Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lima- Day 1

Today was a great reminder of both all of the joys and perils of travelling by foot in search of an adventure in a foreign city! I am always pretty big on the philosophy that the best way to discover places is to it by foot and to not have any specific destination in mind when you set out unless you are in a time crunch. With 8 days in Lima, I am certainly not in a time crunch. So this morning I somehow woke up at 6:45 am after a very long day almost entirely without breathing real air, moving from plane to airport to plane. Anyway, since my hostel didn’t serve breakfast until 8 am, I wandered outside to the main square, Parque Kennedy, and found a nice cafĂ© that was open and had a simple breakfast. I wanted to make sure my hostel was the best one I could find in the area, so I toured a couple others, realized mine was the best place to be, and then returned. By that time breakfast was being served and I had some delicious squash pancakes. Then I gathered my things and set out for the city. My goal was to get to “El Centro”, the center of the city, from Miraflores, a pretty far trek. I wanted to do it the local way, and save money, so I spent a good 20 minutes observing locals board the buses and figuring out which ones went where. Eventually I figured out that all the collectivos (old buses that feel like they are about to die, packed with people) travelled down each of the main avenues for only 1 sole, or about 30 cents. So I figured out which one went to El Centro, and hopped on. Well, the system wasn’t smooth, and it took 3 collectivos, and about 2 miles of walking to get to where I wanted to go- the center of it all, Plaza de Armas. I finally arrived, very hungry, just in time for lunch. I had a great lunch looking out at the square (although I skipped over the drink the waiter handed me that he said was “like juice made from weed”). Then I toured a great cathedral on the square where the remains of Francisco Pizarro, the Conquistador, are “buried”- in reality they are simply scattered all over the property since the very violent earthquakes have really shaken that Cathedral and prompted many re-constructions. Luckily, they kept his head in a separate box!

Now it gets interesting. I guy approached me in the main square and introduced himself, explaining he was a teacher in a small town in Northern Peru and was selling maps and such to fundraise for his students to be able to buy medicine. After some talking I told him I was also in Peru to teach, and would be going to Cusco in a week to start. So he gave up the sales pitch and offered to show me around a bit. He goes into Lima twice a month for this purpose, so he knows the city very well, and he studied here as a kid and young adult. Anyway, over the course of the next 5 hours, he showed me probably half of the tourist attractions on the map in El Centro and Rimac. Rimac is by the river and next to what are called Pueblo Jovenes (which translates directly into young town) but really means shanty town’s. They are town, now apparently throughout Peru and other Latin American countries that are built out of very basic materials and often built outside the city rising up on the mountains. They carve out rough raods up the mountainside to get to the areas. We also walked around Plaza Muralla, where there is a wall of murals down by the river and a nice are for people to hang out and play games and such. When we came back into Central Lima he said we should try some Alpaca and Pisco Sour for dinner. So I agreed to go with him, knowing he would probably make me pay for most or all of it, but meals are generally very cheap. To make a long story short, he went over the waitress at the bar so I couldn’t hear and ordered two HUGE Pisco Sour’s and a plate of food straight from a Peruvian wedding buffet. It was gigantic. As soon as they brought it out later I told him I couldn’t pay for all of it, I only had something like $20 or 30 US dollars on me. I asked the waitress for the check. It was, after the conversion, $100 US, which is unheard of in Peru, even in fancy hotels. So I told the waitress the guy was trying to scam me and I told him I couldn’t pay before. She was in a tough spot so she told me I could pay half and go. Nonetheless, that was a bad ending to what was otherwise a good day. I salvaged the night a little bit by going out and dancing some Son (a Cuban variation of Salsa) before going back and crashing.

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