Today was the last day of my vacation in Peru and I arrived in Lima in the morning from Cusco by flight. I had a flight back to Toronto later that night so that left me with 15 hours in Lima city. I stored my backpack at the airport and ventured out. Taxis from the airport to the city center were very expensive S/. 40 ($13) so ignoring all warnings to foreigners, I ventured out into the city myself. After asking around for help, someone showed me a crowded mini van and shoved me inside it. It was very sweaty, very crowded and the guy was putting more and more people in it 🙂 30 minutes, bucketful of sweat and S/. 1.5 ($0.50) later, I was dropped off at a point some five minutes walk from the city center, aka Plaza Mayor.
Since I saved so much money by not taking the taxi and also since it was my last vacation day, I decided to promptly spend lot of money by treating myself to a lavish Mexican meal. However remember that, and I learnt this when it was almost too late, they charge you $31 as departure tax for all outgoing flights from Lima. As a result I came back to Toronto with $3 in my pocket, which was not funny.
Lima (लीमा), the capital and largest city of Peru, is located on the Pacific Ocean. Founded in 1535, this “City of Kings” is home to one-thirds of Peru’s population and it’s name originates from river Rimac that flows through it. The city flourished during the 17th century as the center of an extensive trade network which extended as far as Europe and the Philippines. To protect the city against sea pirates, a wall was built around the city. In the 18th century, Lima had to be rebuilt after being almost completely destroyed by an earthquake.
There are several sights to see in Lima and most of them can be walked comfortably. Churches, Statues, Library, Parks, Colonial buildings, Plazas etc. are all located around downtown Lima. The bus network is excellent and some university students can generally speak few broken sentences in English (certainly better than my Spanish).
The National Library in Lima is a mammoth building. I ran into the director of the library who arranged a special tour of the place for me. That was very sweet.
Lima is a typical city and being my last few hours there, I was very tired.
A great number of Chinese immigrants, and a lesser amount of Japanese, came to Lima and established themselves in the Barrios Altos neighborhood near downtown Lima, coming in order to work on farms and domestic services. Lima residents refer to their Chinatown as “Calle Capon,” and the city’s ubiquitous Chifa restaurants – a small, sit-down, usually Chinese-run restaurant serving the Peruvian spin on Chinese cuisine – can be found by the dozen in this Chinese enclave.
Few Indians, primarily the Sindhis moved to Peru in the 60’s but many left due to economic recession of the 80’s. There is a very small Hindu community of Hare Krishna (ISKCON) in Peru and they have little establishments in almost all towns of Peru. Have you heard a Krishna bhajan in Spanish? With Spanish Guitar and drums instead of Sitar and Tabla? I leave it to your imagination, but I was absolutely in love with it.
By the end of this trip, I had seen enough colonial Churches. The one is Lima is pretty gigantic and pretty.
After weeks in the countryside, I found the noises and crowds and pollution of the city overwhelming. Miraflores district is quite different from Lima proper which can get extremely polluted and this feeble foreigner started coughing while others looked at him jokingly. At the end of the day, I had some Ceviche (fish) at a roadside restaurant with someone I just met and within few hours I was sick with diarrhoea. Consequently, I had 2 seats on the plane to Toronto: one for me, and one for my stomach. Not the best way to end a perfect vacation!
I will conclude the Peru series in my next post.