Feliz Cumpleaños y Bienvenido

Sunday 28th July I was invited, by my friend Sonia and her family, to go to, what was like a combination of a religious festival ( Apurimac – la Virgen de Cocharcas) and a country fair. There was folk music, dancing, a demonstration of Peruvian Horses plus lots of other activities. Food was available and I sampled Cuy (guinea pig). Delicious.DSCN0864

After the festival we went to her brother´s farm, where another brother and his friend entertained us on various musical instruments.
It was a celebration of Sonia´s birthday, a continuation of the Fiestas Patrias and a ” Welcome to Perú” party.

Good fun accompanied by some good beer. Sonia has a large family and they all made me feel very welcome.

Ferias y Fuentes

During the time I have been learning Spanish I have made contact, through various language sites, with many Spanish speakers throughout the world. For a couple of years I have been chatting with a Peruvian lady, Sonia, who lives in Lima. It was great to finally get to meet her and of course, she was one of the people advising me with their local knowledge.  So, I don´t think she was too impressed when i wandered into a dodgy neighbourhood a few days ago . She said it was full off drug addicts and robbers. “Ratones” she called them.
She offered to show me around a craft fair, which featured products from many different areas of Peru. A lot of the things were handmade, extremely colourful, DSCN0769  and took a long time to make. DSCN0780. Most vendors were dressed in the typical costume of whichever region they came from.DSCN0761

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After walking around the fair, Sonia suggested going to see the illuminated fountains in El Parque de La Reserva in Lima. It cost about  £1 each to get in and was well worth it. I believe there are 12 fountains, some of which are set to music.



Circuito Mágico del Agua Parque de la Reserva

Circuito Mágico del Agua Parque de la Reserva (Photo credit: edgar asencios)

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Sonia decided to risk getting wet by going in one fountainDSCN0827, before we went on to Chinatown. She advised me to keep my camera in my rucksack and this time I heeded the advice. So, I only have snaps of Chinatown taken on my Ipod.IMG_0110 IMG_0111.

Not much to see, I’m afraid. At least I got there and back without any problems and we had a good meal while we were there.

Local Knowledge

Español: Bus del Metropolitano de Lima.

Español: Bus del Metropolitano de Lima. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It being a gloomy day in Miraflores, I decided to take a trip into Lima and perhaps visit Chinatown, which I have been thinking about doing for a few days now. I decide to go via the Metropolitano transport system and soon found myself back in the sock shop which I had been so thankful to find a few weeks ago. You can’t have too many socks.

Surprisingly, the owner of the shop remembered me from my previous visit and we chatted for 15 or 20 minutes about the various qualities of socks and then about my intended travels in Perú. She told me she was from Cuzco and offered me some advice for my forthcoming visit there. Local knowledge.

I then asked her about getting to Chinatown from the Central Station. She advised me of the best place to get a bus from, suggesting I went via a micro – a small and usually packed, minibus. I said I would prefer to walk and she said that would not be a good idea, as it could be a bit dangerous. She is not the first person to warn me about avoiding certain areas but the warnings are normally to stay away from them at night. Local knowledge.

Well, not always one to heed advice and starting to regain my old confidence (perhaps over confident), I thought I would walk to Chinatown anyway. After all, if things looked a bit iffy, I could always back track. The thing is, when things did look iffyIMG_0082, I just got more curious. I thought, “what a beautiful building this must have been”. Sadly its state of decay is no doubt due to a lack of money. My curiosity did not have to take me too far into the neighbourhood before I discovered that it was not just the buildings that needed money.

As I went around the next corner, I encountered a group of men just “hanging out”, I guess, for want of a better description. I avoided eye contact, so as not to provoke any reaction. However, one of the men detached himself from the group and approached me. Unlike any of my previous encounters here, in Lima, I felt exposed and vulnerable. No humour here.

The plus side to this is, no matter what I was feeling on the inside, on the outside I was calm, no drama here either. My pace did not alter, my direction did not change and as he demanded money from me, I just kept saying “no entiendo”, (I don´t understand). As it happened, I understood only to well and he was in my face for a good 50 meters. At first demanding and then, as we got further from his friends, begging, as he said he had no work and no money. This was begging with attitude.

Eventually, he relented, realising he was getting nowhere. I was thinking how glad I was it was not dark and how I should have listened to local knowledge. I never did get to Chinatown. I´ll go there soon, by bus.

Fiestas Patrias

Yesterday, I went to pay the rent to my landlady. During the conversation we had, she mentioned that there was a parade in the centre of Miraflores as part of the Fiestas Patrias, in which the Peruvians celebrate their independence from Spain.

