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Wednesday, 9 July 2008


6th - 9th July 2008

We had only originally intended to spend a day or so in Lima, Peru's capital, before flying to Ecuador. It's reputation as a run down city and the mugging capital of South America didn't entice us much, and though we had travelled untroubled through the continent for the last three months we didn't want to count our chickens…

Continuing in the theme of our trip so far, Lima wasn't what we'd been expecting at all. Sure, we possibly would have been mugged if we'd been waving our camera and wads of cash around, but the same can be said of most large cities the world over. The central Lima area surrounding Plaza de Armas does need some TLC, but cleaning has already started and many colonial buildings have been restored. Having spent 90 minutes on a bus into the centre (you think London traffic is bad!!) we whirled around the main attractions on a whistlestop tour. Of particular interest are the 17th century bronze fountain in the plaza; the Palacio de Gobireno; the Cathedral and the Archbishop's Palace standing next door. The church of San Francisco is worth a look, as is the Casa de Jarava just opposite. Lima also has a large Chinatown district – well worth a visit, preferably with an empty stomach!

Upon several recommendations we sought out a place to stay in Miraflores, a suburb south of Lima along the coastal road. Together with neighboring Baranco and San Isidro, Miraflores is now the main social centre of Lima. Together with the usual amenities of any nice town; a well tended park, a nice cathedral and a handful of museums, Miraflores is also home to Centro Commercial Larcomar – a very modern, hip shopping centre, (even by international standards) cut into the side of the cliffs. We're not in the habit of talking with enthusiasm about such places, but when you´ve spent the last two months up a rather large mountain range, this was an exciting return to civilization! Here we found expensive boutiques, numerous cool cafes, a couple of clubs and loads of restaurants, all with an impressive panoramic view of the ocean, 100 meters down. There is a 12 screen cinema including one with a cine-bar and a bowling alley. Sam wanted to go to the piccies (to watch Kung Fu panda)! This was definitely not the South America we had become accustomed to…we could have been anywhere in the world and likened the place to both Cape Town (at the waterfront) and Ipanema in Rio (behind the beach).
We bumped into Gustavo (our friend from Bolivia and Cusco) on our on first night in Lima, walking along the promenade. It turns out that he and Annie were both staying for a few days and had just arrived from Arequipa and Nazca too. We arranged to meet the following night for drinks and tried to contact Sarah, another friend whom we knew was staying in the capital. We spent the night in a Cuban bar, Ady dancing badly to the salsa music and Annie desperately trying to teach him the steps. You'd think after three months he would have got the hang of it. Sam was using a sore ankle as an excuse not to join in, but in truth still preferred the old English tradition of propping the bar up! Unfortunately Sarah couldn't join us but we met for lunch the following day and then spent the afternoon in true traveler style (nursing one drink for several hours) in a rather cool, but very pricey café, making the most of the comfy leather couches!

Before I finish our Lima story, our hostel deserves a special mention, for when we return to next to the city or for anyone else that plans to go. The 151 Backpackers B&B on Colon opened just over two months by a young Peruvian guy who spent time in the states and thus speaks perfect English. The room was spotlessly clean, towels and toiletries were provided, free internet use, use of the kitchen and BBQ, TV and dvd's… infact free run of the whole house. This in itself isn´t so unusual but he went out of his way in every way to make you welcome. We had eggs and fresh fruit for breakfast, alongside the usual bread and marmalade, but the bread was fresh from the bakery. He also makes homemade pizzas and almuerzo, for a small extra price. For cat lovers there is the most adorable kitty; ginger and white, just 9 months old but really huuuge and so playful. We were happy guests and were sad to leave Lima, vowing to return to Peru in the future.

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