By Stuart Starrs
Six centuries have now passed since the young Túpac Yupanqui, chief commander of the victorious army of his father the grand Inca Pachacútec, set eyes on this extensive green valley for the first time from the dry desert hills above, the valley that today is called Cañete. Strategically allied with the Chincha further south and the local rulers of what is now a town called Asia further north, perhaps the young Inca thought the conquest of the prosperous Guarco (Huarco) people would be simple.
By Stuart Starrs
Got 48 hours to explore Lima? Long considered just a stopover on the way to the famous Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, Lima has emerged as a destination spot of its own in recent years.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most from a weekend visit in the Peruvian capital:
4 p.m. – No time to lose. Get in touch with Lima’s humble roots by going to the market in Chorrillos, where you can buy fish fresh off the boat. Meander around the wharf, which looks delightfully out of place in the middle of a major city.
|© Levi Novey|
Several days ago my family visited one of Lima, Peru’s zoos. On the day before our visit, I wrote about some of my general thoughts and feelings about zoos, in an article titled “Why Zoos Stimulate Our Minds.”
Writing out my thoughts was a sort of preparative exercise, mostly to try to articulate the main dilemma I have with zoos: do the potential education benefits of zoos outweigh the cruelty of caging animals in small spaces that I personally believe typically don’t provide them with fulfilling lives? I still am not sure of the answer, but my trip to the Huachipa Zoo did answer another intriguing question for me. When zoos are bad, would I personally prefer that a bad zoo exist rather than have no zoo at all?
Special to The Sun
It has been a long time since I’ve fallen in love. However, I am smitten by Anthony as we shoot baskets together on an outdoor court in Lima. His dark eyes gleam as he does enthusiastic high-fives when he makes a shot — and he doesn’t laugh when I miss. Anthony is 10.
I also fall for John, a five-year-old with a smile that would melt the hardest heart. And my motherly instincts kick in when I convince sulky Carmelita to jump rope and then see the joy on her face.
When two friends and I decided to add the element of volunteering to a trip, we opened a cornucopia of opportunities.
Flamingoes, grebes, blue herons and ospreys are some of the 94 bird species that live either year-round or on a temporary basis in this important marine eco-system along the Peruvian coast, just 70 km from Lima.
The beaches of Cañete, blessed with sands and rolling waves, have become the favorite destination of thousands of city dwellers who take the coastline by storm every summer. Enthusiastic holidaymakers pack the South Pan-American Highway in long lines of cars in search of sun and sea and special sunsets.
But rarely does this crowd of beach-goers, wearing sandals and clutching towels spot from the roads that lead down to the beach this marvelous sight that Nature has endowed this part of the coastline south of Lima. These are the wetlands of Puerto Viejo, one of the most important eco-systems along the Peruvian coast, a fragile area which abounds in plant and animal species.
From April onwards, the marshes, located along Kilometers 70 to 73 of the South Pan-American Highway in the districts of San Antonio and Chilca, see their underground water reserves replenished, giving life to the meadows and sandy soil. The water bubbles up from the Mala River watershed and the irrigation canals of San Andrés, forming surface pools of water and wetlands, giving rise to numerous and beautiful life forms.→
Why our society is the way it is today? What happened on earth 5000 years ago?
Text and photos by Mathilde Salmón
It seems that Peruvian archaeologists finally found a serious lead to answer these questions. 13 years ago, Doctor Ruth Shady Solis discovered, in the so called “Norte chico del Perú”, a new archaeological site which had been ignored until then.
5000 years ago, when Egyptians were edifying pyramids, when civilizations of Mesopotamia, China, India and South America were developing, an organised society was being formed in Peru.
Behind apparent big mountains of sand, Doctor Ruth Shady Sólis imagined the ancient pyramids, and step by step freed the ruins from the underground. The city of Caral, a huge site of 66 hectares, was discovered.
But how and why was such a civilization born in Caral? Archaeologists usually give different hypothesis to explain the formation of societies, like trading markets, or war. As the investigations went on and no evidence of conflict was found, the latter hypothesis was dismissed.
But some materials from the Peruvian highlands and jungle were found, leading to the hypothesis of trade… Indeed, the inhabitants of Caral could cultivate cotton massively, taking advantage of the river crossing the site. Caral was no City of War, but a city of Peace, a flourishing commercial city.
Through the detailed travelogue Audre and Dimitri are keeping of their trip to Peru, we experienced their exciting and interesting visit to Arequipa. In this next travelogue, they have invited us to join them on their continued journey through Peru. Accompany Audre and Dimitri as they travel through Nasca, Ica, Paracas and then to Lima. If you missed out on the first part of their trip, click here.
|Breakfast at Puerto Inca|
Luckily, a man at the gas station in Camaná pointed out that there was a problem with our Thule bike rack. One of bike holders had lost 2 bolts and was practically falling off. Fortunately one of the bolts was sitting on the roof of the car. The other bolt was lost. Dimitri spent about 2 hours taking the racks apart and putting them back together, using a bolt from the back for the front piece where the one had been lost. (We had used a Thule bike rack in Australia when we toured on paved roads for 26,000 km. We had no problems there. We also used a Thule bike rack for 4 years in Europe. In Chile, Argentina and Perú, we figure the roads have been bumpier and we must check our bolts periodically.)
