|Rob Ennals > Travel > Around Peru in Seven Days|
Day 7 - A Big Pile of Mud
Saturday was to be my last day in Peru, and we were to spend it in Lima, the capital city of Peru.
Having managed to hold off on sleep for much of the holiday, we realized that this time we were going to have to get some sleep. Although we had had a small snooze in the park, and a reasonable doze on the bus to Nazca, we had probably only had a sum total of around six hours sleep in the last four days, and it was catching up with us.
We thus proceeded to check into the first hotel we saw as we walked out of the bus station. The hotel was clearly not an upmarket place, but we were tired, and weren't feeling picky. However the more we looked at the place, the more it was clear that it really wasn't the best place for us to be. It wasn't so bad that the receptionist would only talk to us from behind a pane of one-way glass. It didn't bother us that much that the walls were coated with pornographic posters. We weren't that worried about the big sign advertizing "XXX videos" by the receptionist desk, or even by the big signs reminding us not to take drugs on the premises. In fact, in the state we were in, pretty much nothing would have made the place seem too dodgy.
Eventually, the receptionist emerged from behind the one-way glass and handed us the keys to our room. It was of course a double room, with a single, fairly small, double bed. We thought for a while about whether we should attempt to get another bed, and then decided that we were really too tired to bother with doing anything else, and just collapsed into bed - taking care to sleep head-to-toe, to dampen that irrational fear every man has of accidentally participating in Gay sex.
Many hours later we awoke, got out of bed, and set out to explore Lima.
Lima felt surprisingly like LA. It had large, wide freeways, it seemed to sprawl forever, and it was coated with a thick layer of yellow smog. Like LA, it is also home to large disparities of rich and poor, with both some of Peru's poorest slums, and also its wealthiest districts.
Our first stop was the National Museum of Anthropology, Archaeology, and History. This was the first modern building I had seen since I had left Cusco airport, and it felt rather weird coming across it. Inside, we walked through a series of exhibits about the peoples who had lived in Peru. One thing that was quite striking was the lack of original artifacts on display. While there were many objects on display, almost all of them had a small label on them somewhere saying "replica". We wondered if perhaps all the original pieces had been taken away to some museum in Europe.
Our next stop was Huaca Pucllana, the pre-inco temple that one of Simon's friends had described as "A Big Pile of Mud" and encourages us to avoid. However, since this friend had also told us to avoid the Uros ("full of tourists and all the natives are miserable") which we had greatly enjoyed, we concluded that it had to be a key priority.
Huaca Pucllana is in Miraflores, one of the wealthiest districts in Peru. As soon as we entered Miraflores it became apparent that we were in a very different Peru to the Peru we had been in for the rest of our holiday. For a start, most of the people seemed to be white, or at least significantly lighter skinned than the rest of the Peruvian population. It seemed that, despite having achieved independence from Spain many years ago, Peru was still ruled by an upper class of ethnic Spaniards. Having seen this racial divide, the predominance of white faces in advertising materials made more sense. The native peruvians saw that the wealthy and successful people in their country were white, and so they too aspired to be white.
Huaca Pucllana is indeed a big pile of mud. There are no covered chambers or complex structures, just a big pile of bricks formed from mud. It was built by the Limas, a pre-inca civilization, and used as a combination of temple and social center. The original structure expanded for a vast area, but much of that area has now been taken over by Miraflores, indeed it is quite pronounced how Huaca Pucllana ends exactly at the edge of Miraflores, matching the Miraflores block layout precicesly. Despite being built of primitive mud bricks, Huaca Puclanna has survived several earthquakes.
While waiting for our tour to start, we talked to a couple of middle-aged ladies from Ohio. They told us about how working in tourism is seen as being one of the most glamourous professions in Peru, and that families will save up all their money to send their children through a five year course that trains them to work in tourism.
What wasn't clear what what people were actually taught in these five year courses. The obvious thing to teach them would be foreign languages, but most of the people we had encountered had only the most rudimentary English. With a few notable exceptions (such as our guide in the Uros), most of the people we had encountered had had English that was of a lower quality than the Spanish that Simon had picked up in the month that he had been here, which is why we had conducted most of our conversations in Spanish. We wondered if the root problem was that, since nobody in Peru speaks good English, there is nobody around to teach the tourism trainees how to speak it, with the result that they come out of a five year course having learned very little.
After a fairly uninspiring tour of the pyramid (it's old, but is, after all, just a big pile of mud), we set out on a tour of Miraflores. Our first mission was to buy me a suitcase, in which to carry the things that I was currently carrying in Simon's backpack.
Our second mission was to eat Ceviche, the rumored "jewel in the crown" of Peruvian Cuisine. Recalling past experience, we decided to ask a nearby policeman where we should go to get some really good Ceviche. The policeman told us that he knew exactly the place where we should go. He then not only gave us the address, but hailed a taxi for us, and gave directions to the taxi.
As soon as we arrived it was clear why the policeman had been so keen to send us to this place. A big certificate proclaimed that the restaurant had received an award for the best Ceviche in Lima. And the award was well justified. Ceviche is sometimes known as the Suchi of South America. It is made by marinading raw fish in citrus juice, and it is absolutely deliscious. The food at our restaurant was stunningly good, easily the best food we ate in Peru, and in the running for the best food I've had ever. I pledged that I would seek out Ceviche in San Francisco when I returned.
And then, it was off to the airport, for me to fly back home to San Francisco, and Simon to fly back to Cusco.
During my flight back to San Francisco, for the first time ever, I managed to sleep in an economy class seat. Was this a one-off because I was so tired, or did our sequence of bus journeys teach me the mental tricks needed to sleep in uncomfortable places. Only time will tell.
It seems that Simon was tired to. When Simon got back to Cusco, he put his head on the pillow at 11am, and woke up at 7am the following day - having slept for a full 20 hours.