Day 1 & 2 - Leaving TVC and first day in Peru
This is Lois writing first. Our good neighbor, Tom Haggerty, picked us up at 6:15 AM to catch our flight from Traverse City to Chicago, where we transferred to a flight to Miami, and then later one to Lima. The day was uneventful, which is always a good thing when it comes to long distance airline travel. One thing that surprised us was that the TVC airport was surprisingly crowded; it was the first time we had ever seen more than a handful of people in the line for security. We are SO spoiled! Our layovers in Chicago and Miami were fine, with no big crowds and comfortable seating. Once we landed in Peru (at 9:15 Central time), we went through immigration quickly. Both of our suitcases arrived near the end of the batch, but other than that, the trip was pretty stress free. We saw the sun rise over Holiday Hills, and set over the Pacific Ocean. Our guide Ernesto and driver Javier met us, and took us to the hotel in the Miraflores district of Lima. It's an adorable boutique hotel, once the mansion of a famous Peruvian archeologist. The room is clean, quiet and roomy, and breakfast was fabulous. It's about 100 yards from the walkway on the cliffs above the ocean. Too bad we are here for only two nights.
A few weeks ago John & I watched a video about travel in Peru, and the segment about Lima showed lots of trash on the streets. Not so! This is one of the cleanest cities I have ever seen. There are lots of workers constantly tidying up, and there are plenty of trash receptacles all over the place. I also felt very safe this afternoon when I went for a walk alone in the parkland area near the hotel. Lots of security people everywhere, even at the entrance to a shopping center.
This morning we met a new guide, Manuel, who took us to see some sights near downtown Lima. He obviously had an agenda, so we went to the places he considered to be the highlights. We visited two large churches, the Basilica Cathedral of Lima, which is filled with religious art, and the St. Francis of Assisi church and monastery. Both John & I have a hard time getting excited about riches acquired by the Catholic Church (or the people in charge of any organized religion). We would rather see the money used to improve the lives of the little people who make up the bulk of the followers. I did find the tour of the catacombs to be fascinating. We can't recall if it was 25,000 or 75,000 people had been buried there, but in any case, all the bodies have been dug up and the bones have been laid out, sorted by types. For example, all the femurs are lined up in one area, all the skulls in another, and so on. John found it kind of gross.
Our last stop was at the Larco Museum, which was quite interesting. It showed early pottery of the civilizations that went back to 2,000 BC, and textiles and metal ornaments used in civilizations that preceded the Incas.
Later – lunch at KFC, then separate walks, people watching. Hang gliders, surfers, kids playing. Tony Roma for dinner because it was close. Nice weather = surprisingly cool. Very green.
Now this is John writing. I wanted to get a SIM card for my phone so I could call our guides or they could call us. For those of you who are not familiar with international cell phone service I will give you a little primer. In most of the rest of the world, all you have to do to get cell phone service is buy a SIM card you insert into an unlocked GSM phone. (ATT and other US carriers lock our phones so they will not accept other SIM cards. However, for a couple of dollars you can buy the codes on the internet that allow you to unlock your phone. SIM cards are half the size of an SD card you put in a camera.) I went to a small store here and bought a Peruvian SIM card for about US $6.00. This gave me a local phone number. Then I had to go to a grocery store, give them my new phone number and $4.00 to put time on my card. No monthly bills! After dinner we came back to the hotel and while Lois was writing her part, I went back to the beach to get some night photos. There is an upscale shopping center built into the hillside overlooking the Pacific. These stores are clearly meant for tourists because the shops are North Face, Timberland, Brooks Brothers, Sun Glasses Hut, etc. On the top level are temporary stalls for book sellers. Today there was some author speaking. There are at least fifty different stalls, but since all the books are in Spanish I was not too interested.
I expected Lima to be similar to San Jose, Costa Rica, but it is much nicer – and bigger. There are beautiful parks all over the place, and people really use them. The climate is very strange. It almost never rains but they have clouds and fog during their winter. They have plenty of water which flows down from the mountains. The temperatures are in the 50's and 60's during the winter. During the summer it is warmer, but it seldom gets to 90 degrees. Lima is less than 1,000 miles from the Equator so this is somewhat surprising. It is caused by cool ocean currents.
The people themselves seem very friendly. I explain my needs like throat lozenges, SIM card, and time on my SIM card by using English and pantomiming and the locals are tolerant and helpful.