sunset in the Plaza de Armas Cusco

Cusco Cool

Saturday August 31, 2013

streetlights of Cusco

Our past two days here in Cusco have flown by, and I feel like I don’t have any photos to show for it.  Because with what’s been going up lately, 14 is basically nothing, right?

We arrived in Cusco yesterday morning after taking another overnight bus, and grabbed a taxi just as the sun was coming up.  With no definite hostel in mind, but a list of three of them in our hand, we were dropped in the Plaza de Armas and started walking from there.  The first one we popped our heads into didn’t hold much interest, so we went to the next one down the list where, even though we were walking in at 7 am, still had many people milling about in the center courtyard.  Whether they were just early risers or were still up from the night before, I have no idea..  We checked into this place, and after being brought to our dorm room where there was no way we couldn’t have not woken up the four other people sleeping in there as we crammed our bags into the lockers and stumbled to our bunks in the dark, we once again passed out until noon.

Upon waking, we showered and changed out of the clothes that we had now been wearing for over 24 hours straight, before taking on this new city.  Cusco is town that lies about 50 miles outside of Machu Picchu, and where most people stop for a few days to acclimatize to the altitude before continuing on there.  This is also the jumping off point for the Inca Trail, or in our case, the departure spot for the train that will take us there.  Because there are so many gringos passing through here on their way to Machu Picchu, it is fully dedicated to tourist.  The center of town is full of upscale boutiques and shops, plus even a McDonald’s in the Plaza de Armas.  If you thought we’d be running in there as soon as we saw those golden arches, like we were seeing a long lost lover after months away, you would be wrong.  We actually went to a little bistro down Gringo Alley (as the guidebook calls it) where Matt got a club sandwich and I enjoyed banana crepes.  Besides, we had McDonald’s back in Arequipa.

Finishing our lunch, we went to take on the city ourselves after we realized we once more missed the damn Free Walking Tour after sleeping in past it’s noon start time.  It wasn’t very hard to find the major draws of this town though.  There were three plazas within two blocks of our hostel, each one with a nice fountain and benches surrounding it.  Wanting to get better views of the city as a whole though, we found winding stairs and streets that led up the foothills surrounding Cusco, and took in breathtaking views as we stood stories above everything.  I swear, the skies here are the sharpest blue I’ve seen anywhere in the world.

staircase in Cusco

overlooking Cusco

 On a quick side note, we found out as we were trekking up these streets made of stone, that neither of us were wearing shoes that had any kind of traction.  There were a few times that each of us went to put a foot down, and it would slide out from under us where you’re left doing that awkward thing where your arms flail out at your side, and there’s a half second where you’re pretty sure your ass is going to come into hard contact with the ground, before gaining your balance and righting yourself again.  I’m sure it was pretty good amusement for the locals that watched us from their doorsteps.  I’m feel fairly certain that buying new shoes, at least for Matt since he says I have too many pairs already, is going to be on our list of things to do while here.  Good thing that every other shop in the pedestrian mall is a shoe store.  You think I’m kidding.  I’m not.

Before we had the chance to kill ourselves or fall off a mountain before getting to Machu Picchu, since I think I could die happy after that and wouldn’t care, we sequestered ourselves back to the main plazas, going back to people watching and reading our books.  There was also an ever popular game of ‘Slug Bug’ going on, since there were more old VW bugs here than I’ve ever seen in my life.  Matt kind of kicked my ass at that one, but I like to pretend I was more into my book than watching cars.  When it came time for dinner, we found a really nice Chinese restaurant just down the road from our hostel.  We’re finding these things everywhere here in Peru, they’re almost as popular as shoe stores.  A plate of pork fried rice big enough to feed 2 will only set you back about $3, and add a liter of Coke to that for $1.50, and we were staying well below our meal budget.  We happily chomped away on our cheap food while wearing our llama gloves and hats, since Peru seems to have a policy of leaving all doors open, even when the temperature drops down to 45 degrees at night.

Plaza de Armas Cusco

Peruvian woman by fountain

 Today there was a little business to take care of before we could enjoy ourselves.  Since Matt is ever the planner, he wanted to make sure that we had our bus tickets booked and in our hand for our next few destinations.  The train will get us to Machu Picchu and back, but we’ve found that with the bus line we use, ticket prices jump up the day before and day of departure, so it’s best to buy them a little in advance.  Without a printer at our disposal, or even much trust of the websites used here, we first tried to walk back to the bus station before getting hopelessly lost and hailing a cab.  Once there we purchased tickets to and from Puno, where Lake Titicaca sits on the Peruvian side, and then back up to Lima so we can finally start heading north.  Back in town we had to hunt down the office for PeruRail to have our train tickets for tomorrow printed out as well, and with that, the rest of the afternoon was ours.

