For my end of internship year holiday, I decided to jet set to Peru. Why? For various reasons. There are still quite a few countries I have not travelled to, so I had a few options. I asked myself what I wanted to do during my holiday. I knew I wanted a place that was not too cold (crossed Canada off the list) and I knew I had 3 weeks to travel (crossed Asia off the list). I started searching “Bucket list destinations” and Machu Picchu popped up time and time again. Coincidentally, I also have a friend travelling around South America, who was a great push behind me booking my flights. The next thing I knew, I was at a flight centre with my bank card, determined to book my holiday.
Day 1 – 10th Jaunary 2016
Travelling solo is not the most foreign concept to me, but for some reason, waiting at the airport for my delayed flight gave me cold feet. I had flown from Melbourne to Auckland, and now I was waiting for my flight from Auckland to Santiago. It felt as though everyone around me was speaking Spanish. Where were all the English speaking people? Where were all the Caucasians with blonde hair and blue eyes? Or the Asians? The flight ended up being fine – Auckland to Santiago, Santiago to Lima. I even met a lovely New Zealand couple BR and JR. They have invited me over to their Avocado Orchard near Auckland one day (definitely an offer I will take them up on!)
Although the taxi driver spoke minimal English, my airport transfer to San Augustin Executive Hotel in Miraflores was smooth sailing, and I felt safe the entire time. The first evening was spent having dinner at the hotel. I ordered chicken with grilled vegetables and potatoes (over-priced but still decent). They also greeted me with a free Pisco Sour, a Peruvian cocktail made with Pisco, lime juice, sugar, egg white and Bitters. By the time I had arrived, I was tired and it was dark outside. I was not yet comfortable to roam outside in the dark alone. On the plus side, I did meet two lovely employees from the hotel – DM, the Bartender and M, the Bellboy who ended up becoming good friends of mine whilst I was in Lima.
Day 2 – 11th Jaunary 2016
Day 2 was spent exploring Lima with my new friends – RS and his older brother JS. I met RS on the plane ride from Santiago to Lima. He was sitting a few seats away from me on the plane. I overheard him speaking to a lovely old lady, and I was intrigued – I thought to myself, his communication skills screamed out familiarity, something I was longing for. Not long later, I found out he had just finished his medical internship in Melbourne (surprise, surprise, what a small world!)
We started our adventure at the Inca and Indian Markets, where we saw several Peruvian scarves, woodwork and souvenirs. RS bought us some Coca Candy to try (it tasted like … anaesthetic?) For lunch, we tried Ceviche, Arroz con Mariscos and Leche de Tigre. All amazingly delicious! They also brought out Chicha Morada, a drink made my boiling purple corn with pineapple, cinnamon, clove and sugar, and Cancha, a toasted corn snack (tasted strange initially, but extremely addictive). Then we visited Hauca Pacllana, an ancient adobe and clay pyramid built by the Lima people between 200 -700 AD for ceremonial and administrative purposes. The weather was hot, and we were dying, but it was a pretty good historical lesson. We later cooled off with Lacuma (famous Peruvian fruit) Frappuccinos at Starbucks. Then there was more walking along the Miraflores Boardwalk (quite beautiful) and exploring Larcoma (an outdoor shopping mall on the beach, overlooking the Pacific Ocean). Lastly, dinner was a large platter of Antichuchos (generally made with beef heart), Chicken, Chips and Grilled Vegetables (or should I say vegetables drenched in oil). One thing I have noticed is Peruvians seem to eat chips, or “Papas fritas” on a daily basis (potatoes are a staple!)
It was sad to part ways with RS and JS. It was such a fun day, and it felt so natural. We laughed, shared stories and joked around as if we had known each other for years. They reminded me of brothers I never had (RS – the teasing, fun brother, and JS – the older, more mature but still awesome brother). They are definitely two people I will keep in touch with and meet up with again!
Day 3 – 12th January 2016
This shall be called the ´Walking Day´. The great thing about travelling alone is that you can do whatever you want and be wherever you want to be whenever. After a delicious Buffet Breakfast (love!), I started my trek along the Pacific Ocean. I had no specific directions, I just knew the general direction I was heading towards. The beauty of this was incidentally stumbling across many tourist attractions, such as the Malecon, Parque de Amor and Real Plaza before finally reaching my destination, Museo Larco. The museum was beautiful, full of artwork, jewels, clay sculptures and rich in history. There was even an “Erotic Room” with art showing different sexual acts – it was definitely a strange experience! I´m not sure whether a long hike in the heat was the best idea, as by the time I had reached the museum, I was exhausted. Nevertheless, I battled on and visited a few more tourist attractions on the way home – Mercado Indios and the Chocolate Museum. I did a total of 39,233 steps and 29.7km that day. My legs and glutes felt so tight and it felt like a great workout, aside from developing Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome.
Day 4 – 13th January 2016
Today I explored Lima Town. But first, I enjoyed my daily pre-breakfast jog and exercise along the Pacific Ocean. It is so beautiful, and you get the cool Pacific breeze early in the morning. It was so refreshing to see the locals out and about, also exercising. I have been told though that Miraflores is a more upper class area, which may explain the healthier, more active and luxurious lifestyle (I have not seen people exercise anywhere else).
In Lima, I visited the Government Palace, San Martin Square, the Lima Cathedral and had a general stroll. Lunch was at a Peruvian Vegetarian place “Afinidad Maravillosa” – it was pretty good value for S/8! It was a very rushed exploration of the city before I had to return to my hotel. The traffic in Lima is pretty shocking, and by the time I reached my hotel, my Tour Van was already waiting, ready to departure – Go, go, go!
I booked a Night Tour for $60 USD (it was quite worth it!) It was a tour for 10 people, but I was the only English speaking tourist. I have noticed many of the tourists in Lima are Spanish speaking – eg: from Brazil and Bolivia. Our first stop was Parque de la Reserva, a magical fountain park. We got to visit 11 out of the 13 different fountains. They had pyramid shaped fountains, rainbow fountains, a tunnel fountain and more – it was very romantic! Then we drove to La Dama Juana, a restaurant in Barranco, the “Bohemian” town. We enjoyed an all you can eat Buffet and a Cultural folk dance show. Some of the foods available included Arroz Con Pollo, Saltado De Pollo, Aji De Gallina, Carapulcra, Seco De Res, Causa Rellena De Pollo and many desserts including Arroz Con Leche and Mazamorra.
Day 5 – 14th January 2016
Today was my last full day in Lima. I went to the zoo, Av Parque de Las Leyendas in San Miguel with my new Peruvian friend, Vanessa. I met her via my new friends GW and NW, a lovely couple from Kansas. (I met Professor GW yesterday at breakfast when he started trying to speak Japanese to me! He was whispering “konnichiwa, konnichiwa”) On the way back from the zoo, we took a bus. What an experience! It was hot, sweaty and a long journey – travelling true Peruvian style (I was exhausted afterwards!)
Then GW invited me to lunch with himself, his wife and the Stephen Hawking´s Group, a group for women with physical disabilities. Some women suffered from Post Polio Syndrome, a condition I find quite rare in Australia. Whilst enjoying Pardos Chicken, we discussed issues such as public transport difficulty for people with disabilities and joked around about meeting Stephen Hawking. I really enjoyed the catch up, or should I say “meet”, and it truly planted a seed for ongoing thought. How do those in wheelchairs catch buses with no wheelchair access, that barely come to a stop for able passengers to jump on and off?
Day 6 – 15th January 2016
Flight from Lima to Cuzco to Puerto Maldonado. Welcome to the Amazon Jungle… to be continued …