Days: 290 (11 April 2015)
Total distance travelled: 55,766.1 kilometres (34,637.33 miles)
When we first boarded our overnight bus on a fresh Huaraz night, we were under the impression we’d be delivered to Lima’s Plaza Norte, where we’d likely require a taxi to ferry us to our pre-booked hostel.
Most gringo’s head to trendy Miraflores for their time here, but we’d planned on a one night only kind of affair, so booked ourselves somewhere in the heart of the city (close to the Centro Historico), a hostel in a refurbished mansion that had been designed by no other than Gustav Eiffel (the very same, who gives his name to that Parisian tower, and also that iron house in Iquitos)!
At about 5am, we got to the Plaza Norte, gathered our belongings and made our way off the bus.
The conductor/luggage handler had other ideas, instead suggesting we stay on board until the final terminal, right in the heart of the city!
News to us, but okay, so back on board we got.
We passed a few major boulevards in the ensuing half hour or so and after a quick recon mission to check a few nearby street signs (after we’d reached the terminal), we realised we were now about a kilometre from our hostel, very much walking distance!
Adopting a more cautious approach in this as yet unfamiliar city, we waiting an hour or so until it was full light, before strolling along the relatively quiet street to our new mansion home.
Check-in to this lovely building, with beautifully high, decorative ceilings, tiled floors vista laden balconies would have to wait, so we left our bags, gathered a few things and set off to explore/find ourselves some breakfast.
Sarah hadn’t fond memories of this city from her visit close to a decade ago, so I arrived without high expectations.
Perhaps it was the wide, stately boulevards, ample parkland, or the many lovely colonial facades (true we were in the heart of the old city), but my first impression was contrary to expectation, pretty good.
Being so early, things remained relatively quiet for some time, most churches, museums and businesses not opening their doors until at least 9am, an hour or so away.
The skies were a solid light grey in colour, not adding anything to any photos I attempted to snap, but our wanderings did allow us to form a plan for the day and eventually we found a café that served us some burnt coffee and the stale chocolate cake that formed our breakfast.
Nearby sat the grand building that housed the Peruvian congress (which despite information suggesting we could visit, was not open in our time in the city), and almost lost beside this imposing edifice was our first stop for the morning, the Museo de la Inquisicion.
After a false start (despite a 9am opening sign, they weren’t ready for visitors until quarter past), we joined with three local tourists and began our guided tour (in Spanish).
We understood most, certainly not all, but it was both a beautiful building and fascinating, if not sad/macabre place where so many people were sentenced to so much suffering.
Methods of torture were on display, as well as some of the original catacombs which had been partially restored, allowing the tour to snake its way through.
For me though, as interesting as it was, it was just another example of the narrow minded bigotry that is perpetuated by organised religions!
Our attempts to visit two of the cities monasteries/convents was met with failure, as neither had, or was willing to change our ATM issued $100.00 Sole bills, so we were instead forced to hunt for a money changer who would do so, of course for a small fee.
We’d already abandoned plans to visit the grand Catedral de Lima due to a ridiculously high entrance fee that even then didn’t allow photos, however whilst in the vicinity of the money changers (they all seemed to hover on one single street), we found something else to entertain us.
Not far from the Iglesia de la Merced, we found a cultural museum with its doors wide open and very agreeably for us, no entrance fee.
It housed some pretty nice local and traditional art pieces, and was itself a piece of art, being another of Lima’s many stunning colonial buildings.
Once done, and now armed with some smaller change, it was back to those churches…
The closest was Santo Domingo, so it was that we first headed, paid our entrance fee and began to explore.
A sprawling complex, it possessed several lovely courtyards, stately looking tombs, the attached and grand church itself, as well as a steep bell tower we could later climb accompanied by a guide.
After our explorations were done, we patiently waited at the appointed meeting time for a guide who would allow us access to the heights above, hoping we may get a decent perspective of the city around.
