Back in Lima (and getting sentimental)

Even though staying so long in Chile wasn’t originally on the cards, I was so glad I got to see some of this amazing country. That’s one of the best things about travelling; your plans can change in an instant! I made it to Santiago Airport after a disaster of a morning when nothing went my way. It was funny because as I sat in the airport complaining to my Mum over Whatsapp about my crazy morning where the taxi was an hour late and my bag broke, I just had to laugh because I once I gave myself a reality check and realized I’d been travelling South America for three months I had no need to complain about such petty issues.

The flight to Lima was quick and before I knew it I was back in familiar territory. I was heading back to Dragonfly Hostel where I had volunteered two months early and the sense of home that I felt as the taxi sped past the pebbled beaches made me forgot all about my horror of a morning. Arriving back to Dragonfly I was welcomed not only by my friends but a banner with my face on it advertising the hostel! It was hilarious! I caught up with my friends and filled them in on my travels over a couple of beers before conking out for the night.

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What a welcome back! Pretty much A list celebrity now!

In all honesty, the next few days were laidback and relaxed. As I had done a lot of sightseeing in Lima the last time I was here, I had no reason to rush around playing tourist. I met new friends, ate some of the best ceviche, went to some cool nightclubs and generally just had a fantastic time. We went into central Lima and I actually played tour guide, it was crazy to think I knew my way well enough around this massive city! We also went to a festival one night, which had some of Peru’s best music and got sunburnt by the harsh sun at the beach.

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Chowing down on ceviche at Mercado Uno – so delicious!
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Ceviche = love
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Selvamonos Festival – crazy night!

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Coming back to Lima was just what I needed after leaving my previous group of friends. I had no time to be sad because I left one travel family and stepped right back into another. It made me realize that my previous fear of solo travel was unnecessary and that you will never be alone for long. I wasted a lot of time waiting for friends back to decide to travel with me because I was too scared to travel by myself, when really new friends were just waiting to be made. I was also a little proud of myself, for not listening to those back home that said that travelling alone through South America was dangerous and stupid. I hadn’t felt in danger once during my travels (minus the time I was 1 kilometre deep in a silver mine – but that was self inflicted!) and wanted to show everyone back home how easy it is to travel solo. It may have only been three months since I left Australian soil but I feel like I have learnt and grown up so much. Travelling alone (and with friends for that matter) teaches you things that no school or university can. While I’m not out there doing my Masters or making millions, I’m learning important life lessons that you can only get from travel… Plus it’s way more fun! I know I’m not quite setting up my life like my friends are but I wouldn’t change the experiences I’ve had for a second – no job or house deposit can replace what I’ve done! It might be the extra strong coffee I had this morning talking, but I can happily say that the path that I’ve chosen to take in my early 20’s might not be the conventional way, but it’s the way made for me. But that’s enough cheesiness for now…

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Some of the gorgeous people I met while at Dragonfly! 

After several fun-filled days I sadly had to leave Lima and continue my travels, however I wasn’t alone. My next plan was to do some hiking in the mountains of Huaraz and had made friends with a French girl who wanted to do the same so we caught the night bus to Huaraz ready to shock our bodies by heading back into the high altitude and cold weather.

Stay tuned to see how we went after five days hiking!

J. x

Frog Milkshakes & Alligator Heads – Braving The Gamarra Markets

*Disclaimer: Some of these photos are gross, just saying*

In my last couple of days in Lima, I was pretty content with what I’d seen. I’d made great new friends, seen cool things, eaten amazing food and had a bunch of fun. Though there was one thing that I’d heard about that I was very intrigued to see.

One of the guys that I’d met during my time here was one of those hard-core traveller types. He has stories of catching a boat to the Amazon and spending a week with natives drinking ayahuasca – things like that. So when he was telling me about the witches market in downtown Lima, I was a little hesitant to visit but intrigued at the same time. Of course, my intrigue got the better of me and accompanied by three other pals we set off to find this hidden market.

The Mercardo de las brujas (or witches market) is situated in the La Victoria neighbourhood of Lima, one that rarely visited by tourists. We caught a cab to the Gamarra markets where the witches market hide and were let off into a scene of chaos. The Gamarra market spreads itself over 20 blocks and you can pretty much buy anything you would ever need. There were clothing stalls, toy stalls, material stalls, there were vendors selling all sorts of weird and wacky looking food and there were masses of fruits and vegetables available -we’d hit a market wonderland! Not only was the market full to the brim of things to buy, there was masses of people scurrying from A to B. We definitely were out of tourist territory, during the few hours we spent there I didn’t see a single other Caucasian there.

