Peru 2008 – Lima Miraflores Pachacamac

In the book 1000 Places To See Before You Die, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos feature prominently. These had also been on our must see list for many years, and proving the old adage, that given enough money any problem can be solved, we signed up for a 19 day tour of southern Peru, Quito and the Galapagos and let the tour guides take care of us.

Lima- Miraflores – Pachacamac

We arrived in Lima after two flights from Vancouver via Houston. A full day sitting in economy class watching three movies and eating airplane food (Continental still serves food on the plane!), finally ended with touch down in light fog at Lima’s International Airport.

Lima was legendary in our mind for being a very unsafe place both for minor theft like pickpockets and more intimidating kidnappings and forced ATM visits during the time of the Shining Path guerrilla movement. We therefore exited the customs hall with a bit of trepidation into a seemingly hostile environment.

However, like most developing country airports, there was a sea of families meeting their returning relatives, and unlike most of these countries, an equally large number of tour companies picking up arriving tourists, including us.

The most shocking aspect of stepping outside the airport was not a sense of danger, but why was it so cold and damp 12 degrees south of the Equator at sea level!

We got to the hotel in the Miraflores district, an upscale area near the Pacific, which was to be our home for the next three days. There we ran into the second contradiction of travel in Peru – all couples got rooms with two twin beds, while single travelers got rooms with one double bed! What happened to the Latin lover, was he relegated to a twin bed?

Our hotel, the Grand Faraona, was minutes from Parque Kennedy and 15 minutes walk to the cliffs overlooking the Pacific, where the upscale Larcomar shopping centre had been carved in a terrace fashion similar to the Andean farm land we would see in another week. We wandered around Miraflores checking out the various shops, cafes and restaurants. This felt very European, and with police on nearly every corner, it felt very safe. Peru had just finished hosting the EU/Latin American summit, and there was extra security for the event. We soon become comfortable walking around the area, even the main streets after dark, and enjoyed the culinary and cultural delights that Peru has to offer.

The cold Humboldt Current from the south ensures a rich seafood supply right off the coast, and has helped catapult Lima into the culinary limelight. We quickly discovered this fact, and enjoyed excellent ceviche, Peru’s national dish, as well as copious amounts of other dishes using ingredients from all over Peru. Luckily we had signed up to hike the Inca trail, and these extra pounds gathered in Lima would soon be used up in another week.

Lima, the City of Kings, was the main Spanish city in South America for 300 years. Founded in 1532, Lima has a wide range of Spanish colonial buildings and churches, as well as Inca ruins south at Pachacamac. We toured central Lima visiting the San Francisco church and catacombs, the Plaza Mayor, Museum of Archeology (with a huge pre Columbian gallery), as well as the Lovers Park in Miraflores, and the upscale neighborhood of San Isidro. All of this occurred in a light fog, which we were told was present for most of 9 months every year! “But it doesn’t rain”, our guide reassured us. This despite the fact that it was about 13C and the ground was wet from condensation.

Our guide for the city tour was a black Peruvian, who spoke fluent English. She told me about 2M of the 28M people in Peru have African ancestry, mostly arriving to work on plantations in the mid 19th century (but not as slaves, she emphasized).

Dinner that evening was on “Pizza Street”, a nickname for a street with at least 20 restaurants and bars, serving a variety of food, including pizza. We hadn’t realized that there is an obsession with Pizza in Peru, and soon discovered that there were a large number of restaurants serving pizza in every town that we went to.

The cold Humboldt Current from the south ensures a rich seafood supply right off the coast, and has helped catapult Lima into the culinary limelight. We quickly discovered this fact, and enjoyed excellent ceviche, Peru’s national dish, as well as copious amounts of other dishes using ingredients from all over Peru. Luckily we had signed up to hike the Inca trail, and these extra pounds gathered in Lima would soon be used up in another week.

Lima, the City of Kings, was the main Spanish city in South America for 300 years. Founded in 1532, Lima has a wide range of Spanish colonial buildings and churches, as well as Inca ruins south at Pachacamac. We toured central Lima visiting the San Francisco church and catacombs, the Plaza Mayor, Museum of Archeology (with a huge pre Columbian gallery), as well as the Lovers Park in Miraflores, and the upscale neighborhood of San Isidro. All of this occurred in a light fog, which we were told was present for most of 9 months every year! “But it doesn’t rain”, our guide reassured us. This despite the fact that it was about 13C and the ground was wet from condensation.

Our guide for the city tour was a black Peruvian, who spoke fluent English. She told me about 2M of the 28M people in Peru have African ancestry, mostly arriving to work on plantations in the mid 19th century (but not as slaves, she emphasized).

Dinner that evening was on “Pizza Street”, a nickname for a street with at least 20 restaurants and bars, serving a variety of food, including pizza. We hadn’t realized that there is an obsession with Pizza in Peru, and soon discovered that there were a large number of restaurants serving pizza in every town that we went to.

That afternoon we toured Pachacamac, the largest Inca ruin in the Lima area. The entire Lima valley is very arid, and depends on rivers for water and irrigation. Pachacamac was built on top of a small hill near the ocean with a river valley on the south side to supply water for growing food. The ruin has had some areas restored to show the Inca construction techniques and to show the type of pyramids and other structures that were built there. We walked around the site and offered coca leaves to the gods for good luck hiking the Inca trail.

That evening we continued the Inca Ruin theme and had dinner at the Huaca Pucllana restaturant. Huaca Pucllana is another ruin in the middle of Miraflores, which is an active archeological site. There is a restaurant with a terrace that looks onto the ruin – a spectacular setting. This is a very upscale restaurant in Lima, but as our dollar is strong, was quite reasonably priced compared to similar restaurants in Vancouver. Their liberal dress code allowed casual tourists to dine along side elegantly dressed locals, and ensured that we would get in!

The dinner was very sumptuous – Lomo Saltado – beef tenderloin, ceviche and chicken stuffed with cheese, spinach and yellow potato. The full menu is http://www.resthuacapucllana.com/themenu.html.

With the pounds piling on, we spent the next day walking around Miraflores, checking out all the different markets – both upscale at Larcomar and downscale at the Inka Mercado, which has the largest selection of indigenous products in all of Peru. I bought a Baby Alpaca sweater, from amongst hundreds at each of the hundreds of stalls!

That night we met up with the group that we would be traveling with for the next 14 days in Southern Peru. The group ranged in age from 23 to 54 and included four Brits, two Aussies, five Canadians, one American and a Luxembourgian.

Advertisements

About petergsimmons

Global citizenship is conferred on those who have lived in a variety of countries, and who don’t identify with any one culture. I am such a person. Having lived in Jamaica, Canada and Japan, I have been exposed to First World/Third World, East and West, North and South. This has lead to a rich living experience, open-mindedness and curiosity about the world around me. This variety of living conditions in human landscapes is coupled with equally diverse travels in natural landscapes from the jungles of South East Asia and South America to the Arctic tundra; tropical beaches to the Himalayas, resulting in an incredible journey through life itself.
This entry was posted in Peru, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s