Chasing the traces of the ancient civilizations in and around Lima, I visited a couple of archeological sites and museums.
In the center of the modern district of Lima, Miraflores, rises the Huaca Pucllana, an ancient religious and administration center. Although surrounded by tall contemporary buildings, it still impresses with its size, especially considering that a large part of the place used to extend far beyond the area it covers now.
The largest religious center around Lima was Pachacamac, a huge archeological site around 1h by bus away from the city (getting there by public transport is an adventure in itself!). The archeologists identified here 17 pyramids, the main being the Temple of the Sun build by the Inca. Sadly, if you are not and archeologist, you can hardly distinguish the buildings from the sandy background. The Pachacamac, translated as an Earth-Maker (Pacha means Earth or World), was the God of the Earthquakes, feared by the whole population in the area.
The ceramics found the museums in Lima are truely fascinating! The depict all the details of the ancient life in Peru: the plants, the animals, the everyday work of the people. And I mean ALL the details – in case you ever wondered how prudish were the pre-Columbian civilizations about their sex-life, take a look at one of the pictures below…
The sound of trompets and cymbals can be heard from far away. It is the bras orchestra, accompanying a statue of Virgin Mary carried around the streets of Lima. The stuatue looks heavy, pain can be seen on the faces of the men who carry it. In front, ladies dressed in white burn the incense. Behind follows a crowd of people.
It is 16th of July, Perú celebrates Fiesta de la Virgin del Carmen.
Crowded with people, constantly new passegers gettin on and off, loud music playing, the bus stops every 100m. A guy leans out of the door shouting the names of the most important street it passes through. “¡Todo Arequipa! ¡Todo Brasil! ¡Sube sube! ¡Baja baja! ¡Rapido rapido!” Is it the right bus? You have a second to decide. If you are too slow the bus will leave while your feet are still dangling in the air.
Catching a bus in Lima is an adventure. The Metropolitano, which is the most similar to our buses, covers only a small area of the city, mostly going along the highways. The rest is served by colectivos. Those microbuses will take you almost everywhere, but drive like crazy and look like they are going to fall apart any moment. For a gringo, understanding the system of micros is quite an affort. The bus stops do not exist. The buses have numbers, but the information about the route is nowhere to be found. Solution? If you see people waiting on the street it is probably where the bus stops. Stay with them and ask! That has so far worked well with me!
Lima is a special place. I hear the traffic, breath in the contaminated air, look at the grey modern buildings growing around without any plan or imagination – and I hate it. I see the old colonial center, the tiny shops that are almost extinct in Europe, go to the market where the chickens hang from the hooks, I talk to the people – and I love it.
Actually, I talk to people a lot, mostly Peruvians. It turned out to be extremely easy when I travel around by myself.
I met a religious lady in front of the church, during Fiesta de la Virgen de Carmen. Her son got married when he was 37, excepcionally late here in Perú.
In the bar I met an older man who works as a limousine driver for the government people. He is paied for 8 hours per day, practically it is always 15. He says it is a good job.
On the bus I met a guy who teaches guitar and drums, he used to play with his band in the bars of Miraflores.
A family asked me to take a picture of them on Placa de Armas. Their son studies in New York, dauther teaches English. They surely belong to the high level of the society.
All this gives me this picture of Lima which some tourist never see. A place where the rich mixes with the poor, the old with the new, the extremly religious with the secular. It is maybe not always beautiful, but for sure fascinating.
My first day in Lima was already planned. I was going to start with the Iglesia de San Francisco and make an easy relaxing walk through the Placa de Armas and streets of old Lima.
From the Iglesia de San Francisco, I spontanously turned to the small park. I was looking at the poor district of Cerro de San Cristobal when a girl, named Cielo, asked me “¿Tu hablas ingles, no?”. As I realized later, it was her way of asking “You are a foreigner, right?”.
I didn´t go to Plaça de Armas any more that day. Instead I cooked dinner with Cielo´s family, who turned out to be those Peruvians with legendary hospitality. Cielo, her parents and two brothers live in the outskirts of Lima, in Puente de Piedra. Their small and modest house is built on the hill, in a quite area, with the stunning view over the whole area. Maria Elena, Cielo´s mother, says that the only thing in her life she forgot to ask the God for, was prosperity and money. She also said that it was God who put me on her way… I looked at the poor house, and those wonderful people living in it, and I though that maybe it was true…