07.11.2006 25 °C
We arrived in Lima late Tuesday evening and were picked up by the Green taxi company who our hostel owner had recommended so that we didn´t get into a random taxi and have all our belongings stolen - nice!
The first morning, Francis (hostel owner) gave each of us a map and told us all the exciting things to see in Lima, where we could get buses and how much it would cost in a taxi. He also crossed out the places where we couldn´t go unless we wanted to be robbed (of all of our belongings!) and this included most of Lima!! We were confined to a few blocks around the main square and the area where the hostel was situated but luckily that´s where all the sites to see are.
Laura says - Francis is lovely, every hostel needs one of him in it, I don´t think he sleeps! He´s always booking buses or taxis for someone or sitting them down with a map telling them where to go & how to get there. He is a big rounded jolly man who laughs heartily every time he informs you "Go in this part & they will steal everything from you, even your shoes, ha ha ha ha ha ha" bless 'ím.
Laura also says - What every hostel DOESN´T need is the guy from Nevada who is extremely well read on conspiracy theories who talks at you for about an hour every night about 10 feet mummies with 2 rows of teeth that the FBI are covering up & also informs us that apparently there were no passengers on the 9/11 flights.... fascinating!
We took a taxi with an Ozzie couple (Jodie and Warren) and set off to see the Inquisition Museum and the Monastry. It took us a while to find the museum but after many wrong turns, asking and not understanding directions and stepping into the forbidden zone for a brief moment, we chanced upon it.
It being a public holiday, there was a massive queue outside so we joined it but were soon picked out and led in to join the english tour. Not sure how they knew we weren´t natives, perhaps because we towered over all the peruvians (except Laura of course!). They are seriously short!! As is Laura, ha ha ha!!
Laura says - to put it another way, J9 looks like a freak!
Anyway, the museum was only small but quite interesting and you got to go down and see the cells where they kept those who didn´t believe or want to follow the catholic faith which is why most people were arrested.
Lauras dig - Please see above very informative explanation of the Spanish Inquisition! ha ha ha
(yes I´m still bitter about description of my driving an automatic car & the added insult regarding my height).
After that we went for a bite to eat. None of us speak any real spanish so we ordered what we thought we understood and it wasn´t too bad. We each had two courses and it was 5 soles each, about $1.50 = 80p!!! I like it it here!
We then skipped off to the monastary and saw the catacombs where over 70,000 people were buried. Lots of bones everywhere. Lovely building though!
We then decided to try the bus and after grabbing dessert at a road side stall a kind man told us which bus to get and it dropped us pretty near to the hostel.
Day 2 was spent in more museums learning about peruvian history in spanish which is a little difficult when you don´t speak it... We managed at the first museum but decided to get an english guide at the second museum and learned a lot more!! It´s all quite interesting really, the mummies and the treppaned and deformed skulls were my favourite exhibits. There´s also an awful lot of ceramics, and I mean a lot!
Day 3 we went to a nearby archeological site where they had uncovered a temple in the middle of the city. Apparently Peru is covered with lots of sites like these - at the moment they have found over 100,000 and yet only 3,000 are protected by the govt. It seems they just have too much history to uncover and they can´t afford to do it all!
We then decided to go and see another which was out of town. After much walking we jumped in a cab and then a collectivo - collectivos are little private mini vans that race around town competing with each other to get the most passengers. A bloke shouts out where the van is going and you jump on. Obviously we didn´t have a clue what they were saying so we just jumped into random vans and hoped for the best and luckily, each time we weren´t too far wrong!!! It´s fun but you have to get in quick as they drive off really quickly and you can still have one foot out the door as you are hurtling down the street!
The second site we saw was massive and there wasn´t much info in english so we had a quick wander round and headed back. They are really impressive sites but there´s still quite a lot to uncover so you never really see a full temple, just one side whilst the rest is still under the sand. We are looking forward to seeing Matchu Picchu which is all uncovered!
And that was Lima. A bit mental really. We didn´t have anything stolen but you are warned constantly to watch your belongings which makes you feel a little on edge! The people we did meet were very nice though and although I´m sure we paid a little more on the buses than the peruvians, we are only talking a few pence so you can´t really argue. And we don´t speak spanish so we couldn´t argue if we wanted to...
Laura says - much as you have to keep your wits about you & the unerving fact that some of the restaurants have an armed guard on the door, the people here are really friendly (just before they steal your camera - only jesting). There is a huge amount of poverty here hence the petty crime. Many of the shanty towns have no electricity, water supply or sanitation. The locals which we´ve actually chatted to (I say chatted but it´s a lot of nodding, pointing & mumbling "Bueno") are very welcoming & seem to find it very entertaining that we don´t speak Spanish. They have always got a smile for us though (probably because they´ve just overcharged us! ha ha).
Laura, just can´stop herself today, says - As predicted there is very little English spoken here, we came armed with our phrase book which has been invaluable. I´m actualy quite impressed with how we´ve got by so far. Only yesterday J9 managed to book us an extra nights stay at the hostel we´re in which seemed succeful, not sure why they handed her toilet paper though?????
We took a nice posh bus down to Pisco, we even got lunch! On arrival in Pisco we were instantly mobbed by people wanting us to stay in their hotel. We chose one, jumped in a cab and were pleased to find that it was nice and clean and they had cable TV!
As this is how it works in Asia I didn´t really think twice about it but Laura said she felt a little unsafe getting into a taxi with 3 random peruvians and she has a point! So, when the lovely Jose from the local tourist agency asked us if wanted to book the next week of our trip so that we didn´t have to worry about buses or hotels we agreed.
We also booked a trip to the Ballestas Islands, which are described as the poor mans Galapagos and also the Paracas Natural Reserve. It wasn´t the most interesting of trips. You take a speed boat out and circle the islands looking at all the birds, penguins and sealions and get a good whiff of the guano (bird shit). It really stinks!
Laura again - Equally as stinky is the fish factory you have to drive past on the way to the port. We´re still pondering on the theoretical question "would you sooner work collecting the Guano from the Islands or in the fish factory?".
Then you come back and go off to the reserve where you look at some pink flamingoes through the guides binoculars (there were only 5 of them) and then you walk and see a cliff formation called the Cathedral and then you pay for an expensive lunch and then you come back. Not bad but not great. If you don´t get to do this on your visit to Peru then don´t worry, you´ve not missed an awful lot!
Pisco is also not the most exciting town. There´s a main square called the Plaza d´Armas (it seems every town has a plaza d´armas!) and that´s about it. We were told, again, not to wander more than 3 blocks from the main square but that wasn´t going to happen anyway!!
Laura, having her final word, Says - Pisco is also the name of the traditional Peruvian alcholic drink which, of course, we had to try. Pisco Sour is a bit like tequilla but mixed with lime & egg white it´s really nice & is now officially my new favourie drink.
On braving the tradtional food subject: we have also tried Ceviche - raw fish marinated in lemon & chilli served with unpopped popcorn (bit odd but ok) & boiled yucca. It has a really nice flavour but they gave us such a lot & there´s only so much I can swallow before the thought of it being raw fish really starts to get to me.
I was up for trying ´Cuy´ too which is guinea pig. I had imagined it would be served in some form of stew but I´ve since found out it is presented still in the shape of a guniea pig, either on a plate or with a skewer up it´s bum..... mmmm? maybe not then.
So, that´s our first week in Peru.
Next stop, Huacachina, Nazca and Arequipa