SOUTH AMERICA - Lima
Well my flight to Lima was easy as pie as was the hostel pick-up. It was very nice being greeted by a man holding a sign with my name on it and knowing I could just jump in the back and it would be safe and I wasn´t getting ripped off. The taxi journey to the hostel was actually really fun too. I remember Lala writing in one of her very first blog entries abou the bus journey from the airport in Guatemala city to Antigua where she was staying with her family and mentioning the smell of the city. I had not noticed this at all when I came off the plane in Guatemala but thought of her immediately on this journey as I too got the same sensations as she did. It was fairly warm and had clearly been raining so the ground had the swimming pool smell which tarmac does on a wet summer evening and there also a hint of burnt rubber. That little connection with Lals made me smile and immediately I felt at home in this new continent.
The hostel in Lima was great, with comfy beds and a lovely (and large) roof terrace where you could sit and have breakfast and drinks in the evening. As I was quite tired and wanted to get up early the next morning I had a relatively early night. The next morning as I was getting up the guy sleeping in the bunk above me asked what I was up to for the day and I explained that as I was only in Lima for one day I was going to go and be the ulitmate tourist and travel round the city taking photos and looking at important buildings. This obviously appealed to him as he decided to come with me. So after a yummy breakfast of orange juice and fried eggs on toast ($1) in the hostel we took a cab to the centre of the city and began our day of culture. The architecture in Lima, for the churches and grander, more important buildings, is beautiful and so I got a lot of pleasure out of simply walking between plazas looking at statues and taking photographs. Although in the early morning Lima is often engulfed in a foggy haze, during the day this quickly burns off and the suns shines brightly making everything look even more amazing.
We wandered for a few hours and then decided to visit an old Franciscan monastary, to fit in an extra bit of culture but mostly we were drawn by the guidebooks description of the bone filled catacaombs beneath! We took a tour with a very sweet, apparently English speaking, guide although he seemed fairly panicked for most of the tour and went a little pale if you asked questions and thus forced him to stray from his carefully prepared and learned script. Still it was an interesting little place and there was lots of lovely art to view and of course the catacombs. Basically the monks built mass graves (the best way to describe them) which sit open to viewers so you can see pits of human skulls and leg bones. The bones were grouped together (so skulls in one pit, femurs in the other etc) which I can only assume is a more recent arrangement but our guide didnñt explain this. The most impressive pit though showed both skulls and an assortment of other bones carefully arranged in concentric circles (original design I think) and although we could only see the top layer, apparently the bones went down a further 12 feet! It was pretty amazing actually although some people on the tour found it a bit grim.
From culture we moved on entirely and decided to give the famous black market a view. It´s a huge building filled with hundreds of stalls selling (presumably stolen) electrical good and other bits and pieces. It was a sight to see in itself but I was in the market for a new camera charger having left mine at home. Being a fairly new model of camera no-one seemed to have the actual charger on sale but I found someone who found me a fake one that was cheaper and worked just as well. Don´t worry, I tried it out on my battery before purchasing so I knew I wasn´t being conned!
Then we moved on to a huge market back in Miraflores which is the area of town where my hostel was which sold all types of jewellery, clothes, textiles and other souvenir type things. I invested in an alpaca and rabbit fur jumper to keep me warm over the next few weeks as everybody had warned me how cold Cuzco and La Paz was. It was about seven pounds, so not a bad buy really.
I spent the rest of the day drifting round the hostel, and the nearby shops, visiting a very sweet street market in the main park in the evening.
I had some supper in the hostel and joined Alex (the boy who had explored the city with me) and some others in a pub quiz team - we came 2nd! Luckily there was someone else in the hostel who was catching the same flight as me to Cuzco the next morning so we arranged to share a cab, and as I had to be at the airport at 3:30am, I had a few drinks and then made my way to bed.
on May 13, 2009
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