Friday, October 28, 2011

A Whirlwind Sampling of Peru

The last two weeks are a blur for the three of us. Maybe with a few days to recover we’ll better appreciate our experiences but for now we’re in a much needed rest mode.

It began when Maribel and I met my sister Joyce in Lima Wednesday the 26th. Our plan was to spend two days trying to give Joyce a feel for Lima before flying on to Iquitos for Joyce’s first jungle experience, and then finishing up with six days in Chiclayo. We stuck to our timetable but had planned so many activities into the schedule that it often felt as if we were running a marathon.

Lima is a big city. Selecting activities to present a picture of the city in just two days was a challenge but we think we succeeded. We began our tour at what seemed to me to be the natural starting place…the Plaza de Armas. We timed it to catch the changing of the guard at noon at the Government Palace. Following a delicious lunch including Pisco sours with friends at Maury’s Hotel/Restaurant we toured historic San Francisco church. Then it was on to the Museum of Inquisition and Congress. Late afternoon found us back in Miraflores watching the sun set in Parque Del Amor. That evening we were too tired to go out so stayed in the apartment and ate Wisconsin cheddar cheese on crackers with wine.

The next morning found us at the Larco Museum in Pueblo Libre. What a beautiful and informative museum! The displays focus on cultural history, and we were surprised to see a large section devoted to the Moche culture from our neck of the woods in the Lambayeque Region. It is not a large museum but we spent over two hours wondering among the displays and on the grounds which are beautifully landscaped.

After the museum we traveled to Congress hoping to take a tour of the building and perhaps see congress in action, but at the entrance we were told visiting was restricted because a festival was being held on the grounds of the building. Perhaps it was the sad and disappointed expressions on our faces, but as we were about to leave an officious looking man motioned to us to follow him. He led us inside the building; gave us passes and arranged for a guide. It was an interesting tour and we were introduced to several members of Congress. A taxi took us back to Miraflores and Parque Kennedy where we had an early dinner. In the evening we window shopped at the Larco Mar Mall, and then it was early to bed as we had to be at the airport early the next morning.

The weather in Lima during our visit was cloudy, cool and damp. We actually wore light jackets in the apartment at night. The weather in Iquitos is not cloudy, cool and damp. We wore as little as possible and still had to stop frequently to rest and drink liquids. We ran the air conditioner in the apartment at maximum all night. It is hot in Iquitos.

Beside just enjoying the feeling of bring in a remote town on the edge of the Amazon River and rainforest there is a lot to see and do in Iquitos. Some of our activities included visiting a small cultural museum, the Manatee Rescue Center, the Amazon Golf Course, Quistococha Zoological Park, Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm and a Serpentarium on the Nanay River where Joyce was able to touch and hold a variety of native animals including a sloth and snakes. We spent time looking for pink dolphins on a commercial riverboat tour.

We visited two ‘native’ villages where we took part in dances, jungle walks and were taught to use a blowgun. In my view for the most part these are awkwardly staged theatrical productions designed to soften up the tourist for the trinket sale onslaught that follows the show, but there is enough entertainment to justify the time spent.

One of the highlights of our Iquitos visit was fishing for piranhas on the Amazon River. Given everything I’ve heard and read about piranhas I expected them to be jumping into the boat trying to tear us to shreds. Instead they proved to be sneaky sophisticated bait-stealers. Because there were witnesses I am forced to be completely honest here. Three of us fished… two of us caught fish. This was very damaging to my male ego.

Our four days in Iquitos went quickly and we left with mixed feelings – sorry to leave this beautiful setting but glad to escape the heat.

Chiclayo was the last and most laid-back of our locations, though we still kept busy. We revisited the Lord of Sipan museum and pyramids; walked the beach and saw the old train station at Puerto Eten; visited the villages of Eten, Boro and Cayalti, and spent a day in the historic town of Zaña. Joyce also had time to get reacquainted with friends and family members she hadn’t seen in a year.

And now it’s over. Joyce is back in the US and Maribel and I have already begun to plan for next year’s visit. A combination of Machu Picchu, Cajamarca and Tarapoto sounds promising.

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