Sunday, April 24, 2011

                         A Journey to the Land of Inca (part 1)

Thanks to the hasn't finished permit for us, we 'have to' explore the other countries in South America. We just got back from Peru, the place that I never imagine I can visit. It's a coutry that worth to visit and has lots and lots of interesting places as well as historical sites. Since we're there only for a week, we focused on visiting Machu Picchu. But actually you can spend a whole month there and still have many places left out. 

The first day was spent in Lima, the capital. And it felt so alive somehow, remembering the place that I live now. We arrived at 10 pm, and people can still walked on the street, the restaurants still opened too. Basically, it safer than I thought it would be. The next morning we saw the Pacific Ocean right in front of us, with this mist foggy thing over it. The fog didn't go away even when the day was passing. In Lonely Planet we found some info about it. The micro climate called garua, actually is a mist that turn the sky white and usually happen during winter (Apr-Oct).  Lima has subtropical climate and lied on a coastal desert, but due to the temperature of Pacific Ocean the weather is very nice. In Wikipedia you can find that Lima is one of two capitals that build on the desert, but honestly I didn't notice it, unless I saw the southern and eastern part of the city that has hill of sand.

Garua over the coastal building

Hill of sand covered by garua

Our reference :)

Before we got here, we decided to use travel agent to arrange our trip in Peru. The good thing about that you don't have to worry explaining your destination to the taxi driver that usually can only speak Spanish. I don't recommend you to take public transport in South America, merely because of the safety issue. When they knew you're a foreigner, after they listen to your "tourist's Spanish", you're in a not so safe position. Many of them are friendly, for sure, but like elsewhere there are bad people who can harm you, just because of the poverty reason. 

We like the fact that we can walk on the street, safely. That way we can have the feeling of the real vacation. Of course have everything valuable close to your body, including put the strap of your camera properly. For the last one year, we hardly walk freely on the street. So it felt good, and the plus side was the weather was sooo perfect to stroll along the Larco Avenue in Miraflores, finding money changer, cellular provider, laundry, drug store, etc. I still needed my sweater though, the breeze could be freezing sometimes.

In the afternoon we have a tour from the travel agent. Knowing that we have two boys with us, they customized the tour by stopping by to parks to let them run around for a while between visiting old buildings. In Lima, you have to visit Central Lima, that lined with lots of churches, plazas and historical sites on the south bank of Rimac river, as well as museo. There is complete list of it in here. But the explanation from the tour guide was the one of the most interesting part of the tour. I learned that in Lima, now home of 9 millions people, raincoat and umbrella have never made a good bussiness. Last time Lima experienced rain was in 1995, although in 2002 there was also news from AP that reporting a landslide due of the rain. 

The city of Lima, a cosmopolitan city ringed by shanty-town, is another example of big gap between the poor and the rich in developing country. The shine of economy boom attracts people to come to the city, but lack of education and corruption are common problems. Together they make the view that we can see now, city filled with high rise buildings surrounded by barrios *sounds familiar, right?  Nevertheless, it's impressive how Lima can be one of the tourist destination in Peru. I guess when petrol and gas are not given to the country, the people has to learn in hard way to survive. And that's a good thing.

Downtown Lima

Ruin Huaca Pucllana in the middle of city
Pre Inca ruin, notes the structure of the wall. It believed was made to be able to cope earthquake
The other thing I learned is there were people thousands years ago who started to live in the city, try to cope the problem of water by making a water tunnel all the way from the river to the city, faced the threat of pirates by building a giant wall surrounding the city and make buildings: temples and houses that build with 'bricks' that made by hand (without any mould), without cement, but the structure was made to 'resist' the tremor from earthquake. So how can we say we are far more developed now? We invent the internet, yes, we fly over the ocean and even to the moon, yes. But we have all the easiness of modern living too. It just make me sure, that I know nothing at all... 

I am also impressed by the intention of the government to preserve lots of sites in the city. Believe me if you see the ruins, that lied in the middle of the city, it is hard to differentiate between the 'normal' rocks from those archeological thingy. Not to mention the cost to rebuild everything and display it for tourism purpose. Hats off ... 

For the last couple of years, there is culinary boom in Peru especially in  Lima. The fact that they have Andes, Spanish and Asian influence in their culture, make the gastronimical experience is one of the most appealing thing to try. As muslims, we just have to be careful and ask every time we order. Ceviche, fresh seafood with shallot and splash of lime juice, really worth to try. Fishes are the best option here, since it fresh. But be careful and ask not to cook them in wine, beer and/or unknown cheese. Arroz con mariscos, looks like paella (I chose one with seafood), again ask them not to sprinkle them with jamon/cerdo/porschiutto nor alcohol. Also try Lucuma,  one of Andean's native fruit, in the form of ice cream or another desert. Potatoes and corns are well grown in Peru, so try one or two dishes too, as well as rice with black bean (tacu-tacu).

Ceviche = cebiche
If you like us, have kids traveling with you, make sure to stop by at the parks. One worth to visit is El Circuito Magico del Agua. They have special show every night at 7.20, but even if you stop by during the day, it's a big splash for the kids. Bring clothes for change though :)
Water Park

Circuito Magico del Agua
Also over the Larco Mar there is park to play and see people doing paragliding, skateboarding, dance and BMX-ing. There are parks along the coast (like Parque del Amor) you can visit during your stay. It's fresh and airy in the morning, and it's beautiful when the sun set. The sky over the Lima during sunset called 'Cielo de Brujas' (sky of witches), but definitely that's the most beautiful sky scene I've ever seen.
Paragliding over Larco Mar

Parque del Amor

Sunset from Larco Mar

As a conclusion, we spent 4 days in Lima, and it's definitely not enough..