Contiki Peru Uncovered – Days 1 & 2: Lima
I have made it to my sixth continent and 46th country! Peru is amazing so far – I landed shortly after 4:00 PM, went though customs and called an Uber using the airport Wi-Fi. Instead of the trip to my hotel costing $20 US, it only cost me $13 – not bad for an hour and a half ride.
Upon arriving at the hotel, the sun was already setting which caught me off guard because it was only 6:15 PM. The hotel was very nice and clean & the room was spacious, by international standards. After I dropped my bags off in my room, I headed downstairs to the hotel reception and purchased a data only SIM card with unlimited gigabytes for $46 USD. It was a bit more than I was hoping to spend, but definitely beats the $180 I would have had to pay if I used Verizon as my service provider when I am abroad.
At 8:00 PM, we had our Kick Start meeting with other people that arrived a day early – we went over a few details about the trip, introduced ourselves and then headed out to explore a local park and grab dinner.
Our hotel is located was located in an area called Miraflores, Spanish for “Look at the Flowers” (any Walking Dead fans will get a kick out of that). The area is affluent compared to the rest of the 42 unique districts in Lima, each has their own mayor. I can only imagine the bureaucracy required to get anything done.
We decided to head out after our kick start meeting to grab a bite to eat. The cultural center of Miraflores was located about a 15 minute walk away from the hotel – Parque Kennedy which is named in honor of JFK and the support he gave to the people of Peru in an effort to jumpstart their economy. The park is an unofficial cat sanctuary with a bunch of felines darting back and forth on the sidewalks & is also home to various flea markets or even kids trading soccer cards! After doing a quick lap around the park, we wound up at a restaurant that someone from our group went to for lunch and raved about it. I think it was the Peruvian version of a diner, primarily because it had pictures of awesome looking ice cream sundaes on the menu. I had Arroz con Polo (the Peruvian version of Chicken and Rice) which was pretty good and tried just first Pisco Sour which is the unofficial drink of Peru.
We headed back to the hotel after dinner and I was in bed by 10:30 PM which enabled me to get a good 8 hours sleep. I’m so used to traveling across the world instead of down, so not needing to adjust to a drastically different time zone when going abroad was something that I wasn't used to!
The following morning we had our official tour introduction at 8:00 AM where our Trip Manager went through all the required paperwork and safety information as well as gave us a quick overview of the next 14 days.
After the meeting, we left for a bus tour of Lima which was supplemented by a few short walks and site visits. Our local guide told us that Lima used to be pronounced “Rima” where you roll the “r”, but it turned into Lima since the Spanish struggled to pronounce it when they arrived to colonize the country. The city was named after a river nearby. We also learned a few Spanish phrases which will help us over the coming weeks as we navigate the country.
Our first stop was at the Catacombs de San Francisco, named after Saint Francisco. They are located below a church and were the only public catacombs in Lima. We were able to tour some of the cloisters which were intricately detailed with Peruvian style tiles on the floor and walls, religious paintings and a beautiful ceiling. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, but it was stunning. We then headed below the church to visit the catacombs which have been partially excavated and we were able to see various bones of people that were once buried there. It was unlike any catacombs I’ve ever visited before. We then walked to the Plaza Mayor de Lima which was a beautiful square with gorgeous buildings surrounding it. We even had a chance to watch part of the Changing of the Guard.
After walking around for a bit, we boarded our bus and headed to the Parque del Amor which is beautifully located along a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. While we were there, we saw a bunch of parasailers fly by. The park was inspired by Park Guell in Barcelona, so it had a beautiful, long bench covered in colorful mosaics.
We then boarded our bus and drove to the Barranco district of Lima, known for being the home of the alternative & artistic movement in Lima. We also crossed the Bridge of Sighs where, legend has it, if you make a wish, hold your breath and cross the bridge, your wish will come true.
Our bus the bus then dropped us off at Parque Kennedy for lunch. Our group went to a traditional Peruvian restaurant where I tried Tequeños (fried cheese sticks you dip in guacamole). They were delicious, which was good because I also ordered Ceviche de Misto (raw seafood cooked in citrus oils). I didn’t think I would like it because I don’t like fish – and I was correct. It didn’t taste fishy, but I couldn’t get over the texture.
After lunch, we strolled around Parque Kennedy to people watch and discovered a group of people salsa dancing in the middle of the park. They were mostly senior citizens, but they definitely had moves!
After a quick walk, we headed back to our hotel to rest a bit before dinner which was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. As an included meal, we had a limited menu to choose from so my main entrée was a kind of beef steak. It was quite good.
Most of the group headed back to the hotel, but a few of us decided to go out near Parque Kennedy and check out what the nightlife in Lima is like on a Saturday. We didn’t exactly go to a Peruvian bar as we wanted a quiet place to talk and get to know each other, so we went to an English pub. Getting there was an experience, though, as it reminded me a bit of Southeast Asia where it was a row of bars where employees stood outside to try to usher you in with drink specials or other perks. When you walk past them, they would even follow you a bit to try to get you to change your mind.
After a drink, we headed back to the hotel as it was 10:30 PM and we had a 5:30 AM wake up the following morning to make it to the airport for an 8:30 AM flight. It turned out we could have slept in as our plane was delayed for 4 hours due to mechanical issues.
Getting through security was an adventure, though. As Lima’s airport is supposedly a hub for drug smuggling, they were very thorough when it came to screening me. They even made me take off the orthotics I have on my feet so they could go through the X-Ray machine. I’ve never had to do that before.
After about an hour and a half, the airline gave us vouchers to get food since the flight was delayed. What we didn’t know when we got them was that we would need to go out of the gate area to get food since there was nothing airside. I was given a chicken sandwich with papaya juice. The sandwich wasn’t great, but the papaya juice was delicious.
After we ate, we tried to go back through security but they made us go to the check in counter to get a sticker for our boarding pass since our flight was supposed to have taken off by then. We eventually made it back to security where I actually had a very easy screening as they didn’t even scan my crutches.
We eventually took off and I am now flying over the Andean Mountains, some of which looked snow capped but were actually capped with volcanic ash, on our way to Arequipa.