October 26, 2017
Our next destination from Quito was Lima, Peru. When you go searching online about ways to do this, you will discover that there is a 33 hour direct bus you can take on Cruz del Sur. However, it only leaves on Saturdays, and after the unpleasant (loooong) bus experience we had getting from Medellín to Quito, we wanted to break the travel up a bit instead of taking a direct bus.
Our strategy was to take a bus for Quito to Huaquillas at the border with Peru. We bought a ticket for an overnight bus on Occidentales for $14 per person from Quitumbe, departing at 7:30 pm with an anticipated trip time of 12 hours. It was uncomfortable. It arrived early (6:30 am), and it dumped us nowhere near the border crossing. Sigh.
We were harangued by taxistas the moment we were off the bus in Huaquillas. We managed to team up with another pair of travelers from Colombia, and we all piled into the same cab. We were told $5 for the fare. But as soon as we crossed the border from Ecuador into Peru (on a highway, with no intersections, exits, or sidewalks), he said it was another $5 for the rest of the 3 minute journey from the border to immigration (the first $5 was only to get to Peru).
Since our travel partners were Colombian and spoke actual fluent Spanish, the conversation went faster than I could follow. Plus I was simply unbelieving that the driver would say such a thing, I thought I had to have misheard him. So before I realized it, the Colombians paid the $10 USD without complaining, and the driver was gone. I was horrified. Had I been a little faster on my feet I would have argued the crap out of that, just like that time with the Panamanians and the rum in customs. But that’s another story.
Getting through immigration was a piece of cake though. Ecuadorian and Peruvian customs are integrated in the same building, so you just get in one line, show your passport to an Ecuadorian official for an exit stamp, then to a Peruvian official for an entry stamp, and you’re done. Not entry or exit fees. You do get an immigration card (paper) from the Peruvian official which I think you are supposed to hang onto until you exit the country and give back.
The taxis fares from immigration into Peru are posted on a big board and flat rate. It was $10 USD for the 30 minute ride to Tumbes, the nearest Peruvian border town. Our Peruvian cabbie gave us a lot of good information, including where we needed to depart from to get to Máncora. Once in Tumbes we got cash, and paid our Colombian friends for our portion of the cab fares, and went our separate ways.
Before getting on the shuttle, we stopped to get a coffee. It was here that we made a mistake. Since Costa Rica, tap water has been potable every place we went. Not. in. Peru. I repeat: tap water is not potable in Peru. Don’t forget this and drink coffee made from tap water in Peru. It was not boiled, just heated so you could stir in concentrate. Fortunately, the fall out the next day was minimal (No fever or vomiting? You’re fine! Congrats!), but it could have been worse. Like rum drinks at the karaoke bar in Nicaragua worse. But again, that’s a different story.
From Tumbes we got on a collectivo for S/12 per person for the 2 hour ride to Máncora, where we planned to stay the night and enjoy the beach. This was pleasantly uneventful. We arrived at our hostel Palosanto Backpackers. The dorm we had was kind of small, but the common spaces there are very nice, plenty of lounge space, hammocks, and even a pull up bar (ring work out!). There’s an actual bar, with a pool that looked like it needed cleaning, of which we did not partake.
We took a walk from Palosanto down the street to the Cruz del Sur bus terminal to get our tickets for Lima the next day. Note that as of this writing, the marker on Google Maps for the Cruz del Sur station is wrong by about a block. It’s actually located right next to Restaurant Sabor Chiclayano where we went for lunch after buying our tickets. Most places around town run S/15 for lunch, but on recommendation of a Cruz del Sur employee we tried out Chiclayano and we got a heap of good food for only S/6 per order there. Fantastic.
After lunch we went and checked out the beach. It’s pretty, but its very windy (great for wind surfing, and there was a lot of that). It also turned out to be pretty rocky, so certain parts seemed kind of un-swimable. Ultimately, we were happy with it for a quick dip and a stop over to break up our bus journey, but it would have been a let down if we had gone there expressly for the beach.
We wandered around town a little, ate some ice cream and looked at the artisanal offerings, of which there are many, especially lacey knitted bikinis and “cover” ups. We also happened upon a park area inhabited by birds and iguanas, where we saw the biggest iguana we have seen so far hanging out and sunning itself.
The next day our bus departed at 5 pm, so we had time to hang out at the hostel, get a work out in, take a quick dip at the beach and have a S/7 dinner at another spot near the Cruz del Sur station before boarding the bus.
A note on Cruz del Sur. It is generally regarded very highly as one of the best bus options available for bus travel in Peru. It’s an Peruvian bus line, but it does do some international destinations. After the uncomfortable experience upstairs on the Occidentales bus, we (I really, Dan cares less about this stuff) opted for the more expensive lower tier which cost $44 USD/person for the ~20 hour bus ride (upstairs was $34 USD).
As far as I am concerned, it was absolutely worth it. The seats were wide, reclined quite a bit, and I actually got a good night’s sleep on the bus. Sure, the personal touch screen on which I watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 “Daddy issues edition” (okay, that’s just my personal commentary, but srsly, it’s accurate) was great, but it was the seat itself and actually being able to get good rest in it that mattered. Also, everyone aboard was served dinner and breakfast, but it’s pretty meager and a good thing we had a big meal before boarding (and brought snacks).
By about 2 pm the next day, we arrived in Lima! There are two arrival locations in Lima, one is the north terminal, and the second (where we got off) is a dedicated Cruz del Sur terminal.
