Sunday 1st June
Alison: We arrived in Lima, rather tired and exhausted from our early start, to be greeted by our transfer chap, Fabian. Just like the foggy weather, he was a tad surly, but informative. Apparently it is always foggy in Lima, but with no rain, a phenomenon due to the warm moist air coming in contact with the really cold water of the Pacific Ocean and turning it into fog which is then trapped next to the coast by the Andes. It makes for a pretty depressing climate in terms of never having rain and never seeing the sun or stars, just cloud!
No wonder the Limans were the least cheerful people we met in Peru. It's also a really big city, with a lot of poverty and rather decrepit buildings and roads, combined with horrendous traffic.
Anyway, we got to our comfortable without raving hotel, dumped our gear and headed off to get some lunch before our tour of the city at 2.30. We tried to get a taxi, but when Michael asked for him to use his meter, he shook his head so we got out and walked to a little pizza place. We later found out that they actually don't have meters in taxis in Lima - you just have to negotiate a price! We rang the hotel from there to see if the guide could pick us up from the restaurant, but something went wrong in the translation, so when she didn't turn up Mike rang again from another phone and the van arrived a few minutes later. Manessa, our guide, was a very nice girl who gave us lots of information about the city and its history.
We first went to the Archeological Museum which was full of lovely ceramic pots etc from the various civilisations before the Incas and then finally the Inca artefacts. Of course I can't remember too many of the details now, and I think I was the only one listening - Michael and the kids not always being great ones for paying attention to that sort of thing(!), but it was a good museum.
Next we went to the main square, where we bought icecreams for the kids and looked at the various lovely colonial buildings built by the Spanish when they colonised the country. The Inca capital was in Cusco, but the Spanish decided that Lima was better strategically as their capital - more fool them - I know where I'd prefer to live!
Then we wandered to the Church of San Francisco, a lovely church very reminiscent in style to the Alhambra in Spain which we have visited, with its beautiful tiles, as well as lovely frescoes. We went down into the Catacombs, which I was unfortunately not allowed to photograph, but they were really fascinating, with their maze of tunnels and piles of neatly stacked bones in various crypts which the children stared at in shock.
We also went past a huge mud brick pyramid built by the Incas, which had been partially destroyed by the Spanish but was still quite impressive. Apparently they use mud bricks down here in Lima as it doesn't rain so they work quite well, but stone up in Cusco and the rest of the Andes where it does have a wet season.
Finally we went to a rather lovely park by the sea, based on Gaudi's Park Guelle which we visited in Barcelona. This was a park for lovers and there were lots of couples canoodling there, although again there was gloomy weather as the foggy, cold and damp breeze blew in from the sea. We got back to the hotel and then headed out for dinner in Miraflores at Cafe la Paz which had been recommended by Manessa. It was nice, but rather exhausted, we headed back for an early night as we had another early start the next day to fly to Cusco.
This early night soon went rather pear-shaped however, as we discovered that late in the afternoon I must have left my credit card in the ATM at the Lima airport when I withdrew some money on our arrival. As a consequence this necessitated many phonecalls, culminating late in the evening in a very long phonecall to ANZ in Australia as we cancelled the Visa and organised for a new one to be sent to our hotel in London. Luckily we still have Michael's Visa and our Access card to get to our account through Cirrus, so we're not in too much of a pickle in terms of cash, just a bit inconvenienced by it all. This is especially as it will now change my Internet Banking account details and all my automatic debits to my credit card won't work - a pain! Never mind - at least it wasn't stolen from me.
Tom: Lima didn't have sun and didn't have rain and was always foggy. It made me feel sad because in Australia it's always sunny. You can't even see the stars at night. I bumped my hip on the hotel table and bruised it really badly. At the restaurant Rachel had frozen lemonade which I really loved too. Dad got out of a taxi because he would not use his meter, but we found out later they don't even have meters in Peru, so Dad laughed.
Rachel: In Lima we went to the catacombs. It was really scary when we saw all the bones piled up. You can't imagine how scary it would be to fall down into those bones. A catacomb is where people are buried underground in tunnels under a church. People had a belief that if you were buried there you would have an afterlife in heaven. Some people had private catacombs for their family which are really expensive, so they have to have quite a lot of money in order to be buried privately. We visited the public ones because the private ones are not to be entered.
Mike: In Lima we were met by dark and gloomy conditions, pretty much the first we've experienced anywhere along the trip! Being one who needs a lot of sunlight, when I discovered this was pretty much their normal weather year round, I was delighted we were only spending a day there. I should have remembered from my love of Paddington Bear who was from Lima in deepest darkest Peru that this may be the case!
Nonetheless it was quite fascinating in its stark contrast to both Argentina and Brazil, being a notably poorer and less developed city/country, with living conditions far harsher. As an overall observation I was really struck by the extremely marked differences between the three South American countries we visited, in both their look, feel and geography, but even more so their people and cultures. The Brazilians are so relaxed and full of good cheer, and physically so tanned, taut and healthy; the Argentineans are more solemn and serious, but also so passionate; with the Peruvians more gentle, retiring and peaceful, with much slighter physiques and notably more Asian (Andean) facial features. It was interesting reflecting on this with Alison when I realised that in fact this is no different from the huge differences one experiences with European countries and more so simply highlighted my own prior ignorance of South America in general... thus my delight now in filling this void and discovering such a wonderful continent.
Our tour of Lima was interesting, though having visited the great cities of Rio and Buenos Aires, it was very much in their shadow. To Alison's credit, on realising she'd left her credit card in an ATM in Lima Airport, she experienced only minor hysteria! A few hours later, after I made various phone calls etc and a replacement had been organised, I was pleasantly surprised that she was able to move on, in the knowledge that we still had access to my credit card etc so although frustrating, the practicality of her loss was not actually any kind of problem to our holiday itself.