Liking Peru

Lima wasn’t too special. I think it may be like Chiang Mai. Lots of people raved about how good Chiang Mai was and I found it rather ordinary. Perhaps I didn’t see the right bits. Perhaps I didn’t see the right bits of Lima either.

I stayed in Miraflores, supposedly one of the nicest neighbourhoods. Well it was nothing like Palermo in Buenos Aires. Other parts of the city on the bus ride to centro historico looked nicer. Certainly more alive, more interesting. The traffic was interesting too. Not in volume, but in intent. In various Asian cities there were as many, or more, vehicles but there you could step out into the road and the traffic would flow around you. In Lima I had the feeling they’d delight in running you over. There are a few photos in my Lima set at Flickr.

Two nights in Lima were enough. There are several intercity bus companies in Peru. I used Cruz del Sur for the journey to Nazca. Apart from the rubbish “meal” (three layer sandwich with foul tasting unidentifiable fillings) the journey was fine.

Nazca is a bit of a one trick pony. The thing everyone goes to see is the collection of geoglyphs referred to as the Nazca Lines. By the time I had dropped my luggage at the hostel it was too late to get a flight that day. Nazca follows the traditional Spanish town layout with a central Plaza Mayor and a neat rectangular grid of streets leading off it. Birds of a feather flock together and in Nazca, as in pretty much everywhere I’ve been, similar businesses set up shop next to each other. I needed a haircut so after I found the street with the peluquerias there were about a dozen to choose from. A quick buzz with clippers cost S/.4 (four Nuevo Soles – just under £1).

Next morning I took a taxi to the airport (S/.3) with one of my roommates from the hostel. All of the flight operators were charging the same price (US$90) for a 30 minute flight to see the lines. We found our other two roommates there so the four of us grouped together and picked a company at random. About an hour later we took off in a Cessna bimotor operated by Unistar. The promotional blurb for all the flights says something along the lines of “see the lines from several thousand feet”. Actually the manoeuvring height was only 400 feet above ground level. People with motion sickness are advised not to eat before taking a flight. The aircraft perform a series of tight left and right turns around each of the figures so passengers on both sides can see them clearly and have a chance to take photos. One of my roommates was looking a bit green by the end of our flight but managed not to throw up.  The first figure came up after just a couple of minutes, a whale. It was followed by the “astronaut”, monkey, dog, condor, humming bird, spider, tree, hands, parrot and heron. There are actually a whole bunch of lines all over the desert and some of the figures were harder to spot than others. See how many you can spot in my Nazca set at Flickr. About thirty five minutes after taking off we landed on runway 25 and found a taxi back to town.

While waiting for our flight I practised my Spanish on one of the ground crew, a Quechuan named Maximo. He was keen to teach me some Quechua too. When someone here says “hablas espanol?” it is dangerous to admit “hablo un pocito”. They seem to hear “yes, I’m completely fluent” and launch into a thousand word per minute spiel. If they respond to “mas despacio, por favor” at all, they’re likely to slow down for only a few seconds before resuming full speed operations. Maximo was one of the few people who actually maintained a slow enough pace that I was able to understand most of what he said first time for a full twenty minute conversation.

Late that night I caught an overnight bus for the ten hour journey to Arequipa. I like Arequipa; it reminds me of Salamanca. Unlike Nazca where many of the streets are unpaved and therefore the city is very dusty, in Arequipa all the roads are paved.  There is still a haze hanging over the city. I don’t know if it’s smog, trapped by the surrounding mountains. It doesn’t seem like there’s enough traffic for it to be smog. The city is at 2380m asl and is surrounded by three volcanoes – Misti (5822m asl), Chachani (6095m asl) and PichuPichu (5669m asl). Whereas much of Salamanca is made from yellow or grey sandstone, many of the buildings here are made from sillar, a white stone quarried from the volcanoes. It’s a photographically challenging city; white stone and the harsh sunlight is a bad combination, and many of the views are spoiled by telegraph poles, phone and power cables. There are some pictures at Flickr.

Gastronomically inquisitive friends will be disappointed to hear I haven’t tried the Peruvian specialty of guinea pig yet. Apparently it’s not as popular with the locals as is widely believed. On the drinks front I have tried Inka Kola (looks like piss, tastes like cream soda) and mate de coca (tastes less yuck than any of the other varieties of tea on offer).

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4 Responses to “Liking Peru”

  1. Christine says:

    Hope you enjoy your time in Peru, I made some fantastic friends when I was there and, at one time, was tempted to stay. Agree with you about Lima, although my friend has a fantastic glass fronted apartment overlooking the sea!!
    Assume you’ll probably get to Cusco. The bus route down to Bolivia along Lake Titicaca is quite interesting.

    Look forward to reading more.

    • Mark says:

      Hi Christine,

      Thanks for reading and for commenting. I’m going to Cusco on Saturday, Machu Picchu booked for Tuesday but I’m not doing the Inca Trail. A posh apartment always make a place seem better. I’ll probably spend 2 more days in Cusco after Machu Picchu rather than spend them in Lima. Bolivia will have to wait too.

      How’s your tango going? I’m pretty sure I’ll have forgotten how to by the time I get to Buenos Aires. Hopefully it’ll come back quickly.

      Cheers,
      Mark.

      • Christine says:

        Mark

        Tango is wonderful. Going back to BsAs in March for a month. Did you hear that Sally was ‘live’ on Radio 4 this morning? On the ‘Excess Baggage’ programme, talking about tango.

        Enjoy the next few weeks, I seem to remember that Cusco was one of the most expensive places in S.America (too many U.S. tourists pushing the prices up).

        C.

        • Mark says:

          Wonderful, eh? I’m jealous! I’ll probably still be there in March so will see you there.
          Yes, I saw on fb that Sally was on the Beeb. When I’m somewhere with an internet connection good enough for streaming I’ll have a listen.
          I arrived in Cusco yesterday. It was pouring with rain. This morning we’ve had hail. The forecast is crap for the next week so it looks like I’ll get wet going to Machu Picchu. Hey ho, never mind… I haven’t actually ventured out of the hostel yet so can’t comment on the prices.
          Keep on enjoying your tango.

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