I arrived on Tuesday morning after yet another overnight bus (I’m becoming quite the expert) and managed to find the hostel with surprisingly little struggle considering there was no visible sign announcing that it was the place I was looking for (luckily I had been forewarned about this). As soon as I was shown my bed I quickly collapsed for the obligatory post-night bus snooze, and resurfaced around about lunchtime, ready to face Lima. I got a map and some general instruction from Jesus, one of the owners, and set off for my usual initial meandering assessment of a new city. Somehow I liked it immediately: it felt dead relaxed, there was a fruit market two minutes’walk away, the main tourist area (the Miraflores district) was pleasant just to walk around, and everyone seemed really friendly. The abundance of interesting street stalls also immediately put me at ease (street food makes me happy).
That day I visited some ruins that were slap bang in the middle of the city (technically closed but the nice guard let me in to have a quick look and insisted on taking my picture for me), did some much-needed laundry (although the lady refused to take my paint-spattered clothes, perhaps unsurprisingly), and – probably best of all – paid a visit to a chocolate museum. As it was my second chocolate-related activity of this trip, I felt like I already had some knowledge in the area, but it was still an excellent experience – you got a free tour round, free chocolate flavoured tea on entrance, and a free taster of their homemade chocolate buttons too. I ended up staying there for ages – partly because I was transfixed watching the chocolatiers do such interesting tasks as stirring a bowl full of freshly made chocolate, and partly because I stuck around to sample their hot chocolate (how could I resist?) and then ended up getting into a lengthy conversation with a very lovely German whom I will henceforth refer to as Excessively Tall Martin (6 foot 8 really is unnecessarily tall). The hot chocolate was incredible, as expected: one of those ‘do it yourself’ types with steamed milk, melted chocolate, honey to sweeten it with, and chilli powder (Mayan-style). It was soon gone though, but we didn’t end up leaving the cafe until it was dark – it was really nice just to be able to sit and chat in a nice place with a nice person. He’s heading to Cusco just about at the same time as me so our paths may cross again once I’m there (especially if I am in desperate need of charging my camera; he has a Nikon too and even patiently tried to explain to me what all the settings on mine are for, albeit falling on largely deaf ears).
It was a lovely first impression of Lima anyway, and once I got back to the hostel I met a couple of other people – another German, Darius, and a Colombian who sort of worked at the hostel – and we watched a film, which was the perfect way to end the day (also Argo was a bloody brilliant film). After such a good first day it set a high standard for the rest of my time here, which I can happily say has generally been met. Yesterday I went to the Plaza del Armas with an Australian guy I met in the hostel – its awesome to hear someone say “heaps” again – and we explored the catacombs of the San Francisco Monastery: rooms and rooms full of bones, often arranged in tasteful artistic patterns. Lovely. With the price of the ticket came a free (but obligatory) tour guide – unfortunately ours spoke almost indecipherable English: most of what I could understand involved “16th/17th/18th century” or “St Francisisasissi” a.k.a presumably St Francis of Assisi. So I can’t tell you much about the monastery other than that it was a bit creepy but also pretty cool.
We just wandered around the centre for most of the rest of the time: neither of us were particularly motivated to look at any more churches (let’s face it, most colonial churches are the same) or at the big museum, and it was pleasant enough just walking about and looking at life go by. We stopped for a dubious hamburguesa at a cafe in a park somewhere – worth a mention because here we discovered that in Peru they put crisps in their burgers, a revelation that I will definitely be considering bringing home with me. Later on we also sampled the national dish (lemon meringue pie, delicious) and some fresh juice (strawberry and pineapple, quite a unique combination) before coming back to the hostel and crashing out. It’s hard work being a tourist.
Later that evening we went out, along with a French-Canadian (the first one I’ve ever met!) called Sheldon, to see the fountains show in the Parque Reserva, braving the combi buses to get there and back (actually quite enjoyable; had a nice conversation with the conductor who apparently would like to become an English teacher) and generally enjoying it all thoroughly. Music and lights and images projected onto water, what more does a night out need? There were also lots of smaller fountains dotted about the place, some that you could run through (if you were brave enough, which with my camera I was not), and various different displays that you could watch. During an attempted photo opportunity (I was standing in the fountain tunnel and Jay was failing to figure out how to turn on my camera) Sheldon sneakily directed the spray in a manner that meant I got soaked – would have made a funny photo because I couldn’t understand how it was happening, but comedic nonetheless with or without physical evidence. It was a nice night out and we impressively managed to make it back to the hostel without any directional mishaps, so generally quite pleased with the outcome.
Not done a lot today – quick trip to the police station to report my lost/stolen Kindle (another official police report to add to my folder), another visit to the fruit market (today’s experiment: lucuma and tumbo fruits; interesting is the word of the day), and just general wandering about as per usual. Just waiting around for the bus to Cusco – 20-odd hours, should be a riot. Sad to leave Lima but on the other hand I’M DOING THE INCA TREK IN 3 DAYS. Oh, life. I shall try to update at least once before I go but don’t expect any word between the 17th and the 20th as I shall be up a mountain and whatnot. Wish me luck!