Once again we stayed at the Rimi Punku Hotel where days ago we stashed our luggage and dirty laundry. The laundry bill was $9.99 American which delighted us.
Our driver took us to the Cusco airport to catch a flight to Lima around lunch time. At the airport we cannot stow our bags because we are in the domestic terminal and have to transfer to international. Besides we see a driver named Juan with a sign that says Sheril and I am pretty sure he means me.
We threw our luggage into his car and drove into the big dirty city of Lima, once home to the Quechuan people before the Spanish Conquistadors. Much of downtown is intact with beautiful colonial buildings that date from the 1500’s. We met our guide Omar, a half Spanish/ half Andean native with long hair who spoke 4 languages. Almost immediately, he abandoned his prepared tour to ask us what we really want to do.
Tim and I wanted to see the catacombs, so we spent a lot of time in the tunnels with the bones. The Franciscan brothers had a macabre sense of art and arranged the more than 25,000 skeletons in interesting ways, decorating the wells with skulls and femur bones in repeating patterns. Only some of the catacombs were excavated—the rest run under the city connecting the large Catholic churches, monasteries and nunneries.
We explored the great halls and Moorish balconies, decorated with paintings and frescos depicting Christ’s last supper of chili peppers and grilled guinea pigs, and found evidence of artwork hidden from the Conquistadors under layers of plaster and paint.
Next Omar took us to a favorite lunch place of his to discuss drug trafficking in Peru and the state of tourism, which is being pushed so hard by the government that many of the attractions suffer from overuse.
Afterwards, we wandered the city center of Lima, taking in the Peruvian version of the White House, Supreme Court and the mega shopping areas. Crowds milled everywhere because Peru made the South American Soccer Championship Games. When they lost 2-0 less than an hour later, the streets were deserted.
Finally we go to Mileflores which is an affluent beach suburb, very modern and trendy. There is an adobe pyramid more than 2000 years old in ruins, truncated by city streets, sets of condos and a park, yet it continues down the block as if nothing has happened just after the condos end.
Surfers ride the waves and the beach looks a lot like Southern California. We decide to go to a restaurant our friend Raul recommended for dinner but the tour company was angry that we did not follow the tour itinerary. It took 50 soles –almost $20—to make them happy. Tim and I eat at Pescaderos Capitales, one of the best seafood restaurants in Mileflores. We have shrimp, ceviche and Tim has a Pisco Chicano—a drink Omar introduced us to at lunch.
We brought our driver some Camerones—he was waiting in valet parking the whole time—and then he took us on a hair raising and life threatening ride to the airport through smog and rush hour traffic at 7 pm. We are resigned to an overnight flight.