Archive for the ‘Lima’ Category


Paul Does Peru Part II

December 11, 2008

Paul here.

Jenny thought it would be fun for me to hop on and guest-blog to share stories from the second half of our mini-vacation in Peru. So allow me to pick up where she left off . . .

The morning after our island fauna tour, we had breakfast in El Chaco before hopping on our bus to Nasca.

We arrived in Nasca in the afternoon, and despite guidebook warnings that we would be hounded by people hocking tours and hotels, there were only a handful of people at the bus station – one of whom was holding a sign with our names on it. We had reserved a room ahead of time at the Walk On Inn, a quiet little hotel with free internet, a pool, and a cool rooftop area to read a book or have an Inca Cola. The rooms are pretty basic and the bed was fairly uncomfortable, but it was extremely convenient, as through the hotel we were able to book our flights over the Nasca lines for the next day and even buy our return bus tickets.

We had a tasty early supper, and then went to the roof to have a cold coke and watch the sunset on our first day in Nasca.

Sunset at the Walk On Inn

Sunset at the rooftop of the Walk On Inn

The next morning we found out our flight had been moved back a few hours, so we headed to the local Museo Antonini to learn more about the indigenous people of Peru, including the Nasca and their famous lines.

The museum was a little text heavy (it seemed like every artifact had a 1000 word essay) but had some cool info on the lines, and some interesting objects, including jewelery, fabrics and trophy skulls. Yes, trophy skulls.

Trophy heads

Trophy heads

Out back, in a lush-landscaped garden, they have recreated examples of a Nasca aqueduct, a scale map of all the Nasca lines, and replicas of Nasca burial chambers. On our way out to check them out, a local peacock decided he wanted to impress Jenny.


This peacock got swagga like us

We didn’t know it then, but looking at the replica of lines was going to be far more enjoyable then our upcoming Nasca flight.

We arrived at the airport before our flight and ended up getting bumped a slot when a tour group came at the last minute. Luckily for us though, Jenny was able to pass the time recreating Nasca’s “astronaut” figure.


Favorite photo of Jenny from the trip.

When it was our turn to fly, they originally wanted to split Jenny and I up. However, Jenny’s severe fear of small planes and her kung-fu grip on my arm weren’t having it, so we waited until we could go in the same plane. We met our captain and he went over the flight route – which is I think when the panic set in for Jenny. Basically, because they need to get as many people as possible up and down in those planes each day, they were going to be cramming in a lot of turns in a short timeframe.

Jenny extremely nervous about the loopy flight plan

Jenny extremely nervous about the loopy flight plan

And the flight was as  stomach-churning as advertised. Jenny stopped looking after about the second figure, freezing in a graceful, statuesque pose, clutching the door handle, her eyes glued straight ahead, her sweaty palm laid like a lead brick on my leg. I turned to look at the couple behind us, and the girl had her eyes closed and her face was slowly fading into a shade of light green. A nervous sweat started drenching my clothes too, and I soon found myself counting down the minutes until it would all be over.

So to sum up. The Nasca Lines–scenery to remember, a flight to forget.

(Can’t someone start hot air balloon tours over them, or maybe charge double for a longer flight that builds in a little time for, I don’t know, . . . . turning!?)

After decompressing at our hotel for a few hours, we headed back to the bus station for our 8 hour journey to Lima. This is a good time to discuss the bus system in Peru.

A lot of travel is done by bus, leading to a plethora of service offerings from the bus companies. For our 8 hour trip to Lima, we opted for “First Class” service, which took the form of a small private room that holds about 9 seats on the first story of the bus. The regular class is upstairs. On both levels, the seat reclines wayyyyy back with tons of legroom, and there is a tv that shows fairly decent movies during your trip (During our various bus rides we got What Dreams May Come, The Devil Wears Prada, and Chocolat among others). They even served a hot meal during the trip (although Jenny was not a fan of the runny, appley goo that passed for a dessert). But perhaps the weirdest part of the trip was when they passed out Bingo cards and the whole bus took part in a game of Bingo for the grand prize – a bottle of Pisco. I was one number away from winning before some punk upstairs snatched away my victory.

Our first night in Lima was spent huddled up in a single twin bed at a nice hotel Jenny had found for us. When we found out there wasn’t any way to switch to a room for two, we switched hotels the next day. Which turned out to be wonderful, because our new hotel was an awesome colonial style building, with a HUUUGE bed (California King suckas!). We even had our own balcony.

