So, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea; it’s not a guide or a post to aid your adventures and I don’t blame you if you have no room in your life for my jumbled musings and anecdotal stories of that time I went to the Galapagos. However, I really enjoyed writing my little travel diary and who knows? It may give someone out there some inspiration to go out and travel!
If you want something a bit more geared to give advice on your own travels check out my other Peru posts here!
So here is the first in a series of travel diaries from my adventures in South America. It was an unforgettable trip and I can’t wait to re-live it all while editing and posting these travel inspired scribbles!
For those of you who would rather just skip to the guides and tip posts, click here for all my South America posts
A Brief Summary of our Journey to Peru – August 28-29 2018
Flight number 1: Manchester to Toronto
Things I learnt:
1. Backpacks covered in clingfilm (for those of you questioning this seemingly mad practice,the theory behind this is to ensure none of the straps get ripped off by not so delicate airline transit) are notoriously hard to carry. I christened mine “the slug” for this reason. Though good news, slug made it all the way to Lima unscathed and was released from its cocoon to blossom into a beautiful and functional backpack
2. Although you may find it amusing, nervous flyers are quite alarmed by the captain announcing they need to get maintenance out to fix the door of the plane or it may fly off in transit. The gaffer tape they probably used to fix it saw us to Toronto anyway, see hyperventilating lady, there was no need for alarm!
3. Do not use headphones on an 8 hour flight without first testing them – my new ones could be confused with implements of torture…
Flight number 2: Toronto to Lima
Things I learnt:
1.Empty flights are the BEST thing!! Claiming several seats, complimentary cushions and blankets = very own in-flight blanket fort. Flying has never been so comfortable!
2. Do not expect anything to go right when your flight comes in at 1am and you’ve done over 24 hours of travel. Firstly our airport transfer which was meant to be waiting for us left a fetching little note at their reception desk stating (for the first time I might add) that they only operate between the hours of 7am and 12pm.
After forking out for a taxi, we rocked up at our hostel anticipating a bed ready for us… Apparently we weren’t expected until the day after… Fab, music to our ears at 2am, in fact we wanted nothing more that to brave it on the streets of Lima for a night, I mean we did say we wanted the full experience! Thankfully a room was found so we hunkered down for the night in the freezing dorm room next to the annoying mouth breather which is practically guarantee with every dorm room…
For me, sometimes travelling can be a necessary evil to get to where I want to be, but now I am so glad to be here, at the other side of the world and for the many adventures to begin!
Day 1 – Exploring Lima
Things I learnt:
1. Lima may have palm trees and technically be classed as a desert, but the temperature definitely does not reflect this! I spent the first day in a coat, a cardigan AND a fleece. Forgive my naivety, and I know other places like the Antarctic are also classed as deserts (definitely not warm there!) But as it’s one of the lowest altitude points we are visiting in Peru, I expected it to be somewhat balmier. I may have to invest in that alpaca blanket sooner than I thought!
2. When your hostel is so cold there is no hope of your clothes drying, even in 3 days, hairdryers are a life saver! I certainly did not think on day one I’d be sat there drying my unmentionables in this way…. This brings me on to number 3…
Hairdryers are lifesavers – now I know many travellers say they add unnecessary bulk and are hardly ever needed to justify packing them… Well my fellow travellers, the joke is most certainly on you. It’s day one and so far I’ve used it as a clothes dryer and to stave off frost bite (and for its actual purpose too of course) -no regrets!
4. Unlike the blogs lead you to believe (and trust me, I’ve read a fair few!) Lima is not the most accessible city. Now maybe we’re just spoilt by our experiences in Europe where almost all major attractions are a do-able walk or an easy public transport ride away, with Lima this is not the case. It’s a 20 minute bus ride from one of the main tourist areas to the other (not so horrendous) but then a 58 minute walk to the other… What we did not know while merrily putting together our itinerary was just how inaccessible a lot of the places on our ‘to do list’ were unless you wish to fork out for a taxi, which doing the cheap backpacker gig, we were hoping to avoid! We learnt the hard way to check all distances to and from attractions in advance!
Ok… Grumbles aside now ( if your entire travel experience is entirely wonderful, I question if you’re doing it right!) and on to the good stuff!
Other things I learnt in Lima:
1. Inkan Milkyway Tours are fab! Not only did they help us coordinate the complicated bus system on our first day, they also showed us a fab place to begin our culinary adventures in Peru ( for an excellent price too) and helped two directionally challenged women get their bearings around the big city. Our tour guide delivered information with both humour and enthusiasm and it is definitely a must do on your first day in any city which provides them!
2. Peruvian food is so far living up to the hype! Here the cheapest and most filling meal is usually lunch which is served with a starter, a main meal and a drink for a mere 12 soles or cheaper! We sampled Papa rellena which are potatoes stuffed with mince meat and raisins delivering a fantastic flavour combination and lomo saltado which is a tasty beef stew served with chips AND rice (it’s safe to say the Peruvians are not afraid of carb-loading!). We also sampled our first pisco sours which is the national Peruvian drink – it’s fairly strong stuff, but unlike most powerful beverages, did not leave your throat burning and eyes watering after consumption – it was really rather pleasant!
