I’m doing it again. I’ve moved to a new continent and am attempting to adapt to life in a new culture. This time around I’m not even going to live in a big city, but a small village high in the Andes mountains. More on that later, as of this time of writing I haven’t even seen this village, so it would be more than a little presumptuous for me to write about living there.
Where have I been? Lima and Cusco. With a 22 hour bus ride in between.
Lima is huge. Lima is spread out. Lima is dirty. Lima is crowded. Lima is deserted. Lima is beautiful. Lima is old. Lima is new. Lima is a city of contradictions.
My flight landed late, 10:30pm. I had one day of exploring, and left on a bus at 5:30pm the following day. Less than 24 hours in a city, is it possible to get a sense of it?
Yes and No.
After a quick hostel breakfast, I headed out to the nearest site, an archaeological site called Huaca Pucllana in the Miraflores district of Lima. A really pleasant 20 minute walk from my hostel, I avoided the major roads and instead wandered around back roads taking in the interesting mix of architecture. Miraflores, I would realize later that day, is a wealthier area of the city.
The site itself was closed. Only on Tuesdays. This was a Tuesday.
My next stop was the city center to see the Monastery of San Francisco. I thought I was being so clever, taking public transportation to get there instead of shelling out the 10 soles ($2-3) for a cab. So I took the metro to la estación central and exited, heading confidently in the way of my dreams.
This should not surprise you when I say I instead wandered around the very crowded, very interesting, very disorienting city center for 3 hours, without seeing any of the major sites I had intended on seeing. In short, I was completely lost.
I did stumble onto a street FULL of street food vendors, most of which I could not recognize but the smell was divine. I also found el centro mercado, a massive MASSIVE central market. There was a whole block just selling zapatos. A whole. city. block. And another of clothes. Another of electrical kitchen appliances. You get the idea. The energy of the place was electric. I managed to buy a SIM card for my phone.
Oh also, I did not use English once this whole day. It is so thrilling to communicate entirely in Spanish.
Eventually I wandered to a park that had a bunch of food stalls. Here I had chincharrones for lunch, having no idea what chincharrones actually were. The meat itself is deep fried and I can’t say I was that in love with it. But la mujer quien servirme served the meat over steamed and fried corn. But not the traditional sweet corn, instead some crazy HUGE kernal really crunchy stuff. I love it. And the salsa picante era muy muy muuuuuuy picante. Me gusto mucho.
After my lunch I did hop in a taxi and ride for half an hour or more to another part of the city to visit the Larco Museum. Although pricey, I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in ancient peruvian culture.
The collection is huge and well displayed. The presentation is thoughtful and you get a sense of the many different cultures that led up to the Inca.
Other bonuses: the museum has an erotic sculpture hall. And these aren’t your standard phalluses either, but a whole range of sexual deviancies preserved forever in the medium of pottery.
And lastly, the museum lets you see into their storage hall as well! That was my favorite part. Floor to ceiling shelves FULL of different ancient peruvian artifacts. It was an archaeology nerd’s wet dream.
After that excursion I headed to the bus station to take a 22 hour bus ride across the country. It was the longest time I have ever spent in one single mode of transportation. Got my first view of the Andes (Stunning, of course) and made it to Cusco. I love it here, but have only had one night of exploration. Will be in Cusco one more day and then I am heading out to my new home, Urubamba.