Bundle of nerves. Not helped by the 8.2 Earthquake that struck off the coast of Chile yesterday. Don’t know what I’m so worried about. First time out solo in a while, maybe thats why? Not that that really makes a difference with anything. If the earthquake is what I’m worried about no amount of friends is going to change that course. If its theft or bodily harm? Don’t look for trouble and it won’t find you has always been my motto alone or with compatriots. Honestly just feel like a pussy, but can’t shake the nerves.
Anyway, so far so good. Only an hour left til we touch down in Lima! Beautiful flight over the Caribbean. Saw Cuba on a fly-over finally. It looked dry and over farmed, not very green sadly. Fluffy clouds danced along the way through sunset. It got SUPER bumpy almost as soon as the sun went down which isn’t helping my nerves. We’ve been whipping around like nothing I’ve ever felt before through the darkness. Persistent and untimely memories of the book/movie Alive have me planning who to eat first…
I can see webs of lights below indicating civilization, but the most bizarre sight is the twinkling of lights piercing through the black that seem to be on our level. The flight map says we are still 38,000 feet up, so we aren’t descending yet. I’m either tripping or these lights are perched about what is my first view of the Peruvian Andes!!
Lima First Thoughts (In retrospect I’m an idiot)
I’m not proud to admit I’ve been on edge since touching down here in Lima. Between my mother (sorry mom…), the earthquakes (another one was literally striking Chile as I got in my cab from the airport) and grave warnings from guidebooks, the internet and other bullshit I was pretty much ready for war when I stepped out of customs. My right mind kept reminding me I’ve survived and had great fun in Tijuana, Bogota and West Philly without major incident, but I was on high alert for express kidnapping, petty thieves and/or natural disasters. I stepped into the fray that is any Latin American airport exit, and scanned for my pickup. I saw a guy eventually with a sign for “Adam Dufort”. Close enough. He seemed a bit cagey, and I kept tight grip on my blade, head on a swivel as we crossed the parking lot to his car.
Doors close, he turns on the car…and cumbia starts blaring out of the speakers. He must have been jamming out on the way to pick me up, and turned it down quickly; flashing a sheepish look in to the rear view mirror. I told him I like the music, he seemed surprised I could speak spanish, and in that instant the bad vibes were dashed. I love taxi driver talks in other countries. One’s first ambassador to a new land. Ice broken, Luis and I chatted about the weather, food, girls, earthquakes, the usual.
I tell him its been a dream for years to be here in Peru, and as I’m saying the words I remember how fucking true that is. And HERE I AM.
I relax, crack the window and the glorious sounds and smells of Latin America stream in. Crackling street meat and wood fires. Collectivos, motorcycles, busses and cars honk and whiz about the motor way in amazing and shocking harmony. Music drifts out of shanty town night spots, homes and clubs. Music basically drifts out of anything and anywhere. I’m yet to put my finger on the exact reason, but I love Latin America. Whether its driving through New Mexico or backpacking the Andes there is an unknown basic thing that resonates with me. I FEEL it now and its strong.
I’m staying at Hotel Runcu in Miraflores, one of the pleasant oceanside neighborhoods of Lima. Everything I could want. Quaint street, cozy courtyard and bar up top. Super nice staff. Plus Miraflores is perched on top of 200+ foot cliffs, so it seems reports of tsunamis that had me questioning my ocean adjacent hotel choice can kiss my ass.
4/3 Lima Day 1
Just ordered my first pisco sour (2 for 1…) upstairs at the Runcu bar! Today was nice. The Miraflores coast is a fucking fantastic place to go for a stroll. The parks along the various malecons running along the tops of the cliffs are amazing. Very well kept and stunning views underneath a gentle sun.
(pisco sours are apparently amazing by the way…)
I missed breakfast, and chose an easy Lonely PLanet recommendation. I went to El Paquecito. Felt a little lame following the herd, but it ended up delicious, authentic and CHEAP! Seemed to be a working class group there having the set menú and I think the herd was somewhere else this afternoon. For 14 soles ($4.50ish) you get three courses. To start I got chupe de pescado. It was the first in a myriad of awesome soups to be had in these parts. This one similar in taste to a chowder, but way lighter and on the thinner side as opposed to chunky. That said, it had yucca, peruvian corn, carrots and egg up in ‘dere. Finished with tarragon and oregano for extra bursts of flavor goodness!
Main course; jaleo de pescado (yeah I like fish…). Simple fried white fish with fried yucca and white rice. Nicely pickled red onions as a garnish to cut the fried-ness, and I swear the batter of the fish had some secret spices going on including cumin for sure. Rounded out with a spicy yellow unknown sauce (forgot to ask), and thats one satisfying meal.
Oh and there were dessert options for the end, but who gives a shit.
I spent the next few hours casing the neighborhood, aka getting lost. The streets are a fucked up and conniving maze in Miraflores, and no matter how stubbornly I try to assert my sense of direction, I’m forced to retreat to the Malecon, and hug the coast like a blind person hugging the wall of a new room in order to find my hotel. Mission #1 go for a walk without getting lost.