Our ascent took us through some interesting areas, possessing some incredibly large and ancient tomes from which the choir would read as they recited their verse for the gathered in the church below.
Unfortunately, once above, the skies remained hazy so the vista wasn’t as great as it may have otherwise been.
Still, the view wasn’t horrible, and access to the belfry was at no additional cost beyond the standard entrance fee…
We suddenly became mindful of the time about now, as noon was fast approaching and made a somewhat hurried descent and exit from the church.
No, hunger hadn’t taken a raging grip upon us, nor did we rush directly to the Monasterio de San Francisco.
Instead, it was the short journey back to the main plaza, for there, just outside the Presidential Palace, the time had arrived for the changing of the guard.
A surprisingly large crowd had gathered and for some unknown reason, possibly for the viewer’s safety, nobody was allowed to approach the large iron fence for a better view of proceedings.
We watched for a time, took a few snaps through the vertical bars of the fence, before finally continuing on our way to our second church visit of the day.
Here at the Monasterio de San Francisco, tours are mandatory and given we were donating to the war chest of the Catholic Church, we figured we’d best get our money’s worth and waited for an English language option.
Much to our disappointment, this was again one of those locations where photography was forbidden, and the prevalence of many signs, as well as eagle eyed attendants, meant it wasn’t even the kind of place we could play dumb and grab sneaky snap or two…
Which was a real shame, as despite what it represents, this building was stunning, the highlight for us being its grand library, a beautiful room housing writings from as far back as the 16th century.
We were lead through various levels, observing old priests quarters, wandering the crypts that lie beneath, complete with hundreds of dead and their bones, stacked in some semblance of order.
Leans in the walls bore testament to the buildings longevity, despite the many earthquakes that have wracked the region, whilst on some walls, various ancient frescoes have been recently revealed, when their slightly more modern counterparts have begun to peel from the walls.
Photos were forbidden, but of course you could hand over more money to god (of course, he needs it) and purchase instead the postcard from the gift shop… we politely declined.
Lunch was now on our minds, so we thought perhaps it might be cool to check out Lima’s ‘Chinatown’, which according to our map (courtesy of our hostel), was nearby.
Our efforts to find it were frustratingly in vain, but we did however stumble upon a Peruvian food festival, where we instead were able to dine on a delicious plate of duck and rice with an onion salad (we also later discovered that our map had ‘Chinatown’ marked a couple of blocks from its true location).
Slowly snaking our way back towards our hostel, we made a deliberate stop at the Plaza San Martin, in search of a quirky, but oft missed statue.
By all accounts, the local word for Llama and the Spanish word for fire, are remarkably similar, and at some stage in the city’s past, a statue of a woman was commissioned with a crown of fire… I’m sure you can guess the outcome!
We began searching an apparently cool, local wine bar, which when located, felt more like a cheesy bistro, but it did allow us to stumble on a cool little antique market, laden with tons of cool, old toys.
I’m sure I could have happily spent up big, but that would be impractical and I could already see Sarah rolling her eyes as I collect more ‘junk’…
With skies overhead now blue, allowing us the pleasure of some sunshine, the city’s buildings began to look even more impressive, the warmer weather also convincing us to enjoy a bit of a tipple.
As such, we went a little rogue, grabbed a couple of beers each, before finding a nice grassy patch in one of the many parks in the vicinity of our hostel.
It was a lovely way to pass some of our afternoon, allowing us to relax and simply people watch before we continued our travels the following morning (after a quick visit to the museum opposite our hostel, as it housed an exhibit housing all the missing relics from the museum near Chavin).
* We shopped around for the cheapest operator from Huaraz to Lima, & ultimately only paid $30.00 Bolivianos per person for the overnight journey!
* The pretty cool tour of the Museo de la Inquisicion, was in fact FREE!
* Entrance to both of the churches, Monasterio de San Francisco & Santo Domingo cost $7.00 Bolivianos per person (San Francisco included a guided tour in English or Spanish).