Colours of Barranco

The bike tour from the day before opened my eyes to the Bohemian district of Barranco. While most parts of Lima look dull and grey, and Miraflores and San Isidro are well-manicured and modern, it’s Barranco that carries the labels of Bohemian, artsy and old-worldly.

The district has been preserved, mostly by the artistic community, not to the glossy levels of its upmarket neighbours, but in the most charming manner in its riot of colours. I had pre-conceived notions of what South America should look like, and Barranco satisfied some of them. I’ve also noticed that there is a concerted effort to make some of the districts safer, especially for tourists – there are information kiosks in a number of street corners, and quite a few tourism police keeping an eye on everyone. The results have been great for me – I’ve been able to walk on streets, camera in hand, without facing any trouble so far.

Enjoy!

I lunched at La Bodega Verde, close to the Puenta de Los Suspiros – a happy meal of quinoa burger with hummus. Seriously, I am now in love with quinoa.

I was lured into the MATE museum, that houses the photographs of Mario Testino. He is a world renowned Peruvian photographer, and I was fascinated by his work. I had bought a combination ticket to 3 museums, but the other 2 (Pedro de Osma & MAC) did not hold the same attraction for me, as one has a collection of religious art, and the other is contemporary, but I could understand neither. Still, the walk was fun. Gotta go back into Barranco in the evening to get a glimpse of all the colours of the night.

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A Day for Adventure

Starting with a cycle ride with Bike Tours of Lima through the two most ‘happening’ districts of the city – Miraflores and Barranco:

The ride whetted my appetite to explore Barranco in my own time, but the tour in itself was informative, especially about the modern history of the city. While Miraflores is the swanky new development, Barranco is the more arty, laid-back and well-aged district.

One of the highlights was the Parque del Amor, the Love Park, an iconic section of the promenade at Miraflores. El Beso, the Kiss sculpture by Victor Delfin, of himself kissing his wife. The park is also the venue for Valentine’s day record breaking activities against a beautiful sunset.

The other was the Puento de Los Suspiros, the Bridge of Sighs – the first time you cross the bridge, make a wish and take a deep breath, then hold the breath until you cross over to the other side, to make your wish come true. Believe the myth or not, it’s a fun, silly, touristy thing to do.

If you like to play with Google Earth, check this link for my cycling path: http://share.abvio.com/e52ba8633cd284a7/Cyclemeter-Cycle-20150804-1004.kml

After the tour, it was too early for me to head back, so I thought I might walk aimlessly around Miraflores. That’s when I looked up and saw a miracle – a hint of sunshine! And there were paragliders. I thought, why not? Another item on my wish list might come true. I wasted no time rushing over to the paraport or whatever they call it, paid the money, and was quickly strapped into the harness. My pilot, Alex, was ultra-friendly and uber cool (part time baker), and made the flight super exciting. I squealed at every turn, getting plenty of thrills gliding higher than the J.W. Marriott hotel, and close to the Larcomar strip, waving at pedestrians, getting a bird’s eye view of the city and the cliffs and the waves, and too soon the flight came to an end. All done in a space of 30 minutes.

Paragliding

Paragliding

Paragliding at Miraflores

Paragliding at Miraflores

Paragliding

Paragliding

The Other Side of Town

This week in Lima, I had my photo walk on Monday rather than the usual Friday. Found Haku Tours to take me on a walk through one of the more humble settlements in the city.

It is always nice to see local markets in different cities, but the one we stopped at before the walk left me agape at the size of vegetables. Cauliflower and broccoli larger than my head, pumpkins the size of toddlers, different colours of corn, and potatoes in numerous shapes, sizes and colour. Plus some exotic fruits to sample. My guide, Edwin, taught me some phrases in Quechua, the local language – Adiyanchu (good morning) and Yus para sunki (thank you) to confuse me from the practised Spanish phrases. To add to that, every time I said Adiyanchu to a local person, I would get a blank stare in return because not everybody spoke the language! My timing was completely off; ultimately I let Edwin take the lead in greeting people.

I had a good introduction on the politics of Peru from my guides, as well as a good insight into the culture of the shanty town residents. And some photos of the people, with the people too. Predictably, the kids were super friendly, and fascinated by the camera and their pictures.

