When I mentioned to Rulo today that I would be writing my post about Lima, he gave me an inquisitive look. How was I going to describe it? Was I going to mention everything that we had said about the city? I will definitely do my best to represent all of our experiences…
If there’s one thing I learned about Lima, it’s that driving is not a good way to get around the city. That’s an understatement, it’s awful! Unless you enjoy two hour traffic jams and cars bibbing non stop. At one point we thought someone was trying to warn us about something because of the bibbing, they weren’t. It’s just how they drive.
There are nearly nine million people in Lima, and at times it felt like nine million cars! As the capital of such a huge country, I think it’s in need of a bit of organisation and education on driving safer and more logically to reduce the amount of time spent in traffic jams because I can only imagine that the population there will continue to grow. We did see that in the upmarket Miraflores district there are fines of 185 soles/43 gbp for people caught bibbing, but as I was looking at the sign, a police officer was pushing his way through traffic bibbing away. Hmm…I guess I can hope…
We stayed in Surco with a friend of Rulo’s who runs a DJ school. Rulo gave two talks on being an analogue DJ and playing vinyl which were very well received. While he gave the talks, I stayed in our room surfing the internet and kept hearing a loud whistle outside. When I asked what it was, I was told that people are employed to stay in the street 24 hours per day to keep watch and blow a whistle as warning that they are there. There was also a lot of barbed wire and CCTV cameras on a residential road as well as special patrol cars to drive around the neighbourhood. Is that normal? Or was I being naive in how shocking I found it all? Surely if there is such a big problem with crime, the answer would be to attempt to nip it in the bud and educate people better. (I know, I know, it’s much easier said than done).
When I spoke to some travellers last night about what Rulo and I had experienced, they were quite surprised and told me they hadn’t noticed too much noise and hadn’t come in to contact with the 24 hour watch men. I suggested that it was because they weren’t driving in Lima and that they had stayed in the safer Miraflores district which is where I spent a night last year as a stop off. I love travelling in our van because I feel like I’m having a different experience to past journeys, and getting to know certain aspects of cultures better than if I were travelling by bus.
On our first night, we were taken to what is known in Chile as a ‘picada’, if anyone has any suggestions for a word in English I will be grateful because I can’t translate it in one word. Basically it’s a little spot that is known by locals with great food.
Campeón is definitely a picada. Sandwicherias are big in Chile and Peru, a place to go and have a sandwich and a cup of tea or a juice in the evening instead of having it at home (which is called ‘once’ and I believe is a tradition which was started off by the English in Santiago). We were absolutely starving and as soon as we stepped in and saw the amount of character this place had, I knew we were on to a goodie.
I feel terrible because I can’t remember the owner’s name! He is a collector of all things intriguing and has a good eye, he told us of finds such as a version of The Bible that he once bought which was valued at more than 20,000 usd, to original photographs of footballers dating back to the sixties which he now sells on the internet because he has too many. He was a real sweetheart and however in depth he was in conversation, he welcomed and thanked every single person that walked in (and there were a lot).
We are vegetarians but when we’re faced with someone taking us somewhere that we would otherwise have no idea about, we don’t announce that we can’t eat anything on the menu and need to leave to find a veggy option. We just eat what we’re given.
So obviously I decided to have another one, this time it was shredded chicken and the same cocktail of sauces. You can’t really tell, but the sandwiches were rather large. For the second I had to compose myself and do some deep breathing, a little glass of chicha morada helped it go down.
There is also a youtube page in case you’re interested in sharing the magic of Campeón.
My other recommendation for food is the old faithful: the market. Although we were staying with a friend, we ended up spending much more than we had planned so when we were out alone, we scoped out the market near the incredibly busy China Town and looked around for the menú. The menú is always the best option for a traveller on a budget, there’s usually two to three options for a starter and main, and a little drink if you’re lucky. It is usually available at lunch and not always advertised, so if you don’t see it you can still ask for it.
So here we have; fried fish, rice, liquidised beans, salad (which was quite possibly the spiciest salad I have ever tried), and barley water which was topped up a few times at no extra cost. It’s always so good to have a tasty meal, and even better when you can have a little chat with the locals and get away from the hustle and bustle outside.
Should you need to buy absolutely anything, the Barrio Chino and the mercado central are the places to go, although be warned- there are a lot of people packed into small spaces and it is not a peaceful stroll by any means.
Despite my comments, I have to be fair and say that we only scraped the surface of Lima and we will be back to spend more time there (and I think we will be staying in this hostel because it looks great) and have a much better explore. Because we were staying with a friend, we didn’t really get a chance to get out and have real look around the city. I will always feel uncomfortable with such an obvious rich/poor divide, and it was very palpable in Lima. There are tennis courts in the centre of the city with expensive cars being looked after by people who probably earn less in a month than what the people playing tennis pay for their members fee. We will definitely be back in Lima, but it is not a contender for places to spend time long term in the future.