December 05, 2003

Lima, Perú

Yikes! I've covered a lot of ground since last post. Here's a recap:

After leaving Quito, I bussed down to Riobamba, Ecuador and caught a train to Alausí. The train winds south through the northern extreme of the Andes range, and includes some spectacular switchbacks along "Devil's Nose". On the highest of these, on the edge of a cliff, the train derailed. This was even more interesting since I was riding on the roof at the time. I'll get the pics up as soon as I can.

From Alausí I bussed down to Cuenca, Ecuador, and spent a few days there. Cuenca is a colonial town with some nice architecture - especially the gorgeous cathedral domes. From there, I passed quickly through the small Ecuadorian border towns of Machala and Haquilla.

I crossed the Ecuador-Peru border on foot, then hitched a ride to Tumbes, Peru - a small border town where I had the day to kill wandering around until my bus left later that evening. Nine hours by bus landed me in Trujillo, where I spent a few days in and around town, and at the outlying ruins of Chan Chan and the pyramids of the Sun and Moon. There I arranged air travel for the rest of the cities I'll be visiting in Peru. In order to reach destinations inland, you have to cross the Andes, and the time savings flying is tremendous. Lima to Cuzco for example is 50 minutes by air, or 25 hours winding through the Andes by bus. I've had my fill of busses for a while, and this is a good way to make up some of the extra time I spent in Colombia.

Thoughts on Ecuador: A pleasant country with pleasant people, pleasant food, and a pleasant climate. The locals carry about their business with a pleasant "hello", and most foreigners are here to learn Spanish or hug a sea turtle. Nice, but not quite my speed.

My first flight in Peru landed me yesterday in Lima. Lima is big. 13 million people big. It's nice to be back in a city with a cosmopolitan feel and a booming nightlife.

Thoughts (so far) on Peru:

The food is amazing - some of the best so far this trip. I've tried the ceviche wherever I could on this trip, and it wins here hands-down. The roast chicken (Pollo a la braza) is fantastic, and the Cuy (Guinea Pig) is yuuuuumy. Even the simple seafood dishes in the coastal towns - just a fresh battered fillet over (surprise!) rice and beans - are fantastic.

Peru seems to pride itself on its cultural heritage more than other countries I've been in so far. The indigenous (Quechua in Peru) seem to be recognized and respected more than I've seen elsewhere. And, not surprisingly given how much Machu Picchu must pull in for Peru, the archeological sites are very well run.

A big thumbs down, however, goes to the many, many, many Peruvians who are ripping off foreigners. Within two hours of being in Peru, I had more trouble than in all the rest of my trip combined, and the pace has held steady. In nearly every transaction I've had - from street vendors to money changers to cab drivers to restaurants to just plain locals - they've tried to rip me off. Now, it's true that there's a "rich gringo" stereotype everywhere in Latin America. Most merchants will try to overcharge you a little, though it's not generally disrespectful. After bargaining, and especially if you speak Spanish, the price comes down. It's still usually a little higher than what the locals pay, but this is just the way it works here - more than acceptable considering the differences in our standards of living. And, given the strength of the dollar against whatever local currency, it amounts to a very small surcharge. What I've been seeing in Perú is very different. The attitude is blatantly "how much can I take this stupid gringo for?", and everyone seems to do it. I've lost patience with it and call them on it - rudely too. I can't help but wonder how much foreigners have been taken for here to create this attitude. Very disappointing. I hope the rest of Peru proves different.

I'm off tomorrow to Cuzco, and the 4 day hike to Machu Picchu. Can't wait!

Posted by dhuska at December 5, 2003 05:18 PM


i am so glad you went to peru, i thought you were going to skip it altogether, for some reason.

i m a bit sad that you felt that everyone wanted to take advantage of you, the only thing is that they do think all people who goes to peru as a tourist have money, and the poverty is huge over there so they try to make extra soles o dolares $$$

of course ceviche tastes better in peru, ceviche is peruavian same as pisco, remember that!!!

i dont know if you had a chance to try "chichasara", it's a pop corn well it's not it's sweet, made out of corn the BIG corn, if you are still in peru in the sierra ask for it, it's my favourite thing!!!

hope everything is going well, take care.


monica cristina

Posted by: mccm at December 30, 2003 11:58 PM

I did have a good time! Other than the constant ripoff attempts, Perú was incredible. I did try the chichasara (and the chicha, the pisco, etc, etc :) ). Very good. You hail from a gorgeous country Monica.

Posted by: dhuska at January 2, 2004 08:45 AM

Hola a todos , el Peru es lo maximo! he estado por la sierra peruana y ahi preparan una papa a la huancaina y una pachamanca que es lo maximo para la gente , en Mollendo las playas de aqp preparan un cebiche con una sarza de mariscos y un perol que es lo maximo LO RECOMIENDO !!!!!!!jojojoojojo

Posted by: carlos abad cornejo at January 26, 2004 12:04 PM