Friday, March 25, 2016

Lima, Peru
Tuesday March 8 thru Friday March 18, 2016

We had originally planned to take a month seeing Peru and maybe even see some other countries in South America. BUT by the time we got to Ecuador the third week in January, then getting an appointment with the French Embassy so fast, doing the 3 week road trip came first. By the time we returned to the boat it was the third week in February. Taking care of cleaning the boat & laundry and a few boat projects and it was almost March. Last minute plane fares were high with difficult times or with long layovers and we were running into Easter week. Easter week is a very busy time in Peru, as hotels were booked up at double + prices. BAD planning on my part. Steve was not real thrilled with the idea of leaving the boat at this marina for a month either so we moved to plan B.

My cousin Margaret, a Maryknoll Sister, has been living and serving the poor communities of Lima for 38 years. She has seen a lot in those years, many which were turbulent. Her main focus has been human dignity, helping the families with abuse, neglect, violence, as well as education and community programs. She and her fellow sisters are a huge positive influence in the area they serve. Which is worlds away from the tourist area where we stayed. Since we were “close” in a neighboring country I did not want to miss the opportunity to at least visit her if not the “main” attractions of Peru of Machu Picchu & Cusco.

Plan B turned out to be to take a < 30 hour BUS ride from Guayaquil Ecuador to Lima Peru. Very comfortable seats like 1st class airline seats BUT NOT RECOMMENDED. This would be a great way to travel around South America on short trips, but it was a long trip with just a few short stops to be able to get out stretch and walk. We saved a lot of $$ and survived is the best summation.

Leaving the boat 9:30 Tuesday morning for a 2 hour bus ride to Guayaquil, time for lunch before our 2 PM bus departure. Bordering crossing 6:30 – 7 PM only immigration, “dinner” served 8 PM. While the seats in the bus were very comfy, the food was NOT even close to what coach seat airline food used to be! About 10:30 just as I was falling asleep we stop at customs. Why they were so far apart we do not know, maybe to give us another break in case we needed to use the restroom as the toilets on the bus were only to be used for #1, #2 needed to be done at one of the stops and if you needed to go between stops you were supposed to ask for a special stop!! I think the food they served was to stop you up.
When I woke at 7:30 AM Wednesday I thought I would have scenery to see. Peru's coastline is DESERT, miles & miles, hours & hours of sand hills. Amazing but not very scenic. One of the movies playing along the way was The Martian, it could have (should have) been filmed along Peru's coastline by just adding a red filter to the camera it would look just like Mars in that movie. It was dark as we reached the city and made our way to the bus terminal by 7 PM Wednesday. Taxi to IFE Boutique Hotel in Miraflores by 8, then walked a few blocks for a great Peruvian dinner at Tanta. Before going to dinner I wanted to use the phone to check in with my cousin, when I asked the clerk how to dial from the room phone she gave me a cell phone to use for that call AND for our entire visit! Made communicating with my cousin that week much easier.

The city of Lima is a little unsettling, having 10 million (a 1/3 of all of Peru) people living there, ½ in poverty, the traffic alone was overwhelming. It is located in a desert, with miles & miles of sand hills surrounding it, with most of the poor living in shanty towns on those hills. Yes we have seen poverty in all the countries we have visited, but the numbers & bleakness of the Lima landscape intensified it. It does have some very nice areas as well and the history is riveting making it an interesting place to visit. Regretfully we did not get to see the other regions of the country that we have heard and read so many wonderful things about.

Thursday morning my cousin picked us up in her 1992 manual shift VW bug (no A/C), drove from our lovely Miraflores section on Lima’s SW side to her pueblo / town / neighborhood to the east of town. Even though it was not that far distance wise, an hour by car in traffic, it is worlds away as far as living conditions. Her area NOW is more established many family homes, many paved streets, some blocks even have gated access. It is surrounded by many “New Towns” OR what they refer to as invasions. A big group of people come in and at first settle on the land (sand hills) with bamboo huts and then soon build brick one room dwellings & expand from there. At first no water or electricity, after time they get water trucks and electricity and then even city water but this takes years. She has been helping these people try to keep their dignity and help with all the problems these conditions bring out for 38 years ! This was not the tourist version of Lima. A lot of moto cars AKA tuk-tuks in this area also so driving even more crazy. Everyone turning left from the right lane or right from left lane, passing on either side. Horns beeping ALL the time, just crazy scary. We then went to pick up another sister and went to lunch back towards central Lima at Bodega Chantilli. Back out to her area to visit her work place, then back towards town to pick up pizza’s for dinner with her Peruvian family. A lovely meeting and dinner with Margaret acting as interpreter. So nice to see that she has been surrounded with this big loving family. Margaret then drove us back to town, as she was staying at the Maryknoll city center house where we got a taxi back to the hotel to save her the added trip after a long hot day.

