Week two in Lima and it continues to get better. I have had a chance to see several different parts of the city, and believe that there isn’t anyone nicer than the people of Peru. Between going to a local salsa club, trying my first Peruvian hamburger and visiting the National Museum, I am realizing how much Lima has to offer.
One of volunteer Josh’s final requests before he took off for Bolivia was to take a tour of Lima. In our private taxi chariot, driven by Julio’s uncle Freddy, we picked up another visitor and contributing Karikuy blogger, Tania, and headed to our first stop: The catacombs. Centuries ago, the Church of San Francisco was erected and its basement served as a Catholic cemetery. Thousands of human remains can be found underneath the church, some of them exhumed and placed artistically for the tourist, but most of them in dusty disorganized piles. The history of the catacombs is interesting, but after a couple minutes underground in a stuffy dungeon grave, I had had my fill. There was nothing else notable about the church except for its painting by a Dutch artist’s Peruvian rendition of the Final Supper: Around a circular table, men, women, children and Jesus alike are eating guinea pig. I guess I’ve got to try it now…
After viewing the changing of the guard and snapping shots of some key historical spots, we jumped back in the taxi and took off for cleaner air and ocean views in Callao. Callao is Lima’s historical port, and more notably the place to dance salsa and eat ceviche. We gathered around a small table at the Restaurant Neptune for the latter. With a view of crashing waves at our side and a plate of the freshest catch of fish, clams, octopus and shrimp, we chowed on Peru’s most popular national dish.
The next stop was the Museo de la Nación. Although possibly one of the more dreadful looking buildings in Lima, the inside does nothing short of impress. Artifacts from several of South America’s ancient cultures tell a story of the art, tools, money, jewelery and ideals of these prior civilizations. Historical findings were remarkably distinct between Peru’s jungle, sierras, and lowlands.
A most intriguing exhibit on the 4th floor was photojournalism of the internal conflict with the Maoist party Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path. The photography, much of it depicting the results of the violence, was telling of the rise and fall of the revolutionary group. Brave journalists covered everything from the the terrorist attacks to the capture and imprisonment of major players, even after several of them were executed by peasants in the early years of the conflict. The exhibit left me speechless as well as proud to be in the same line of work.
On Saturday, after visiting a small birthday party gathering, we took a cab to the area of Los Olivos. We got out of the cab in a quiet dark neighborhood, only to turn the corner to brightly lit madness comparable to Burbon Street. Partiers perused the sidewalks and clubs line both sides, and we debated which one to choose. “Karamba is my favorite,” said Julio, and so it was decided. The two-level salsa club is packed, there are no tables, no space at the bag check, and not an inch on the dance floor. But as I have found here in Peru, any floor is worthy of dancing and no matter how crowded it is, a beer order only takes a minute. On top of this, there were two incredible live bands which played into the wee hours of Sunday morning.
And then there was Sunday…
Sunday is fútbol day. The salseros from the previous night sat around on couches and watched several games of soccer, eating chips and drinking beer. Sunday is the one day off work for most Limeños, also making it party day. The streets of our central Lima neighborhood are packed with children, grandparents, and everyone in between. A live band plays down the street. All of the food vendors are out, and on our way out to get a hamburger, we ran into the neighbors chatting and drinking. So I drank (more) beer, shared conversation, and made some kind, new friends. Oh and ate my first Peruvian hamburger, and there’s nothing quite like it.
To see more photos, please go here: http://picasaweb.google.com/StarFotoChik/Lima#