Monday, August 29, 2016

Lima: Where Everything Went Wrong and Then Right: Part I

I know I haven't written about my last few trips but I very much would like to share my wacky and wonderful trip to Peru. Things went wrong pretty much every step of the trip but somehow it all worked out in the end.

We flew to Lima by way of Mexico City and after about 20 hours of traveling arrived in Lima at 7am. I didn't sleep along the way and was looking forward to taking a nap. We had booked a short-term apartment rental and arrived at the apartment in good time since there wasn't much traffic that early on a Sunday morning. We walked into the reception area and I handed the reservation information to the man behind the front desk. He looked at me puzzled and asked me some questions in Spanish. Since it had been a while since I had taken Spanish and hadn't slept in around 30 hours, I looked back at him puzzled. His friend pulled out a translator app on his phone and a number of strangely translated questions later ("your contract is here?", "you would like to view the apartment?"), we were not much closer to an understanding. Then he said, "Guillermo" and handed me his phone. Guillermo was the owner of the apartment and a number of other apartments in the building and explained that the apartment wasn't ready yet. Oh and he also noted that I had booked it for August 8th through the 11th and wasn't today August 7th? Whoops!* He was able to extend our reservation for August 7th and then very nicely drove us to a Starbucks and showed us around a little bit. OK, just a little hiccup and no big deal. Everything worked out in the end. Here are some pictures of Barranco District, Lima where our apartment was located.

Barranco is a lovely little neighborhood on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Though it was overcast our entire time in Lima, the temperature was moderate (a nice change from the heat and humidity of Chicago) and we wandered around for hours each day. There was fascinating architecture all over the place and plenty of cafes and restaurants in which to stuff our faces.

While we were waiting for Guillermo to get the apartment ready, we decided to go over our other reservations to make sure that everything else was in order. Because getting to Machu Picchu is quite complicated and requires a carefully orchestrated set of trains, planes, buses and hikes, we had attempted to plan everything in advance. It was also the busy season and tickets to Machu Picchu sold out months in advance. The Ministry of Culture in Peru only permits 2,500 visitors to the site per day in order to reduce the amount of wear and tear on the ruins. Fortunately, I had (or at least thought that I had) booked our tickets in advance. As we went through the various reservations and confirmations, I remembered that I had reserved tickets to Machu Picchu but had not yet paid for them because the website was being buggy. According to the Ministry of Culture website, you could pay for reserved tickets in person in Cusco or Aguas Calientes, the nearest town to Machu Picchu. Phew, no worries, I thought.

Then I noticed on the Ministry of Culture website that you only had 24 hours to pay for reserved tickets after which they were cancelled. Uh-oh. We decided to check to see if we could obtain new tickets in case the previously reserved ones had been cancelled, but there were no tickets available the day we were going to be there...or within one week of that date. Perhaps a travel agent could hook us up? We found a few travel agencies in Peru and reached out to a few of them. No tickets available. "Maybe check in Cusco," they said. I reached out to our hotel in Cusco who had a travel agency. No tickets in Cusco, they said, "maybe check Aguas Calientes" (the town that was the closest to Machu Picchu).

Well, we had three days left in Lima and didn't want to spoil our time there worrying. We napped, wandered, and ate our way through the city. Lima is a super foodie town. In addition, everyone was super friendly and patient and they indulged my efforts to converse in Spanish when possible. We visited local ruins at Huaca Pucllana, the site of an ancient pyramid built by the pre-Incan Lima people and later taken over by the Wari people (also a site of human sacrifices).

We also visited the wonderful Larco Museum which contained a ton of beautiful and fascinating artifacts as well as an entire wing devoted to erotic art.

Lima was delicious. Here are some pictures of the things we stuffed in our faces.

Pisco Sours.

Peruvian fish and chips (yucca).

Delightful "monster" sandwiches. That face is "why are you taking a picture of me eating a sandwich" and not "this sandwich tastes funny".