When we finally got to the Hotel Puerto Inka Resort, we were delighted and relieved. It is a fairly basic set of rooms but the bay is idyllic and remote (at the end of a short, not too bumpy, dirt road). There are ruins where the Inca runners lived when they fished and salted the catch before running up to Cusco with it. We spent a delightful evening looking out at the bay from our veranda (having the wine and cheese that Audre had packed) in candlelight (that was also in our kit) with mosquito coils (also in our kit). Our room cost S/.189.50 (about US$60) and was worth it (although we learned later they have packages with meals that would have been cheaper). Our dinner was very good fish for S/.50 (about US$16 with our own wine).
We spent one night in Puerto Inca and the next day drove to Nasca to see the lines in the sand created by the Nasca and Paracas people between 900 BC and AD 600. What these lines mean and why they were made has spawned numerous theories, particularly since they can only be appreciated from the air. We took an AeroCóndor flight for US$40 (charged in dollars) and took some surprisingly good photos.
It was early enough after our flight to keep driving towards Ica. We stopped at the Ocucaje winery (where most of Perú’s wine comes from). Lonely Planet said “the winery now has an upmarket resort hotel”. It was in an awful state of disrepair so we didn’t stay.
|The Nasca Lines figure called the hummingbird. No one knows why people between 900 BC and AD 600 would take the trouble to make figures in the sand that could only be seen from the air.|
We drove on to the Hotel Las Dunas Sun Resort. It was very full and the prices were high. When we got there at about 6 p.m., we saw standard rooms that were not comfortable and so Dimitri started negotiating with the front desk for the suite. The manager joined in and when he offered us a suite, that had a private courtyard with a Jacuzzi in it, for a price less than we had offered, we took it. The negotiated price for the suite was S/.330 (about US$100), with breakfast and service.
Unfortunately, the Jacuzzi had no hot water and had to be filled with hot water from a garden hose. We decided to go to dinner first and use the Jacuzzi after dinner. Dinner in the main dining room was a buffet for Valentine’s Day and was a circus. We found a smaller room and had 2 waiters for ourselves. (At breakfast the next day, we ate with all of the people and saw some Americans from a former era who looked like they believed in the creation of the Nasca Lines by extra-terrestrials. One of them looked like Colonel Sanders in his totally white suit, long white beard and waist-long white hair.)
Our dinner was okay and blessedly calm. When we returned to our suite, the water had drained out of the Jacuzzi. Oh well, we left the next day for Paracas without a Jacuzzi event.
In Paracas we were going to stay a week for our beach experience. It wasn’t meant to be. The Libertador-affiliated Hotel Paracas Reserva Natural could only accommodate us for one night. The price was exorbitant (S/.609.32 or US$191.07) for their one ocean view room, Room 201 and we weren’t in a position to negotiate.
|The noise of the beach on Islas Ballestas from the sea lions was deafening and the smell was overwhelming.|
The hotel is beautifully situated, obviously popular, but is tired-looking. We were going to use the hotel’s kayaks; fortunately did not because the wind came up in the afternoon and it would have been very unpleasant. Instead we took a walk along the shoreline. We met some lovely women from Lima who were renting a house on the beach. They were going to help us find a house to rent for a week but could not. This was, after all, high season. After our walk, we booked the hotel’s outdoor Jacuzzi and had a nice warm soak.
Perú’s tourist site lists Paracas as one of Perú’s main mountain biking areas. It is a sandy, desert area and had we stayed longer we would have taken the recommended route. Probably that ride would have ruined our bikes with sand.
Dinner at the hotel was okay but crowded. The next day, before leaving, we went on a boat tour of the Isla Ballestas (it cost US $80 for the 2 of us). Called the “poor man’s Galapagos,” it was great and we got some good photos.
For lunch we stopped in Pisco on our way to Lima. We couldn’t find El Portal del Pisco which was in Lonely Planet so we went instead to As de Oro’s Restaurante and had a delicious cebiche mixto with fried yucca chips for S/.51.45 our US $16.18.
We arrived in Lima around 4:30 p.m. and started our long-term accommodation search.
|The actual, real-live bikepath along the palisades park in Miraflores, a suburb of Lima.|
Dimitri had read Lonely Planet on Lima and had done a lot of research online to identify accommodations that would be comfortable for us for a month. We like to have a kitchen so we can have a salad for lunch or a light dinner from time to time. It’s also great to have a kitchen so we can buy food to try in the local markets. We also wanted to have a separate bedroom and living room in Lima. Dimitri localized our search to the suburbs of Miraflores and San Isidro.