I eventually hopped a taxi to head to the Museo de la Nación. Not really into museums & colonial (post-conquistadores) culture this trip, but figured I might as well get a sense of the ancient cultures who conquered the lands I was headed into. One of the first things you see is a time line on the wall of Pre-Pizzaro activities in Peru compared to the ancient history we all learned in school. As a person born and raised in the Western Hemisphere why the FUCK have I never heard about this history. I bet you haven’t either. To see it laid out on the timeline was jaw dropping. And this was Peruvian cultures alone. Why haven’t I heard of the Chavin Culture and their pyramids, nor the Wari, nor the Moche, nor the Paracas, and only by accident the Nazcas? All predecessors to the relatively short lived Incas. Great, the Mesopotamians “invented” civilization, but shouldn’t we know more about our American ancestors who were doing the same by 2000 BC (same time as the Egyptian Pyramids!). Plus our ancient people had a late start due to the crossing of the land-bridge into the Americas in the first place so the fact that they were relatively up to speed is that much more impressive. What these people were accomplishing compared to “Almighty” Europe at the times is even funnier.
The saddest thing to me is the complete obliteration of this history in my country of the US. Thanks to government, selective history and religion the mighty cultures of North America are all but forgotten. Props to the people of Peru and Bolivia for respecting and living next to their tenacious indigenous people (although I know this is sadly a recent sentiment). I often wonder why Cahokia, Chaco Canyon and other sites aren’t nationally revered as treasures on par with Machu Picchu or Chitzen Itza up here in the States. We in the US of A prefer to forget I suppose, its easy like Walmart and Sunday Mornings.
Had a couple of those pisco sours and I’m about drunk! Made it out to Delfino Mar for my first true peruvian ceviche. A happy bucket list checkmark. Saw this place on my lost meanderings earlier today, and seemed just right. Apparently ceviche is a lunch dish here, so I basically had the place to myself, but the attentive, bowtied staff were amazing. The now familiar rattle of the pisco sour blender melds with the wafting cumbia. The only other customers are a drunk trio of women who are hilarious. I think between the starving tattoed gringo and rowdy ladies the hyper-professional meseros are a little overwhelmed, but they are killing the game and hopefully it’ll be a funny story to tell their buddies over post shift beers.
4/4 Waiting for the Sun
I didn’t do jack shit today. Had all intentions of going downtown to the Plaza de Armas and doing all the historic sites, but in my heart of hearts I didn’t really want to go see the works of Spaniards. I am fully enamored with the history and doings of the ancient cultures, and the natural beauty that inspired them. A traffic clogged trip to the centro didn’t seem right. The headache from too many piscos sours didn’t help anything….
I went to the grocery store (alway a treat abroad!), grabbed some bread, prosciutto, fruit and had a perfect breakfast in the park by the cliffs. The fog swirling in and all around was enchanting, and distant crashing waves is always a plus. Fuck a downtown. I’m on vacation, why would I want to rub my nose in urban annoyance. The Pacific air right here is just fine. I got a coffee. I read my book in the grass. I strolled the park, deep in thought about the lost ancients.
A friend of a friend, Daniela, has offered to meet up tonight and show me around the area which should be fun. As tranquil as the past days in thought have been, admittedly I’m just stumbling blind with no real idea where to head to. Some social interaction will be a nice change.
For now I’m just sitting in Parque Amour waiting for the sun to dip into the Pacific. The fog just cleared at the perfect time, and as para-gliders cruise around, lovers settle in, and I crack a beer; the show’s about to begin.
The rest of last night was super fun! Daniela and I met at the light house, and after re-discovering that we met in San Fran last year, we set off into the Miraflores night. She took me to an amzing little cafe, Arabica. I must admit it was just the cafe I’d been hopeing to stumble across (I had been going to the Starbucks…booo me), and here it was right under my nose. Daniela said they were the first to use a certain kind of peruvian coffee bean, and the place had all the right stuff for deep convos and intellectual thought. Eventually I couldn’t help but vomit my leftist ideas on the tragic history of South America, and she was down to get into it. I noticed she lowered her voice during some thoughts, maybe just me, maybe reflex.
I was starving and although the wrong time of day she obliged to take me to some good ceviche. Along the way we walked through the party district of Miraflores, Lima street (I think). A couple blocks of tranny hookers, hawkers and people raging in the streets! It was like Ludlow Street on a Friday. This was not the Miraflores I had experienced going to bed by 10pm! After a stop by a memorial to a public building the Sendero Luminoso had blown up, and some eye opening facts about how Chile was buying up all the business in Peru and becoming the new US style menace to the middle class (my words), she led me to Punto Azul (too tired for appropriate transitions). A DOPE, cheap, local joint for ceviche and other limeño favorites. Totally hit the spot, and so far my #1 recommendation for Lima. We met up with a couple of her friends, and they suggested we go to another suburb down the coast, Barranco (there’s a brewery!!!), but knowing myself I bowed out. The last thing I want to do at this point is rage the night before a flight. Hope to see Barranco and party a little when I get back to Lima on the tail end of the trip.
Wouldn’t have guessed when I first landed (but isn’t it always the way), sad to leave Lima today (well Miraflores to be more precise). Daniela’s supreme hostess skills and knowledge of the city were a late met gift, and look forward to hanging and learning some more. Definitely excited to get out of the city and into the wonder of the country side. To get to know the beauty and mystery of these lands has been a dream for so long! Next stop Cusco and Machu Picchu which is HUGE!
This is just the beginning of the wonder.