Not typical touristy destination, but quite remarkable landscapes! Here are many shades of brown:

Fiesta and Siesta

After yesterday’s long post, and today’s excitement, I have no words, only pictures.

Sunday noon change of guard at the President’s Palace:

Followed by a fiesta in the square:

We truly needed our rest after this!

A Walk Through Miraflores

This was the day I officially fell in love with Lima. The district of Miraflores is IT.

Huaca Pucllana

Huaca Pucllana

First I stepped back in time, to the 7/8th century, to explore Huaca Pucllana – the sacred temple for ritual games. This was the site of ceremonial activities during the Lima culture in the period 200-700 AD. The structure itself is in the form of a truncated pyramid, used for rituals, surrounded by an administrative section. The entire structure is made by adobe bricks – mud bricks which were moulded by hand and sun-dried. The arrangement of the bricks is like trapezoidal bookshelves, with gaps between the bricks to withstand seismic shocks.

We had a guided tour in English that took us to various sections, starting from the tiny museum, explaining some of the rituals like pottery smashing and human sacrifices, through the administrative section, the typical garden, a few animal pens, and some parts of the pyramid. In addition to the Lima culture, there are also some tombs from the Wari culture (500-900 AD), that contain burial shrouds and other remains.

Some of the animals in their pens: guinea pigs, llamas, alpacas –

We ended the tour back at the museum and attached gift shop.

Huaca Pucllana

By the time the Incas got here, the site had been abandoned for centuries. The Incas left it alone, and it stayed neglected until the 1980s when archeological and restoration work started in earnest. It’s a beautiful sight – in a single subdued colour, where you look closely to see the handiwork of people from centuries past, with the backdrop of present-day city.

After this time travel, I had to attend to my baser instincts of hunger. Walking down in Miraflores, I consulted TripAdvisor “Near Me Now” and was recommended El Bar Verde on Calle Berlin, that offered vegetarian food. Had a most delicious whole grain + avocado + olive sandwich in the beautifully decorated corner cafe.

I was so full after that sandwich that I could walk in and out of the Choco Museo without getting tempted to buy or sample anything. That only lasted a few minutes until I saw this pretty cafe selling desserts, and the one that got me was tres leches.

Miraflores Miraflores

It was an overkill, but delicious, and to walk it off I headed to Parque Kennedy. The park’s claim to fame is that it has more cats than flowers, or so it seems, because you barely notice the flowers in favour of the multitude of cats that wander around, looking for a cuddle, some food, warmth, whatever. All I had to do was sit on a bench to have one of these cute cuddly fellows climb onto my lap and try to squeeze into my warm fleece jacket. They are so adorable!!!!!!

Artists selling their work outside this park, and I was in heaven!

MirafloresMirafloresMiraflores

After spending an hour here, I had to tear myself away to head to Larcomar, where Souvik & I had planned to meet and have dinner. Not a long walk; as an added bonus to an already superlative day, I found a travel agent to buy me 2 tickets to enter Machu Picchu next weekend. Yeeaaahhhhh!

MirafloresLarcomar is one of the malls that I can call beautiful – built into the side of the cliff, facing the ocean, you can see nothing of it from the main road. We chose to eat at Tanta, a buzzing restaurant with great views, and settled for a couple of fruity pisco sours and shared a quinoa salad.

This is the route I walked:

Ain’t No Sunshine

Pisco sourThe Spanish language doesn’t roll off my tongue as easily as basic French does. Some mental shifts are required to say buenos días and buenas noches. After spending a major part of the day out on the streets of Lima, I ended up, at dinner, mumbling something about nachos. Oops. Souvik couldn’t figure out the reason for my giggles, so hopefully the staff at the restaurant didn’t hear me either. Maybe it was thanks to the first Pisco Sour that we tasted!

Bloopers apart, I am loving the sound of spoken Spanish, each syllable dragged out as if you have all the time in the world. That, and the radio in taxis always tuned into some swinging salsa music that puts you in a happy mood no matter how rickety the cab is.

