Take a bus ride the length of New Zealand without stopping. Just for good measure, before starting your journey take another bus from Wellington to Taupo, just to make things interesting. That’s what we came face to face with as we traversed from Cuenca (Ecuador) across to Guayaquil (Ecuador), where we got a direct bus to Lima (Peru). It was tough going, but meals on-board, wi-fi and of course Celina’s witty remarks kept me sane. It was a personal best for me, 35hours to leave one place and get to another by bus. Even at the best of times Cel doesn’t like the long bus rides, but she survived this one pretty well – the sleeping pill might have helped!
Lima – The Capital with Canons
We were hoping Lima would be the promised land for Canon camera’s, after our unfortunate theft in Quito. We were in luck, with 5 minutes of checking into our hostel, along with Tony our kiwi travel-pal, we were pointed to 3 different stores that would sell them! Tony was also looking for a new camera so the next days activity was planned, camera shopping. The hostel itself, Dragaonfly, is situated in the Miraflores suburb of Lima – a new area with plenty of western wonders (shopping malls, McDonalds, supermarkets etc). While not really being authentically Peruvian, it was going to be perfect for our needs. After a decent nights sleep in a completely flat bed (as opposed to the reclining seats of the bus) we woke up to a sunny Lima that promised to shine Canon dSLRs.
It didn’t take long before we had our eye on the prize, an exact replacement for the camera that had gone walkabout in Quito. Tony insisted on shopping around to get the best price, a smart move, I was simply too excited that we could actually buy a replacement never mind the price! After casing out the other joints, who offered nothing better in price, we returned to the original spot to make the purchase, getting another 5% knocked off as we were buying a camera each. Success, we were back on the road with full photo taking capabilities. The rest of the day was spent wandering around Miraflores, chatting and sampling some of the famous seafood at one of the local restaurants.
Lima Historic Town
After all the excitement of buying a new camera, it was only fitting that we take it out and give it a good bashing with photos of everything we saw. As per usual, there was a ‘historic centre’ in the city so we thought it would be a good place to hit up. Taking a bus from Miraflores (a pretty efficient system) and stopping on the way to buy a donut (reliving my craving from when we were in Asia), we hopped off in the historic centre 30 minutes later. It didn’t take long before we started to see the characteristic buildings with their colonial façades. We were lucky enough to stumble across a parade, not quite sure what it was for exactly but there was an endless stream of performers dancing their way around the main square. We stopped to take in this impromptu cultural event, quite glad to be ticking off the cultural stuff early and without too much effort! While at the parade, we were stopped by a group of students who asked if they could video us individually, asking us questions in English about their city, what we liked about it, if we had tried traditional food etc – turns out it was a university project and we guessed it was to prove they could speak English or something. We were glad to be helping out the locals on the other end of the camera.
It was around lunchtime, so we stopped off for a ‘Menu del dia’ set lunch menu where you get a starter, main and dessert, along with a drink for around $5USD. We celebrated the ABs victory with a glass of red wine over lunch, these things are important to do when on tour!
The lunch was good and gave us enough energy to try and get into the cultural scene some more. The perfect vice was San Francisco Cathedral, built in 1774 housing a set of catacombs which was Lima’s first cemetery back in the day. Still very much showing it’s previous use, we saw stacks and stacks of bones and skulls in the underground tunnels and pits. Thankfully we managed to tack onto the back of a free English tour so were able to learn and appreciate some of the history of the place. For me the most impressive part was the library, which really showed it’s age. It contained a huge set of old (not quite sure how old but they were pretty dusty) books, antique reading chairs and a pair of spiral staircases that led up to a 2nd level landing that contained even more books. The sort of scene that would have been perfect for a Harry Potter film…Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos in the Cathedral so you’ll just have to make up your own visions from my descriptive words.
We made our way back to the bus terminal via Lima’s own Chinatown. The place had it’s very own Asian feel and was fittingly busy with people everywhere, markets full of dead animals and shops selling anything you could possibly imagine. The smell of raw meat and poultry eventually drove us away from the area, but it was a unique experience in the heart of Peru’s capital.
We felt as though Lima had looked after us well, nothing could surmount the highlight of replacing our camera particularly given how close we were to starting our Inca trek. The suburb of Miraflores had given us our dose of western society that you sometimes crave when miles from home. It had also given Cel a dose of shopping that she often craves too. A good stop-0ff to recharge the battery, take in some Peruvian culture and prepare ourselves for the big walk!
Alarms were set, plane tickets were printed out and trekking dates were double-confirmed. We were as ready as we could be for what the Peruvian highlands could throw at us. Next stop Cusco at 3,400m.