3. The city of Lima itself is a UNESCO world heritage site due to its vast number of buildings of historical importance. The architecture is absolutely stunning and the history surrounding them is fascinating. After our walking tour we decided to explore the catacombs of San Francisco Basilica. It was fantastically creepy to see some of the bones of the 250,000 people burried in the underground of the church. It was also amazing to discover how they tackled the destructive earthquakes Peru is regularly shaken by, using volcanic rock to absorb shock and bricks made out of mud and sand which have more mobility to weather the quakes. As they are still standing for visitors to explore today, it must have worked!
5. People of Lima are very friendly but you will rarely find a fluent English speaker, tourists and locals alike seem to get on using elaborate hand gestures and speaking in a mixture of English and Spanish (Spanglish) to communicate. I’m hideously embarrassed at how poor my Spanish is, but I now have a trusty Spanish dictionary downloaded and I’m eager to come back a better Spanish speaker than when I left ( I have 3 months to practice, there’s hope for me yet!).
4. Despite being a little on the chilly side at night Dragonfly Hostels have been fab, super chilled, really helpful and the breakfast of freshly made pancakes each morning goes down an absolute treat, I can tell you!
Day 2 – A search for Paddington in Miraflores, Lima
It turns out Paddington, the best loved bear from children’s books hailing from deepest darkest Peru is notoriously hard to find… Especially when you walk for half an hour in the complete wrong direction! On the plus side, we got to explore the Miraflores boardwalk (soaking in the sights from the clifftop, seeing the embracing couple in parque del amore and admiring the amazing statues dotted along as we walked), made friends with some of the local cats at parque Kennedy and took a detour to Huaca Pucllana. This pre-incan step pyramid where they liked to make human sacrifices (nothing new there) despite being made out of mud brick was still standing today. During our tour, we enjoyed a pre-incan history lesson from our hilariously deadpan guide – though his credibility was questioned when he couldn’t tell the difference between llamas and alpacas!
We continued our culinary adventures sampling another set lunch, this time with pescado a lo macho (fried fish served in a zesty sauce topped with prawns, squid and octopus) and tequenos (Peruvian cheese sticks + guacamole = heaven) and devoured some mighty fine dim sum from Lima’s China town (where the Chinese food with a Peruvian twist is known as chifa).
I then sustained my first injury of the trip slicing my finger trying to get into my freshly bought padlock and Sasha came to the rescue with plasters.
By mid afternoon we finally found Paddington,and of course had to take a photo to document our efforts, mission accomplished! Day 2 was a success!
Final Day in Lima
How I love hostel life…. our day began by being awoken by the rather loud and lengthy (that boy had the stamina of a champ) bedroom activities of one of our dorm mates who seemed to have picked up a “stray” on her night out. The few moments peace after the bed rocking had ceased was then disturbed by some (enter choice descriptive word here) who thought it was entirely appropriate to ignore his 5.30am alarm and allow it to blare out continuously, apparently waking everyone in the dorm but him!
Things I learnt today:
1. You meet some incredibly loud and selfish people in hostels… But equally some fabulous, friendly and helpful ones too. Today we experienced both! After the hullabaloo that morning, we bonded with a couple of girls over the nights events. Brianna, an American girl who had been traveling Peru solo for 5 months was on the last leg of her trip (we naturally harassed her with questions all day to try and feed off her acquired knowledge) and Monika, an Austrian student who was, like us on the first leg of her trip.
We all teamed up to find the Museo Larco, a museum famed for its erotic pottery and voted one of the best museums in Lima.
2. Good Samaritans and kind locals do exist! When traveling you are ploughed with scary tales of locals exploiting tourists and warnings not to trust anyone. While these stories could not be present without foundation, it can give you a very negative and warped view of the people which can affect your experience. After all, why do we travel if not to be immersed in another culture? Today we experienced two separate acts of kindness which made me feel like the world can be a good place!
The first, was due to collective directional impairment from the group, we ended up waiting half an hour for a bus to the museum which was never going to show up. sensing something was wrong we decided to ask a friendly looking woman with her daughter if she should point us in the direction of the bus stop. After a lot of rapid Spanglish which thankfully Brianna vaguely understood which told us our quest for a bus was in vain, the little woman trotted off to the traffic warden who hailed a taxi. The smiling lady gestured us over, gave strict instructions to the driver, got us a good price for the taxi and promptly paid the fare, waving her hands at us as we began to protest. What a lovely lady!
The second act of kindness we experienced while looking for lunch, a woman saw our bewildered expressions while trying to decipher the menus and figure out costs and guided us to a little cafe where we ate enough to feed an army for 8 soles and got presented with multiple Peruvian dishes to try for free! Because of that lady we saved a fortune on tourist trap geared food and we were taken aback by the boundless hospitality at this little cafe.
3. The pottery of the ancient Peruvian civilisations is enough to make anyone blush! I think 50 shades could learn a thing or two from these guys! Phallic objects aside, the museum is really informative and has artefacts from a number of ancient Peruvian civilisations including a lot of bling and items used in sacrificial ceremonies (of course). It was really worth the visit, but as we found out not one to get to via public transport!
4. Circuito magico del Agua was the best end to Lima!
This is a park filled with intricate fountains, fairy lights and coloured lasers and looks like something out of wonderland. If you find yourself in Lima, it’s definitely worth a visit and the best part is it’s only 4 soles, bargain! We also ticked off a few more things on our Peruvian food list from the surprisingly cheap street food vendors ; Picarones (a circular sweet potato dohnut served with syrup) and chicha morada ( purple juice made out of corn- its bizarre!)
Lima, you’ve been a chaotic, cloudy place but we’ve enjoyed it thoroughly! Now onto Paracas!