Travel Journal

To Lima

(Saturday 13 August 2011) by Julia Bartholomew
I knew it was winter but still somehow couldn't believe it would actually be cold in South America. It's the humidity from the sea that makes Lima so cool in winter. I've already bought my first item in alpaca- a jazzy red patterned scarf that's very warm. There's a good chance I'll be returning home in head to toe alpaca, the shaggier the better. I also hadn't realised the ocean was such a feature of Lima; mighty waves pound the curving western side of the city. By pure luck I'm in a hostel overlooking it. I can't believe there are actually people surfing here though, what with the sea chill and the fact the beaches are officially classified as 'unsafe'. I'm usually the first to plunge into icy waters but have been restrainedly enjoying the view of the coast from the road above.

Despite the cold and grey, the city nonetheless manages to exude warmth. Perhaps it's something to do with the vibrant colours of the colonial architecture in bright yellows and pinks, and the palm trees. Another reason is the genuine warmth of the people. Just an example of chuminess built in to the language here: when my taxi driver called to a policeman outside the car for some directions he hailed him with 'hola amigo!'. I can't imagine calling over a London bobby with 'hey mate!' or if you did he'd probably reach for his baton - taser if you're really unlucky- especially in light of recent events. One similarity with my last destination, Vietnam: within a few hours of arriving I'd already been asked the classic questions- "are you married?" and "how old are you?" and got the same response- "Really?! I thought you were about 18?". That was a jovial middle aged waiter. It did make me wonder- if he thought I was 18, was the marriage question really serious? Oh, and there was one more question: "how do you say 'bonita' in English?

It is an advantage being able to communicate with people in their own language, albeit haltingly, and also helpful for translations of menus. I loved the 'ceviche', a typical dish of raw fish marinated in lime and garlic which came with some kind of corn and sweet potato, washed down with the only kind of Cristal I'm likely to be drinking in the near future (a local beer here). One of the highlights of an open top bus tour was being able to smell different foods wafting up to the top deck. I'm writing this from the Museo Lorca, which has exhibits from pre-colonial times- the 5000 years of history before the Spanish arrived in 1535- including vessels for drinking the blood of victims of ritual sacrifice and the like.

Lima is a a palpably religious place. There are lots of ornate Catholic churches, including the magnificent cathedral, though it is actually only C19th as an earlier one was destroyed in the great earthquake of 1746. Poking my head round the door of various churches, I've seen plenty of people praying. There's also a giant lit-up cross and virgin mary somewhere on the hill above the bay which I noticed beaming over the city last night, the product of manifest devotion if not good taste.

Tomorrow I fly to hopefully warmer climes, Cuzco, near the sacred valley and Macchu Picchu, where hopeflly the sun will emerge and I can come out from under all this alpaca.

  • weather by Millie

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