Lima, The Big City
Coming straight from Mexico City, I thought I had experienced the big city, but Lima gets me to reconsider. The ride from the airport to the area of Barranco takes more than 2 hours due to the heavy traffic. Everywhere, I hear horns and loud music and during those 2 hours, we use more time standing still than actually driving. I kind of feel sorry for my taxi driver who’s in a hurry because he really wants to get home and watch the football match between Peru and Venezuela. I guess 60 soles was a fair price to pay after all.
I check into what shows to be a party hostel. But surrounded by good and inspiring people, I end up having 4 amazing days in Lima.
I do a trip to the city center where I get off at Plaza San Martín. I make my way down Jirón de la Unión, the busy shopping street of Lima that’s famous for its shoes shops. I end up at the beautiful Plaza de Armas which in the old days was used to execute people. In San Antonio, I found myself surrounded by more than 2.000 dead people when I visit the catacombs below the cathedral. The most overwhelming is yet to come, when I cross the “gate” leading into Lima’s China Town.
Here there’s so much going on, that I don’t even know where to focus my energy. Salesmen and shops everywhere trying to sell everything from old batteries to clothes, speakers and Chinese food. I’m surrounded by people and noise and somehow, I almost feel overstimulated and in need of a break so I finally find my way out of the jungle and in to the University Garden where people are having their lunch surrounded by homeless cats.
The rest of my time in Lima, I more or less only see the nightlife and sunrises which isn’t too bad at all. Barranco and Miraflores got loads of bars and discotheques playing anything from reggaeton and salsa to electronic music. The sunrises are enjoyed over the Pacific Ocean from Barranco’s step cliffs leading down to the coast.
In Lima, I also get a feeling of what’s going on in the North of the country. Before coming here, I heard about the heavy rain in Peru, and I had to contact several agencies to know whether I could go or not. As I find out, the problems are in the North where heavy rain makes the rivers run high and people are loosing their lifes and homes. In Lima, people all over are collecting food, medicine and water to send to the North. So I guess, I made the right decision continuing my journey to the South.
No one could have prepared me for the landscape I meet when I start making my way down the Southern Peruvian coastline. Here I find dessert as far as the eye can reach. It all gives you a feeling of emptiness and nothingness. It just makes you feel so small and at the same time amazed. Mother Nature is truly magical and diverse.
Once in while our bus passes a little tree shat in the middle of the dessert and I can’t help thinking, who’s seriously living here?! Are there people using those houses? And for what? What a different kind of life. That’s for sure.
Paracas, A Small Beach Town
My first stop in the Southern Peru is Paracas, a little beach town. From here you can take a boat to the famous Islas Balletas which are called the Peruvian Galapagos Islands because of all its birds, sea lions and penguins. I choose a different approach to this place: I want to go diving with the sea lions instead of taking the touristic boat trip around the islands.
After paying a bigger amount of money, I’m set to go diving the next day. It starts off bad. My diving buddy tells me that the visibility is too bad the place I’ve paid to go so he wants to take me to Las Minas – exactly the place I paid not to go. We do it anyway, and I soon find myself getting into what must be my worst dive. During the whole dive, I’m having problems spotting my buddy, actually I’m having problems spotting my own hands because of the bad visibility and when I finally find my buddy, I can see that he’s having problems navigating. Coming up from the dive, I immediately conclude that I’m not going back down there to do the second dive. He explains that it’s the bad weather in the North of Peru that makes the ocean go crazy. The heavy rain has caused currents in the water and this is how we end up with a visibility that’s close to zero.
To make up for the bad dive, my buddy asks me if I want to come to his and his family restaurant and have ceviche. I go along with his idea and before going to his restaurant in Pisco, we do a 4-hours mind blowing detour in La Reserva Nacional de Paracas. Packed with all our diving equipment in the van, he and his 18-year-old son take me to the most amazing places. They take me to Playa Roja which sand is completely red as blood, they take me to see the flamingos and sea lions and they take me to see the fossils of old shells, all in the middle of the most amazing dessert which make up the national park. After the tour, we go to his restaurant and his wife serves me the best ceviche and chicharron. I even try my first Inca Kola. In all, I end up having a really good Peruvian family day.
And what I learn from this, is that sometimes when you think you’re going to get something, you end up with something completely different. What I found out this day, is that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, you just have to be open minded and instead of going back to the hostel complaining, wanting to get my money back, I went along with his idea, and what I got was so much worth it.
Huacachina, The Dessert Oasis
From Paracas, I take a 1-hour shuttle bus to the small town of Huacachina. An oasis in the middle of the dessert. The place looks like something taken out of a cartoon movie. Besides actually seeing the place, there’s not much to do but one thing that’s worth doing, is surely the boggy trip to the dessert to do sand boarding. Good, it’s fun! The only side effect, you end up having sand everywhere!
Nasca and the Lines
After Huacachina, the road takes me through dessert landscape and Pisco wine fields to get to Nasca. The place you can’t really say without saying lines. And yes, this is why I’m here – to see the Nasca lines. I immediately book a flight for the next day to see the lines that supposedly where made by aliens. I don’t give much for this theory but it’s still a wonder how they thousand and thousand of years ago, were able to make these lines and figures where some of them are more than a kilometre long. The best way to see them is definitely from a small flight with room for no more than 6 people. With this flight you circle around the lines where the most famous ones are the astronaut, the hummingbird, the condor and the spider. An amazing trip that’s definitely worth doing.