Long Lazy Days and Luminous Landscapes in Lively Lima

Lima, the capital of Peru is immense. That was my first impression. My second was concentrated on the sights and sounds that cram the streets of this crazy South American city. Culturally hovering somewhere in between the US and Latin America, Lima is something else.

Our first week was spent in ‘gringo heaven’ Miraflores, hosted by a lovely couch surfer, Mayra. Miraflores was established by the Spanish in the early 16th century and not merged into metropolitan Lima until the 20th century.

If you are beach babies like us, Miraflores is a nice place to hang out, especially when the days are warm. On weekends the skies are cluttered with paragliders, soaring over the clifftops, while street performers gather near every park bench to demonstrate their skills in everything from tightrope walking to capaoera. The dramatic coastline drops sharply over the cliffs that perch Peru’s capital high above the Pacific Ocean below.

 

Low clouds are almost ever-present in Lima casting a grey, overcast horizon over the city’s rocky coastline. Despite its dreary appearance, rainy days are so rare in Lima that one day during thunder and scattered storms, the residents of Lima got so frightened that there were even postings of “the end of the world” on facebook (true story).

Although chic Miraflores might be a far cry from some of the historical sites of Peru, there are still reminders of this city’s intriguing history. Every now and then you might run into a ruins or two. Pre-Inca site, Huaca Pucllana  for example is poised right in the middle of residential Miraflores, in Calle Borgoño.

 

The pyramid shaped ruins date back to 400 A.D. and was used for human sacrifice, worship and community decisions for some 300 years. It’s not the only ruins left in this city. Several times we had come across what at first seem like piles of rubble and sand, until we later realise that they are indeed pre-Hispanic ruins.

Many Limeños believe it’s time to knock the more degraded ones down, but just like Machu Picchu and Chan Chan, these ruins are protected as part of Peru’s cultural heritage.

For us personally, the sites weren’t the main attraction. We were grateful for our visit to Lima to spend time with old friends there. We did, however, still take time out to visit some of the best of what this city has to offer.

After our first week wandering around the wide-streets and beachside boulevards of Miraflores, we thought it was high time we check out the city centre.

The city centre is not overly interesting. The two main plazas – Plaza de las Armas and Plaza San Martín dominate the attractions. We found delicious juices and fruit salads in the central market, with modest prices hard to find elsewhere in Lima.

 

Eating…and in fact doing anything, in Lima can be pricey unless you lunch at one of the many, many Chifa’s (Chinese restaurants) lining the streets here. Behind Calle de las Pizzas, in Miraflores, we found some cheap (and delicious) restaurants offering almuerzos for under 10 soles.

But of course, when in…Lima, do as the Limeños do and when the sun is shining, it’s a good time to go and try a fresh plate of the national speciality, ceviche. Unless you’re feeling adventurous, ceviche de pescado is the way to go. Sticky-sickly-sweet Picarrones are a local treat and must-try only for the super sweet-toothed.

The fresh fish caught daily off Lima’s shores is marinated and ‘cooked’ in lime juice and often spiced up by hot chillies and coriander. Because it’s essentially raw fish, ceviche is only available during the day, making it a popular lunchtime dish on a sunny day by the sea with a pisco sour (the drink that almost put Peru and Chile at war with one another) on hand.

One early evening we ventured out to Callao with our friend-cum-local-guide, Piero, former industrial port-turned-chic, 1 hour north of Miraflores. There isn’t a great deal there to do, but La Punta is a nice place to take a beachside stroll away from busy Miraflores. Off the coats of Callao several islands with untouched ecosystems host masses of sea lions and other animals.

 

What would be a visit to one of South America’s biggest capital cities without attending a football match? One Sunday that is exactly what we did for a game between Lima’s Universitario versus Trujillo. Universitario supporters are a passionate lot and so it was the perfect game to get initiated into South American soccer atmosphere. The close match ended in a 2-all score, but the roaring hum of the crowd singing anthem after anthem to a stadium shaking at its foundations was incredible.

We spent our last hours in Lima in the bright lights of El Circuito Magico del Agua. Close to the city centre on Avenida Arequipa is one of Lima’s biggest attractions –– a giant water park of spurting fountains and liquid tunnels, illuminated by laser light shows every evening from 3pm.

 

The colourfully lit jet streams of water are a beautiful display of hydraulic ingenuity. What many people don’t realise is that Lima is the world’s second largest desert city, so displays of water like this should be condemned. It may seem as though it’s just one big waste of the precious stuff, until you arrive at the underground educational tunnel, designed specifically to raise awareness about water wastage in Peru and the importance of one of life’s most vital resources.

And with that we were off to appreciate some more of the liquid of life at our next stop, the seaside town of Huanchaco.

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Comments
One Response to “Long Lazy Days and Luminous Landscapes in Lively Lima”
  1. annathrax says:

    great run down of lima – a very interesting if albeit confronting city!

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  • Natasha Malinda from Melbourne, Australia
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