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Welcome to chaos
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Gamarra Markets

We wandered through the busy streets, constantly looking around in awe at the scene around us. Us, being four white people stuck out like sore thumbs and copped stares and pointing every corner we took. After asking for directions from some confused locals (and being told we probably weren’t safe here) we finally came across the Mercado de las brujas. If not for the large crocodile head staring at us, or the long python skin draped across a table I wouldn’t have picked this to be the witches market. However as we bravely entered further and walked past stalls full of potions and powders, strange herbs and dried frogs dangling from the ceiling we came to the conclusion that this must be it.

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I think we found it – the Mercado de las brujas
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Everything on offer here
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Turtle fat and snake blood

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Fascinated by what was on offer we were drawn to the creepy dried baby llama foetuses, the different array of stones and trinkets offering all sorts of remedies for every health problem on the planet. Our fascination turned to disgust when we came across a particular stall offering frog milkshakes. Yep, you read that right – frog milkshakes. The poor, unaware froggies sat peacefully in their tank until the shop owner would scoop one up, kill it and throw it in the blender with some other herbs and powders before serving it up to a willing customer. I couldn’t stomach the thought of even touching one of the frogs, let alone drinking one and my pals agreed; we hightailed it past that stall as quickly as possible!

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Dried baby llama foetuses
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The poor froggies waiting to be made into milkshakes

We continued through the market stalls until we reached the street again where snakes blood and turtle fat were on offer. Bags and bags of quinoa, chia and maca powder sat on the street, at a fraction of the price that they are in Australia. We continued on, leaving the witches market and all its craziness behind. I didn’t really agree with the poaching of animals for their skin etc. but it sure had been an eye-opening experience! We walked through to the end of the markets were a large amount of food stalls were waiting for us. Ordering deep fried potatoes with vegies and fresh juice, we devoured our food trying not to think of the poor frogs waiting to be blended.

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Streets of the Gamarra Markets

The Mercado de las brujas is definitely worth a visit but be prepared for an intense time. The mass of people is overwhelming at times and the sheer array of things on offer can be a little too much! Be super cautious of your belongings and go in a group. La Victoria isn’t the safest part of Lima and is renowned for pickpockets. But most of all go because you wont see anything like it in the streets of Miraflores and surroundings. It’s a whole new side of Lima that will probably shock you but amaze you at the same time.

j.x

Discovering Central Lima

I went into downtown Lima twice while I was there, but would have loved to have gone back many more times. From Miraflores, you could either take the 45-minute bus ride into the centre, or catch the Metro, which costs a few soles more, but took half the time. I’ve travelled both ways and definitely recommend the Metro, its busier but the commute is much nicer.

The first time I went into central Lima I was hoping for a more authentic Peruvian experience. Miraflores was nice and all, but it was just like home. I wanted to see the nitty, gritty side of Lima – like how I’d imagined South America to be like. Luckily my hopes were answered and as soon as I got off the bus I was captivated. I was exploring with a few other people from Dragonfly that I had met this morning and we all had a mission, to find the Catacombs!

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Downtown Lima
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Walking to Plaza De Armas
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Plaza De Armas

Walking into the centre I was amazed at the colour, the chaos and the dirtiness of the city. Now we were talking – this felt like what I’d imagined! We walked past Plaza San Martin and reached the Plaza De Armas, which was a square of bright yellow, colonial style buildings. The streets were jam-packed with people, mostly Peruvians that come up to my armpits, I tower over most people wherever I go! There are street vendors everywhere and people selling everything from tours to maps to tattoos on the street. It was hard to watch where I was walking because all the sights, smells and sounds kept distracting me.

After getting some directions from a local, we made it to the Monastery of San Francisco where the catacombs were. Once there, we were told that the tours went hourly and we’d just missed one. Not to be put out, we decided to grab lunch while we waited. One awesome thing about Peru (and most of South America I believe) is their menú lunch. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day so they offer a three or four course meal for a bargain price. We found a café offering a menú for 10 soles and were sold on what they were offering. I’m going to be truthful here – Peruvian food isn’t that fantastic. It’s very basic and carbohydrate based. We’re talking potatoes plus rice plus pasta in one sitting. Not so good for the waistline! Today’s menú was steamed potatoes with ahi sauce, chicken and rice with a cerveza sauce and vanilla cake to finish. I was stuffed after finishing it all! Not bad for about AUD$4!

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Views from lunch – San Cristobal

We left the café and walked back to the catacombs, ready for guided tour. It was a beautiful old building, with an awesome library that looked straight out of Harry Potter and some amazing mosaic walls. We eventually made it down to the catacombs, where the air was cooler and the atmosphere was creepy. The catacombs were discovered in 1943 and contain thousands of bones, which are believed to go as far back as 1808. While it wasn’t as big as the catacombs in Paris, it still was a cool thing to see. It’s hard to believe all the bones we were seeing were once people living and breathing just as we are. It gives me the chills just thinking about it! I definitely recommend coming to the catacombs for a bit of a history lesson, its fascinating albeit creepy!