There was a little bit of shoe shopping to be had for Matt, and although he did find a style that he absolutely loved, he also found out that his American size 12 foot was too big for them to produce anything in his size here.  Hopefully Lima will cater to bigger men.  There was also a tour through a local Chocolate Factory, and we were given samples of so many delicious tasting things, including tea that tasted just as good as hot chocolate, and even a misting of Axe bodyspray for Men in chocolate for Matt.  Also on the list was to check out a large market that’s hosted a few blocks from the center of town.  Walking through the rows of goods, I had to remind myself that I don’t have the need or even the room for a llama sweater, but we did walk away with about a five pound wheel of cheddar, and also took a moment to sit down and try picarones, which are fried rings of squash and sweet potato drizzled with honey.  A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.


Having spent two days wandering the streets now, we spent the rest of our day hanging out in the Plaza de Armas until the sun went down.  This is supposed to be one of the most beautiful plazas in Peru at night, and I don’t disagree.  I have to say though, better than nighttime, I think sunset is the absolute best time here.

Church and fountain in Cusco

fountain in Cusco Peru

Avenida de Sol CuscoChurch, Cusco Peru

Traditional Peruvian attire in Cusco

sunset in the Plaza de Armas Cusco

Cusco Peru at night

 Back at the hostel for the night, we thought we’d hang out in the bar lounge area while enjoying a beer and getting some work done on our computers.  We’re quickly finding out that backpackers are not like cruisers, in the sense that we’re all drawn together, especially people in our age bracket.  We’re starting to find that, and not to pigeonhole backpackers as a group, but in the place we’re staying, if you’re into getting completely wasted or staying up until four in the morning or finding someone to hook up with for the night, you don’t fit in.  The people here don’t seem to be interested in talking about their travels, they seem to be more interested in getting wasted in different parts of the world, or talking about other parts of the world they got wasted in.  It’s like we’ve walked into a Frat House, 10 years too old.  We are literally the old farts of the group here, which is funny considering that I just wrote about us being in the young ones in the cruising world.  There happened to be a masquerade party going on at our hostel that night, and while actually being able to engage one of our roommates in a conversation while I was working, Matt was told by this guy that “Maybe you should put a mask on.  Then no one will know how old you are, and they might talk to you.”.  Thanks guy.  You just made us feel a loooot better about ourselves.  I think I’ll now drown my sorrows in that one liter bottle of beer in front of me.

masquerade party

watching pigeons Plaza de Armas Arequipa

R & R in Arequipa

Thursday August 29, 2013

pigeons in Arequipa

Our next stop along the way our travels through Peru was Arequipa.  We actually never originally had any intent on going here, but it turns out it was cheaper to buy a bus ticket going from Nazca to this very southern town in Peru and then on to Cusco, than buying a direct ticket from Nazca to Cusco.  Can you guess which side won?  The bus ride to this town we had never planned on visiting, happened to be a little adventure in itself.  Taking our first overnight trip on one, to save on the cost of a room of course, we thought we had it made by being placed in the very front seats on the second level, directly in front of the large glass windows that make you feel like you’re on some kind of amusement park ride.  Then we realized that  A.)  It was dark, and therefore there was nothing to see out of those windows.  and  B.)  Shortly after we boarded, the stewards made us close the curtains in front of the window anyway for security reasons.  (I guess it’s not uncommon for buses to get robbed at night if it’s apparent they’re full of people)

We were about to sit back and try and get some shut-eye when the staff also decided that 10:30 at night was a perfect time to serve us our dinner.  One that we weren’t even expecting, so it was our second of the night.  Normally I can easily get on board with a little extra food, but it seems they don’t think it’s necessary for that front row of seats to come equipped with trays to put that food on, so we sat trying to balance our food and drinks (in open Dixie cups, mind you) as our bus bounced and swerved through the winding roads and into the mountains.  It felt like I was on another kind of amusement park ride where I’d win a prize just for getting the food in my mouth.

