Peru has been amazing so far, I don’t even really know where to start! We left around suppertime the day after we finished university, so it was a pretty hectic day and a long overnight flight from Toronto to Lima. It was misty rain and overcast when we arrived as well, which was a little bit anticlimactic and had us wondering what the rest of the trip might hold. Fortunately, every day here just seems to get better and better!
We spent a day and a half in Lima trying to cram in what we could. We stayed in Miraflores, which is this tourist area located on the southern coast of Lima. The misty rain cleared up pretty fast and the sun came out for us. We spent a bit of time exploring the parks in Miraflores and went to Huaca Pucllana, which is an ancient ruins from Lima culture (400AD) that is still standing right in the middle of the city! From afar it kind of just looks like a huge bunch of clay bricks, but they actually form a large pyramid (with a pretty nice view) and a series of living areas. One fun fact I liked about it is that the bricks are all vertical instead of horizontal, the reason being to leave room for flexibility in the event of an earthquake, which does frequently occur along the coast.
One of the first things we noticed about Lima is that it has some of the craziest drivers ever! Drivers somehow manage to fit their cars into the smallest of places, completely disregard all pedestrians, and drive as fast as they like. We had one of the craziest bus rides ever into the city center to visit the historical center. So far as we could tell, there’s one guy that is responsible for driving the bus and repeatedly honking the horn, and there is a second guy who is responsible for getting people on and off the bus as fast as possible, sometimes while the bus is still moving! We pretty much had no idea where to get off, which incited a huge discussion between the bus guy and a large group of the passengers about where we should get off. It certainly made our job a lot easier, although it didn’t really shorten the amount of time we spent wondering around after trying to find the right way (we made it in the end).
After leaving Lima, we moved on to the small town of Paracas. Paracas is a home base for the Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Reserve. Most of the southern coast of Peru is actually a desert. The moisture all gets trapped along the Andes mountain range and the coast gets very little rain, so it is very dry. However, it has a thriving sea life!
First we visited the Ballestas Islands, which contains large nesting colonies for lots of different types of seabirds! Sometimes the island is known as the Galapagos of Peru, or more unfortunately, poor man’s Galapagos. We thoroughly enjoyed it though! One of the most common birds you can see there is the Peruvian Booby (yes that’s actually what’s its called), but my favorites were the Peruvian pelicans, Inca terns, and the cute little Humboldt penguins! There’s also lots of sea lions hanging out in the area!
After the Ballestas Islands, we took a tour of the Paracas National Reserve. It was a lot different then we expected as the whole thing was just one big desert, but it was still quite unique to experience! We took the time to try out some local Peruvian Cuisine, one dish that is very popular in Lima is Ceviche. It’s basically raw fish that is marinated with onions and a lot of lemon juice! I actually didn’t mind the raw fish at all (I had sea bass) but I had a hard time with how acidic it was from all the lemon juice!
Overall, we’ve had a pretty interesting foray in local gastronomy. We both tried the popular soft drink, Inka Cola, which I actually really like, and we tried a shot of pisco sour when we were in Paracas, which was really sweet. Over the past few days, I also had the opportunity to try both alpaca meat and guinea pig meat! The alpaca was pretty tough, but tasty, whereas I just found the guinea pig to be tough.
I was hoping to fit a few more things in this post, but I hate long posts so I’m going to stop here. In my next update you can look forward to hearing about our trip to the worlds deepest canyon and learn about altitude sickness and how much it sucks!