South America | Peru | Central Peru | Lima – No sun in Lima
What is it with Peruvian drivers? Here in Lima, Peru, I caught a taxi to get me into town from where I was staying. My driver apparently thought I was in some hurry, such was his velocity when weaving in and out of the traffic. He also appeared to use his horn more frequently than the brakes, beeping incessantly at pedestrians, cars, and oncoming buses. Actually, I don’t even know if he HAD brakes.
After Vi?ales in Cuba, I had returned to Havana to spend a couple more days there. I then flew back to Cancun for a night, and caught a flight to Lima via Miami the following day.
I was met at the airport by my Peruvian friend Natali, who brought me to her house to stay. I was grateful for the opportunity to stay with a Peruvian family in Lima, with the chance to experience some genuine home-cooked Peruvian food, hospitality, and of course Spanish conversation. Natali lives with her parents, brother, sister, and grandparents. I had an interesting time conversing with her hard-of-hearing ninety-three year old grandfather, who found my Spanglish most amusing.
A nice town square
When I ventured into Lima Centro, I came across the main square, the Plaza Mayor. This is one of the better squares I’ve seen, a wide open space with marble benches, palm trees, and old style street lamps.
Best of all is that it is flanked on all sides by great architecture. On one side is the Cathedral, whose heavy massive oak doors are reminiscent of those used in olden castles when they made the call to “shut the gates!” when an enemy approached. Arching over and around the main doors are various statues of saints and other details carved in stone.
The other sides of the square are graced by the grand government palace and some bright yellow-coloured municipal buildings. In the middle of the square itself is a bronze fountain dating back to the 17th Century. As I sat on the marble benches several times to gaze at the architecture and observe passers-by, I reflected that it was one of the more pleasant squares that I’ve been in.
I visited several museums during my time in Lima, but the best of all was the Museo de la Inquisicion, in the original building where the Spanish held the Inquisition between 1570 and 1820. Most striking of all is the ceiling in the main inquisition room. The ceiling comprises panels of Baroque style cedar from Nicaragua, with the most intricate carvings I’ve seen on a ceiling. This particular one has 35,000 pieces joined together to make up the ceiling.
Rather ghoulish is the torture chamber with wax models of victims re-enacting the various torture techniques imposed on the poor souls during those times. There was the pulley, the water torture, and of course the rack. I was told that there was some sort of code of conduct when it came to torturing. For instance, the torturers could not break any bones, could not draw blood, and each victim was limited to only an hour and fifteen minutes at a time. I was glad to know that if I was on the rack, the torturer had my health in mind.
Just nearby the museum is a large market, the Mercado Central. The market appears to continue into Chinatown, and together they offered hundreds of shops selling everything I could possibly need (and don’t need). The tiny shops around Chinatown have the usual array of plastic coat hangers, cloth pegs and toilet brushes. Then of course there are the clothing stalls, jewellery, and souvenir shops.
What got me the most was the solo vendors wandering around shouting their wares. These are individuals who roam around the streets like nomads, carrying whatever they were selling in their hands. They usually only sold one type of item. I saw people selling candy, cigarettes, lighters, socks, underwear, singlets, trays with cups of jello, balloon animals, car wax polish, packets of coffee, superglue, and even puppies.
I don’t know if anyone actually buys these things. I mean, who buys their underwear off some random guy in the street? I would also think twice about having everyone see what type of underwear I bought, let alone that I bought them from someone on the street.
It seems that anyone and everyone has something to offer. Most perplexing of all were the guys standing along a wall with an old typewriter perched on a stool. I surmised that they probably offered type-written letters for those Peruvians who don’t have access to printing facilities. From the appearance of those vintage typewriters, those guys could sell them to some antique museum and retire comfortably, rather than typing out pages for people.
Church with pigeon poop
Over the next few days I spent some time visiting Lima’s historical sites, including several churches. One of the churches, the church of San Francisco, has some catacombs with bones underneath it. The church also seems to be where the pigeon population of Lima is concentrated. On the outside, hundreds of pigeons congregate on its walls, roof, and the courtyard, resulting in a thin layer of pigeon poop covering the cobblestones. I made a mental note to check if there is some commandment for “Thou shalt not poop on the house of God”.
No sun in Lima
At the moment, it is winter time in Peru (and the southern hemisphere), and the climate is getting cooler. This made for a change from when I was lying around beaches in Mexico and Cuba. Lima also has this fog that blankets the town, effectively blocking out the sun at this time of the year. I swear I have not seen the sun for the last week. This did not really bother me though, as I had a rather nice time just being in Lima.