Saturday, December 25, 2010


I had a last minute change of plan when arriving here which left me with more time than I expected in Lima itself. This turned out to be a really great time to catch up with my writing, go running on the beach and meet lots of really interesting local people through couchsurfing. I actually have been staying in a hostel as I felt the need to be in one place for longer than a couple of days. But I have been meeting different Peruvians (and one guy from Middlesborough bizarrely) for coffee and pisco sours which has been really fascinating. Most of the people I have been meeting are university educated so it has been really interesting to learn about their ideas in comparison to the average person on the street and the people I spoke with in Bolivia (most of whom were not university educated). Lima is much richer than I expected ( though I have also been out to the poorer, much rougher parts (everyone stares at the unusual sighting of gringa)) and people here have quite high expectations from life, like we do in the west. This is in huge contrast to the countryside where people are still mostly living off the land or selling day to day. Peru is much wealthier than Bolivia and there seems to be a lot more opportunity. But the people I meet seem to be hungry for even more opportunity outside of Peru. This is a different attitude to Bolivia and even Chile (which is an extremely prosporous country now, you can hardly class it as a developing nation) where people seem content to stay where they are. In Buenos Aires its different again and many young people were envious of the opportunities in the west. They felt there was a kind of glass ceiling of opportunity in South America. I also sometimes felt almost guilty and extremely lucky for the opportunity that I have to travel. The rest of the world is getting more expensive for us to travel to but because our economy is strong we can still afford to travel. For someone from South America it is almost impossible because the cost of living in Europe/North America is so much higher. But the people I have been meeting are not giving up on the dream to travel. Someone I met who worked in finance in Argentina in an outsourcing company from America (also part of the reason people in Argentina find it hard to increase their prosperity is that outsourcing forces their wages and opportunities for promotion down) had Italian ancestors (many do in B.A) and was desperate to find a way to get to Italy. I really think couch surfing is one of the best inventions. Without it most of my interaction would have been with market sellers, waiters and hostel owners which doesn´t really give an overall picture of a place.  Meeting local young(ish) people has really opened up the country for me. Also the WWOOF opportunities have given me other great insights and a chance to get to know people really well. 

Anyway, Lima. Getting around Lima is probably the biggest problem. The traffic is terrible, there is no metro here and 10 million people so you can imagine the chaos. Also Peruvians drive like killing pedestrians is a sport. They also have no sense of personal space. Sitting in a minibus to get around town, you can hardly breathe. The other extremely annoying thing, is that being a gringa female alone, it is not possible that I am not perpetually lost or in need of some help or a taxi. Everywhere I go, I am stopped several times to ask if I need help, taxi drivers go out of their way to drive in front of me and many items for sale are thrust in my face. So far I have managed not to be rude, but its lucky I am leaving today.

Huaca Huallarmarca, this is a restored adobe pyramid from the Lima culture around AD200 - 500

Monasterio de Santo Domingo originally 16th century but modified since. It has lots of original spanish mosaics.

Cloister in Monasterio Santo Domingo

Monasterio Santo Domingo

Plaza de Armas and the cathedral

Cafe El Cordano where I tried Tacu Tacu, many old presidents have had a coffee in here

Monasterio de San Francisco, inside were some catacombs which smelled a bit and it was a bit eerie to see so many piles of bones and skulls

Plaza San Martin, you can just see a token Santa Claus head stuck on a building to the right

Many beautiful flowers around here

Huaca Pucclana, a restored adobe ceremonial centre that dates back to Lima culture in AD400

Colonial house in Miraflores

Larcomar - a huge cinema and restaurant complex overlooking the sea, they have really good ice cream, I had maracuya ( a bit like passion fruit but yellow) and lucuma which I think is like aubergine but it somehow managed to taste like toffee.

The infamous Lima fog

You can paraglide right along the coast, but I am not brave enough

Friday, December 24, 2010

Islas Ballestas

Penguins! This is mostly what I came here to see. It is a not so exciting version of the Galapagos islands that I do not have time or money to visit. It was very beautiful and lovely to see birds and sea lions so close up. Nearby is the town of Pisco where they invented Pisco (a kind of brandy/rum) but the Chileans would argue that they invented it. I wish we had penguins in Britain.

Nice view with a pisco sour

Peruvian pelicans

Nobody is sure what this means or who did it, there are no traces of human remains near here. It has remained as a ´candelabra´ or ´cactus´ for years because there is no rain here.

Humbolt penguins, so called because of the cold humbolt current they like around here

Eroded arches

There is a very lonely penguin to the right of this photo, he seemed to be looking for his friends

I could move, but I can´t be bothered

Ceviche, this is Peru´s most famous dish. It is raw fish marinated in lemon or lime juice. The acid ´cooks´ the fish. It was quite nice, but I think I prefer the cooked version

Flamingos, we were not allowed any closer than this as they are a protected species. They are Chilean flamingos and only have one egg per year. They live for about 80 years.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I should probably tell you a bit about the Peruvian bus experience. First you go for the ticket seller shouting your destination the loudest (this will be the first bus to depart) then you get on said bus and wait an hour and a half after your departure time while the bus driver hopes to find more passengers, then when a few appear, you think hooray we are departing, then he stops again a few inches down the road, beeps a lot in hope of attracting more customers. When we are genuinely on our way, he drives like a maniac, overtaking on blind bends and nearly careering off the side of high slopes. He also stops regularly to pee in full view of all passengers. During the journey random people in the middle of nowhere get on the bus sell interesting street food (quite useful (and tasty) actually on long journeys) then get off the bus again in the middle of nowhere. And this was just to get to Arequipa. I have also been on buses that don´t even leave the terminal after the obligatory hour wait past the departure time because they are illegal!  

Arequipa was a surprise because before I arrived in Peru, I knew nothing about it. I wish I could have had more time here to explore the CaƱon del Colca which is double the depth of the Grand Canyon in America. I only had one day here so I visited the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, which is one of the most beautiful buildings I have seen in all of South America. I spent a whole morning just wandering around getting lost and drinking it all in. I then went out into the surrounding countryside to see the still existing (but rapidly decreasing under the weight of Arequipa´s expansion) inca terracing that leads up to the volcano El Misti. I also tried Rocoto Relleno which is spicy beef and veg and rice stuffed into a spicy (but not quite chilli hot) pepper. I then got on the night bus to Lima.

The view from my hostel at breakfast, you can see the volcano El Misti in the distance

Arequipa is named the ´ciudad blanca´ because many buildings here are built from white volcanic rock caled ´sillar´

Inside Monasterio de Santa Catelina, one of the many cloisters

Orange cloister, so called because of the orange trees in the centre

Typical cooking stove

timber roof

These are paintings of dead nuns in the profundis room. They were painted after they died (very quickly!) so many have their eyes closed and are quite pale which gives them an eerie feeling

This is the bathing area

The great cloister

This is where the nuns had to walk through when they arrived and take a vow of silence

View of El Misti

Trip out to the countryside

Paucarpata on the edge of Arequipa

More countryside with some inca terracing