When the bus dropped us off in Arequipa at 7 the next morning, our eyes were drooping like we had barely gotten a wink of sleep.  Stuffing our bags into a taxi, which we found are much cheaper outside of Lima and you can usually negotiate a $1-2 ride out of them, we were brought to our hostel which thankfully let us check in right away due to low vacancy, and we crashed on our separate bunks until noon.  Unfortunately for us though, our extra shut-eye also meant that we missed out on the Free Walking Tour about town, which we had seen advertised in the office when we were checking in.  Looks like it was up to us to see what Arequipa had to offer.

Pulling out our trusty Peru guidebook once more (which was lent to us by Luis and has already become invaluable on this trip) we found directions to the town’s Plaza de Armas and made our way over there.  If I thought we were impressed by the one in Lima, we were really impressed by the one here in Arequipa.  Most of the buildings were made out of white volcanic stone, with two stories of arched balconies and walkways, and looming over all of it was Mt. Misti, a 19,000 ft active volcano.  For minutes we stood there in awe of our surroundings of the buildings surrounding us, and then took a moment to stand in awe of all the thousands of pigeons surrounding us at our feet.  The square was absolutely full of them and it was hard not to step on them as you walked.

men walking Plaza de Armas Arequipa

Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa

Strolling through the just as beautiful and picturesque side streets, we walked the Old Town from one side to the other.  While on the hunt for food we saw a woman selling goods just outside of a church, and guess what she had?  Yup, llama gloves!  After our freezing cold day in Lima, Matt couldn’t deny that he didn’t need them any longer and we each picked out a pair to carry for the rest of our travels.  Believe me, they will be needed back at the boat as well.  Throw in a llama hat as well for Matt (I was smart enough to bring one with me), and we were all set to handle any more cold Peruvian weather thrown at us.

After our awesome knit llama goods score, we stopped into an upscale bar with nice views of Misti.  We treated ourselves to a pitcher of sangria and found out from our server that if you spent X amount of dollars, or whatever our pitcher ended up being, that you received a free pisco sour.  It turned into a very happy hour indeed.

overlooking Misti

Deja Vu Arequipa Peru

sangria at Deja Vu

overlooking San Francisco Church

 A little worn out and not sure what else to look at, we made our way back to the Plaza de Armas after our drinks.  Mostly though, I had just wanted to feed the pigeons.  And once I’ve had two glasses of sangria and a pisco sour, there’s really no shutting me up until I get what I want.  So back to the square we went, where we paid $0.40 for a bag of bird seed and had the time of our lives for the next thirty minutes as we tossed the food around, and eventually just kept it in our hands to let the birds come to us.

Matt holding pigeons

Jessica holding pigeons

watching pigeons Plaza de Armas Arequipa

hiding from pigeons

Plaza de Armas Arequipa Peru

After that it was back to the hostel for a little relaxing.  It feels like we’ve been cramming so much in to the past few weeks that we haven’t had time to just sit.  We took a few new side streets as the sun was going down, so early here at 5:30!, and caught the last few minutes of an amazing sunset from the roof of our hostel.

Misti just before sunset

Misti at sunset

Arequipa sunset 1

Arequipa sunset 2

 Today we decided to keep it really simple and keep the theme of relaxing continuing on.  We took turns between sitting in the Plaza de Armas, sometimes scrolling through books on our e-readers, and sometimes watching the crowds of people pass by; and also trying to tour a few of the streets that we never made it to yesterday.  All in all, it was a pretty chill day of doing absolutely nothing.  And I was completely fine with that.  If there has been one place to just stop and take in the views, this is it.

Church of the Jesuits

traditional Peruvian attire

Arequipa beer

Mt. Misti in blue skies

Nazca Lines - tree & lizard

I Spy With my Little Eye, the Nazca Lines

Tuesday August 27, 2013

Nazca Lines

I think it’s safe to say that that Matt and I are pretty big history buffs.  Not in the pouring over books and articles kind of way, but the ‘I can’t keep my eyes off The History Channel’ back when we had cable kind of way.  We were always mesmerized by the shows, especially the ones relating back to events or structures that were many hundreds or even thousands of years ago.  The Nazca Lines had appeared on a few of those shows that had captivated us and we had always thought, “Man, that would be so cool to see!”, but was just as suddenly followed by the thought of ‘When the hell would we be in whatever desert in the middle of nowhere that those are in?’.  Well, it turned out that desert in the middle of nowhere happened to be in southwest Peru, and we also happened to be passing through it anyway on our way to Cusco and Machu Picchu.