Audre was doing the driving north to Lima; the divided highway into the city that started about 100 km south astounded us. It was easy but Audre turned over the wheel to Dimitri outside of town, not wanting to deal with the undisciplined Peruvian drivers in the city. The first two apart hotels we looked at weren’t for us but we liked Sol de Oro Suites Apart Hotel. Dimitri negotiated a rate of US$132 per day for the first week and then US $100 thereafter for apartment no. 904. We had a glimpse of the ocean and an otherwise open view, not being close to any other building. The TV was moved from the bedroom to the living room and an extra desk was installed for us. The closet storage was big enough and there was a separate area for all of our empty luggage. The rooms were quite ample and we were happy.
At Sol de Oro our price included breakfast. Typically we like to have Fitness cereal, skim milk and banana for breakfast. Most hotels have corn flakes or a sweetened cereal so we bring a plastic bag filled with our cereal choices and just use their fruit, milk and coffee for breakfast. We added popped quinoa and kiwicha in Perú to our cereal for a little excitement. The coffee at Sol de Oro (and many other places in Perú) is a thick and strong essence to which hot water is added. If the water is hot enough the coffee can be a pleasant temperature. It’s a unique system. Every day Sol de Oro had delicious freshly made juices and sliced fruit. We started enjoying Peruvian mangos! Our favorite is the Edwar variety.→
Spirit Airlines, the United States based low cost airliner, has officially made its way into the Peruvian aviation market by offering daily non-stop service between Lima, Peru and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. For frequent travelers between these two cities, Spirit’s low cost travel fare provides an attractive alternative to seemingly increasing prices offered by other airlines such as American, Delta, and Chile’s LAN. Despite very attractive prices, I personally found Spirit’s service to be lacking, err, spirit.
Having previously flown other low-cost carriers such as the U.S.’s Southwest Airlines, I realistically expected some types of sacrifices in the areas of comfort and service. Understand that a ‘low cost carrier’ is essentially a ‘no frills airliner’ where traditional services and comforts are eliminated in order to keep ticket prices low. Everything from the drinks, snacks and baggage (yes baggage!) is not included when you purchase your ticket with Spirit. There were no television monitors, pillows, or blankets… No problem! The problem I encountered with my experience had nothing to do with comfort but rather with customer service.
I flew on Spirit’s inaugural flight from Lima’s Jorge Chavez Airport to South Florida’s Fort Lauderdale International Airport on June 27th. Talking with some of the passengers, I found that quite a few had purchased their tickets for the ridiculously low price of US$0.88! Unfortunately, I paid quite a bit more than that though my fare was still a great bargain compared to other carriers servicing Lima and Miami.→
|On the way to La Capilla.|
(Provided by Anibal Paredes and Maria Elena Pinto)
Anibal and Maria Elena are two cycling enthusiasts who would love to share their experiences with other cyclists who would like to get to know Peru’s hidden treasures on a bike. Below, is their summary of recent trip taken to the south of Lima:
My wife and I love cycling, as we call ourselves "cicloturistas" (bicycling tourists). We normally get out of the city to cycle along rustic roads leading to captivating towns and good old fashioned contact with nature.
Last weekend, on Friday afternoon we went to Mala by bus (90 km south of Lima) and from there we started cycling along the Mala river valley up to Calango (approximately 25 km), a picturesque and peaceful town.
We started our cycling journey at about 5:30 pm so as soon as it became dark, we continued riding with guided by our headlights along a nice unpaved road, passing by a few villages where we stopped for a while. We rested in San Jose, Tutumo, Aymara, Correviento, among other towns along the way, and to our surprise, vehicle traffic on the road was minimal to non-existent so the night ride was very relaxing under the pleasant moonlight.
We arrived in Calango and spent the night there in a nice simple hotel (private bath), with no sign, but easy to find nonetheless. It is located in front of the church, next door to an excellent “pollo a la brasa” restaurant (delicious french fries!!).→
(original German text by Mathias Thurm, Die Welt)
Iglesia La Ermita in Barranco, Lima
(Photo: elmorsa, at Flickr)
In the "Barrio Barranco" people are realizing the extreme social opposites existing in Peru’s capital from a relaxed and friendly side.
Through the eyes of Peruvian writer Sebastián Salazar Bondy, Lima was "La horrible". The verdict of his colleague Mario Vargas Llosa, who owns a luxury apartment with ocean view in Lima’s upper-class district of Miraflores, is also anything else but flattering: "If you live in Lima, you either have to get used to adversity or dirt, otherwise you’ll turn crazy or commit suicide."
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