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Monastery of San Francisco 
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Monastery of San Fransisco
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Part of the catacombs – muy creepy!

A few days later the same friends and I went back to central Lima for another sticky beak. This time we wanted to go to San Cristobel and see Lima from above. In the Plaza De Armas we found a lady selling colectivo bus tickets for 5 soles and just in the rickety old bus. The beauty of the colectivo bus is that it is ridiculously cheap, however they don’t like to leave until the bus is full. After three round trips of the main square we finally filled the bus to head up to San Cristobel. The drive was a crazy one, road rules in Lima just don’t exist. However it was a fascinating drive, we putted up hill through the colourful slums which is a massive contrast to the well developed areas of Miraflores.

Personally I was infatuated with the slums, there is just something about them that amazes me. How people can like in such simple yet tough conditions. Most of the houses were unfinished, apart from their splashes of brightly coloured paint. We went past locals going by their day, mostly just sitting and watching the world go by. I guess as a young Australian girl who has never really had it tough, it was confronting to see how other people in the world live. After about a 30 minute uphill slog – the poor van wasn’t coping too well – we made it to the top of the lookout where the giant cross stood majestically.

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Driving up to San Cristobal

The view wasn’t perfect, a heavy smog lay over the majority of the city but we could still see for miles, even out to the neighbouring Palomino Island. I was gobsmacked by the view, I had no idea Lima was this huge. I guess 17 million people have to fit somewhere! We spent about half an hour looking out of the view in awe of the size. Below us sat the coloured slums and in the distant you could see the coastal area of Miraflores. It wasn’t the best view I’ve ever seen but I was mesmerised. That culture shock feeling that I’d been yearning for finally hit and I was welcoming it with open arms.

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Cerro San Cristobal
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Looking out to Lima
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The city is ‘this big!’
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Smoggy, dirty but breathtaking

We caught the bus back down and sat by San Martin Plaza people watching until late afternoon. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again – Lima is just one of those cities that takes time to uncover. Like an onion (thanks Shrek) Lima has many different layers, just waiting to be revealed.

J. x

 

 

 

Barranco in Pictures

Every city needs a neighbourhood where the creative folk gather, where opinions are expressed on street walls and the best bars and cafes exist. In Lima, this neighbourhood is called Barranco and it is every bit as bohemian and artsy as they say.

This groovy part of town is better shown through pictures than words, so ladies and gentlemen… Meet Barranco.

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J. x

Visiting the Circuito Mágico del Agua

Lima is a bustling city full of things to see and do. It’s sad because it often gets overlooked by its more popular neighbour Cusco, but what people are missing are the hidden things that takes time to discover.

I’d been in Lima for a few days and was starting to get a feel for my area Miraflores. This was the fancy, well-developed area of Lima – the rich persons holiday destination you could say. It perched on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and was a popular place for surfers, para-gliders and sun bakers alike. Though Miraflores can lead you into a false sense of how Lima really is. It doesn’t feel like a South American city as its safe, relatively orderly and clean. However as an introduction to Peru for yours truly, it was perfect.

As I had two weeks in the city, I took my time ticking off the tourist attractions. It was a nice way to travel especially after the super busy time in Hawaii. One night when I didn’t have to work, I went with some new friends from the hostel to the Parque de la Reserva to see the Guinness Book of Records largest water fountain complex – Circuito Mágico del Agua.

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Parque de la Reserva

The circuit consists of 13 different water fountains which come alive at night and change colour schemes continuously. Founded by the mayor of Lima, Dr. Luis Castańeda Lossio, this project was controversial due to the huge sum of money it cost to create. Over 13 million dollars was spent to reconstruct the park – which also caused drama because the park is considered historically significant. However over 2 million people have visited the park and the money made from the entrance fees to the park have gone towards re-opening the Municipal Theatre of Lima so criticism has been swiftly shut down.

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Fantasy Fountain
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Fantasy Fountain
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Fantasy Fountain
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Fantasy Fountain

Walking around the park its hard not to be impressed with the sheer extragvagence of it all. The largest fountain, the 120m-long Fuente de la Fantasía (Fantasy Fountain) is mesmerising as it shoots water high into the air and changes colour from yellow to pink to blue. While the park probably is more targeted to families, we still had a blast here. The group favourite was definitely the water fountain tunnel which you could walk through. Of course the idea is to not get wet, but we did. It was too hard to resist!

