South America Diary: Day 6

Wednesday, 20 April, 2011. 17:57. Hotel Leon de Oro, Lima, Peru.

Hotel Leon de Oro View We have arrived in Peru for a couple of days in Lima before joining our next Intrepid tour. We were up and packed by 05:30, and then at Guayaquil Airport by about 06:00. The first thing we encountered was a gadget staffed by two men which they were using to encase people’s luggage in great reams of plastic wrap. A lady tried to push us towards it, and at first we thought it was some sort of security requirement. But the guy said it cost US$10 a bag, and it seemed to be optional, so we started to walk away towards the check-in desks. The woman urged us in Spanish again, this time miming rainfall, and we realised that the plastic was meant to protect bags from the rain that was pouring down outside. Given the chance that our bags might be exposed to that while in the care of the airline, we paid our $20 and had the bags encased in plastic. It was a good thing too, because when we collected them, the handles (the only exposed bit) were soaked, and I saw some obviously water-damaged bags on the baggage claim carousel in Lima.

The flight was only 1.5 hours, and we had our breakfast on board – just a sandwich – but we also had some chocolate that M. bought last night while we were waiting for our hotel pick-up. On landing in Lima, we passed through immigration and customs quickly and were met outside by a helpful woman from Intrepid, who led us to a four-wheel drive driven by a woman called Alice to take us to the Hotel Leon de Oro. The Intrepid woman (we didn’t catch her name) warned us to only carry enough cash for what we needed when walking around Lima.

Luigi's Pasta & Pizza Alice was a demon driver, but the airport here is considerably further from our hotel than it was in Guayaquil. It took about half an hour to drive here along freeway most of the way along the coast, where the Pacific Ocean lapped at ugly looking beaches with nothing but rocks and brown dirt. The thick grey mist that hung over both city and ocean didn’t help either. It was quite a shock at the airport when we left the plane and noticed the awful smell in the air. We guess it’s from the farms that seem to flank the airport on all sides. Thankfully the air smells okay here in Miraflores in the city.


We’re now back at the hotel after dinner. We walked out a few blocks through the cool night air and busy streets of Lima to find a restaurant. On Avenue Jose Larco we found a place called Luigi’s that did pizzas and pastas, though we assume it’s not actually run by an Italian. M.’s “margarita” pizza was decent, though on a bready crust, while my raviolis a la bolognese came in a sauce more like a beef stew than the tomato-laden bolognese we’re more used to. The table condiments were chili powder and oregano flakes instead of salt and pepper. My “bolognese” was made with chopped beef rather than minced, and the ravioli were stuffed with shredded beef and obviously hand made. The meal was good, though very different from the Italian standards they were named after. I also tried my first pisco sour with the meal – the national cocktail of Peru. It was strong and not really sour – not bad.

Streets of Miraflores Earlier in the afternoon, after settling in to our hotel room, we ventured out into the streets of Lima. We are staying in the Miraflores area near the ocean and away from downtown Lima, but near a lot of shopping and entertainment areas. The hotel it in a somewhat run-down residential area, but just two blocks walk through these dodgy streets took us to a bustling and modern area full of hotels, casinos, shops, restaurants, and people – lots of people. They were bustling to and fro, crossing streets full of traffic that seemed to flow around them without interruption. We adopted the standard tactic of street crossing in a foreign land: going whenever a quorum of locals decided to go.

A few blocks from the hotel we stopped in at a cafe attached to one of the casinos and had a lunch of grilled sandwiches. M. had one with cheese, tomato, and something like pesto, while I had one with cheese and three different types of ham. M. had two coffees and I had a strawberry frappe which came covered with a mountain of whipped cream and chocolate syrup. It was good after the light breakfast.

The Lone Petitioner Then we walked east a few more blocks along Avenue Jose Larco towards Parque Kennedy. Just before getting there we found a free exhibition of photography in a public building – photos of religious celebration across Peru, shot in a close journalistic style by a single photographer. We looked around the images for a bit, then headed across the road into the park. It was a standard sort of small inner city park, full of people on breaks from work. The major difference was the numerous cats wandering around. Facing the park was the colonial style Iglesia Medalla Milagrosa, a large church whose doors were closed, though this didn’t stop one businessman from stopping to pray for several minutes at the door.

From the park, we waked another couple of blocks to the native market and artisan’s market, which are across the road from one another. These were rabbit warrens of close passages between endless stalls of people selling all sorts of gear made from alpaca wool – hats, scarves, ponchos, jumpers, jackets, headbands, socks, leg warmers, finger puppets of all descriptions, and so on – silver and semi-precious stone jewellery, wood carvings, paintings, musical instruments, CDs and DVDs, and the ubiquitous T-shirts with various designs. We walked the stalls for maybe two and a bit hours, and skipped several rows when we decided it was time to go. M. bought a bunch of stuff – gifts for people – and a beautiful alpaca shawl for herself – all incredibly cheap compared to alpaca products back home. We also got Inca design silver necklace pendants for our mothers – again pretty cheaply.

Artisan's Market The market undefeated, we returned to our hotel via a shoe shop where I bought a cheap pair of sneakers to replace the destroyed ones that fell apart in the Galapagos on Española. They didn’t really have my size, but I need some enclosed shoes for the rest of the trip, so I bought some very slightly squishy ones. They’re cheap enough to discard at the end of the trip and not bother taking home. It was mildly entertaining trying to get across my various shoe-buying requests and comments in phrase-book Spanish to the assistant who was trying her hardest to be helpful and didn’t speak a word of English. I made heavy use of the phrase “más grande” to indicate that every shoe they brought me was too small. Alas the size selection topped out just a smidgen too small to be truly comfortable, and in a rather lairy sandshoe design.

From there, we stopped at a supermarket, both to check out what it was like and to buy some more band-aids, water, and some brioche style bread for a snack before dinner since lunch was fairly light. It wasn’t proper brioche and tasted a bit stale, but it filled holes in our stomachs for an hour or two. Then we returned to our hotel about 17:30 before heading out for dinner just after 19:00, which has already been described.

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