Balcony of our hotel room.

Balcony of our hotel room.

We spent our time in Lima eating delicious dinners and getting our learn on at a museum and wandering through Jenny’s favorite cliff-side mall. We even squeezed in a couple games of bowling!

The Museo Larco was our first stop, located inside an old mansion with perfectly manicured gardens and a fantastic on site restaurant. Jenny wanted to show me all the great gold, jewelry, and pottery, and the museum didn’t disappoint. This was also the home of the erotic pottery museum that Jenny mentioned earlier. Let’s just say, not a lot has changed in the thousand or so years since those pots were made.

Gardens of Museo Larco

Gardens of Museo Larco

After that, we grabbed a taxi back to our hotel. A note here about taxi drivers in Lima. Apparently, stop signs are just a suggestion here, and drivers instead just give a toot of the horn as they speed through. Well, there are a lot of intersections in Lima and a ton of taxis, so pretty soon your driver is honking his horn every other second as you zip through streets, risking near collisions with other honking cabs. But, cabs are super cheap and every fare is negotiable – so it is worth the tradeoff I think.

That night we had a phenomenal dinner at Huaca Pucllana, a beautiful restaurant whose outdoor seating area overlooks the ruins of the same name, which are lit up at night for dramatic effect. And the food was “muy rico”


Dinner at Huaca Pucllana

The next day Jenny and I did work at the Inca and Indian markets buying up souvenirs for all our friends and family. We saw every thing there is to buy in Peru, and found some good deals along the way. No photos of those, as some of you readers may be getting one for Christmas this year.

On my last night we had another delicious dinner, including sampling what our guide book called “the best pisco sour in Lima”. It did not disappoint. For the curious ones out there, Pisco sours are the national drink in Peru, and are made with the locally produced brandy known as pisco. They mix it with lime juice, ice and egg whites, and blend it all up into a margarita-like drink.


The aforementioned "best" pisco sour

After dinner we snapped a few action shots by a brilliantly lit fountain in the park outside the restaurant. After that it was back to the hotel, a prolonged goodbye, and I was off to the airport for my 1:30am flight back to the States.

Goodbye Peru

Goodbye Peru

Overall it was a remarkable trip. The Islas Ballestas and their bounty of birds and marine mammals was the unexpected highlight of the trip, while the Nasca lines ended up losing some of their mystical attraction for me thanks to the ridiculous flight plan the tour company forces you to endure to see them.

I was struck by the intense poverty we saw along the way–surprised by the huge populations of squatter like settlements on the far outskirts of all the cities, miles from any services or source of income. At the same time, the people of Peru are definitely inventive in their repurposing of materials and in the ability to find unexpected sources of income. In those squatter communities, many of the houses had already upgraded from thatched walls to brick houses, with wooden fences and gardens. And so it goes . . .

I think my favorite moments were stumbling upon the small pockets of natural beauty throughout our trip – the oceanside park in El Chaco, the deserted cliffside dunes of the Paracas National Park, the colorful gardens of the museums in Nasca and Lima.

And as a side note, let me point out that Jenny’s spanish is bomb – she got looks of disbelief multiple times when she said she was from the States. “But your castellano is so good?!”

Yes, yes it is Jenny.


Zooming Through Lima

November 19, 2008

Before I move into Pucallpa for the next month, I took a quick dash through Lima compliments of Cesar, a local chauffeur I got connected with thanks to JenGuss. He scooped me at the bus station and for $5 per hour whisked me through breakfast, two museums, two malls and finally the airport parkng lot.

The first stop after breakfast was the Spanish Inquisition Museum. It wasn’t large or detailed, but it did have life size figurines re-enacting various forms of torture employed by the Inquisition.


Next we headed to the Museo Larco, or Archaeological Museum which is gorgeous and totally worth the $10 to get in. The pottery and jewelry collections are extensive. It’s also set in a lovely garden and has a modern, fancy restaurant-café attached to it. I have tons of pictures from the museum that I will make into a separate gallery for anyone interested in seeing some of the pieces. The erotic pottery exhibit was the most interesting and surprising. The pieces depict everything from sex between animals, to necrophilia, to venereal diseases, to masturbation, to breastfeeding, to hermaphrodites. Crazy.


The ancients didn’t mess around when it came to jewelry either. The nose ornaments and earrings are so big they made my face ache just looking at them. The gold and silver work is intricate and gorgeous. No wonder the Spanish were so eager and greedy to get at their riches.


