Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Peru Trip: Lima

We arrived in Lima at 5:45 am. We were supposed to be on a 6 am flight to Juliaca but that wasn’t going to happen. In all honesty, I was afraid of what to expect with customs and immigration after what we’ve gone through in Mexico.  I was pleasantly surprised. We rushed through immigration and customs was a piece of cake. They scanned our luggage and asked what one of the boxes contained but never asked me to open it.  The customer service employee for Avianca airlines was very understanding and changed our flight to a later one that day at no charge.

We were met at the airport by Luz and Italo, Claudia’s parents. They arrange for a taxi to drive us to their home where we were able to drop off all of our relief supplies and take a much needed shower. Luz and Italo own several properties in Lima that they rent out. They were in the process of moving so we travel to their other home to eat breakfast and from there we made the journey to downtown historic Lima.

The Plaza de Armas was cornered off to traffic in expectation of a demonstration. They were very few tourist there and no vehicles. It made it perfect for taking pictures of the historic buildings surrounding it.

On one side is the Catedral de Lima. It resides on the plot of land designated by the conquistador and Lima’s founder Pizarro for the city’s first church in 1535. There are various chapels along the sides of the building’s interior each dedicated to a different saint and patron. All very intricate and elaborate in their decor. The most interesting one is that holds Pizarro’s remains. Their authenticity came into question in 1977 when workers found a sealed led box that bore the inscription ‘Here is the head of the gentlemen Marquis Don Francisco Pizarro, who found and conquered the kingdom of Peru.’ After extensive testing forensic scientists determined that the head and body found by the workers in the crypt were, in fact, those of Pizarro. The lead box and body are on display in the chapel.
It was common to bury bodies in crypts and there were several underground burial sites on display in the cathedral. To access it we had to walk down a few very steep stone steps and walk through a small opening 4 ft in height that lead into a cavernous room with an elevated walk across its center. On either side were several rectangular holes dug up and displaying casts of skeletons as they were found. The usually bury up to 12 people in each section.

Once we arrived to the other side of the room we once again had to crouch down to cross an even smaller opening approx.. 3 ft in height to reach the next burial crypt. This one was much deeper than the first and of crescent shape. It reminded me of a mass burial dumping ground instead of the organized ones we had first seen. It was all very interesting but a little creepy.

When we exited, we noticed across the plaza that there was a change of guards taking place at the Palacio de Gobierno. It is where the president of Peru resides. Out front stands a handsomely uniformed presidential guard that conducts the ceremony. It is a fancy coordinated stepping procession of guards in conjunction to a brass military band playing the march ‘El Condor Pasa.’
There were security staff and armed military strategically placed outside the iron fenced wall ensuring tourists did not get too close.

Traffic in Peru is crazy! Lanes are merely a suggestion. Drivers will fill any open space and aggressively force their way into a road. At the same time, there are often people selling all kinds of things to drivers and passengers on the road. They will just walk along a street between lanes as traffic is moving and offer their wares. The congestion is also unbelievable. It is sometimes quicker to walk to your destination than to catch a cab.

We decided to check out a shopping center eight blocks away called Pulvo Azul. The place reminded me of an indoor Mercado where sellers rent a 10x10 ft of space to display their products. We were hoping to find souvenirs or jerseys but the products were terribly over prized and we didn’t see souvenirs.

After wondering for a while we decided to head back to Miraflores for lunch by the ocean.  We chose a restaurant with beautiful views of the water. I ordered octopus carbonado, Todd had Thai tuna and our friends had ceviche.

The food was really pretty and tasty. Mine was really salty. I would not order it again. The peach juice I got was delicious. Luz’s birthday was the day before so the staff brought her a delicious chocolate mousse and sang happy birthday to her in English and Spanish.  It was really sweet.
We tried some other new foods here too. We had Lugano? A green fruit with orange pulp center. The texture reminded me of a cooked squash or a firm avocado. It was sweet and really tasty.

We also had fresh papaya. It was delicious!