Friday 29 December 2017 to Wednesday 3 January 2018
Did you know that Pooh Bear came from ‘darkest Peru’? In the gardens of the Miraflores in Lima there is a statue dedicated to the brave bear who was found in Paddington Station in London by the Brown family in October 1958. Pooh Bear has a rather spectacular coat in Lima, fashioned after the Union Jack.
We chose to spend new year in Lima because we figured there would be things to do and places to go in a big city. Lima is big. Its population is 10 million of the country’s 40 million inhabitants.
Our choice of the Best Western hotel in Miraflores was a good one. We treated ourselves to a better than usual room with sea views. The hotel was relatively new and everything worked.
Just across the road was Larcomar, a tourist and upmarket shopping mall which became our home away from home over the next few days.
We took the city tour which was in fact a long drive in the tourist bus to reach the Plaza de Armas, which was closed in preparation for Pope Francis visit on 18 January.
We were shown the Huaca Pucllana, great adobe and clay pyramid which was a local shrine that served as an important ceremonial and administrative centre between 200AD and 700AD.
We passed through the Plaza San Martin which commemorates José de San Martín who liberated Peru on 28 July 1821. While San Martin fought for independence in Argentina, Peru and Chile, Simón Bolívar freed Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. San Martin passed control to Bolivar and went into exile in Europe, where he died in 1850, a poor man.
Many Hispanic American cities have a square called Plaza de Armas. Literally translated it means Weapons Square, but in fact it was the parade ground of the Spanish conquistadors as they rebuilt ancient cities in their standard military grid form. The parade ground, often surrounded by government buildings, churches and other significant buildings was also a refuge in the case of an attack on the city.
In Lima the plaza is surrounded by the Government Palace, the Cathedral of Lima, the Municipal Palace and the Palace of the Union. It is a colourful square, I hope the Pope enjoys it.
Next stop was the church of San Francisco. We were encouraged to make a quick visit into the church before it closed. The church was originally completed in 1674, but it was extensively damaged by an earthquake in 1970 and has been rebuilt.
Then we were taken to see the monastery and catacombs. No photos are allowed, however I did find one at from Travel Addicts.
The catacombs served as a burial place until 1808, when a city cemetery was built. There was a grisly display of femurs and skulls. Apparently the other bones have decayed.
We were recommended to visit the Nazca lines, but when we made enquiries it was a six hour bus journey and a 20 minute flight followed by the six hour return bus trip. It just seemed too much like hard work, so we skipped that. Perhaps we will regret the decision but our experience of the drivers and the roads in South America put this in the too hard basket.
We chose a restaurant called Mangos to see in the new year. We shared a table with a young English couple Oliver and Olivia, who were in Peru for a wedding, combined with a little sightseeing. It was fun sharing our experiences with them, I just hope they enjoy all ten weddings they have been invited to in various parts of the world in 2018.
The only other bit of culture we undertook was a visit to the Museo Larco. There was a $USD59 tour which took you there and showed you around the museum, but we voted to go it alone. It was a long taxi ride and the driver probably spent the two and half hours waiting for us. However, our time was our own.
The museum was created by Rafael Larco Hoyle as a result of a collection of artefacts his father Rafael Larco Herrera bought from a family member. As the younger Rafael was organizing the pieces for his new museum he realised that many of them could not be attributed to the cultures that had so far been discovered. He embarked on scientific research and archaeological digs of the northern coast which led to the discovery of earlier cultures such as Cupisnique, Salinar, Virú and Lambayeque. Additionally, he managed to calculate the age of the cultures he identified by measuring alternate layers of sand and mud that results from the El Niño phenomenon.
Pottery, gold, silver and fabric told the story of the civilizations from approximately 2000BC until the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century.
The historical information was fascinating. As is so often the story, a rise of the intelligent, wealthier class ensured that the rest of the population was subservient. Craft people such as weavers, potters and gold- and silver-smiths were held in high regard. Warriors fought in battles, where the looser was sacrificed. We saw similar in Mexico.
The afterlife was an important element to the doctrines of the time, and funery treasures and dress made up a lot of the exhibition.
As a break from traditional museums, the ‘unseen artefacts’ that are kept in storage, were on display in an adjacent area. It was an overwhelming collection.
Another separate area was dedicated to erotic pottery which Rafael Larco Hoyle found on his expeditions, as he was researching sexual representations in Peruvian pre-Columbian art.
We enjoyed our time in Lima – it was restful after the long journey we had undertaken in Ecuador and before exploring the Peruvian Andes and beyond.
We walked along the Miraflores in both directions, amazed at the height of the cliffs. The holiday season was in full swing and the walkways were full of families.
We photographed statues and lighthouses, watched paragliders, surfers and even crabs scurrying over the rocks.
We particularly enjoyed some nice restaurants and catching our breath again at sea level. We have more high altitude travelling ahead of us, so we regarded this time as a short holiday from the rigours of travelling.
We had spent time trying to organise our onward journey, unfortunately the weekend followed by the new year holiday got in the way, but we finally found a tour operator who was willing to put a journey together for us as for as Atacama in Chile.
Finally, we farewelled Lima and headed to Cusco.