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Tunnel of water
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Muy feliz!
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Kids playground

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We spent over an hour in the park which was more than enough time to see the entire circuit. Afterwards we went in search for dinner nearby and came across an outdoor food market. We found a spare table and ordered the special on the menu plus bulk cervezas and proceeded to talk a lot of shit. We were random bunch, two English, a Canadian, a Kiwi, a Dutch and an Aussie but the banter was endless. Our food arrived and we hooked in, devouring the delicious meat that was unidentifiable. After demolishing the whole platter, we asked the waitress what kind of meat we had just eaten and she said cow and pointed to her stomach. After some confusion we realised we had just eaten cow intestines! Cue grossed out looks and big gulps of beer! Ah nothing like trying new things!

After digesting the cows intestines we caught a cab back to Dragonfly Hostel and walked to a club down the street which was supposedly really good. Walking into the main area it took about two minutes to realise we had walked straight into a gay bar. Flamboyant looking men were twerking way better than I ever could and as six Caucasian tourists, we stood out like a dogs hind leg! Not worried in the slightest we bought Pisco sours and kept them flowing, dancing the night away. It was a hilarious and fun night and one of the reasons why I love travel. You could start your evening playing in water fountains and end up dancing in a gay bar.

J. x

 

Hello Lima!

It may have taken over 40 hours but I finally arrived in Lima! After flying from Honolulu to Dallas I had a five hour layover until I boarded my next flight to Miami. Once I reached Miami it was about 6pm and I went straight to my hostel in South Beach to zonk out. I was booked in at SoBe Hostel which was a cool, cheap hostel right in South Beach. What I didn’t realise was that this place was a major party hostel so my dreams of a good nights sleep went right out the window!

The following morning I woke and went to find brekkie and have a little explore. South Beach was exactly how I pictured it, lots of Jersey Shore-esque type clothing stores, lots of bars and clubs and lots of overly made up looking people. But my flight was at 3pm so by 11am I was heading back out to Miami International Airport – running on about 4 hours sleep. My flight to Lima was 7 hours long and was actually really good, Avianca Airlines put on the goods! Arriving into Lima at around 10pm at night was kind of daunting. The thought of a new city, new country and new continent hit all at once as I waited to disembark the plane. For the first time since I left Australian soil I didn’t want to race of the plane, I wasn’t ready to put my big girl pants on and find my way around this strange new place. However as I was herded through customs and baggage collection (which was very nicely marked out by the way) that inkling of excitement started to squash the nerves.

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South Beach, Miami
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South Beach, Miami

Originally I was supposed to arrive at 1am in the morning but my flight had been changed to earlier so my arranged pick-up wasn’t there. I had heard many stories about how dangerous Lima is and about all the dodgy taxi drivers so I was hesitant to go with one of the many taxi drivers offering rides at the arrivals gate. However, not wanting to sit around until 1am, I ignored the warning voices in my head and negotiated a price with one of the authorised taxi drivers. Keeping my guard up from the moment I left the airport doors, I was on the look out for any suss movements. The poor taxi driver must have thought I was an absolute weirdo as I clutched my belongings for dear life and sat on the edge of the seat. I needn’t have worried, the taxi driver took me all the way to Miraflores and carried my bags to the hostel door. He was polite, courteous and in no way dodgy. I was starting to think these stories about how dangerous Lima is were slightly exaggerated.

Walking into the Dragonfly Hostel I was now excited. This was going to be my new home for the next two weeks while I volunteered with them. I had found them through Workaway, which I personally think is the best and cheapest way to arrange volunteering around the world. I met the manager Sergio and found out I would be helping out at the bar and with reception and housekeeping in exchange for free accommodation and half price on everything else. Sounds good to me! I fell into bed around 11:30pm and slept soundly til the following morning.

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I woke early due to the heat and the loud noises from the street below. What I would later become accustomed to was the endless sounds of traffic and car alarms. Lima never really slept, which after peaceful nights in Hawaii – it would take some getting used to.

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If you insist!

I spent the day down by the beach with some new friends from the hostel. I got severely burnt and helped cook the most delicious spaghetti ever! I chilled out on the rooftop, enjoying the breeze and finally reading the books I had brought until 6pm when I started my first shift.

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El Parque Del Amor
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Wandering around Miraflores
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El Parque Del Amor ❤
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Park scenes

The work was easy, I just had to talk to other guests, get drinks, take money and keep the bar tidy. I was working with another volunteer from Argentina and despite his broken English we got along great. When I got to bed around 11:30pm I was happy with the day I’d had. The next two weeks were looking promising (minus the car alarms) and I was keen to see what they brought.

 

J.x