Rather than deal with taxis not knowing what a fair price should be, we just called an Uber and got a ride down to Miraflores where we had a reservation at Backpackers Family Club. The building that Backpackers occupies is a huge old two-story colonial home. It’s got 12 foot ceilings on both floors, beautiful and plentiful common spaces, a yard, courtyard, and terraces. The kitchen is very small, but adequate, and they serve a free breakfast in the morning. It’s mostly just bread, butter, jam and coffee, but the coffee is actually good, none of this sad watery stuff. The wifi didn’t work in our dorm room, but overall it’s a great spot.
We got a bite to eat and did a little shopping that evening, including trying out this fruit which is called Pepino Melon. It looks like a white heirloom tomato with purple accents. You will slice it open to find no pit, and it tastes a lot like cantaloupe. Fascinating. Also, drinkable yogurt is a very common thing in South America, and we discovered one flavored with the fruit lúcuma, and it is delicious.
Saturday we walked around Parque Kennedy, which is famous and pretty, but kind of small. There was a nice art market going on, and we bought something called a cachanga from one of the vendors. It was more or less crispy fried dough topped with an orange flavored syrup. Dan was a big fan (of the cachanga).
There’s also a lot of beautiful parks along the coast line including Parque de Amor, Parque Antonio Raimondi, and Parque Santa Teresa, which we wandered through on our way back to the hostel. These are awesome, with epic views of the coast line, and there’s even a skate park and mountain bike pump track.
Something to note about Lima is that it’s very foggy. You don’t get a lot of sunlight in a day. When the sun is out it’s warm, hot even. But it can get pretty cold when the sun is obscured by the fog, and at night.
Now, something that must be done in Peru is the consumption of Pisco Sours. Note please, that I normally loathe the concept of “must do’s”. It’s dumb and over used, and assumes a sort of one-size-fits-all of peoples’ interests. And who I am to tell you what to do? Am I your mom? Didn’t think so. So I realize that you, dear reader, may be Mormon, or just not a drinker, but if you enjoy consuming alcohol, go get thee a Pisco Sour. This is Peru’s national drink, made of pisco (a brandy made by distilling fermented grape juice), lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white.
We found a hotel bar called 360 Lounge Bar with a 2 x 1 Pisco Sour (PS) happy hour. It seems the going rate for PSs is between S/19 and S/25 (360 had them for S/21). This is a lot for our budget to handle, so the HH deal was a real score. And they were really good. So good we found ourselves unable to resist a second round. But, when in Peru…
Then on Sunday, something very unusual happened: the once a decade Peruvian census. On this day, all Peruvians who do not do essentials like fire fighting, or work for some kind of tourist trade, are required to remain in their homes from 8 am to 5 pm as the census workers move about collecting data. They can be fined if they are not home. What this means is that the city is more or less empty, except for the tourists who can roam the streets freely. Which we did. On bicycles.
It involved a bit of begging to get bicycles. Everything was going to be closed on Sunday, and Lima Bici, the one place that we found that was willing to rent us bikes, had a large tour that left early Monday. So they needed all the bikes in working order first thing on Monday, and were reluctant to rent them to us in case we damaged them and messed up the tour for someone. But beg I did. I’m not too bad at it either. I once begged my way in Spanish into the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico. That’s another story, but for once it did not involve rum. Thankfully, they took a chance on us, and we got our rides for S/65 apiece (normally S/50 soles per day) on Saturday evening.
So with the city largely shut down, we set off the city’s historic center. First stop: Plaza de Armas. This is the main square onto which the Governmental Palace and the National Cathedral face. We arrived just in time to hear the end of a military performance which included a coordinated march to the complement of a military band. This performance occurs daily, but I was told is more elaborate on Sundays.
We visited a few parks on the ride back, of which there are many in the city, including El Campo de Marte and Bosque El Olivar, which is actually a grove of olive trees (my fave of the day). There are also two archaeological sites with pyramids in the city which we rode past, Huaca Huallamarca and Huaca Pucllana.
Later I headed out to the park to enjoy a ring work out with an ocean view, which was delightful once I did my warm up. It was breezy and a little too cold until I got moving.
First thing Monday we got up and returned our bicycles to Limi Bici in perfect working condition. For lunch we walked a bit to the Mercado No 1 area where there are a bunch of restaurants, and we got an enormous meal (including an appetizer of ceviche) for S/5 a plate.
Next we took a gander at Mercado No 1 itself, which has all kinds of fruits, veggies, seasonings, meats, sea foods, and prepared foods as well. I had never before seen a pig heart hung on a hook before. Pig’s have really big hearts evidently. There are also shops for TV repair and a random assortment of other non-food-related things.
Based on the recommendation of one of the hostel employees, we went to try some more PSs at Brujas de Cachiche. This place is faaaaaaancy. What we were told, more or less, was go get one of their fancy PSs with flavors and stuff, and then get out, because the food is crazy expensive. I saw a menu. It is. Dan got the Bruja Sour which was a PS with coca leaf, and I got the Apasionado which was a PS flavored with coca leaf, ground cherry, and passion fruit. They were S/25, and quite tasty, but really, I think I preferred the classics at 360.
That afternoon we took a run along the shoreline, including heading down the stairs to the pedestrian bridges to get right next to the water. There is a lot of surfing in Lima, but the beaches are very rocky and not good for bathing or swimming.
Finally, it was time for me to pack up… and head to the airport! This next week I’m heading back to the US for meeting for my professional society, while Dan continues exploring in Lima.
Next up: Bellingham, WA, and more Lima!