Peru has always been a mysterious place for me. I first heard of this colourful mystery when my friends mum returned from a trip. She showed me pictures of Alpacas, enormous mountains, and people in colourful regalia. It was then that Peru became a place I must visit.
Fast forward 10 years and here I am. In the old town of Lima, recapping the events of the past few days. Sometimes when you look forward to a place for such a long time, your expectations fail to be met. This was not the case in Peru.
Lima is the capital of Peru. An expansive metropolitan surrounding a historical centre. This huge place full to the brim with Museums, buildings and restaurants. I suspected that three days was not going to be enough.
With my new German friends, the past three days have been jam packed full of adventure. As a good introduction to Peru, I decided to take the Lima Free Walking Tour. I had always had a great experience with these over my years of travel as they orientate you to the city as well activating the streets with stories and history. And Peru has a lot of history. Similarly to Ecuador, Peru’s political history has been full of instability. Even while participating in the Walking Tour, a protest was underway and the police were standing guard of all major political sites. But I never felt unsafe.
Starting in the 16th Century Plaza de Armas, the centre of the Spanish continent empire, we were introduced to the historic quarter of Lima. However, the only original 16th Century building is an impressive bronze central fountain. We weaved through the streets from monument to monument, governmental buildings to great eateries and then we arrived at the Iglesia de San Pedro. This quaint looking 17th Century church was consecrated by the Jesuits. From the outside did not look all that intriguing, but upon reaching the entrance your eye was drawn to immediately to the Golden Alter. Now I am not an overly religious person, however, this site was heavenly.
Inspired by the brief introduction to Peru, my new friends and I decided to visit the Museo Larco. A museum set in an 18th Century viceroy’s mansion, housing the collections from Rafael Larco Hoyle. From here we were walked step by step through the Peruvian history. Not to be confused with the Incan History as the Incas were only in the 500 years prior to the Spanish conquest. We saw artefacts that dated back to Pre-Columbian times. What I couldn’t help but be intrigued by was the skills that were demonstrated in the artefacts. Particularly the silver smithing. Pieces were soldered together in an intricate fashion to build jewellery using techniques that some thousands of years before they were yet to be recognised in Europe.
We saw examples of the tools that were used as part of the ceremonial sacrificial rituals. As barbaric as it seems to modern day society, people would see it as a huge honour to be selected for sacrifice. Learning about the three worlds that are represented by the Condor, Puma and Snake. Condor, signifying the elevated world where the gods live, the Puma, signifying the earthly world in which man and animal coexist, and the Snake signifying the underworld, where those who have passed move on to the next life. Peruvians believe in a kind of balance between the three worlds. A sacrifice must be made to retain a balance between the three worlds. For example, offerings of textiles are provided to the Snake god in order to allow the crops to grow and the ground to be fertile. Offerings of human sacrifice are provided to the Condor god to ensure rains and sunshine.
Like any good tourist, we couldn’t leave Lima without purchasing a memento. So it was off to the Markets we go. If you are unfamiliar with the colourful nature of the Peruvian regalia, then to explain it, would be to say that it is a cross between a technicolour rainbow and a bag of Liquorice All Sorts. Store after store contain these multi-coloured delights made from Alpaca wool so soft that it feels like a cloud. Walking into a market place where every stall is filled to the brim with colourful attire, bold paintings and shiny silver jewels can be a sensory overload. But in this case, it was a welcomed one.
After a few small purchases, we decided to walk the Malecon to Barranco district, a trendy surfside suburb with a great view of the ocean. Strolling along the long stretch of road, teetering on the cliffs edge, I was greeted by the familiar scent of a salt from the sea. I love that smell. The warmth of the sun on my skin and the sound of the waves crashing below remind me of home. It was interesting to note the large volume of construction that was underway. Evidently, there was a large population of people who share my love of the sea and have decided to reside here. Modern condominiums were filed along the shore like a fence barricading the ocean from the rest of Lima. The architectural aesthetic of these buildings vary greatly, but it was a sign of huge progress for Lima.
It wasn’t long before we arrived at Barranco. You could feel the change in district almost immediately. Barranco is a surf side suburb with an earthy hippy vibe. Well known for restaurants, street art and nightlife, these cobble stoned lanes are a photographers dream. After a wander through the lanes to appreciate some of the local artists we decided that watching the sun set over the ocean would be a fitting end to our Lima adventure. And maybe a Pisco Sour or two as well!