If you’re not familiar with them, the Nazca Lines are a series of ancient biomorphs and geoglyphs in the Nazca desert, and were created by the Nazca culture sometime between 200 and 650 AD.  Throughout the desert are a total of over 900 images in shapes ranging from animals such as a monkey, a hummingbird, and a spider; to plant figures (the plants and animals make up the biomorphs); to geometric forms including triangles, spirals, and trapezoids (the geometric forms make up the geoglyphs).  These figures are so large and hard to make out from the ground that they weren’t widely known to our current culture until the 1930’s when they were flown over by aircrafts.  To give a reference to the size, there is a 1,000 ft  pelican, and the longest straight line among the forms stretches out nine miles across the desert.

Originally, we had intended to take a flight over the lines to get the best possible viewing of them, as well as to try and see as many as possible since overall they spread 37 miles across the desert.  Waking up in the morning though, the sky was quite overcast, and we’d read that a cloudy sky can make the lines very hard to see from a plane.  (Plus, overall reviews of the flights lately haven’t been that good)  Instead, we talked to the owner at our hostel who was able to set us up on a private tour.  For around the cost of $40, she hired us an English speaking guide that, in his own car, would take us to three overlooks and one museum.

First stopping off at a local restaurant for lunch, we tried a Peruvian meal which even though I can’t remember the name of it now, ended up being three pieces of fried chicken and a ton of rice.  To wash it down, we tried our very first pisco sours, which at the cost of $2.50, was actually the same as our meal.  I really think I could get down with the cheap cost of food here in Peru.  Anyway, moving on.  Our tour guide picked us up right in front of the hostel and was a very nice guy that spoke very nice English.  He told us he’s been doing these tours for 10 years now, and just to cater to the large diversity of people that visit, has learned five languages to be able to conduct his tours!  Almost makes me feel useless that I can’t master one on top of my own.

The first place we were taken were a set of hills just off the Pan American Highway.  Before we climbed to the top to view a few of the lines passing by us, our guide explained how they were originally made.  This area of desert is composed of reddish iron oxide covered pebbles, which when brushed aside, unearth white colored sand underneath.  It would seem questionable on how these lines would have survived this long without getting washed out or blown away in the wind, but there are two reasons we can still see them today.  One is, that in this particular area in the world, there is basically no wind, and no rainfall.  Less than a half an inch a year actually.  The other reason is that in the mid 1900’s, a restoration project was started where members of the team would walk through with brooms and brush new rocks off the existing lines, once again unearthing the white sand.

Nazca Lines running across Pan American Highway

Two parallel lines running across the desert.

Nazca Desert

Many odd lines running through the sand.

viewing Nazca desert

Nazca desert & Pan American Highway

close-up of Nazca Line

Close-up of a Nazca Line


Our next stop along the way was a tall viewing platform called the Mirador Tower.  This was a tall and rickety set of metal stairs that led to a platform about three stories high, from which you can clearly see three images of the Nazca Lines.  The frog, the tree, and the lizard.  Paying a small fee, we climbed the steps and were treated to much better views of shapes we could actually make out.  To our left was the frog, which doesn’t really look too much like a frog, and is probably why it’s also referred to as ‘the hands’.  To our right was the tree, which instead of showing a trunk with branches or leaves, focused more on the trunk and the roots flowing underground.  The lizard was slightly more off if the distance and we could only make out the tail, which was a very long triangle to us.  Even though we weren’t able to take the flight, I was happy with what we were able to see from the tower.  Plus, at the bottom there was a guy selling stones from the desert where he’s carved shapes of the lines in to them.  For just a couple of dollars we picked up a few keychains with shapes of the hummingbird and the monkey carved into them.  Because one day down the road we’ll own a home or a car again, right?

Nazca Lines - frog

 The frog, …. or hands.

Nazca Lines - treeThe tree, with the tail of the lizard above it.

