Day 49: Lima In A Day

Mon. 1st October 2012

Not as encouraging as you might think!I know it has been our common refrain – not spending enough time in places. Well that is about to be repeated as we realise that we only have a day in a half in Lima and how big, how spread out and how much history there is in this city.

  • We got into Lima at around midnight and were at the hotel around 1am and were really pleased to find a rep standing with a board with our name on it. On the way in from the airport we were a little disconcerted to see ‘Tsunami Evacuation Route’ signs on some of the roads, and ‘Sismo’ signs in the hotel – strangely, we weren’t altogether encouraged. We had forgotten that Lima is in the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Our first priority in the morning was finding a laundrette – the only thing worse than the limited wardrobe we have is having to hand wash our limited wardrobe – so we treated ourselves to laundrette service. On leaving the hotel,  we were a little worried when everywhere seemed to be closed and the bank had a notice on it saying something about not being open on 1st or 2nd October. It turns out that the there is a gathering of South American Heads of State – that and the fact that shops in Lima seem to open late in the morning and then close late at night.

Huaca PucllanaWe realised that we weren’t going to have time to see much of Lima, and so we thought that we would start by exploring the Miraflores district where our hotel is on foot. We started with the Huaca Pucllana (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huaca_Pucllana) which is a pyramid, religious and administrative complex built out of mud bricks. This complex was built by the  Lima civilisation who predate the Incas (and gave the Incas the Quechua language)

Bookshelf layout of mud bricksThe walls are all built with unbaked, mud bricks in a ‘Bookshelf’ layout. The spaces in between each brick and sections of wall in trapezoidal shape helped to provide stability and protection against earthquakes. OK, so earthquakes fine, but looking at the grey skies overhead, what about rain?

Apparently, Lima only gets 7mm of rain per year and is technically in a desert. Whilst it is usually cloudy (and quite cool) it gets very little rain and so there wasn’t much need to waterproof the bricks.

Lunch anyone?The Humboldt current, which runs from south to north, up the coast of Peru, has inverse effect that the Gulf Stream has for the UK – it keeps the climate much cooler than it would otherwise be. We weren’t really expecting (or prepared) to need a fleece on top of our shirts and shoes and socks instead of sandals.

The pyramid was remodelled a number of times between 200AD and 700AD each, time the a layer was added and the layer below closed off. An awful lot of bricks would have been needed.

We're getting used to these!As this would probably be our only chance to see beyond the Miraflores district, we took the open-top bus tour of Lima in the afternoon – we are getting used to these. At least this time we could understand much of both the English and Spanish versions of the commentary.

Did we really sink this low?We did pass through several districts of Lima and it was interesting as we started off along the sea front and saw the variety of architectural styles. The bus wasn’t hop on hop off, but there was a guided excursion in the Barranco district and particularly around the ‘Bridge of Sighs’ – oh the shame of following the woman with the flag around! After a while though, we got bored with hearing about ‘this is an important avenue’ and we started to get cold up on the open top deck of the bus.

We were cold and bored by the time we got to the Museo Larco (museolarco.org/iindex.html) but fortunately we were in for a real treat. The museum is a collection of pottery and metal artefacts dating back to 1000BC. We split into English and Spanish speaking groups and we had a very enthusiastic guide who gave a great explanation as to what we were looking at an why it was significant.

Shelf after shelf of pots in the storeroom of Museo LarcoInitially thought it was going to be like the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford as we were shown the storeroom where there were shelf after shelf of pottery vessels in the shape of human faces, animals and other artefacts. However we then went through in to the main exhibit area where the artefacts were properly displayed and signed.

No wonder he has a smile on his face!We had nearly 2hrs allocated for the stop and it went so quickly, such was the quality and the variety of the items on display. This only left us 5 minutes for the Erotic Gallery. This was a bit of an eye-opener – almost literally!  (Or alternatively, it demonstrated that there is nothing new in the world). Pictures are not suitable for a family blog post, but can be provided in a plain brown cover!

We were then 15 minutes late for the initial meet up with our tour group. It turns out that there will be 16 of us starting out from Lima tomorrow. 8 of the group will finish in 3 weeks time in La Paz and the rest us will go all the way to Rio – a good split. We look forward to making some new friends.

One small shock is that I will be the oldest in the group. Oh well, it had to happen at some point. We are all a little nervous about the rigours of the Inca trail. I take some comfort from the knowledge that most of the people we met last week in the Galapagos were older than us and they managed the trail.

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