Lima, Peru. Wow. Where do I begin. I’m happy. I’m more than happy and so is everyone in this city. I arrived late Saturday night, flew through immigration and found a taxi driver holding a sign with my name on it. I dropped my immigration card whilst exiting security and I did not realize until a friendly tourist told me he had found it and given it to a flight attendant. After a few minutes of battling with the guards to attempt to retrieve it (I’d have to pay $10 when leaving the country if I didn’t have it) someone finally brought it through. Off to a careless start! I shared a taxi with a Polish born, London-based traveler who has lived and experienced most regions of the world. Driving from the airport to the hostel did not give much of an impression of Peru’s capital city, but I had high hopes for the morning. After checking in to Loki Hostel (known for its parties, but it was suggested by a local Peruvian) I headed downstairs to what I thought was the lounge with my laptop. A fellow backpacker who worked at the hostel said “Whatcha doing with that?” And I replied “Just letting my Ma know I’ve made it.” His question made sense quickly as I stepped in to Loki’s bar. The mix of booze, sweat, and loud electronic tunes hit me as I swayed up to the bar realizing my laptop would not be opened. Packed with tourists from countries near and far, I was immediately confronted by Chileans and my Spanish was put on the spot. This place was like an international frat house. Beer pong to my right, Jagerbombs to my left, drunken men shouting at football (soccer) in Spanish, and I was fresh meat. Soon after my first beer, I a tiny Chilean girl grabbed me and asked if her friend could do a body shot off me (a dare to check off on the Dare Game a few were participating in). Laughing it off and explaining I’ve been traveling for almost 24hrs and not even I wouldn’t do a shot off my body, I felt another slap my ass. Another “dare” challenge, which of course I immediately screamed at the guy to the point he and all his friends apologized multiple times. Around 2am the hostel bar kicks everyone off and ships them to that night’s chosen discoteca. Wanting to say no, I finally gave in after making friends with an Atlanta, GA born Peruvian basketball player. Danced, drank, and still had energy for more, J.D. and I walked around the city talking about his experience living in Lima. Sometime around 5am I hopped in a taxi and climbed in to my dorm bed. As my head hit the pillow of my top bunk, I could only smile at what a great first fucking night I had in South America.
The next day I threw on my running shoes and I decided to check out my new neighborhood for the next week. Miraflores is on the southwest coast of the city and is known for being the richest, safest, and most Western part of the city. I usually prefer the nitty, gritty realistic sides of a city, but for being on my own in a new part of the world I felt this would be a comfortable start. Within minutes I was at the coast and I was immediately blown away. I never did much research on the city of Lima and I had no idea the dramatic cliffs towering over the beach even existed. I ran through beautiful, clean parks smiling at all the lovely local people enjoying their Sundays. The next two days I spent wandering the streets of Miraflores, watching the sunset on the cliffs, playing in the kitty parks, and relaxing with my book wherever I went. Being a tall, blonde by herself I was often approached by local men who wanted to chat, get me to surf, or one soul who literally chased me down the street to say hello. After a few of these occurrences I decided to mention a fake boyfriend, which of course ended the conversations much sooner.
