Lima and the tour begins

Getting there…

I woke up the day of my departure and rushed to get ready to leave, throwing the last of what was already a substantial suitcase (yes not backpack…) full of gear. Good chance of there being grounds for a lot of “I told you so”s so let’s see how that pans out. I took a few pictures of old Blighty in the morning to share with my new lat am friends, and was pleasantly surprised by what could be achieved in an hour or so wandering around near my place. I was fortunate with the weather and have to laud the views you can get of the key spots in london from the Greenwich observatory so armed with at least some pro- UK propaganda headed home. Then, just in case the sense of pride re England’s green and pleasant lands got too much, a thunderstorm sharply broke out within ten minutes of getting safely back to the flat. 

After a reasonably turbulent journey (literally… and also figuratively due to my poor use of the tube) I landed in Mexico City airport for the first time, arriving at around 4 am, following what could only be described as shameful attempt at doing the sensible thing of sleeping. What I actually did was fill a lot of the time perusing tacky films that I would otherwise be too ashamed to watch but between you and me… thoroughly enjoyed (lego batmaaaan!). 

The CDMX (Mexico City airport) lounge was good value, especially when you’re there for the whole day. I keenly watched and partook in the changing display of goodies on offer at the buffet counter with the occasional nap or Spanish practice …. I (think) I have learned a decent amount of Mexican politics from the range of newspapers they had on offer as well as finishing the first short Spanish book I bought for the trip. Thanks Maryjo for the lengthy Skype here which definitely helped pass the time as well as get some more speaking practice in before it got real!

Quick note as well on the drink selection which was excellent. For my tuppence worth, despite the apparent trend of mezcal becoming more popular, for me it’s still tequila comfortably. The Mexican gent next to me recommended, after I said I wasn’t much a of a mezcal drinker, 400 conejos if anyone is familiar, which was good but not top. 

This was amazing, it’s a single-layer bed of nachos, with a creamy sauce made from beans, onions, and seasoning…sprinkled with cheese and served with black beans, more (crispy) nachos and two hot and delicious sauces. 

Mmm actual Jose Cuervo in Mexico… but of a Guinness in Ireland thing going on here?

2 September – Lima

After arriving at 4 AM in the morning I managed to grab five hours of sleep before waking up to a nice but fairly standard breakfast of eggs and muffins. I must’ve made a mistake in my communication I was the lady in making two portions of scrambled eggs for me… what a shame. And so after a particularly hearty start to the day I set myself the task of sorting out a local Sim card for my phone. I had a chat with the guy at the hostel was lovely to get my bearings then set off for my first venture. This came to a very abrupt halt pretty much straight away as the first thing they asked me for is my passport which I had conveniently left. At my hotel. That aside I had some fun grappling with new Spanish word (if your phone is on locked in Spanish literally it is freed or liberated). After making several signatures (and fingerprints) I got my Sim and proudly returned to the hostel to buy my plan over the Internet. Unfortunately both my Halifax clarity on Monday card were not accepted. After faffing for a bit and managed to get the guy at the hostel lend me his great credit card and pay them in cash… Which was good but the plan I have needs topping up every week so fingers crossed I can find someone that helpful regularly once I start going a bit more off piste…

Shortly after I then met up with my Peruvian friend, Karina, who took me to some local markets where I have my eye on some panpipes which cost about four quid. There were some beautiful colours there and you can buy please clothes made from al paca wool as well! I’m also looking forward to having my first go at bartering here soon. Next chance to public transport for the first time she took me to a competition in a stadium for typical type of dance in Peru called Marinera. It was great to see all the traditional dress and crazy shapes being thrown to the sound of The 30 or so piece military band providing musical support. it’s completely different to anything I’ve seen before, and the number of dancers there was incredible – they danced 3-5 couples at a time doing a three piece stint before the next lot of a seemingly never ending tide of new couples washed onto the floor. I think we were there for an hour or so and then it was the turn of the kids, which I thought was just adorable at first and then was in awe at how skilful they were despite being tiny! They must have started learning the ropes pretty much as soon as they could walk. 

We then risked another bus to get to our next destination, Parque de la reserva… I’m finding these buses a bit crazy as the traffic can be mental and there just aren’t stops. You stand by the road and try and flag one down where some conductor or other is hanging out the vehicle shouting destinations and keeping an eye for would-be passengers. The fare and when you pay it seems entirely arbitrary to start with (on the less official buses… there are different kinds) but was never more than 50p for our relatively short trips. I quickly learnt that they keep track of when you get on and there is a method to it of some kind though still remains grey to em…basically, I’m glad I had Karina to help me through this! I commented at the apparent chaos on roads to which I got the response “Esto, no es nada” (This is nothing!) The park itself was lovely, with a 4 soles fee (basically a quid) to can go round the beautiful grounds and admire the dozen or so fountains (I learned a new word for these: piletas!) 