Jessica & Matt - Nazca LinesPan American HighwayPan American Highway

Nazca Lines - tree & lizardThere was one more viewing tower our guide was taking us to, but this one did now show lines in the desert.  Instead, it showed four figures of people in a hillside.  Our guide explained that the one shown with the wide eyes was depicted at the chief of a tribe.  The wide eyes were supposed to signify that he had taken a hallucinogen and were having an out of body experience.  These figures had also just undergone a restoration in the past 20 years.

figures on hill - Nazca

Matt on viewing platform

The last stop our guide took us to that day was the Museum of Maria Reiche.  She was a German anthropologist that dedicated her life to the study and restoration of the Nazca Lines.  From the 1940’s until her death in 1998, she worked on mapping and studying the lines, even convincing the Peruvian Air Force to make aerial photographic surveys.  The museum shows these photos on display, along with the sparse living conditions Maria endured while living there.  Most of her time was spent cooped up in a dirt room floor that consisted of a bed, a stove, and a desk.  The other part of the museum was a display of artifacts that had been exhumed from nearby areas.  Most were very well preserved pieces of pottery, but the one that surprised us the most was a fully intact pre-Inca mummy.  It sat in the center of the room in a glass case, and as we stared at it in wonder, our guide made sure to point out things like the long thick hair which was still intact, and the tattoos running up the arm.

We never did get to wander through a burial ground/cemetery out in the desert, which we’ve heard from others is the next best thing to see here after the lines.  I guess there are just random bones and skulls lying around in the sand, and it’s easy to walk right across them if you don’t watch your step.  Oh well, next time I guess.  I still think we got a lot in and we’re happy with the day we spent here in Nazca.

Maria Reiche's VW

aerial views of Nazca Lines

Pre-Incan Mummy

8.25.13 (9)

American Backpackers in Lima

Sunday August 25, 2013

Lima Presidential Palace

Looks like the security guards at the airport thought that six hours straight was enough to let us sleep on the floor in front of Radio Shack before nudging us awake at 5:30 this morning and telling us to move on.  Or at least, that’s the body language Matt picked up on since the guard was talking to him in Spanish and I was still passed out.  Honestly, I’m kind of surprised they let us stay there that long considering it was still a relatively busy area in the airport and people were constantly walking by.  Guess they’re still a little lenient with airport sleepers here in Peru, because I don’t think I could see security being ok with people sleeping right next to the food court back in the States.

Still having no idea how far away our hostel was located or the best/cheapest way to get there, we moved over to a table at Starbucks where I got a plain black coffee just to be able to access the internet and answer our questions.  The security guard was still giving us sideways  glances, probably expecting us to wait and see if he left so we could steal our sleeping spot back.  Tempting, but it now looked like we were up for the day.

Quick side note on our spending while we’re here in South America.  As not to completely break our bank and keep our monthly budget not a whole lot higher than the $1,500 – $2,000 a month we allow ourselves right now, we’ve tried to set in place some strict spending rules while we’re away.  We know there will be bus tickets and entry fees to get into places we want to see, but we’re going to try to live in the guidelines of $10/person or less for lodging each night, and $10/person or less for food each day.  Having researched many many hostels before we left, the lodging shouldn’t be much of a problem if we stick to dorm rooms.  The food?  Well, I don’t see any fancy restaurants in our future.  But this is also another reason why we began scouring the internet for cheap ways to get to our hostel downtown.  A taxi would obviously be the most expensive.  There were collectivos, similar to what took to Morales the other month, but we didn’t know if they came to the airport, and more importantly, did not know how to direct them to our hostel.  There’s also an underground metro system, but apparently you have to buy a card, and we just didn’t want to mess with that.  So, taxi it was.

We found a driver right outside the door, an English speaking one, and although we were able to talk him down about six dollars, I’m still guessing we got the much higher tourist rate for the ten minutes it took us to get downtown.  Walking up to the hostel’s door, it was locked with no sign of life inside, so we meandered through the park across the street, giving it a good hour before we went back to try again.  When the door was still locked on our second trip back, we started getting frustrated, until a person passing by on the street pointed to the buzzer we hadn’t noticed right next to the door.  Ahhh, yes.  We Americans are so very observant.

Italian Art Museum, Lima

 Italian Art Museum that was across from our hostel.


Getting checked into the hostel and finding out our room wouldn’t be available for another seven hours, we left our bags in a lounge area behind the desk (after having done a quick clothing change there as well) and hit the streets of Lima to see what we could explore.  My new messenger back was stocked full with our Peru guide, a Spanish to English Dictionary, my camera, and even a long sleeve shirt for me to throw on in case it got cold, but with the sun coming out and warming up the streets I had no reason to think I would need it.  Opening up the guidebook once we were outside, it said the Plaza de Armas was a spot well worth visiting.  Trying to follow the street maps given we were quickly lost and needed to ask directions.  As it turns out, the street cop that I tried my terrible Spanish on ended up speaking perfect English.  He directed us toward the Plaza and also told us not to miss out on the Basilica de San Francisco and the tour of the catacombs housed below.

home in Lima

The streets were full of homes with these enclosed balconies.  I want one!


