The 6 day trip to Lima to visit Mel and Hugo got off to a slow start. After bussing it for 6 hours from the mine to Tucumán (usually a half hour flight) we rushed to make the airport just in time for the scheduled departure of our flight to Buenos Aires. Unfortunately for us the pilots of the plane were sitting around banging pots and pans in the BA airport. After a few useless pleas for information from the poor señorita at the desk who was understandably cranky at being left out of all the fun we trudged off to the bus station again and scrounged the last tickets on a 15 hour trip to BA. Needless to say we missed our 8am connection to Lima the next day, so we booked into a hotel in BA for the next night and did the only thing you can under the circumstances – went to a bar and got drunk.
So lets start again….. we finally arrived in Lima via Santiago to start our 4 day visit with Mel and Hugo. Can’t remember too much of the first day… something about getting off the plane, going straight to a ceviche restaurant (ceviche – excellent peruvian dish of raw seafood marinated in lemon juice with herbs and spices) and drinking about 2 bottles of beer and 5 glasses of pisco sour (pisco sour – pisco and lemon juice + sugar – powerful stuff). First impressions of Lima… very nice!
The next 4 days saw us visiting potential sites for Mels upcoming wedding, heading down to the beach south of Lima to soak in the smog-filtered sun, touring around the city and a day trip up into the mountains to the east.
The city is set between the coast to the west and the andes foothills to the east and is extremely dry and hilly, with sand dunes in parts. A fog often hangs over the city but while we were there it was mostly clear, well as clear as it gets with the heavy smog!
Plaza de Armas, Centro.
Highlights of Lima were:
- The Beach – can’t compare to the quality of Aussie beaches of course ie. sea and beach is a bit dirty and crowded. BUT you can’t lay about on your beach chair and get served beer, pisco, seafood platters, buy sunglasses, jewellery or numerous household goods without getting off your butt in Australia (now thats what I call service)!
Enjoying the service
Beach south of Lima
- Franciscan Monastery/Cathedral (Convento de San Francisco) in the city centre. This old 16th century church has a library with books up to 500 years old, fantastic old art and carvings and an area called the catacombs where the for the first 150 years or so in Lima the churchgoers had their bones stored beneath the cathedral in these tombs. Now you can walk though these little passageways beneath the church and see whole rooms where they have sorted the bones into femurs, skulls etc. Very spooky.
San Franscisco Church
- The Gold Museum. We actually found that it wasn’t the Inca gold that impressed us most, but the amazing array of old war artifacts in the upstairs area. I’m not normally into that stuff but it was really amazing, you wouldn’t believe what people collect…
- Cerro San Cristobal, a lookout near the city centre. Lima isn’t a beautiful city from this lookout and for us it was quite confronting having spent most of our time in Argentina, to see the extent of the poverty. It was mind blowing – rows and rows of crumbling brick (for the richer) houses, bamboo shacks and lean-to’s extending as far as the eye could see in all directions. Wow. Downtown and some of the richer areas are like islands in a huge sea of poverty. We were told that there is something like 10 million people living there (within lima and in shanty towns extending tens of kms north and south) but only 3 million have jobs. It really puts another perspective on the poverty in Argentina, which although in some areas is also very sad, from what we have seen it doesn’t come near the extent of the misery in Peru…
Lookout to coast
- Driving up the mountains to the east of Lima to the pass at Ticlio in the central Andes Cordillera. Only about 2.5 hours of driving gets you from sea level to over 4000m and it’s such a spectacular drive – small mountain towns are hidden in little valleys next to beautiful waterfalls and sheer cliffs. The pass is also very speccy, perhaps except for the operating mine located right at the pass! There is quite a bit of mining in the area.
Waterfall behind a mine
Pass at Ticlio
The drive back to Lima from the pass was absolutely nerve wracking. I have never been so sure that would witness someone die in front of me as the crazy Peruvians overtook recklessley on the fogged in mountain road with less than 30m visibility. Total disregard for life. We saw busses overtaking diesel trucks on the cliff side of the road into oncoming traffic, passing the numerous crosses on the side of the road marking the lives of people in buses and cars that didn’t quite make it down. As it was we were lucky enough not to see an accident but a cop who stopped us down the road later told us that there were 2 people killed up there just after we had passed through….
All up Lima was totally mind blowing for us – to arrive back into Buenos Aires at 8.30am in rush hour and be amazed by how calm and ordered everything is is probably a good indication of how much our perceptions have changed!
More photos (click to enlarge)