How South America Stole My Heart – Part 1: Sydney to Lima.

It’s Saturday 10th October 2015 and I’m jumping on a plane in Sydney, but before I get on that plane, I find myself on the receiving end of a lesson in Spanish by the check in attendant. He’s charming the pants off my travel buddy Anne and I (well not literally…) and we’re oblivious to what he’s actually doing with our seating arrangements. We’re just relieved our baggage is under weight to start with.

We get to the boarding gate and realise we’re at opposite ends of the plane, even though our seating had been confirmed prior by our travel agent. First hurdle and lesson that anything can happen in travel. We manage to rectify the situation at the boarding gate before it opened and we are on our way!

This will be my third fundraising trek for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service and I couldn’t be more excited. My trekking journey for the service began back in 2011, taking on the Great Wall of China. The second adventure, conquering the Kokoda Track in 2013. We were down on numbers this trek, but nothing is going to stop the Three Amigos having the time of our lives.

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Santiago, Chile

Fourteen hours, three movies, endless nanna naps and a thousand meals later it’s touchdown in Santiago, Chile! The first thing I notice is the mountains…  the huge snow capped mountains surrounding the city. I have never seen anything like them… but little did I know, this was just a taste of what was to come. It’s a bit lilke that Crocodile Dundee moment “THAT’S not a knife/mountain…”

So what else do you do when you’re wandering around an airport in South America, waiting for your connecting flight? It’s Pisco Sour time! After downing a couple of these little (well, rather large) babies and meeting a couple of fellow Aussie travellers, Lynelle and John in the bar, we all roll along to the boarding gate in a flurry of Pisco haze, excitement and anticipation of what the next few weeks will hold for all of us. We’re bound for Peru. First stop, Lima.

As we fly over the capital of Peru, I’m amazed at how hazy it all looks. There’s surf along the coastline and plenty of ships waiting outside the harbour. It reminded me of Newcastle, but that observation quickly changed, once we were on the ground! There is a constant sea mist that blankets the city (it’s called garua) at certain times of the year and it really does create a dreamlike atmosphere. The pace of the city is relaxed yet busy in parts and it has a modern yet colonial feel. I notice there are dogs, everywhere. People out walking their dogs. In fact hundreds of people out walking their dogs. There are also street dogs, who seem to look pretty happy, all going about their business. They even seem to know how to use the pedestrian crossings! The streets are clean, it’s all quite orderly but chaotic at the same time (particularly the traffic)!

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The Coastline at Miraflores

Our accommodation is located in the the uptown shopping and business area of Miraflores. A quaint little area with beautiful houses set by the Pacific Ocean. I immediately notice the Spanish influence with churches smattered amongst the modern architecture. I love the mix of old and new. As we walk along the main avenue in the evening, searching for a place to eat, there are so many police about, it feels completely safe. We later found out that there was a World Bank conference on in the city, security was on high alert. They were all very polite with their greetings as we walked on by. Buenos tardes!

We come across a traditional Peruvian outdoor restaurant, complete with live music.  The perfect place to stop for a traditional Peruvian seafood stew! Anne had some kind of soup, with basically a whole crab and no utensils to crack it!

There’s a crab in my soup!

Food was delicious but little did I know, this was just the beginning of an amazing experience with food an culture in this wonderful country.

 

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One of the local Peruvian dogs standing guard!

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Huaca Huallamarca

The next day we were treated to a half day tour of Lima where we visited a pre-Inca pyramid (Huaca Huallamarca), the Government Palace, the Plaza mayor, City Hall and a 17th Century San Fransisco Monastery. The pyramid was located smack bang in the middle of the city and it was constructed somewhere between AD 200 -500. It’s been restored and beautifully preserved, and the history is fascinating. There were three main occupation periods; before and during the Lima culture (200BC to 700AD) by settlers from the Lima Valley; by the Ishma (around 11th century) and then the Incas (15th and 16th century). First utilised as a temple, then converted to a cemetery and later changed to a human settlement. A physical testimony for the highly developed communities in pre-Hispanic times. We also saw our first Peruvian Inca dog (Orchid) or ‘Calato’ which means naked. They are strange looking dogs, but have a lovely temperament.

Government Palace

Government Palace

After our lovely morning tour, we were given a tip on the best place to eat, by our local guide. Oh boy was he right! We ended up at this place called Brujas de Cachiches. The concept Cachiche gourmet Witch is based on the identification of a Classic Cuisine Peruvian Restaurant and fusion with International Gastronomy. If you are ever in Lima, I urge you to find this place… We decided to have a couple of tasting plates so we could try a bit of everything. One of them was called the Catch of the Day ‘tiradito’ platter. Ceviche (traditional Peruvian dish of raw fish cured in citrus and spiced with chilli) octopus in a smooth black olive sauce, crab meat causa (mashed yellow potato cakes stuffed with fresh crab meat), parmesan grilled scallops, crispy fried quinoa coated shrimp tails and aguaymanto syrup, 4 small catch of the day kebabs in a yellow chilli sauce and glazed sweet potato.

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Catch of the Day Platter

Our second platter consisted of home made green humita and corn tamale, stuffed Arequipa style rocoto pepper, Lima style stuffed potato croquettes, cow heart and chicken kebabs, fried suckling pig chunks, cumin buttered corn kernels (brujos) and yucca croquettes with dips.

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Criollo Platter

So as you can see… my love affair with the food in South America began right here…

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Pisco Sour

A few Pisco Sours later and we were right to go!

Lima was the perfect introduction to Peru. It was short and sweet and with the next stop being downtown Cusco we decided to have an early night, drinking coca tea in preparation for the altitude. Although it probably wasn’t the best thing to do in the evening as we later found out that we should only drink it in the morning, as it’s more of an energy drink (based on cocaine!). Needless to say I was wide awake for hours and I got a bit hungry around midnight… lucky there was room service!

Club sandwich anyone?

 

Adios Lima, you’ve been great.

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