is the name of the capital now. The neighbourhood of Rimac is where the working labour class of the city stay since it has cheaper accommodation. It is considered as per the many tourist books as unsafe, but as Jon rightly said- “Just because the people are poor, does not mean they are thieves or rapists.
After this we went to one of the most awaited part of the tour. It was the Church of San Francisco, and the reason I was interested in it was because in the basement this church housed the Catacombes. Catacombes is referred to that place where in the olden times the bodies of dead people were kept. The reason these bodies were kept all in a bunch instead of a proper cemetery was because these people had died mainly because of some or the other disease which was contagious. Thus the bodies had to be kept way down under, and since the people wanted to die closer to God, the Catacombes was made under churches usually.
We bought our ticket for 10 soles and a guide took us around the fascinating church, explained the history as well as showed us the Catacombes.
What an experience being around all those bones strewn together. Spooky but fascinating indeed.With this we came to the last part of the tour, which was the tasting of the various types of Pisco Sour.
Pisco is a delicious famous alcoholic drink of Peru and are made of grapes. Jon told us the different types of Pisco along with the quality of each and then explained how to drink-the-drink.
Also, since Pisco has to be had in the right way, we were given a brief demo on the right way to have one.
Indeed a great way to end a great city tour. After the tour we all split up, and most of us went to explore Downtown a bit more. Later I went to see the famous ‘Dancing Fountains‘ show and loved it. A must see when in Lima.
After a tiring day, with having walked almost 5 hours, we headed back to the hostel and the rest of the evening was spent with my hostel friends.
Next morning happened to be my last day in Lima and I was especially keen to go visit the food festival which happens once a year in Lima. This food festival is called Mistura and was a 15 min cab ride from the hostel.
Once at the venue, the grandness of this festival hit us(Katie and Cailey were also accompanying me 🙂 ). The festival was spread over a huge area with seperate enclosures for sea food, fusion food, meat dishes, chocolates etc. There was also a Beer World and a Pisco corner(had to be as Peru festival would be incomplete without Pisco
There were a lot of tables set up for people to buy their food and then to sit and enjoy the delicacies. We tried different types of Ceviche, Pork dishes, Duck dishes and in the deserts of Peru which was rice pudding.The complete area was very lively with live shows and music concerts happening is designated areas.
I am so glad to have been in Lima at the time of this festival. This was one pit stop to try all types of dishes of Peru.
Having spent 4 hours here in Mistura, we then headed back as we had to start packing and getting things in order for the next morning bus to the next city that was Nasca.
Keep reading to know more about what I have been doing in Peru and for my suggestions of what to see and do.