And while I was prepared for the grey skies – the winter months in Lima bring no sun at all – I’m not too happy with how dull they make my photos look. Though, after a particularly sunny dry season in Jakarta this year, I can take a bit of grey dullness, since it is accompanied by ambient temperatures. The grey skies seem to impact the lives of ordinary people in a big way, and there’s quite a lot written on this topic. They call it La Garúa – a cold heavy fog, which is more than mist and less than rain. Takes away people’s smiles, makes the urban landscape look dull and lifeless, and brings out the unpolished side of the city. Sometimes called the ‘saddest city on earth’ or ‘taking the white veil’, this garúa has a personality of its own!

Plaza de ArmasI spent my day downtown, at Plaza de Armas, the central square, which is the heart of the action for tourists. Hundreds of people milling about, adding a bit of colour to the greyness, was a joy to behold. I missed the change of guard at the Palacio de Gobernio, the presidential palace, but there were plenty of other tours to enjoy. The city of Lima was established by Francisco Pizzaro, whose remains are placed at the museum of the Catedral de Lima.

The Plaza is a reminder of Spanish colonial architecture, though most of the building have been reconstructed over the years. I love a place where you can sit out in the open without having to pay for being there, and just soak in the atmosphere.

I wasn’t in the mood for museums, but ended up going into two of them, both dedicated to religious art and tombs. The first was the Lima cathedral, and the second, a little further out of the Plaza, at the Monasterio de San Francisco, which had the museum of tombs. I joined the Spanish tour here, but didn’t understand a word, naturally. Just wanted to be in and out as quickly as possible, with a morbid curiosity about the catacombs. And morbid they were. The sight of bones and skulls laid out in geometric patterns brought out a bit of hysteria that I couldn’t share with anybody. It wasn’t scary, just weird. I was glad to be outdoors, but only to be faced with a threat of pigeon bombers!

For the rest of the time, I walked up and down the streets, admiring the boots on sale, catching a glimpse of what may have been local celebrities (because everyone around them had whipped out their cellphones, and I did the same), spotting a bit of local colour, and missing my photo walking friends from back home in Jakarta.

Full and Finally!

Where I come from – Kolhapur, India – Peru (पेरू) is the word for guava. As a nice tribute/ coincidence, my first meal in Lima was “guava y funghi” – pasta stuffed with guava in a delicious mushroom sauce with paprika foam. I don’t get all the fuss about new-age food in foam form, but the meal was delicious. I figured out the guava-Peru significance only much later, probably this morning, after the stomach groaned from all the chow overload over the past 30-odd hours.

The flights were loooong, and I felt obliged to eat everything they served, as I had opted for the ‘special’ Asian vegetarian meals. We had a longish layover at Amsterdam, where we stuffed ourselves with more coffee and bread-y meals, just because. Schiphol Airport is supposed to be one of the nicest in the world. We just picked the time when they’re in the process of making it nicer for the future, consequently, painful today. Airports in Asia have left rest of the world far behind in  look, feel and process. Even our humble Soekarna-Hatta airport seems like a breeze compared to the exit process in Lima. The luggage trolley has to be one of the indicators of smartness of an airport. Lima certainly has the ones from the last century. And we had a lot of suitcases, all of which had to be scanned at Customs. A word of advice to travellers – Must use the facilities that you see right at the gate after disembarking; there aren’t any more later, at least, none that you can spot easily. And if you ate on the flight like we did, ahem….

Still on the topic of food, Peru has one of the newly popular cuisines of the world, so I hear. The restaurant at our Business Tower Hotel, Quimera, certainly is on the spot with their food and presentation. I passed the sampler bite of salmon and cheese to Souvik (too fishy for me, after a micro-lick). I’m loving their serving bowls and platters, and since we’ll be here for a few days, I might get to see those again.

On the ‘immersion’ aspect, I’ve tried to cram some basic Spanish words into my vocabulary, and was successful in blurting “gracias” to the immigration lady. Mental exercise is good for the brain! I may also avoid jet lag, thanks to all the movie watching on flight, and a well-deserved deep sleep last night. There’s a small concern of altitude sickness and acclimatisation (seriously, who thinks up all these?), for which I have pills (thanks, Sonia), and instructions to drink plenty of water and walk very slowly (hah, my body is perfect for that). The plan for today is to find my way downtown, and get a feel of the city. I’ve noticed that the ‘uniform’ for women is jeans and boots; glad I packed mine. Whether I can last a whole day in boots remains to be seen. Time to put myself out on the streets of Lima!