Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Quick Trip to Lima

I wasn´t a fan of Lima, so I left after two nights. Lima center is pretty dirty and has so much smog that at some points I couldn´t make out the details of the buildings at the end of long avenues. The pollution hangs in the air and you can feel it in your lungs, and see the dirty exhaust coming from the traffic, which is all over the place honking and jamming the intersections. The section I stayed in, Miraflores, is full of familiar chain stores and restaurants: Pizza Hut, Payless Shoes, KFC, Chili´s, Dunkin´ Donuts, Blockbuster Video, and, of course, Starbucks. The idea of a glazed donut was tempting, but I resisted and had a churro instead. I think if I lived in Lima I could find things to appreciate about it, possibly in some of the neighborhoods I didn´t visit, but I don´t plan on living there so I wanted out as soon as possible.

More than in other places in South America, in Lima I got a lot of unwanted attention on the streets. My hair and skin shout "gringa" and as a result I got honked at, whistled at, and a fairly steady barrage of "Hello!" "Where are you from?" shouted at me. I don´t mean to sound egotistical about this, it´s common for fair-haired, fair-skinned foreign women to be stared at or spoken to by strangers on the street. At some points it felt like walking through a large construction area; it´s a fairly uncomfortable feeling.

I did enjoy my visit to the Museo de Arte, which has a nice collection of art and pottery from the myriad of Peruvian pre-Colombian cultures. The museum is in a nice park with a little market area containing stalls selling handicrafts as well as typical foods and drinks. I tried a drink called emoliente, which contains uña de gato (cat´s fingernail), which I hoped was not really that. It also contains aloe vera, which makes it slightly gummy. It´s supposedly good for the liver; it was sweet, and pretty good. I also wandered in the Black Market, where all kinds of (mostly stolen or fake) things are sold. The specialties are clothing, shoes, electronics and pirate DVDs ($1 each). I went to see Batman Begins, and the next day could have bought the DVD for that or any number of recently-released films! (Real DVD versions, somehow, not blurry Camcorder versions shot in the movie theater).

Anyway, another night bus later and I´m in the mountains again, in Huaráz, the center for hiking in the Cordillera Blanca, a beautiful area of the Andes. I´m hoping to do a 3 or 4 day trek here before continuing north.