On to South America..
18.11.2010 - 21.11.2010 20 °C
Sorry I haven't blogged in a while, been having such a blast in South America! Such a fun place with so much to do.
My first destination in South America was Lima, the capital of Peru. This was where I was to begin the "Peru on a Shoestring" tour, as well as meet up with some more friends from uni, Laura and Tash. The flight to Lima was eye-opening in the fact that it nailed down that there'd be little English spoken for the next month or so- most of the signs, as well as the language that people spoke was Spanish.
After what seemed like a long flight, due in part to the lack of in-flight entertainment (iPod time!), I arrived at Lima around midnight, and was happy to see Shaun there at the terminal also. It turned out that he had also bumped into Laura and Tash who were coincidentally on the same flight as him, but they had already gone back to the hotel by that stage. So Shaun and I practiced some of the Spanish we learnt from phrasebooks in talking a bit to our connecting taxi driver, who luckily knew exactly where to take us. The drive to the hotel took us past a vast mix of sights, run-down housing vs highly secured large houses, nice beachside suburbs, luxurious apartments and touristic plazas and bars. The area of the hostel though looked quite dodgy, as most of the small shops surrounding it looked closed and there was only a small opening to get in to our accommodation. Fortunately the concierge at the hotel spoke English, so we had little trouble getting the rooms sorted. Getting quite late now, we both headed to bed.
The next morning I was woken up by two familiar faces I had not seen for a little while- Laura and Tash! Was good to see them again and find out how the end-of-uni celebrations went. We all decided to go explore around our hotel a bit, and wandered down to find some essentials- cash and groceries. After this we went a little further to a place called Miraflores, which roughly means "looking at flowers" in Spanish, and had a walk through some of the parks there, admiring both the flowers and the view of the Pacific Ocean. Lima is not a city famous for beaches though, with quite muddy/dark coloured sand, and water roughly of the same colour. Besides this, though, the view was still quite nice, and we even spotted the odd hangglider going over us. Another interesting observation was that the song "We Speak no Americano" was playing in a nearby park- a song coming from my hometown Sydney! I guess I'd be getting used to Latin music in the coming weeks, but I did not expect such music from my own city heh. After exploring for a bit we all went and had some lunch back at the hotel. We also decided to organise a bus tour for later that afternoon, which would go around the city of Lima. Ordering lunch was a bit of a cultural experience, getting to try out some more Spanish, and this resulted in us each obtaining an unknown dish- each of which was quite good.
Tash, Shaun and I in Miraflores, LimaViews of the coast from Miraflores, Lima
The tour in the afternoon took us firstly through the Barranco district, close to the hotel, which was famous for its bars and nightlife. We would definitely be visiting here later tonight. The next stop was a trip to Miraflores again, though this time we got to see a statue of two lovers, some more hanggliding places and some ancient ruins, which were built by early civilisations but built on top by the Incas, and eventually the Spanish settlers. It was sad to see that only parts of the ruins remained and that clearly, houses and other buildings were built on top closeby, though what remained of the ruins was spectacular in itself- a large pyramid like structure which was thought to be a temple of some sort. The tour then took us all to central Lima, a Spanish-styled and very colonial plaza full of beautiful architecture, cathedrals, palaces and other government buildings. We had a look around this main plaza for a bit then headed into one of the cathedrals of the San Franciscan order of Catholics (the two main types of Catholic Christianity religions in Peru are the San Franciscan and the Dominican churches). This cathedral was amazing, with 500 year old scrolls in a decently sized library, numerous frescoes, and a cool thing for us to explore- catacombs! Under this cathedral in the catacombs we found various pits of human remains, which were in quite a large complex overall. As this was the last stop on our bus tour of the city we got dropped off at the hotel afterwards and prepared for dinner later in the evening at Barranco (as we had promised ourselves :P).
