Peru – Lima, 12 June 2011

Our last day in Lima. A leisurely Sunday. We arrived bright and early, and when we got to Miraflores, it was pretty dead. Sleeping on the bus was not exactly the most restful sleep, so we napped a bit, before conquering the world.

As usual, our stomachs dictate our actions, so when it rumbled, it was time for lunch. We strolled around some of the alleys around Kennedy Park, and ended up settling at a place that offered free drinks (yes, we’re that cheap and that easy to persuade). I tried a Aji de Gallieni, which is supposed to be chicken in spicy walnut sauce. It kinda tasted creamy, and wasn’t that spicy to my palate, but oh well!

Sunday seems to be a good day to check out Kennedy Park. Many artists lined out their wares along Kennedy Park, and they were quite pretty. I was sorely tempted, but at the same time, way too lazy to carry all the art pieces back. So, too bad! Some people were also doing the tango at the park, and I just stood there, and enjoyed the beautiful dancing.

In keeping with the leisurely pace of Sunday, B and I decided to watch yet another movie, since there are cinemas aplenty near Kennedy Square. While waiting for the movie to start, we parted ways. She went shopping, while I sat down at the old-school saloony-feel Cafe Haiti for a cuppa. We then watched Hangover 2. I enjoyed it more than we did.

I was pretty keen on seeing the beach of Lima, so I suggested Lacomar Plaza for our last stop. She ended up appreciating my suggestion! When we first got there, we were like, “where’s the mall?” Turns out it was below us, and it was bustling! I also got to enjoy the great view of the Lima coastline from the cliff that we were on. We continued to enjoy the view during our last sumptuous dinner at Lacomar, where we had a starter of raw fish cured in lime juice, and a paella for our entree. I also had my first Peruvian cerveza, Cusquena, which was quite light at 5% alcohol level. The impressive thing about this particular bottle of Cusquena was – they actually imprinted the image of Machu Picchu on the bottle. Crazy!

We couldn’t leave Peru without getting some churros, so when we walked by Manolo’s on our way home, churros and chocolates looked like such a great idea, we succumbed. It was absolutely delish!

Portrait on Glass in Miraflores

Sunday Tango in Kennedy Park

Cafe con Leche in Cafe Haiti

Lacomar Plaza

Lima Coast


Churros and Chocolate at Manolo’s

Cafe Manolo


Peru – Lima to Huancayo, 10 June 2011

A new day, a new town, a new epic journey.

I honestly know nothing about Huancayo, but the only reason why I am going there, is to take the epic Ferrocarril Central Andino , a rail journey that winds through the Andean mountains, a must-do journey for any train aficionado. This can be booked online, in the link I provided above, and it won’t break the bank. They only have about two to three trips every month, so be sure to check, if you decide to go on it!

The journey is amazing in several ways. It is a marvel of modern engineering, in terms of the fixed structures, like the bridges that span high mountains, and the tunnels that were cored into these mountains. Also, to make the train climb up to 4,700 km at Galera, it also had to use several techniques like the switchbacks, where it climbs the mountain by going back and forth (you have to experience it to know what I’m writing about). Btw, this railway project began in 1870. To give you an idea of how crazy it is, it takes about 12 hours to travel a horizontal distance of 332 km.

Engineering aside, the train ride had some stunning views. As the train was winding around the Andes the non-walking/hiking way, and as it went pass mountains and lakes, I realized that I was now at the ground level with some of the mountains and lakes that I saw from the plane. Isn’t that totally awesome? Apart from natural scenery, we also passed by the coal-mining town of Oroya, some 3,800 m above sea level, which was quite interesting for me. It just seems like such a nineteenth-century industry, and yet, here it was. The train was originally built for the purpose of transporting such materials to more accessible places. For more information, they give a great brochure of the highlights when you get on it.

Arriving in Huancayo was quite anti-climatic in some ways. I didn’t know what to expect from this market town in the Andes mountains, and I guess, my bad for imagining that it would not be modern. Well, when the train pulled into the station, there it was, a huge, two-storey, modern mall with modern cinemas, kfcs, and what not.

I was convinced that we could get accommodations quite easily, but apparently not. We went to our first option, and the lady didn’t seem to welcome two girls with backpacks on our bags. The second place also told us they were out of rooms. Maybe it’s not a good look to spot? (I swear we shower and looked clean and decent!) Anyway, we ended up at Hotel Turismo Huancayo , one of the older establishments in Huancayo, but still very excellent. The staff were polite, and didn’t seem to mind us like the other establishments. Their rate of USD 60 was ok for us, and included breakfast, so we checked in. The rooms were small, but comfortable, and the hot water shower works well. The interior of the hotel lobby was also really, really charming.

After settling in, we went hunting for dinner. B wanted to have something more Peruvian, and after consulting her guide, we ended up at Olimpico, which started in 1941, is one of the oldest restaurants in Huancayo, serves local delights, and is attached to Hotel Olimpico. We tried a papas a la huancaina, which is their version of potato gratin, topped with quail eggs. I had a trout done in a gratin for my entree. All in all, a very tasty and filling meal, and set us back by about 10 USD each. Do try it, it’s just beside the Plaza des Armas.

Ferrocarril Central Andino

The tail is turning into the head of the train!

