Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lima - part 1

Arrived in Lima then got a taxi from the airport to tourist central--Miroflores--then checked into the hostel. Check out my million dollar view. Of McDonalds.

I then set out for lunch. There are a lot of veggie restaurants around here so I headed to the closest 300m from the hostel. El Vegetariano gets 4.5 stars on happycow so should be good. It was packed with locals not tourists. Nice. I sat down and ordered the special which was three courses and cost about $4. A woman sat at my table since there was no space and I had half a conversation with her about vegetarianism, Australia and the drink we got, which tasted like tea with honey but wasn't apparently. I didn't get all of what she said, but it was enough to have a basic conversation, so yay.

Next up was a walk around Miroflores. I don't know if this is dust (Lima is built in a desert) or pollution or fog. But it does have a shit beach compared to Brazil. It's also really cold because of Pacific currents apparently.

Next up was the fountain park which was the tour of the day organised by the hostel. About 10 of us went. Lima has a new busway (2010) which is like a tram and goes up the middle of the freeway. I like it, otherwise its scary crap buses of questionable road worthiness. Plus all the taxis (also of questionable roadworthiness) get stuck in traffic on the freeway, so this is much better. Anyway we got there for sunset and walked around. The fountains were awesome. Fountains naturally sound kinda lame, but I agree with tripadvisor this was really good. Then they did a half hour laser and light show with the fountains. Again, sounds lame, but was good.

This one was my favourite.

Then back to the hostel. I convinced two other vegetarians to come to AlmaZen for dinner with me. This is the restaurant I want to go to the most in South America and I've really been looking forward to it thanks to vegan backpackers. So we went, but the owners are on holidays and its closed. Gutted! Hopefully it will be open again when I'm back on the 19th. We tried another veggie restaurant, but they were closing for the night and we couldn't order so we ended up in a tourist cafe. It had a decent vegetarian selection and the food turned out to be really nice.

Then it was back to the hostel for drinking til 3am. I love this hostel. It's not full of Brazilians. Hmm, that sounds racist but it really isn't. I love the Brazillians but I can't talk to any of them. In this hostel most people are English speaking and it's very social. And it's like being at a festival cos they make you wear a wrist band for identification. This tag did get me beers!

The next day I got up and got the bus into downtown Lima to see the main square and the San Francisco monastery and catacombs. The main square looks really cool.

Then I walked up the pedestrian street to the other main square. This is for my friend Mirella.

Half way up I encountered riot police. Some mounted on horses.

I started to get worried about what I was about to walk through. There were a lot of people standing around looking like they were going to protest about something. I never actually found out what. I'll assume the government was making a shit decision that nobody liked or benefited from.

Riot police in front of the San Francisco church.

I got to the San Francisco church and got on the English speaking tour. This place was amazing. Unfortunately they wouldn't let you take any photos. The best bit was a library with books from the 16th century. It looked like something out of Harry Potter but with less wizards. The catacombs were also really good. Lots of bones. If you were a peasant apparently they'd have about four people to a grave (no coffins, separated by blankets) and when you'd decomposed enough they'd dig you up and chuck your bones into a mass grave and your original grave would be reused. Of course if you were rich and donated money to the church, you'd get your own crypt, and those bodies are still there. So far they've excavated about 25,000 bodies, but they haven't excavated all the graves yet, so they don't know how many more bodies are buried here. Amazing. 

After lunch I joined a tour. The first stop was Barranco, the Bohemian neighbourhood next over Miroflores. It's pretty cool.

Then we went to Pachacamac, some ruins about 30km south of Lima. These are pre-Inca temples in the sand. My limited understanding is there was pre-Inca, who were conquered by the Incas, who were conquered by the Spaniards. Anyway, the story behind the pyramids was quite interesting. Pilgrims, gods, rituals, etc. Usual stuff. The only bit I didn't like was the sacrifice of animals and women to the gods. Stupid men, I don't know what they expected to achieve from this. That's probably why they were conquered by the Incas. Hopefully Inca women.

Here's a shanty town right next to the important historical ruins.

The ride back into town went through some shithole part of Lima. Although I like where I'm staying, the city is generally not that nice. I got back to the hostel to pick up my bag and head over to the hotel to join my Gap tour. After sleeping in bunk beds and dorm rooms, I was looking forward to some middle class luxury.

We had a group meeting a 6.30pm but no one was really introduced since this guy is not our guide for Machu Picchu. We will meet him/her in Cuzco tomorrow. This guy's job is basically to make sure we get to the airport. The tour has 11 people, and quite a few older couples, and a bunch of (older) people from Hong Kong. The Chinese are really starting to get around now they are all getting richer. If Australia was less shit, we could really capitalise on this growing tourist market. Anyway, that's another rant for another day. All the older people took off straight away so I started talking to two younger guys travelling on their own, one from Canada and the other from the UK. They came to a vegetarian restaurant (Bircher-Benner) with me, where I had a vegan version of ceviche, the famous Peruvian fish dish. All the flavours and the salad part was the same, except I had like a fillet of sweet potato. It was yum and cruelty free.

Got back to my room at 11.30pm and no one else was there. I think "great, a room to myself for the whole tour" and I immediately start spreading my crap all over the room. However 1.30am, the door bursts open and a girl comes in. The following morning we introduced ourselves. She is from Switzerland. I apologised for all my crap everywhere, she apologised for being noisy (reception did not tell her anyone else was in the room), and off we head to breakfast before making our way to Cuzco.