August 23 - September 2, 2014
I chose not to spend much time here in Lima. Unfortunately, my arrival was time sensitive because my brother Jesse was going to join me on the 31st. I was to meet him in less than a week and this felt like the safer route since my Colombian tourist visa was about to expire. My flight from Medellín to Lima felt like I was cheating, flying over the entirety of Ecuador and the northern half of Peru. On the bright side, this was my first experience being serve food on the airline which was surprisingly delicious. When I exited the airport, I caught a cab with some a pair of Australians who happen to be going to the same hostel in Miraflores. Our hostel was the definition of a party hostel: three stories high with an open-roofed lounge area with its own restaurant and bar. Miraflores is known for being a reputably safe area with its largely commercial downtown and central park. In fact, most of the businesses over the past several decades moved closer to the ocean to appease the tourists.
Lima was a unique experience for me. I did not particularly enjoy my stay in the largest city in Peru. Lima gave me the impression that it has long forgotten its culture and history in place of a largely westernized metropolis. Its cultural roots are hard to find and it does not surprise me that many foreigners use Lima as a layover en route to Cusco, a city that retains and embraces its indigenous past. I was distracted by the urban sprawl and the gray skies, but still felt the need to explore one of the oldest cities in South America. Lima holds over a third of the entire population of Peru, containing 9 million of its 28.5 million inhabitants. Miraflores as well as its neighboring seaside suburb Barranco are the exception to Lima's pollution eyesore with relatively clean streets that even have open Wi-Fi hotspots. During the winter months from June to September, Lima experiences what is called a garua, a misty fog that blankets over the city. The climate during our stay was quite unwelcoming and depressing despite the ideal temperature of 60-80F. Sunlight barely breaks through the low clouds. The gray skies linger day and night without a single star in the sky and air pollution caused by heavy traffic seems to worsen the spirit of Lima.
Luckily, I had a few friends both new and old who live in Lima and were willing to show the highlights of Lima. I was rather sick shortly after my arrival to the point where my voice was completely gone. I met two Peruvian girls at the Buddha hostel I was volunteering at and told me to contact them after Medellin. Both Maria and Hana were wonderfully helpful, recommending food and drinks I should try while visiting Peru. I loved the fried, gooey churros with chocolate filling. My friend Daniela whom I met at UW-Stevens Point introduced me to ceviche, raw fish marinated in lemon along with chicha, a cold sweet drink made from purple corn. Majority of my evenings involve walking down to the pier in Miraflores called Larcomar and the surrounding cliff side that overlooked the ocean. The garua obscured the horizon, making it seems like at any moment ships would appear and overtake the city. Honestly, it was very eerie and shrouded with mystery. (Pirates of the Caribbean?) The shoreline below the cliff side is a very popular surf spot. Our hostel's rooftop overlooked Parque Kennedy, the main park in Miraflores where hundreds of cats laying in flowerbeds can be adopted.
In the 17th century, Lima was one of the most important cities for the the Spanish Crown. Founded by Fransisco Pizarro, Lima was known as the "City of Kings" and quickly became the richest cities in all of the Americas for its access to the Pacific coastline. Today, the city is suffocating itself from pollution and urban sprawl. As many migrants pour into the outer rings of Lima, shantytowns pose a serious issue to the city's future. The vast majority of these shanty towns live under flimsy rooftops with beyond poor living conditions. More often than not, they do not have enough food to survive. Lima is faced with a crisis, unable to accommodate the migrants who moved for better employment opportunities. It is the cornerstone of industry and government, but much of rural Peru is suffering from underdevelopment. Ironically, Lima is dependent on Peru for support of food, water, energy, and resources while holding the rest of the country powerless. The historic center of Lima is deteriorating from neglect and high maintenance cost. Few of the original colonial houses still exist today.
There are some bright points to Lima. Our hostel offered a tour of Mágico del Agua, a magical water circuit in Parque de la Reserva. It contains over a dozen illuminated fountains, each distinct with its own color and design. Fuente de Fantasia projected a series of traditional Peruvian dances onto large streams of water that shot up over 80 meters high. There was a water fountain shaped like a pyramid and Tunel de Sorpresas which you can walk through. My personal favorite was the fountain that operated in a sort of pattern. Streams of water were triggered by music. I was tempted to jump into the cued water fountain, but many people proved their reflexes were too slow. They walked the rest of the park soaked.
I visited the Huaca Pucllana pyramid as soon as I became well. It was a 10 minute walk from my hostel and sits in the middle of Miraflores suburb. The adobe mound does not fit the skyscrapers that surrounding it. The temple contains over 65 pre-Colombian tombs and a small site museum where they explain shark eating rituals and human sacrifices. The vast pyramid was believed to be built around 200-700 AD from the Lima Culture in the shape of an enormous frog in honor of the rain god. Fenced off and encroached by buildings on all sides, the huaca seems out of place and lacked the mystery that it may at once had. It was one of the few historical places that felt like I was listening to stories without actually feeling its immensity and significance.
I also visited the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) that exhibits collections of both national and international art. This museum was only a year old when I visited and was designed to promote contemporary culture of Peru. It was on the way to Barranco which contains some of the oldest buildings in Lima and has a vibrant artist quarter near the ocean.
To pass the time, I spent much of my time with other friendly travelers in the hostel. I met someone from England who was nominated for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge so we decided to walk to the ocean. I helped record him run into the freezing water in his underwear. Besides the occasional stroll, my stay in Lima felt prolonged and left me anxious to keep moving. To make matters worse, Jesse’s flight got postponed until the 1st. I was upset about staying in Lima one more night. When I picked up Jesse at the airport, I left my phone and headphones on the taxi ride over. The following morning, I showed Jesse the extent of Miraflores, but we both agreed by the end of the tour that Lima "sucked". It became a run-on joke throughout our journey. Whenever moments were bad, we would say "at least it's not as bad as Lima". On our return from Nazca, Paracas, and Huacachina, we booked a hostel near the airport and picked our mother from the airport.
- Blore, Shawn. Frommer's South America. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2008. Print.
- Moker, Molly, Kelly Kealy, and David Dudenhoefer. Fodor's Peru. New York: Fodor's Travel Publications, 2011. Print.
- Schlecht, Neil, and Jennifer Reilly. Frommer's Peru. Hoboken, NJ: Frommer's, 2008. Print.