Train winding around the Andes

Lake in the Andes

Coal mining town of Oroya

Restaurant Olimpico


Peru – Iquitos to Lima, 09 June 2011

We had half a day left in Iquitos, but we just ended up chilling in the compound of La Casa Fitzcarraldo, drinking several jugs of jungle juice, as we went down the list. Camu Camu was B’s favourite, so it ended up being a repeat. To date, I still have no idea what it is. Once again, it is entirely possible to just hang out at La Casa Fitzcarraldo, as the compound is just that awesome. And if you are a fan of four-legged friends, there are a couple of dogs, and one little kitten, who hangs around the compound, too (and no, I am not being paid to write this).

We decided to head for the airport earlier (it’s about 30 mins away), though the staff at La Casa Fitzcarraldo were kinda bemused. Turns out to be a good decision. Once again, the time of our flight was changed without our knowledge, and this time round, it was departing 30 mins early. So when they say call to confirm, it’s a pretty good idea. We just got lucky that we didn’t miss our flight.

The plane journey back was pretty amazing, looking out of the window. The mountain chains beneath looked really spectacular, and sometimes, I saw the peaks of some of the Andean mountains poking out of the fluffy clouds beneath. It was breathtaking.

On a note about domestic travel. We actually did our flights and bus bookings (but not our train bookings) with Go2Peru . Their prices are actually cheaper than the websites of the airlines sometimes, and they make the booking hassle-free. A few emails can settle your transportation problems. Also, if you are determined to check out the websites of airlines themselves, it also gives a good summary of all the options and timings available. Peruvian domestic airlines are actually pretty decent (well, compared to American ones). I don’t know about their safety record, but you can check in your baggage for free, and even on short flights, they do give you a snack and water. So that is nice.

After getting back to Miraflores, it was kinda late. So it was time for dinner. We were determined to have famous Latin American grilled meat for dinner, so we headed to Kennedy Park to survey our options, picked a grill house, and had a grill set for two. It was pretty delicious, and filling! Try it! After our filling dinner, there was a little night market in Kennedy Park, so B went shopping, and got some stuff.

The inviting pool of La Casa Fitzcarraldo

Mountains peeking out of the clouds

Amazing dinner of grilled meats

Peru – Lima, 06 June 2011

We got back to Lima in the morning, and with a whole day ahead of us, I was not going to leave Peru without seeing the capital. After checking into Dragonfly Hostel once again, we asked for directions from the hostel staff, and they kindly taught us how to walk to the metro bus for a comfortable bus ride to the historical center of Lima.

The metro bus system is pretty cool. They seem to have ring roads around Lima, which seem to be highways. The metro buses run on these highways, making the journey smooth and quick.

The historical center of Lima was pretty like other former Spanish colonies, in terms of architecture. Like Antigua, Guatemala, there are very many impressive old buildings. In particular, the balconies of Lima were really impressive. And inside these old-looking buildings, are usually very modern shops. For instance, one is a department store.

We went on a tour of the Iglesias San Francisco, which was actually pretty cool. Although we didn’t understand the tour, which was conducted in Spanish, we got to see the library, whereby some of the books they have were larger than us. They also have a catacomb in their basement, which was creepy and cool at the same time. I wouldn’t want to get lost there!

After the main attractions closed at around 6pm, we headed back to the bus station, only to realize that due the office traffic, getting onto the bus might be a little impossible. So, we ended up eating at a chifa, which is a Peruvian-Chinese restaurant. It was pretty cheap at around 4 USD, and our one-dish meals came with a wanton soup, which could have been a meal in itself.

Random note: there are a lot of casinos in Lima!

Old building, new use in historical center of Lima

Elaborate Architecture of some of the buildings

The central square at night

The freebie wanton noodle soup at the Chifa

Peru – Lima, 02 June 2011

We arrived in Lima in the afternoon, and immediately got mobbed by taxi drivers. B did a good job of scouting around, and after asking a few people, we managed to find the way to take the combi (walk outside the airport towards the right, and wait a little after the overhead bridge, on the same side of the road), a Peruvian mini-van that serves as a means of public transport to Miraflores for 2 soles (about 0.40 USD). They were quite crazy the way they actually cramped people. Even after the combi was full, people were cramped in, and had to crouch all the way to their destination!

After arriving at Dragonfly Hostel, we decided to go get a proper meal. At the suggestion of the people at Dragonfly, we went to a Peruvian sandwich place, La Lucha. I had a lechon sandwich for 8 soles (1.20 USD), which I thought was slightly pricey. It is also famous for its juices. It seemed pretty popular with the locals, so I guess that’s a good sign! We then took a little walk around Kennedy Park (named after JFK), where there were Spanish-looking churches and a municipal building. That ends our first day in Peru, as we lay on our beds for a much needed rest after some 16 hours of flying to get to Peru.

Inside the combi to Miraflores

Lechon Sandwich at La Lucha

Kennedy Square

Yikes, and a New Trip – Peru! (1-13 June 2011)

So, once again, I have forgotten to update all my older trips, have gone on a few more since then, and am embarking on another adventure. Tsk tsk me!

Anyways, what’s up? Peru!

It is going to involve an Amazon river cruise, an overnight bus ride, domestic airplanes, and two epic rail journeys.

01 June: Getting ourselves to Peru!

02 June: Lima, Peru

03 June: Lima – Cuzco

04 June: Cuzco

05 June: Cuzco – Machu Picchu – Cuzco (scenic train journey)

06 June: Cuzco – Lima (surfing!!!)

07 June: Lima – Iquitos

08 June: Iquitos

09 June: Iquitos – Lima

10 June: Lima – Huancayo (epic rail journey on the second highest railway in the world)

11 June: Huancayo – Lima

12 June: Lime (surfing? paragliding?)

13 June: back to Seattle