After the museums I returned to the one cookie shop I’ve found in this country and treated myself to a chocolate chip cookie at the Cookie Factory at LarcoMar mall. It was a gorgeous day and I thoroughly enjoyed my outdoor lunch and stroll.

From there it was on to the airport and on to the jungle. I can’t wait to see what Pucallpa is all about!


A Quick Update

October 19, 2008

I just arrived in Trujillo – it’s 1 am here (2 am EST, 11pm PST) and there’s dogs a-barking and horns a-honking and some sort of party going on. I wish I was there! Just kidding, I’m happy right where I am, tucked into my sweet little room with bright green coverlets with a view of the gardens and the house poodle.



My new hostel is Residencial VANINI and I think I like it lots so far.  From what I can tell so far, all of the rooms surround a big courtyard full of lounge chairs and trees and flowers.  My own room is simple and sweet: two single beds with matching grass green bedspreads, a little tv, closet with a two drawer dresser, nightstand, mirror and couple of sitting chairs.  There’s also a small bathroom which right now has a non-functional commode.  I’ll have to ask them about it tomorrow and I hope they can fix it because I’d really like to keep everything else.  This place is apparently three blocks from my new work which I’ll be reporting to on Monday.


The rest of my morning in Lima was pretty chill.  Just took a long walk to the grocery store through what seemed like ten blocks of construction work.  The grocery store itself was uneventful except that they had a McDonalds that only sold ice cream (dangit! I was hoping for a biscuit… sight).


After the grocery store I packed up quickly and headed to the bus station – which was much less intimidating than I thought it would be.  They operate a lot like airline companies: there’s a baggage check, assigned seats, meals served by a steward and movies played.  The only difference from commercial airline experiences is that the chairs recline almost entirely into beds.  Very niiiiiiice, I liiiiiike.


As we drove out of Lima I got my first glimpse of the Cono Norte (picture below).  You can see the houses stretching up into the foothills in the background.  The foreground shows shops and a little market.




The journey was very dusty – it’s all desert along the entire Western coast of Peru. In fact, there were sand dunes rising straight up from the highway itself for parts of the journey.  I was on the wrong side of the bus to see the sunset over the Pacific, but here’s a kinda ugly picture of ugly desert and distant mountains.




Nothing else to note besides that the bus movies were Man on Fire and PS I Love You – both of which had challenging emotional effects on me.  Oh man, Denzel, Hillary you guys are too much for me just now.


Can’t wait to explore tomorrow!


Two-day was cool…

October 18, 2008

What a difference a day makes- and also a little help from friends. Yesterday was admittedly unnerving – smog, cars, vans, people galore, buses, taxis, bicycles, smog, people, more smog. But today I started to dust off the Spanish a little bit more and also took my first real walk through Lima. It was actually a lot of the same scenery as yesterday for most of my jaunt to the city center. But little by little, the colonial architecture and grand plazas of the colonial downtown start to take over.

I took a forty minute stroll through central Lima to the Plaza San Martin and Plaza de las Armas – both lovely and large open spaces full of pigeons and tourists and police. Check out la policia decked out in riot gear.

I also loved the fancy mixed-use hotel with upscale ground floor retail. They say fried chicken goes over well in almost every country. The Plaza San Martin does KFC real classy like:

More Plaza San Martin…

The pedestrian streets leading to the Plaza de las Armas remind me of Spain’s – the ones leading from Gran Via down to the Plaza de Sol. Lots of clothing and shoe shops, telephone stores, churros stands and what not. There was also the occasional church along the way.

The best thing about the Plaza de las Armas was the hundred or so school children who’d apparently been deployed there by their teachers to practice their English by interviewing tourists. Gaggles of kids would run up to strangers in groups of ten or fifteen all shouting, “Hallo, excuse me do you speak English?!”

Plaza de las Armas Fountain

I snarfed a churro for breakfast (yummmm!) and bought a ticket to the Monasterio de San Francisco – an old Franciscan Monastery famed for its super cool library and freaky deaky catacombs. There are dozens of rooms below the cathedral – all have super low ceilings and troughs and troughs and troughs of bones. Mostly all that was left were tibias, femurs and skulls. Apparently the quick lime process melts almost everything else but those three bones – which is good because there are supposedly 70,000 skeletons stored there. Too bad photography wasn’t allowed. I snapped this one boring shot of one of the anterooms but afterwards I couldn’t sneak anymore:

After the monastery I overpaid for a cab back the the Manuela Ramos office where I was to meet Josh (another fellow) and Daniel (a Kiva employee based in Lima) for lunch. Cabs here cost less than $5 to even the furthest reaches of Lima – well I haven’t been to the furthest reaches of Lima but that’s my guess. My twenty minute cab ride should have cost around $1.50 instead of the $4 I paid; but, all taxi prices are negotiated and Im definitely an amateur.

