We didn’t really know what to expect from Lima – many of the backpackers that we encountered in Southern Peru had not seemed overly enthused. For us however, it was a refreshing change from the various colonial cities we had been visiting as the touristic Miraflores district was quite modern and westernised in comparison. Not only that, it was the first time in 4 months that we had seen the ocean which was very exciting after being inland since almost the start of our trip!We walked down to the cliff face where we were surrounded by views of the ocean while enjoying the park areas and sculptures along the esplanade. We passed the Parque de Amor, or Love Park where a large sculpture of a couple making out certainly gets your attention!Our time in Lima was also made a lot more enjoyable by our Peruvian sisters Grace and Paz who we had met in Chile where they were also traveling. On our first night they picked us up and took us to dinner at Panchita, ran by one of Peru’s most celebrated chefs. With no real idea of what dishes to order we left it in their hands as they ordered a selection of Peruvian delicacies for us to try. The first of these delicacies was cow heart which I can’t say sounded overly appetising but we both really enjoyed. Prominent other features of their cuisine include potatoes (Peru has close to 4000 different types of potatoes!!!!) and of course ceviche, yet this was to be saved for another day! After dinner the girls drove us along the waterfront and down to the Barranco District, a very modern and buzzing area of Lima full of restaurants and bars. We went to Ayahuasca, a huge mansion-turned-bar, well, multiple bars in fact with each room almost feeling like a different venue – definitely worth a look if you are ever in Lima.With our second day we caught the bus to downtown Lima where we set off to explore the historical centre. We hopped off the bus a little too early which then saw us walk in about four different directions on the advice of various locals before we eventually arrived at the Plaza de Armas, Lima’s main square. Waiting patiently for our arrival were Andy & Laura, a couple from the UK who we had last seen in Argentina. It was fantastic having the opportunity to catch up with them once again and we chatted about we had been up to over breakfast before continuing to explore.The large, old buildings surrounding the square were still in great condition and we walked around admiring each of them before stopping for some lunch. On recommendation from the girls we sat at Tanta where we enjoyed Pisco Sours (Peru is famous for Pisco) and I finally had some ceviche which was wonderfully fresh!We continued on, visiting the Convento de San Francisco, a 17th century church with catacombs below containing up to an estimated 70,000 burials. There is something exceptionally creepy about walking underground through rooms containing actual human skulls and other bones. The bones line the hallways, placed in various piles and in some instances arranged in different circular patterns – super creepy. I didn’t take any photos as you weren’t allowed to inside the church (plus it would have felt a little weird anyway) but I have included one just so you can understand what I am talking about!Finishing our time in Lima, we met up with Grace and Paz once more and they took us to Embarcadero41, a restaurant down on the water for one last gastronomic treat before our bus departure. We once again left it with the girls to order some food and once again, we were not disappointed! It was so refreshing to be trying new local food but also food of such a high quality after many substandard meals throughout our South American adventure. Ceviche, grilled seafood, more Pisco Sours, desserts – perhaps the people that hadn’t enjoyed Lima didn’t really like to eat! The girls drove us to the bus station and we said our goodbyes – until next time Peruvian sisters, thanks again for the good times!
An eleven and a half hour direct flight from Sydney and we had arrived in Santiago, Chile – our first destination in South America! After a long queue at Customs, it was just a quick stamp of the passports and we were on our way to Dominica Hostel, our accommodation for the next few days in Barrio Bellavista, a neighbourhood of Santiago full of colourful graffiti, numerous bars and somewhat tattered charm.
With a 14-hour time difference to home, we were rather jet-lagged so limited our exploring to a quick walk and lunch close to our hostel. Our first South American food experience saw Will order a ‘hamburguesa’ and end up with two meat patties, an egg, some onion and some chips but without a burger bun (or some lettuce/tomato) so he was rather disappointed! We shared 2 litres of Escudo, the cheapest of the local beers (at $3 a litre bottle) – and with that and the time difference, we were ready for bed!
Recovered from our jet lag, the next morning we walked to Plaza de Armas, the city square located in the oldest part of Santiago where we joined the free walking tour of the city. We had two rather large dogs escort us to the square – there are so many stray dogs in Santiago! They were pretty awesome though, in that ‘I really want to pat you but I’m also scared you’ll bite my hand off’ sort of way. For the most part though, all of the dogs seem quite friendly and healthy – there are some really nice looking dogs… I think if I moved there I might become that crazy dog lady stealing dogs from the streets. Anyway, the walking tour was ok, we were shown around the various neighbourhoods of Santiago but the guide himself didn’t really seem to know all that much!
The next morning we were up early and walked in Parque Metropolitano, one of the largest urban recreational parks where we walked up Cerro (meaning hill) San Cristobal, where you have a fantastic 360 degree view over smoggy Santiago and beyond. We had some more dogs escort us on the journey and at one stage while we were walking we watched a dog run along the cliff high above us chasing a rabbit only to then fall off the cliff and tumble down 20 metres before landing right near us, getting up and walking off a little dazed and confused.
Back at the base of the hill, we walked to Mercado Central Santiago, Santiago’s fish market where we had lunch before continuing around Santiago, walking up Cerro Saint Lucia and through Barrio Lastarria, a rather pretty neighbourhood. We walked through a few museums and searched through some antiques at the markets before making our way back to Barrio Bellavista. At this point we had worked up an appetite so we decided it was time to try ‘Chorrillana’ – a Chilean dish that seemed very popoular amongst the uni students of Santiago and advertised at every restaurant we passed. For the most part it consists of a plate of hot chips covered in onion, meat/sausage and then fried eggs on top – a really healthy dish! Anyway it didn’t really live up to expectations but really, none of the Chilean food had so far so we enjoyed what we could and washed it down with some more litres of beer!