Otherwise known as the City of Kings, Lima is the capital, the oldest city, and the largest city (by far) in Peru. It's also a city of great contrasts, in terms of wealth, culture, and lifestyle. Lima was the first place I visited in Peru, and in the whole of South America. I didn't plan to stay here as long as I did (about 6 days), but because of Semana Santa (Easter Week), I kinda got stuck here.
I've been thinking for some time about how I should wrap up my entire, colossally incredible six months here in South America. And I've decided that a conventional wrapup is simply out of the question. Too much to say. Too much already said. And really, no regular little reflective summary could ever do this experience justice. So instead of attempting such a futile endeavour, I have instead embarked upon another, less crazy, more fun little challenge: I have composed a "checklist" of my time down here! The checklist "ticks off" the things that every South American backpacker should do during their time down here, and that I can honestly say I've done. Plus, I've added a section down the bottom, for a few more that I haven't done, and that I should have done — or that it's perhaps good that I didn't do. Read, laugh, and enjoy. Por favor. And if you want to check off a few more South American experiences of your own, feel free to add them as comments.
After almost two months of travelling together, eating together, freezing together, drinking together, endeavouring to find women together, and stinking together, the time has finally come for Chris and I to say goodbye, and to once again go our separate ways. Through Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile, and Peru once again, Chris has been an amazing travelling companion, as well as an amazing friend. Tonight, I leave Lima by bus for Huaraz; Chris, on the other hand, is flying to Bogota, Colombia, in two days' time. So — for the first time in quite a long time, now that I think about it — I'm once again all alone, and on the road in a strange and exotic faraway country.
This afternoon, had my second trip to the cinemas, so far on my trip (last time was in La Paz). Chris, Sharon, a few random Israeli guys, and myself went to the upmarket shopping mall of Larcomar — which is built into the side of Lima's cliff-ridden shores, very cool construction — and watched the new Transformers movie at the screens there. Very nice cinema, and an excellent movie. Although it was (obviously) chock-full with special effects, predictable romance, and a hair-thin plot, it was still much better than I expected.
The problem is, Lima doesn't have one. It has about 50. One for each company. Each one down the road from its peers, spread out over an entire suburb — nothing less than an absolute bus terminal balagan. No wonder that most people don't even bother trying to sort through the mess, and just buy their bus tickets out of Lima from a travel agency in town. Today, I decided to take the plunge, and to find myself a company and a bus ticket, to get me out of Lima tonight, and over to Huaraz. Managed it in the end, but it wasn't fun. Yet another reason why Lima's an evil city: they make it so daym hard to get out of it.
I've accumulated a lot of junk lately, and I've been lugging it around for far too long. So this morning, I did a big sort through my overstuffed backpack, and took out everything that I don't need to take with me anymore, or that I can throw away. All of the former, I packed into a cardboard box, and took to the local post office in Miraflores. Included in this box was a bottle of fine, semi-prepared pisco, that I'd bought at the winery in Ica, and that I wanted to send home as a souvenir. However, the post office staff wouldn't let me mail the pisco: apparently, it's prohibited to mail alcohol out of Peru. Oh well, I guess we'll just have to drink it, then!
Chris and I met Sharon at the end of last week, in Huacachina, where she was chilling out with the rest of us. She followed us to Lima, and she's been hanging out with us this past weekend. She's a London girl, of Filipino descent, who enjoys splurging on some cheap Peruvian clothes shopping, and who is never hungry when it's meal-time. Very laid-back, and a bit indecisive, but good fun.
Saw this very cute-looking (although just a little racially offensive) ice-cream on the menu at D'onofrio's, last time I was in Lima. Tonight, I decided to order a "Chinito". Big ball of maracuya (passion fruit) flavoured ice-cream for the head; licorice sticks for the eyes and moustache; red chewy lollie for the mouth; bed of almond nut mix; and topped with a chocolate wafer, and a paper umbrella. Next time you're near Parque Kennedy in Miraflores, head in to D'onofrio's and order one: is verree niice!
This afternoon's parade in Miraflores was amazing; but unfortunately, it did also have its nasty bits. While walking through the thicker-than-thick throngs back to Loki, someone took advantage of the tight situation, and snatched all the cash out of my pocket. Anyway, could have been worse: all I lost was cash (excluding coins), and it wasn't much more than about USD$60. I knew it was a good idea to just leave my cash loose in my pocket, while I'm travelling: much better than them stealing a wallet, that's also filled with things like ATM cards and driver's licences.
In preparation for the all-important 28 de Julio (Peru's Independence Day — commemorating their sovereignty from the Spanish in 1821), Peru is starting to celebrate! This afternoon, all the streets were closed off in Miraflores (the part of Lima that I'm staying in), where they held a parade of titanic proportions. About four solid hours of parading ensued, from the military, the local schools, various government and charity agencies, various industrial and agricultural unions, and even from several Miss Perus. The sidewalks were absolutely sardine-packed with spectators: there must have been at least ½ a million people, come to watch the festivities. They put on a really good show, and they certainly made it clear that they are a people with tremendous national pride.
Last time that I tried Peru's famous ceviche (raw fish / raw seafood) cuisine, I wasn't too hot on it. But clearly, I just didn't go to the right place for it. Punto Azul, a restaurant in Miraflores, does some amazing ceviche. Went there for lunch today, in a big group, and we had one hell of a feed. Had some of the traditional ceviche dishes (i.e. fish and seafood soaked in lemon juice), as well as some with a more spicy sauce, and some that came in a big risotto. I'm totally converted.