Dinner was at a Pollería (pardo’s). This basically means chicken-shop and is a well established concept all over South America I am told, so seems I’m going to like it here… accompanied by a drink called a chicha which is made from purple (yes purple, and the drink is deep purple too) maize and sweetened with sugar. This was also my first time of trying two drinks made with the tradicional aqua cita of Peru: Pisco. Pisco sour is quite a thick (espesa) drink, reminiscent of a snowball. It has egg in, it’s sweet, with a touch of citrus. The second is a chilcano which has the same base, no egg and topped up with soda so it’s a lighter (suelta) drink and taller cocktail. Big fan of both, especially the sour and happily it turns out I’m actually going to pisco tomorrow so am sure to find another excuse to have a couple. 

We then walked the streets of Miraflores for another “digestif” or two. We found ourselves in a particularly tourist-trappy area and so agreed on one more bus to get to somewhere a bit different. This turned out to be a great idea and we went to barranco, a short bus ride further south to a bar on a cliff face looking out over the bay, with a beautiful view. I was called a gringo properly for the first by a street seller here… The lack of sleep over the last few days started catching up with me so called it a day around 1 in the morning and hungrily looked forward to the first “full” night in a bed for a while. Almost did the entire day in Spanish which was awesome. 

This pic taken on the bridge of sighs in Lima if my translation is correct… yup, there’s one here too apparently so I know at least four in the world now!

Some Spanish vocabulary for the day:

Betarraga – beetroot

Vainita – green bean

China – 50 céntimos piece (slang)

3 September – meeting the team

My alarm failed to wake me but I just about managed to throw on some clothes and get to the tour kick off briefing… I think they noticed my somewhat dishevelled state but politely glossed over it. This is where I met my fellow travellers and learned I would be fifth-wheeling for a bit with two couples – British and Maltese. 

I also met the guide, Ricardo who is a character but seemed like a sensible and good bloke, with family in Arequipa so of course knows the area extremely well. He gave us the briefing about how the tour works and a quick run through of what we are up to as well as general advice which is obviously gold dust to a first time traveller like me and so I paid attention to add these nuggets of wisdom to what I’d learned from everyone at home already. We then made the “local payment” part of the tour price (a wallet-lightening 700 dollars) and wrapped up. 

…”Wear your backpacks on your front on the buses, These people are quick, they will take your money even quicker than I do”…

Turns out the others had plans already for the afternoon the brits were going to a fancy restaurant (Maido) for a big lunch with a cool 13 different courses. The others by chance going to barranco where I was last night. For me, I decided to chill for a bit and finish waking up then was happily to see Karina again as we had some traditional food for lunch: some delicious beef with a sort of sweet potato puré and rice and guanábana juice. We walked along the sea front, had another chicha in a cafe on the cliff (where there was a famous Peruvian actor apparently) and watched the handgliding a bit (parapente). I also managed to say hi a particularly famous bear… 

Guanábana – if you’re wondering how to pronounce this as you’re not a Spanish speaker think of that silly song by animal in the muppets (mnah-mnah, do doooo do do do). Or perhaps don’t … because that is now stuck in my head every time someone mentions the fruit here. 

After saying goodbye, I went back to the hostel met up with the tour group to head out to dinner. I had a nice chicken salad whilst the others had pollo a la brasa which I’d had the night before and highly recommend. We headed out for a couple of pisco sours which turned into more than a couple and then went dancing until the early hours and met a few of the locals!

My new team for the Peru project… with pisco sours!

4 September 

Just about made it to breakfast at the hotel painfully aware of the alcohol consumed last night. Tempted to go back to bed afterwards but knew we needed to sort our own packed lunch so made my way down the street to the local supermarket and managed the bare minimum Spanish to get my food sorted at the deli counter (got some olives and lovely Chinese style chicken and vegetables that I understand is quite popular in Lima too). 

Then it was a good few hours in transit, most of which I happily spent snoring away in the surprisingly comfortable reclining chairs of the coach. Our accommodation for the night was a small hotel by the sea in Paracas (near Pisco). Pisco is an area ravaged by earthquakes and there was a huge one in recent history that caused a lot of people to move to other places such as here or back to their parents in Lima. 

We wandered around the marina and walked straight past the main drag of restaurants and using Ricardos local knowledge got to a nice restaurant a bit out the way (Misk’i) and had some good old fashioned comfort food to get rid of the last of the hangover whilst having a laugh about the events of the night before. Then a very welcome early night, tomorrow is going to be a big day and fingers crossed we will be seeing some dolphins and sea lions. 
A funky taxi, Peruvian hairless dog, the main drag in Paracas (meaning sandstorm as there are lots around here), the marina with un par de pelicans:

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