Daniel, Josh and I met up for a ceviche lunch (adventurous, eh, mom/paul/anyone who knows me?!). Daniel is the Kiva Partner Development Specialist based in Lima which means he is in charge of finding new organizations to partner with and maintaining smooth operations with existing partners. He’s only worked for Kiva for seven months but has been in Peru for over two and a half years.

Josh has been in Peru for just over two and a half weeks now working with EDAPROSPO, a microfinance institution in Lima. He wakes up every morning at 6 to arrive at his office in the Cono Norte (Northern Cone).

A little bit about the Cono Norte… For decades Peru’s rural poor have migrated to Lima. In the 50’s Lima’s population was around one million – today it’s over 8MM. As people have flooded the city, new neighborhoods have formed entrirely of migrant squatters. As the districts grew bigger they made cone-like shapes expanding North, East and South of the city – hence the names Cono Norte, Cono Sur and Cono Este. The Conos are still growing today, although not at the same rate as before. Even still, there are no maps of these places nor any good official tracking or control of the growth. Basically a group of people from the same region will migrate en masse to the outskirts of the suburb. Once there they will organize amongst themselves to divide the land into plots. Perhaps they will even name their new community Nuevo Greensboro- in honor of the town of Greensboro that they left behind in the Andes. And as a fun coincidence, the newly formed streets and cross streets are named by letter and number – very Charles L’Enfant!

Most of Josh’s work is taking place in the Cono Norte. He says that you can tell age of a particular neighborhood section by the stage of development of the buildings. When people first move and begin constructing their new home, they start out with thatched houses. Once they make more and more money they add wood to the walls and then rebar or tin to the roofs. Finally, brick begins to replace the wood and tin. So, says Josh, a brick house in the Cono Norte is over fifteen years old while a thatch house is nearly brand new.

Another interesting tidbit I learned today is that due to people’s mistrust of the currency (Peru had a history of hyper inflation in the…. 80s?), people tend to store their wealth in goods. Makes sense right? But you’re thinking gold or jewels. Nope! Here we’re talking bricks, sand, gravel and cows. Daniel says that now that the dollar is rising against the Nuevo Sol he thinks more and more people will be keeping their savings in tangible assets. Which makes sense since is brick is always worth a brick right?  So it isn’t uncommon to see an homeowner with no current plans to refurbish his house with a piles of bricks on the roof or beside the front door.

Anyway, it was great to talk to those two guys and be led around a little. Respite from having to be the one with the map constantly. In fact, they didn’t even need maps! Niiiice. A new goal presents itself.

Lunch at the cibicheria was a new experience for me. Everything was fish fish fish and raw fish. I was totally apprehensive – but hopefully noone noticed! For fish eaters, I’m sure ceviche is totally you’re thing. It was limey and fresh and probably perfect for fish-lovers on hot days. If you like oysters or sushi or whatever, then try out this Peruvian ceviche. I personally preferred the other two dishes which were basically Peruvian versions of tuna salad and fish sticks. Both types of fish I used to partake in so they went down quite easy for me. They were good in fact! The fish salad (because it was mero not tuna) was rolled in mashed potatoes which were delicious. We also had a pitcher of sweet purple corn drink a.k.a. chicha morada. Quite yum.

After lunch we visited the EDAPROSPO office in the Jesus María district and THEN I got my first taste of the combis. Combis are either big vans or tiny buses that blast music and belch out and swallow passengers at any and every street corner. I was totally at a loss when Daniel suggested we hop on one – but now I’m hooked! They’re great! They do however require some key knowledge:

#1 – the buses are color-coded by region to which they are traveling

#2 – the names of major streets they travel down are painted on the sides of the bus

#3 – the door operator will normally tell you whether or not this bus is going where you want if you can slip in a question between his constant rattling off of destinations.

There are two things that I love about combis:

#1 – there are no set stops, anywhere along the side of the road is okay to flag them down or jump off

#2 – they cost $0.30! can’t be beat. Just can’t be beat!

