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Day 5 – Lima

Monday August 26th

Today we had a lie-in. Bliss!

Then after a leisurely breakfast we took a stroll to the sea. Now we don’t mean paddling distance – there is a large cliff in the way. But it’s a pleasant stroll, and when you get there they’re building a new shopping complex into the side of the cliff. There are enough shops and restaurants there that are already open though to make it a pleasant morning’s frivolous time

Lima Pier

waster. You can also rent a bike but that was a bit too energetic for us.

We were meeting the rest of our tour group at 1:15 pm, so we had a much cheaper lunch at the same café as the previous evening (no alcohol involved) then made our way back to the hotel.

There are 7 of us on the Voyages Jules Verne tour of Peru – 5 men and 2 ladies (so I do have some female chit-chat at hand!) 4 of us are staying in the standard class of hotel that VJV provide (which we’ve always found to be more than adequate), and three had chosen to upgrade to a slightly higher standard.

Lima half day tour

At 1:15 pm our tour bus turned up. Our guide is called Rosa, and is going to take us on a half day city tour of Lima.

What an interesting place Lima is! We could tell straight away that there were more interesting buildings here than in Santiago. Peru has had a turbulent recent past, with the major riots (civil war?) and terrorist attacks of the 1980’s. Around 55,000 people died – that’s some protest! Much of central Lima was taken over, and even now there are squatters in a number of areas surrounding the centre. The government are still renovating buildings that were taken over, and it will be a while before they’re finished.

One thing you can’t help but notice is the amount of security guards and police in Lima. They’re everywhere! It could have been very off-putting, but it didn’t lead to a feeling of insecurity. It felt like they were there as a deterrent to make sure that the 1980’s troubles weren’t allowed to flare up again rather than for an imminent foe. The police dress very differently to those in Chile. Chilean police look like German storm troopers. Peruvian police, with their white helmets and body armour, are more like Intergalactic storm troopers from Star Wars!

There is also a very useful rule that benefits locals and tourists alike. Beggars and traders are not allowed to approach you when you are in a city square or park. This is because these are places of enjoyment and relaxation and not for business transactions.

Monasterio de San Francisco

First stop was at the Monasterio de San Francisco. This is one of those places that you long to photograph – but no photos are allowed! It’s in Moorish style, and is reminiscent of

Past Occupants

monasteries in Seville. This includes some wonderful ceramic tiles that were imported directly from Seville. As Art put it – what a bad deal – ship loads of ceramic tiles from Spain were paid for with returning ship loads of gold and silver from the Incas! There are also catacombs full of human remains (including a well) and (by far the best!) a library of ancient books that have never been restored, in a scene that looks like it is straight out of a Harry Potter movie.

One thing we loved about this monastery was that it hadn’t been over-renovated. It felt like there were still places to explore and secrets to find.

Plaza de Armas

This is one of the main squares in the city, and is bounded on all sides by historic buildings. As in Santiago, one is the cathedral. During the day it acts as a museum, then at 5:00 pm changes back to a place of worship. One slightly disconcerting thing here are the riot police on every corner, with their riot shields. But it must be a very boring job – again, they’re there ‘just in case’. Plaza de Armas provides a photo opportunity and a good place to be dropped off in order to walk round the surrounding streets. Many have Moorish style balconies, reflecting their Southern Spanish history.

Museo Larco

This museum was quite a long way down the ‘must see’ list in our guide book – but I cannot recommend it highly enough. It holds the private collections of three or four families who owned land where the state highway was destined to run. During the digging, thousands of treasures from 500 BC were uncovered, including jewellery. Most of the jewels found their way into the hands of the workmen, but they weren’t interested in the ceramics. And there were a lot of them!

One big plus for us was the enthusiasm of our guide, Rosa. She started by taking us into the storage area, where there are row upon row of shelves, with glass fronts, behind which are

the ‘seconds’ – the bits that weren’t considered good enough for the main museum. Most of them seemed perfect to me! And the unprepossessing way in which they were clustered onto the shelves with no labels (but in a semblance of order) was part of the experience.

Then she took us into the main museum, where the pieces were displayed in a simple but very effective way. There were more ceramics, but much more besides. There were rich tapestries and cloths, pottery from the Nazca area, and some of the beautiful precious metal treasures that were rescued. These were gold and silver headdresses, necklaces and face ornaments, again presented in a beautifully simple display.

Finally there was the ‘Erotic collection’, where all the ceramics were of various phallic symbols and people doing – well – you can guess. Here could also be seen the start of the mass pornography publishing industry – a number of identical pots, obviously made by the same artist, showing a couple – well – I’ll leave you to guess the rest.

And then we were taken back to our hotel – in rush hour – by a driver who had obviously worked out that the way to beat the traffic was to drive at right angles to it, down all the side roads. And of course this meant cutting directly across every stream of traffic on the main roads – usually by pushing his nose in then accelerating at high speed whenever he saw a chink in the line. An effective, and very South American driving style.

The Evening

One restaurant style that seems to be popular is ribs, chicken and steak. This is a style that is not that popular in New Zealand (well, we certainly have only found one that does decent

Lima at night

ribs) so we found our way to ‘Tony Romas’ on the clifftop. It started off as a reasonably priced meal, with Art and I splitting a large ribs between us, washed down with a local beer. Then Art said ‘shall we ask about the Peruvian wine?’ ‘OK’, I said. The waiter offered us the menu. ‘It’s a bit expensive’ he said Shall we have a glass of the house Chilean instead?’ ‘OK’ I said. Somewhere along the line things got lost in translation. The lovely bottle of Peruvian Cabernet Merlot that was served up was one and a half times as much as the food that we’d eaten! Ah well… it’s only money….

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