The tour bus took us out in the direction of the city, but we had gone scarcely any distance at all, still in Miraflores, we come to our first stop and first highlight. Huaca Pucllana is Lima’s most famous archaeological site, containing a large adobe and clay step pyramid at least 1,500 years old. It is in essence a pyramid but it is not triangular in shape. It looks to me like the apex of the pyramid has been flattened down over much passage of time. Compared to the Inca trail in Cusco I was comparatively underwhelmed by the site (although it was pointed out, it is much older than the Peruvian structure that is the cynosure of all tourists’ eyes, Machu Picchu). Found out that the ‘Pucliana’ comes from a Quechuan term, “ritual games”, a clue to one of its uses during the Wari Civilisation.
The tour group was your usual eclectic mix of different nationalities – Brits, Americans, Carribbeans, Romanians, Chinese, Spanish (surprise me!), and a few other unidentified nationals. Headed into Centro from there, passed something called a Chifa on the way, more of this transcultural phenomena later. We stopped at the main city squares, Plaza San Martin and at Plaza Des Armas (second time there) where I managed to get a good shot of the old man’s eccentrically-decorated dog this time. Saw the display of highly-polished uniformed guards at the Government Palace, Peru’s version of Buckingham Palace. I bought a city map from a street vendor in Plaza Mayor for 10 Sols (turned out to be so rudimentary as to be pretty useless).
We started our walking tour of the city from the Plaza, going past Lima Cathedral and on to the Convento de San Francisco with its distinctive yellow facade, famous for its catacombs. The Church looked pretty dusty and faded from the outside, pigeons housing themselves on every ledge of the facade. Inside, or more precisely inside and downstairs, rather gruesomely, were the inhabitants of the catacombs, the skeletal remains of to 25,000 commoners. We were issued a prohibition against photographing the countless piles of Pol Pot-like skulls, a redundant warning for me as I had not the slightest notion of it. Coming out of the ‘combs I managed to bang my head on the very low underground ceiling. The convent also houses a museum of religious art (The Last Supper with Peruvian banquet catering) and an attractive central garden.
Upon my return to Miraflores I got out at the start of Av Petit Thouars & wandered through the various native markets in the street. I was surprised to find them called “Indian Markets” as everyone in Peru seems to refer to the indigenous population as the ‘community’, Christopher Columbus’ word doesn’t appear to be in use. I had gone to the Miraflores tourist strip to get a souvenir of Amazonia. Whilst I was in that vast eastern jungle I had “ummed-and-ahhed” about getting an Amazonas shirt, coming close to buying a suitably inscribed sweater in the Posada shop but deciding that they were asking too much for it. So in the end, typically, I didn’t buy anything there, now I was trying to make amends by finding a late memento of the place.
Whilst searching in vain for the Amazonas T-shirt I noticed they had “Cholo Potter” and “Cholisimpsons” T-shirts, so The idea came to me to see if I could find a Tintin T-shirt with a Peruvian motif as I had for equivalent Tintin’s in Istanbul, Beijing & Tibet previously (I also knew there had been a comic book “Tintin & the Inca Prisoners”). I tried explaining the concept of Tintin to the stallholders … small, neat blonde boy with a kiss-curl and a little dog, looks a bit like a juvenile Kevin Rudd, the boy, not the dog! They didn’t have a clue about Tintin! I explained how globally famous Tintin was, one guy was interested in the marketing op and said he’d try to produce a “Tintin in Peru” T-shirt for next year. I didn’t introduce the thorny subject of copyright, but I figure that he would have viewed that with as much concern as he probably gave to the Cholo Potter venture!
Headed from the market down to a small mall that seemed to specialise in computing equipment, I found a little empanada kiosk in the mall that had a good variety of these morsels. As a reminder of some sort of technological time warp I note that Peruvian shopkeepers (and even larger enterprises) still use carbon copies for receipts! The kiosk had a small seating area reserved for customers, which I observed being used by locals with no intention of buying anything. The shop staff apparently viewed this benignly and had no interest in chasing them off, exhibiting what I imagine to be characteristic Latino insouciance.
Back in the Antigua I gravitated to JJ’s bar once more, this time steering well clear of the Pisco sours I tried a couple of the local craft brews in preference to the standard industrial cerveza, Cusquena. One, called Pilsner Callao, was OK but the strong-tasting Barbarian was too dark and bitter for my liking. JJ informed me that Barbarian was very popular at rugby restobars in Lima, which I can believe. This night the bar was more popular with the Aussie tourists and I exchanged a few stories of the Peruvian experience.
Afterwards I walked down Ca. Grau to a nearby Chifa (Peruvian/Chinese cuisine very popular in this country). The place was a cod-ordinary looking nosh house with food to match! My choice (very little in the way of choice really) was a rather pitiful-looking dish comprising rice with some strips of chicken engulfed by an omelette. I amused myself during the meal talking to the waiter who was actually Chinese (from Guangzhou) in my extremely modest Cantonese by referring to my whiteness self-deprecatingly as ‘Gwei Lo’ and ‘Bak Gwei’, to which he laughed, a little uncomfortably. The rest of the Chifa staff (all Peruvians) looked on bemused by our fragmented Sino-English conversation. One worker with a particularly blanco complexion tried to second-guess what we were saying in Cantonese but he was hilariously wide of the mark!
The next morning I walked down to the beach park (Playa Waikiki) to glimpse a look at the Ocean. Unfortunately a more or less permanent mist sitting about 100 metres offshore precludes any decent view of the Pacifico. The number of neatly-groomed dogs haring happily around the ocean parks tells me how popular a pet they are to Peruvians. On the way back I pass the Liverpool Restobar, a Beatles-themed shrine of remembrance for the fabled ‘Fab Four’ (still big in Lima?).
I’m back in Santiago later that afternoon, but my baggage is not on the carousel at the airport. When I enquire I find LAN has shipped in across to the departures for the following day without telling me. I make them fetch it back so I can get some stuff I need for the night and so I can be sure that by taking it myself to the check-in the next day that it will be on the same flight home as me (testimony to the degree of trust I would place in LAN after my experiences). The Holiday Inn airport hotel has me on Level 0, room 077! Never been below ground level before in a hotel (they should call it “the Coalminer’s Suite”!)
I have the relative luxury of not having to get to the gate for the Sydney flight until midday. On the flight had an interesting talk to a Chilean/Italian wine salesman whose sells Chilean wine to the Chinese. He said the biggest drawback of his work was the unsophisticated approach of wealthy Chinese punters to wine, that they drink wine the same way they drink beer (ie, guzzle it straight down!), this necessitates a lot of drinking on the job by him as he has to match the alcohol consumption of his Chinese clients.
Footnote: the exchange with the young convivial Chilean wine salesman put me in mind of the character of Miles the depressive Californian wine-snob from the brilliant Sideways movie. Later, I tweeted Rex Pickett (writer of the Sideways novel) and suggest he write a follow-up with Miles venturing off on a wine escapade to China with the comedic possibilities of seeing his appalled response to the crassness of nouveau rich Chinese businessmen about wine. Pickett heartily agreed, adding that someone should finance a research trip to China for him. As things transpired Pickett eventually decided to send Miles to Chile instead (the book Sideways 3). Maybe he ran into my Chilean wine-man at Santiago airport?