Friday 3/11, Margaret picked us up again along with another sister, Annalyn, to go out to the archaeological site of the Museo Pachacamac. Once there Margaret settled in to wait at the cafe while we went out to see the site. Built PRE Inca but later taken over by the Incas, it is an amazing sight that is still mostly buried beneath the sand. The area first settled in 200 AD, is believed to be a religious site, most of the temples made of mud-brick were built between 800 – 1400 the Incas taking over in 1470, and archaeologists first began exploring in the 1890s. Even though many of the sites had been previously looted they have an incredible museum with pieces they have recovered. Today they are still working the site but have to be very careful not to have the walls collapse. We had a guide from the museum with us to help explain things as we drove up closer to the different sites before getting out and walking. The new (3 months) rebuilt museum is very informative. The site is near the Lurin river and the town of Lurin where we went for a great Peruvian lunch of chicharron, which in Peru is a method of cooking, NOT the deep fried pork skins that are called chicharron in other Spanish speaking countries. Huge meals, afterward Margaret remembered that it is a good place to share a meal, plenty of leftovers for Margaret & Annalyn to bring back to the center house for dinner. Back at the hotel for showers and rest before going out later for a dessert.

Saturday, Margaret picked us up again along with Annalyn to drop the 3 of us off downtown to see the historic center of Lima. Seeing its churches, cathedral, plazas, and the downtown architecture & sights. Peru is known for its food and we had no problem with Ana's help finding another great lunch spot. Steve didn’t know some of the dishes on the all Spanish menu, so he asked Annalyn to translate. She is vegetarian, and didn’t know the names either, so she asked the waiter, blushing when he told her it was “cow’s testicles”. There was also cow stomach (tripe) and cow tongue. Steve had the tongue. Sightseeing a little more as we walk to catch the bus back to the center house so Anna could go to a meeting. Margaret and Rosemary then took us to the Larcomar mall on the Miraflores cliffs for ice cream and a pisco sour as we watched the sunset over the ocean.

Sunday, Steve & I are on our own to walk around the Miraflores area. We had not seen much of the neighborhood except at night, it is a very easy place to walk around and enjoy. The Malecon a 10 minute walk from our hotel is 6 miles of a beautiful walkway & bike trail with lovely parks along the way on the cliff overlooking the pacific ocean, & where the Larcomar “mall” is located. We enjoy walking all day, after spending time traveling in a VW bug for 3 days. A late lunch by Kennedy park. Signed up for the 7 PM turibus, an open top tour bus, to go to Parque de la Reserva & see the water fountains and light show. 13 water fountains some of which you can play in, if you want to get wet, and one where they do a light show 3 x during the evening. The tour bus then drives to & thru downtown to see the the plazas & buildings all lit up. Glad we did it on a Sunday night when traffic was light by Lima standards.

Monday 3/14, Margaret picks us up to take us to the Larco Museum, a great museum with incredible pieces of pre-Columbian art. They had a wheel chair we could use to allow Margaret to enjoy the museum again as we took our time seeing the different pieces and reading about the history of Peru. A lovely lunch there at the museum before returning to our hotel. After the hot days and late big lunches it is a pleasure just walking around at night when it has cooled off. Finding a light dinner or just a dessert.

Tuesday Margaret takes us to lunch down on the waterfront at Rustica. We don't usually do buffets but this was a great one to do, with a lot of different choices and a good way to learn more about Peruvian food. Steve & I walked down to the marina, but it was another gated private marina (like the one in Salinas Ecuador) and they did not want anything to do with non-members. A lot of the coast line that we saw had a rocky shore, down by the marina they had a nice sand beach but the water along the coast is not Caribbean blue, more like Galveston brown still a lot of swimmers and surfers.

Wednesday we walked back to the malecon this time renting bikes to go a little further north & south along the waterfront. Either on the walkway or the street they have a special bike path, it really is an awesome park, with work out machines along the way, tennis courts, terrain parks & special dog parks where they can go unleashed. After 3 hours on the bikes we were ready to walk again. Spent the afternoon walking around some more. At 7 we took a taxi over to my cousins city center house then out to eat with her and Rosemary at a Chinese restaurant, Chinese with a Peruvian touch, with a very nice Canadian owner. Taxi back to the center house to visit a little more. So grateful for my cousin and her friends taking the time to spend with us showing us Lima. They are amazing ladies doing what they do, sharing their stories gave us a great apprehension of the good they do, so glad we got to spend this time with them.

Thursday 3/17 morning we get a taxi to the bus terminal and are checked in by 7:45 for our 9 AM departure that is delayed until 9:30. We survive the 27 ½ hours then switch to another bus for 2 more hours arriving back on Ocean Star by 4 PM Friday afternoon. Glad to be home learning we are too old to be sitting on a bus for 30+- hours.

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