So then I took my first combi to the Miraflores district after lunch. Miraflores is a fancier, more upscale and more touristy part of Lima. I found great stuff like the the “Trust Me” Hostal and also this sign for Wizards v. Hornets College Football (?!?).

Miraflores is also home to the pretty sick Larco Mar Mall – it’s an open air mall built into the side of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. If any of you urban planner types are reading this and wanting to come to Peru I recommend it for your professional appraisal. I thought it was pretty dreamy, and I’m not even that real-estatey! See below pictures of paragliders hovering over the mall. No idea where they launch from or why anyone would be so bold with their life as to flit around near a bunch of tall buildings and cliffs with the crazy Pacific winds blowing.

Here is also a picture of a delicious cookie store and everybody pray for me that this is a chain! Come on M&M cookies Trujillo!

Well one combi ride back and I’m home again at the hotel. One more night and it’s off to Trujillo. This post is extra long and hopefully it will compensate for a lag since I’ll be traveling tomorrow…


First Days…

October 17, 2008

Okay, my first day in Lima was proceeded by my first night – the airport was a blessed breeze – a $15 airport pickup is totally worth it – especially for a half-scared newcomer like myself. The night drive through Lima to my hostel was eerie. Even in the darkness I could see the soot staining the buildings. The streets were empty save for a few mysterious solo travelers. I wondered what they were up to at 1:30 am all by themselves with hardly a car on the road and definitely no other passerby for miles at a time. Where we were driving the nightlife seemed non-existent. This wasn’t the happening scene I had recently read about in the New York Times article – but maybe we just weren’t driving through those lively parts. In fact, everything we drove by was barred and gated. I’d expected it somewhat, but it was especially intimidating at night when, in addition to being barred and gated, the city was also deserted.


Beto, the Parrot

I spent my first night at the Hostal García – an otherwise nondescript place save for the cockroach in my shower (bad!) and the huge parrot on my balcony (awesome!). I had dreams of the parrot, Mom and Paul my first night: the parrot and I played footsie, Mom and I got into an argument over a comforter she’d sent all the way to Perú to keep me warm and Paul made an instant meal by pouring water on a big Styrofoam rug! I have to admit I tossed a little fitfully in my sleep sack (this was my first time in a sleep sack by the way and it’s a great idea for those not so nice places!). Tonight I think will be more restful. I’m safely and happily installed at La Posada del Parque – a lovely, spotless, friendly and sweet hostel across the park from my favorite Peruvian parrot.


La Posada del Parque

The Posada is an old 1930’s mansion that’s been converted into a guesthouse. I moved here this morning before heading out to my first meeting with Manuela Ramos.

El Movimiento Manuela Ramos is a feminist organization that reminds me of the YWCA a little bit. Except the national office of the YWCA doesn’t have security guards, barbed wire or nine foot fences… I get the feeling they take security very seriously in Lima – The Ministry of Defense has full on machine-gunnified personnel strolling the sidewalk in front of the building… But back to Manuela Ramos. The organization is impressive – they have served women for 30 years through domestic violence prevention, women’s health and microcredit programs to name a few. I met with Ofelia Chavez the microcredit publicist and Gloria Díaz the organization’s executive director. I will be working with women only during my stay – this is totally like the Y! I kid, I kid… The meeting left me amped up and inspired. My work load seems considerable, but then again, that’s what I’m here to do, no? With a little bit of disappointment and relief, I found out that my reports will all be in English. To compensate, my personal journaling will be entirely in Spanish… at least for now.

After my meeting at the Manuela Ramos office I taxied back to the hotel and put on my sneaks for my first real jaunt – a little walk to a restaurant six blocks away. Lima is much less scary during the day when all the shops are open and the sun and people are out. Although all the soot I spied in the nighttime was still there. My lunch was yummy – nothing beats some lomo saltado – pork and French fries woohoo! I also had my first brushes with Skype at a local internet garage. (the internet café was literally a garage for one small car except there were three phone booths and three computer stations).

Anyway, there’s nothing much to tell afterwards except that I returned to my lil Posada and commenced to youtube episodes of Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model. Tomorrow I am treating myself to a real excursion – maybe Miraflores or Lima Antigua? Till then, much love y encatada de concerla, Lima!

More Pics below…


My room at La Posada del Parque


Neighboring mansions on the park


first breakfast – see Mom! Im eating well 🙂

PS – te echo de menos P

PPS- Sorry for the schizophrenic (sp?) blogging – as you can see im totally new to this!