Mozaics at the "lover's park"Ancient ruins in LimaUs in the plaza in central Lima
Dinner was at a traditional Peruvian restaurant, with really friendly staff- we even got to meet the family who had owned the place for the last 80 years, which was nice. We all also tried our first Pisco Sour, a cocktail famous in Lima and Peru in general made from Lemon, Pisco liqueur and egg whites. The drink was delicious but very strong in alcohol! You could possibly be drunk after just a few, and this was an easy task when they were serving the stuff in jugs! After dinner we wandered around Barranco for a bit more until we came to a nice looking bar, and went inside. We all had a few more drinks and eventually headed out to try out some of the local nightclubs. This was a mostly disappointing experience (at least on this night), as most clubs were near-empty and had more people outside trying to harrass you than on the inside. Eventually we were coaxed into one of these clubs by the allure of free drinks, only to find that they were small glasses of what seemed like a "shandy" (beer with lemonade), and there was noone really dancing. A little disheartened, we went back to the hotel early for the night.
Streets in Barranco, LimaLibrary in the plaza in Barranco
The next day we all decided to spend at a museum recommended by the concierge at the hotel, little did we know when we arrived that it contained an "erotic gallery"! Interested immediately, we went in to have a look. It turned out that the gallery had exhibits all on the ancient culture and sculptures concerning erotic practices of the Inca and other early Peruvian civilisations, interesting and at the same time amusing. We ended up being the only ones laughing in the gallery, resulting in strange stares from others! After viewing the gallery we all had some lunch in the museum at a restaurant abundant in ferns and other luxurious surroundings, a really relaxing place. The empanadas and other food from this place were awesome, and we were also lucky enough to have a waiter who spoke English After lunch we decided to also visit the other galleries in the museum (yes, there were others :P), which ended up being really interesting, and we all learnt quite a bit about the history of the Incas and other civilisations in ancient Peru (the Inca were just the latest civilisation, there were much more before them, and there was a lot of information about these in the museum).
Tash with one of the statues in the museum
Getting quite late in the afternoon we then headed back to the hotel to get ready to meet the rest of our tour group for our "Peru on a Shoestring" tour. We ended up meeting in the evening with the tour guide and the rest of the group, all of whom seemed very friendly and around our age- lucky for us! As well as this, most of the group was from either Australia or New Zealand, so this was pretty cool. To start the night and get to know each other a bit better, we all caught taxis to a park in central Lima to see a fountain light show, showing every night in this city. The fountain lights were awesome, with many young people in the park giving the place a social atmosphere. You can see some of the photos of the lightshow below.
Fountain light showMore fountain lights
Afterwards we all shared a taxi back to the main plaza in Barranco to visit some night markets and get some street food. Sharing a taxi which was crazily manuoevring through traffic was a great way for a few of us to get to know each other better, and we all happily talked about our trips, where we were from, what our plans were, what we had already seen of Lima, etc. Dinner at the street markets was also quite fun, getting to try some of the local specialties including some great bbq meat and passionfruit cheesecake (yum!). Having had our fill of nice, cheap food, as well as a few desserts and exotic cocktails, we all headed over to some of the nearby clubs, and at least for Laura, Shaun, Tash and I, try our luck a second time. Luckily this time we were recommended a club by the tour leader, and this turned out to be a great recommendation- the place was packed and had some really nice, cheap drinks. The night was really fun, with a few of us getting to dance, enjoy some beers, some very cheap cocktails/shots (never ordering "Something Special" again though!), and getting to know each other a bit better. I ended up stumbling back to the hotel around 2am, though the others partied hard until around 4 or 5 or so- there were some funny stories to tell the next day!! (I won't divulge too much, but it included getting close to strangers and being led into other clubs :P)
We also met up with some more group members the next morning, them having only just arrived. Our group was now complete, and within a few hours we were all headed on a bus to Arequipa for the start of our tour. After all getting familiar with each other and the newly arrived group members, we had some discussion about whether we should make a detour on the trip to Arequipa to a place called "Huachachina", famous for its sand dunes, dune buggying and sandboarding. This sounded like an awesome idea, and so we all pretty much decided to break off from the tour itinerary for a day and a bit to go visit this place (and lucky we did because this place was awesome!! More in the next blog post to come )
So adios for now, and see you again soon in Huachachina!