From Lima to the Amazon

We were staying at a B&B in an area called Miraflores, an area we were told was one of Lima’s nicer areas, and on arrival it certainly seemed to be. Two blocks from the coastline, a plethora of restaurants to choose from (if they were open). I had been put in contact with a friend of a friend and I met Denis for dinner at La Panka, which served up local Peruvian food, though I couldn’t quite bring myself to try the cuy just yet (otherwise known as guinea pig); I will get there though. We headed onto a pisco bar in the city, where they made their own pisco, a spit and sawdust kind of a place frequented by locals, not a tourist to be seen. One pisco sour and one  Chilcano later, the original made with egg white, the other with ginger ale (my preference) it was time to head back for Dee’s arrival.

Dee arrived in late that night, so we were in no urgent rush to get out the next morning. We took a wander down by the coast; well along the cliff road that looks down onto the Atlantic ocean and some fabulous beaches, we never really worked out how to get down to the beach. As it was Sunday few places were open and trying to find a place for lunch seemed limited unless you wanted to pay a hefty sum for a buffet lunch. We just wanted to try the local ceviche. We came across a small local place, set three course menu for £4 with the Inca kola.

Public transport is quite limited especially in the area we were staying so it was taxi time. Denis had shown me the ins and outs the night before. Preferably find yourself a new looking taxi. As gringos they were just going to try and over charge us but I managed good in most occasions to not be ripped off too much. Over the following two days taxis were going to be our heaven and our hell.

Into the city centre we went for a wander around the major plazas.  We took the tour around the San Francisco monastery which is famous for its catacombs and remarkable library with thousands of antique texts, some dating back to the Spanish Conquest. The church is one of the best preserved of Lima’s early colonial churches, largely restored to its original baroque style with Moorish influence. The underground catacombs are the site of an estimated 70,000 burials, with unnerving bone-filled crypts. They were discovered in 1948 having served as a burial place until 1808 when the city cemetery was opened outside of the city. Bones and skulls are neatly placed in shallow pits by the archeologists. It’s dark, eerie and quite overpowering.

After that fun little tour we needed to leave some ghosts to rest and found ourselves in the chocolate museum trying various chocolates and eyeing up all sorts of goodies

Changing currency in Lima you need top look for the men in yellow hi vis jackets and they will change it for you on the street, fire all to see in the street, so just be aware. They pretty much give the same dollar rate as the market is giving but for Argentinean pesos I wasn’t so lucky. Rubbish rate to the market taste as who wants pesos. So I didn’t change, I’ll just have to go back to Argentina and spend them.

Going food fancy

Lima has become a real food destination in recent years. With access to such a wide variety of fresh fish, diverse local produce, chefs have put Lima on the map. In the World’s Top 50 restaurants, number 4 is located in Lima and then there is Astrid y Gaston which comes in at number xxx. I was able to secure a lunch booking in there on a Monday afternoon, however the tasting. Menu was not available which for 7 courses was going for the sum of £60 / US $85 plus drinks. By London standards this would be considered cheap! It’s my food budget for the next week or more but what the heck, when is this opportunity going to arise again.

We had a little bitty of a nightmare to get there. Our hotel has booked Ann online taxi, so in theory the taxi driver had the address, a phone with maps etc. Ah ahhh. He drove three blocks, asked for directions from the tissue police and flower woman and then dropped us a block away and wouldn’t take into consideration my map and where we wanted to go. So we had to jump out. We started to walk and then thought we would give another taxi a chance – plus we were already 20 minutes late. Next cab we didn’t have to give directions to even though by this time our directional Spanish was getting a little better.

It didn’t matter that we were 40 minutes late, we were seated and Our waiter decided that he would give us a smaller version of the tasting menu. Our menu would be fish based rather than meat. So below are the courses that we had. After what seemed like a long time with no fresh fish available, this was just the best thing ever.

We tried the Peruvian sauvignon Blanc, which at only 11% had a lot less alcohol within than their southern neighbors. Again it was surprisingly light and I would have probably ordered a bottle if I hadn’t been so stuffed already.

As we sat there, the couple next to us received their chocolate desert ball. The size of a large coconut she had to get two desert spoons and crack it on the sides for it to break open to reveal the contents of fruit, sponge, custard and then they came asking and topped it with more hot chocolate. At one stage we thought we were getting that same desert but fortunately ours was a lot smaller and a smorgasbord of chocolate brownie, chocolate ice cream, chocolate shavings and meringue.

After all that food we couldn’t even think about having dinner that night.

Jungle bound

We were up early to catch the 0800 flight to bring us to Puerto Maldonado, over on the east of Peru, bordering the Amazon region, with 71,000 people living there. To be honest, from the little we saw of the town you it wasn’t a place you would want to hang out in for too long. It didn’t help that it had been raining and there was mud everywhere.

Ne’er mind, as we were hanging around waiting to be taken for our boat, the realisation that there was going to be no Wi-Fi for more than 48 hours was beginning to hit – OMG, no contact with the outside world) as we were taking a 90 minute boat ride down the Rio into the jungle to the EcoAmazonia lodge where we had a fun packed two days organised by the lodge. On arrival at the lodge, bags were left and straight out we went to a nearby lagoon for the spotting of wildlife. Have a look before at the caiman thinking that he had got his dinner sorted for the evening. (Alas it was fruit which they don’t eat).

A three course dinner and we were back out in the boat again for some night time wildlife spotting. They made sure we were back before 9pm as we were getting wake up calls for 5am as our activities kicked is at 6am.

We woke up to the monkeys howling and the parakeets squawking. A beautifully laid out fresh fruit breakfast, scrambled eggs, coffee as black and strong to get us ready for our trip into the jungle. A 1km walk to where we would come to our paddle boat and head down one of the many Amazonian tributaries in the area. Our guide Walter (original name was Cesar, but liked the name Walter for his tourists) was taking us out to show and tell us about the birds, the plants, trees and whatever else may come our way.

Brown hawks, tucans, caimans, parakeets, woodpeckers, king bulcher (and Walter got well excited at this one as he had not seen one in the jungle before) parrots, monkeys and a host of others.
The tour also included a second paddle boat ride out into the swamp and up a 30m high watch tower to give us a perspective of the area.

Our final afternoon tour was to Monkey Island just the other side of the river. Over the past 10 years ago several breeds of monkey had been rescued and placed on the island to live including bbq the brown cappuccino monkey and the black spider monkey. During the wet season when there is no fruit available the monkeys have become accustomed to visitors coming with bananas for them a couple of times a week to ensure that they do not starve.

Our last night in the lodge was a sedate one as we were up early again the next morning for our cold damp boat ride back to Puerto Maldondo. The weather had not improved at all whilst we were there and we were just looking forward to dry warm beds that night in Cusco…

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