So, after lunch, I decided to go and watch the parade. There was a large crowd, many of whom were seated in the stands, specially erected for the occasion. No expense spared as it is a big occasion for the locals.IMG_0024

I had to stand and wait for a long time, as the parade started an hour later than I had been told but the crowd waited eagerly and patiently. During the wait, small, national flags were distributed to the crowd, free of charge, which they waved enthusiastically. During the Fiestas Patrias, it is, apparently, compulsory to fly the national flag from all buildings.

When the parade began, it was led by several Chinese style dragons (there is a fairly high percentage of Chinese people and those with Chinese ancestry, in Perú).

I had been told previously that it seldom rains in Lima. So I was surprised to see that word of my presence in town must have spread, as the dancers seemed well prepared for the inevitable downpour of rain that accompanies me.IMG_0070

I was unable to stay for the whole parade, as I had plans for the evening. I did however, get a few photos of the early part of the procession.

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Cabalgata is Spanish for a horse ride – normally in the form of a procession.
Cabalgatas are a company in Lurín, Lima Province, Perú, where they provide horse riding tours of various lengths, plus shows featuring the Peruvian Paso horse which has a distinctive gait.

I had opted for the 2 hour ride which was an hour riding through the valley and another hour along the beach. There is an option of a 3rd hour during which you travel through the dunes. I was fairly sure that I would have been saddle sore after 3 hours.

I was excited, as I have been in Lima a month now and have not been out of the city.Hardly been out of Miraflores, although I do like it here. Having been told that once you get away from the city, the sun shines, I rushed out the night before to get some sunblock. Well never mind, the sun did make an effort a few times during the day but it was mainly overcast. Fortunately, I had a lightweight jacket with me so I was protected from the chill by the ocean.

The day got off to a shaky start. The taxi which was booked for 9AM was late. It finally arrived at 9.20 due to, el trafico. No disrespect intended but the Peruvians are well known for their tardiness, which makes me wonder why they are always in a hurry when they are driving.

We arrived late at the Cabalgatas stables by the same margin but of course it was not a problem, as we were not expected to be on time. The journey had taken about an hour and my driver, Jairo was very amiable and chatty. He also waited while I went on my tour and returned me to the penthouse afterwards, for a very fair price. He also doubled up as a photographer.IMG_0007 The horse, by the way, is “Conquistador”. He was very good and did everything that I wanted him too. Just not at the time I wanted him to do it.

After we went through the valley, Claudia (who runs Cabalgatas), returned to the stables with most of the group, leaving me to continue to the beach with Samuel, my guide.We were later joined on the beach by another rider

IMG_0014as we rode along next to the Pacific Ocean.

I had a great day and the only disappointment, which has no reflection on Cabalgatas, was the state of the beach. It looks like they use it as the equivalent of a landfill site. Except it is above ground and extends for several hundred metres and looks just like a tip. I am sure there is a valid reason for it but as a tourist, that reason evaded me.

More information and photographs are available on Cabalgatas blog pages.

San Isidro 2

Having enjoyed the walk through part the leafy Lima suburb of San Isidro yesterday, I looked it up on the internet to see what else it had to offer. A huaca, that’s what. Amazing isn’t it. More than 61 years without ever seeing a huaca and then 2 within the space of a fortnight. This one is called Huaca Huallamarca and has been restored , although, apparently it differs quite a bit from the original structure due to the various stages of construction and destruction it has gone through in more than 2000 years. FSCN0757

I decided to stick with the walking theme and left the hire car at home,IMG_0149 it goes so well with the penthouse.  I do not have a map of the San Isidro area but I had a good look at the location of the huaca online before leaving home. It seemed straightforward enough. Well, at least up until the point where I took a left turn where I should have taken a right.

Realising quite quickly that I must have made an error and spotting a Starbucks nearby, I decided to take some well deserved refreshment and ask for directions. Two more mistakes there! A cappuccino cost me more than a full breakfast with coffee would elsewhere and the staff had no idea where the huaca was. The guy serving, spoke reasonable English so there was no communication issue, even though I had asked for directions in Spanish. Well, hooray for Wifi, as I did a quick search while waiting for my coffee to cool and found that I was less than half a mile away from my target. I had just taken a parallel road.

It is sad, however to think that something as big as the huaca, would go unnoticed by people. It is not as if they try to hide their buildings or camouflage themIMG_0170.

Ten minutes later I was at the huaca, looking at this enormous ramp that went from the ground to summit of the pyramid and thinking, ” this is so wrong, on so many levels”.DSCN0732 Apparently the ramp has been put in such a way as to make it more tourist friendly.

There is a small museum with some artifacts that managed to evade grave robbers and the like. It also has a rather gruesome looking mummy.????? Extraordinarily, there was a wooden face mask which just has to be the original Spongebob Squarepants???????????????.

Climbing the ramp, you get the opportunity to appreciate more fully the beautiful surroundings.DSCN0739A closer look maybe.???????????????

It could be described as an ancient body bag with a wooden head placed on top. Every day an education.

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