Anthony on the Gringo Trail 2005 travel blog

Typical colonial balconies in old Lima street

Close up on balconies in old Lima

Latin colours and shapes

Colourful church in old Lima

Cloisters of same church

A different church and cloisters in old Lima

Close up of balcony carvings above

Ready for the daily riot

The ubiquitous policeman

First impressions are that I like Lima much more than I thought I would. The people seem generally friendly and laid-back, despite the fact my camera probably cost a year's wages. And I am bloody glad I speak some Spanish, as I have not met one Peruvian yet who could speak English, though no doubt there are lots of them.

I was driven to the airport at some ungodly hour yesterday by my lovely and wonderful girlfriend. Then a detour to Amsterdam to get a proper sized plane, a nice visit to some scrubby and sweaty Caribbean island to refuel, and a great flight over the Amazon Jungle for hours. I was very tired and wired after 22 hours travelling yesterday, and too much free coffee and wine, so went straight to my hotel and to bed. Noisy place. I am in this beach suburb of Lima called Miraflores where most of the gringos are, and though it is nicer than I thought, it lacks the atmosphere of the old centre, though it has nearly as many police and security types to protect us gringos and the nice people who live in Miraflores.

Today I sorted out my ticket to Ecuador for tomorrow, 24 hours by bus to Guayaquil, and then hopefully four hours more the same day if I am lucky, to get to Puerto Lopez on the coast. If not, then overnight in Guayaquil, which I am not sure has much going for it.

Then I did touristy things in the old centre, which was really rather pretty, though covered by the ever present Limenos smog. I saw the changing of the Guard which was very entertaining, not least as it involved long periods of (often unsuccesful) balancing on one leg, and at least part of it was to the tune El Condor Pasa, made famous by Simon and Garfunkel. I also saw the baby Jesus in a Peruvian Admirals uniform, and some black saints on clouds. And partly as it was near my hotel I went to an archeological site called Huaca Pucllana, where I was obliged to take a tour, which proved to be really interesting, partly as there were archeologists actually doing their stuff. Probably says a lot about me, but I was particularly intrigued by the discourses on the Monkey Penis chili, apparently the hottest one in Peru, and the way Peruvian shamans rub guinea pigs on ill people as a diagnostic technique, which unfortunately involves cutting the guinea pig in half afterwards.

I will report on what guinea pigs taste like at the earliest opportunity, as they are a bit of a delicacy round here, though I fear they may be deep fried on sticks, which may put me off, in which case you will have to come over here and try them yourself.

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