Tuesday I met with Ryan (my English mate who I worked with in Australia who would be traversing through South America with me)’s Peruvian sister, Gisella. These two met whilst traveling in Southeast Asia and she was wonderful enough to show me Lima the local way before Ryan arrived. I always love experiencing countries via the local transportation and after a few days in Lima, I still did not understand the bus system. I finally learned one does not really exist. Everyone heads to the bus stop they assume to be correct and when the collectiva stops, a bus conductor yells out their destination. Here I am standing with a piece of paper explaining where I needed to go and shoving it their faces “Necesito ir aqui” and waited for one to finally tell me to hop on. The conductor told me when to get off for me to only realize I was only half way there (thank god for gps on GoogleMaps). I headed in the right direction and decided to try this again. Finally after two buses costing around $1 I made to Gisella’s apartment. She welcomed me as all South Americans do with a kiss on the cheek and told me to feel at home. It took seconds for me to realize this would turn into a great friendship and of course it did. Her friend joined us and we headed to the city center to the Plaza de Armas. Every city/town in Peru has a Plaza de Armas (a main square) which the Municipal building sat along the main Catholic church. We walked around chatting half in English half in Spanish (they both work as interpreters) and I had my first proper Pisco Sour. The Peruvians and Chileans debate who invented the delicious grape brandy liquor and this popular drink is advertised everywhere (my vote’s with the Peruvians). That night I went out for drinks with Gisela and her Aussie and Canadian friend and said g’night with plans for lunch the next day. I explained to her brother I had yet to try ceviche and although I eat a vegan diet, I desired to try their famous seaside dish. Their younger cousin joined us to work on his english with me while I drooled over my meal. We drank Chicha, a maroon-colored drink made from the purple corn produced here, I tried grilled octopus that although chewy I surprisingly enjoyed, and I almost licked my plate of ceviche clean. Cooked for seconds with lemon juice and onions, the Sole, a flat whitefish went down almost too easily. I could not believe how much I enjoyed the dish and graciously thanked my diners for giving me such a perfect, true Peruvian meal. As her brother headed back to work, the three of us explored Barranco, a lovely seaside neighborhood just south of Miraflores. We headed back to the apartment to relax and hang out until we would venture to Bizarro, one of the best discotecas in the city. Although drinks were not the cheapest, we danced for hours to well known hits with new friends. As the night got later, the music switched to popular Spanish songs and I grew envious as everyone belted out the lyrics. The night led in to morning and I found myself hanging at an apartment full of French MBA students that lived near my hostel. Their place sat at the 13th floor overlooking the Pacific Ocean and once again I found myself laughing at an unforgettable Liman night.
Thursday Gisella and I took a much needed beach day. It took a few hours but we made it to la playa de Silencio in time to enjoy some R&R, a few cold beers, and another delicious round of ceviche (this time I tried the corvina). That night we took it easy knowing Ryan would arrive early the next morning and cooked dinner at hers before I headed home to the hostel. I woke up to find my liver destroying friend had arrived and we grabbed some food and headed to Parque del Amor for a catchup picnic. That night we met a big group of Gisella’s friends including Grisella who traveled with Ryan and Gisella in Thailand. Having our first round of drinks (as much as I enjoy the Pisco Sour I cannot do more than one egg white cocktail and discovered the refreshing Chilcano, which consists of pisco, lime, and ginger ale) I felt my first ever earthquake. Although it was only a tremor, the entire building shook beneath us, another Peruvian experience to check off the list. The night brought us back to Bizarro for more dancing and drinks and as I realized in Peruvian culture lasted in to the wee hours of the next morning. To nurse our hangover Ryan and I decided to give surfing a try. The easy, beginner waves did not scare us but after a good two hours of paddling, our arms could not keep up with the locals. That night Gis & Gris took us to the top of Lima. A breathtaking view of the massive city from above where you can see miles in each direction. After that we played in the Parque de Fuentes, which consists of 10+ different water fountains complete with a water/light show, a water tunnel, and ground fountains for the kids (and of course us) to play in. We left laughing and went for a meal at one of Peru’s most famous chef, Gaston Acurio’s restaurant. We called it an early night since Sunday brought the celebration of Carnavale.
Sunday morning we decided to visit Kenedy Park for breakfast and of course to play with the kitties. A older, local man sat down with us to practice his English. Charles comes to the park every Sunday to improve his English, which he started learning at the ripe age of 50 🙂 It was a lovely chat, but we had to cut it short to meet our Peruanas to commence the Carnavales celebracion! We headed to Barranco to find the paint massacre had moved down the street. Once we found the party, we quickly realized we needed ammo and cerveza. GoPro’s on, ammunition ready, we dove head first in to the giant gathering. Immediately an uproar began and paint came at us from every which direction. We laughed for hours as we continued to paint anyone that was near clean, we’d shout “limpio, limpio” (clean, clean) and attack the poor victim. Much different than actual carnvale, there were no parades nor music but instead a massive group spraying each other with paint. We continued our celebration back to the hostel and eventually out for more drinks still completely covered in color and laughed when bars denied our entry. It was one for the books and one I’ll never forget, especially since I’m still finding paint on me a week later. The next day we hopped on a bus to head to the desert oasis of Huacachina. I’m very thankful for my long week in Lima and the beautiful friendships that I made. My first stop of the South American tour was a success and although it was hard to say goodbye, the adventure was just beginning.
all my love and more,