We’d heard really bad things about Lima, like people getting mugged in fake taxis and robbed on the streets, and that it was a bit grimy, dirty and unappealing. To be frank, I was kind of bricking it when we went there, and spent our first taxi ride holding the door firmly shut, terrified and snapping at Sam (despite the fact that our driver was about 85 years old and only had interest in robbing us an extra 5 soles on his taxi fair!) God knows what I’m gonna be like in Rio.
But we managed to sidestep the terrors of central Lima (where you’re only really safe to walk within the square footage of the main historical sites) and instead headed to the coast, to bohemian / upmarket district of Barranco. We definitely paid the price, with a dorm for us costing the same as a double en-suite in CUZCO (!) but it was totally worth it, as we were free to roam the clean policed streets, beaches and manicured plazas of the area, all hours of the day and night, without worrying too much about safety. They employ about a billion neon-uniformed ‘security’, police and ‘traffic police’ in the area, so presence of officials is high, which creates a really nice safe vibe, and at night everyone sits out on the pretty main square, with kids buzzing round on skates, teens attempting breakdance, office workers unwinding for the day, and lovers loitering on park benches.
The pretty central square…
On our first night, after discovering we couldn’t drink our own booze in our hostel (disappointingly common in Peru…) we did what any self-respecting Brit would do, and headed to the shops to buy some cheap rum and mixer, then proceeded to drink it on the square, disguised in a Fanta bottle. And it was such good fun, that’s pretty much what we did every night! I’d like to say we took advantage of the great nightlife of Lima (apparently the best bars and clubs were in our hood!) but we’re way too cheap and old-mannish for all that, plus how can the clubs here compete with London right? That was our main argument anyway, as we slipped deeper into the rum bottle…! (A litre of rum costs the same as two beers, FYI! Totally makes sense)
The square by night…
Barranco is also blessed with some AMAZING restaurants, and it was here we truly cemented our obsession with ‘chifa’ – a Peruvian twist on Chinese – and we chased down a chifa meal every day, from ‘pollo con piña’ to various noodle dishes, sweet and savoury fried meats, veggie stirfrys, crispy wonton frito dowsed in gooey sweet sauce, and wonton soup with delicious dumplings. We couldn’t get enough of the stuff (especially after a few…) and on one low-point day we even returned to the same chifa twice in one day! The young teenage girl waitress looked equal parts happy and worried to see us again. It’s probably good we left Lima when we did.
Our love affair with Chifa begins…
We also found some awesome non-chifa food, in the form of a super cheap street of local eateries where we sampled some amazing Creola food (Peru/Creole fusion) like tasty ‘norteña’ (curried) chicken with beans and rice, fried plantains, and ‘causa’ (stuffed mash potato with spicy veg). And, given Lima is famed for it, I also had ceviche there, but not in a fancy restaurant (oh no!) but instead in an amazing little Creole fish shack on a market, where a lovely Creole family were serving up absolutely incredible spicy fish dishes. I had ceviche mixto with loads of octopus, huge prawns and white fish with the tangiest ‘leche de Tigre’ (the limey spicy juice), sweet potatoes, yukka fries and salad. And that was just the starter! Main was delicious fried fish and rice, plus a fresh juice for the equivalent of 2 quid. Dreamy!
Ok, enough about food. Otherwise in our time in Lima, we checked out some cute markets and I fawned over clothes I wanted so bad but don’t have space to carry; we spent a couple of mornings sunning on the dirty city beach (where one morning a drunk, err ‘bohemian’ surfer propositioned me with a hand-written poem, write in front of Sam’s face! I admire his gumption. We’ve yet to translate it… Something about blonde bad angel?!) And spent another day walking the coast to nearby even swankier Miraflores, where we crashed a kids’ birthday party in the garden of an art museum, then walked back to watch the sun set over the city, which was surprisingly picturesque. A kind of lilac, sea-foamy, sky-scrapery, warm-hued sunset, that everyone gathered to watch with their fancy iPads, in their fancy jogging gear, with their fancy dogs. Did I mention Barranco is fancy?
A flattering photo of Lima´s city beach!
There was also an episode (which some of you already know about!) where Sam got so drunk, he ended up getting lost and sleeping on the beach… Which taught me a) the police / local security really don’t care about tourists (one literally fell asleep while I was talking to him!) b) the locals are really sweet (a waiter walked me round the city for hours helping translate my frantic searching into Spanish!) c) Barranco is clearly really safe, even for a drunk who chooses to sleep on the beach at night and d) I need to watch Sam more closely with an open bottle of rum!
On that slightly worrying note, that’s a wrap for Lima. And next we traveled onwards and upwards to Huaraz to get our trek on once more….