When we did find ourselves dropped out into the Plaza de Armas, we were astounded.  It was huge, stunning, and not at all what we were expecting.  Besides the large courtyard with a fountain in the center, two sides of the square were surrounded by bright yellow buildings full of restaurants and shops, and the other two sides housed the Lima Cathedral, and the Presidential Palace.  Each were striking in their stature, and it didn’t even take us two seconds to run into the Cathedral to check it out.  The size itself was impressive as it stands with two large towers marking the entrance and vaulted ceilings with rows of pillars on the inside.  Lining both sides of the church and making their way up to the altar are gated off alcoves that contain sculptures and carvings that are so intricate that I could imagine someone spending their whole lifetime only completing one.

Lima Cathedral

carving in Lima Cathedral


Back outside we were making our way up the few blocks to the Basilica when we heard music in the streets.  Matt grabbed my arm and quickly dragged me along to where the sound was coming from.  Just outside of the Basilica, coincidentally, was some kind of parade going on.  We didn’t know what it was representing or whom it might be honoring, but it was a treat to enjoy it just the same.  We didn’t know how long it had been going before we came, but we were able to see about three different groups in costumes, dancing and parading through the streets.  One of the groups seemed more tribal, with fancy feathered headdresses and dancing in what looked to us, like Native American type moves.  Then there were woman and little girls in white shirts with very brightly colored ribbons that twirled around them as they spun in circles.  The last one, well, I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of it.  It was mostly men with one girl in the center, and they seemed to have a ten step coreographed move that ended with the guys opening their jackets wide, as if they were about to flash innocent onlookers.  Stranger part though, was the diablo-esque masks on their face and the bottles of beer in their hands.

native dancers in Lima

Ribbon dancers, Lima

Ribbon girls, Limabeer dancers, Lima 1beer dancers, Lima 2

8.25.13 (9)

 When the parade ended we marched back up the street to the Basilica to see if we could get in on one of the tours.  For an English speaking guide we waited about 15 minutes, but then joined a group of about 20 people as we began to wander through the halls.  This church was built in the late 1600’s, and as we walked through it was pointed out that many of the tiles and paintings lining the walls  were original to the building.  For one part of the tour, we stopped in front of a painting of Jesus and the 12 disciples at the last supper, but according to this painting, the food du jour was guinea pig (a traditional Peruvian meal) served with a tall glass of pisco sour.  Maybe the margarita type drink would be ok for me to switch out with wine, but I don’t think guinea pig would be high on my list of things to eat as my last meal.

Our tour strolled through a few more rooms with just as many amazing amounts of art, architecture, and history, before we were finally led down to the catacombs below.  These were a part of Lima’s original cemeteries, which were built under churches.  Some of the guides estimate that there are over 75,000 bodies buried below Basilica de San Francisco alone, and we were about to go see them!  Only a small portion of the catacombs are open to visitors, but one of the rooms we were taken through showed how they were able to fit so many remains in there.  There was a long row made into a pit that sits next to the current walkway, and the 100 ft long area is sectioned off by stone into smaller pits that were maybe four feet wide by eight feet long.  Bodies would be placed in there, and as soon as that one filled up, they moved to the next pit, and so on.  Once it was time to start back at the beginning, those bodies would have decomposed down to bones and it made room for new ones on top.  At some point it was ‘organized’ where the bones were separated and put together in like categories.  Skulls over here, femurs over there….  Which is what we saw as we walked through.  Pit next to pit overflowing with human bones.  And since I’m a strange person that’s into gross medical stuff, I wasn’t creeped out or disgusted at all.  My mind instead wandered to things like ‘I wonder which pit of bones would be the best to hide in if an earthquake collapsed all the exits and I need to stash the granola bars in my purse before anyone finds out I have them and tries to take them.’   Cause my mind likes to wander like that.

inside San Francisco Church

 Inside the church.

Basilica de San Francisco

They didn’t allow any photos on the tour, so I could only get one of the outside.


When we walked back onto the streets once more, we found that the temperature had dropped dramatically.  My long sleeve shirt was soon on, along with a scarf, and I was almost wishing I had gloves on me as well.  I’m sure it was only in the mid to low 60’s, but apparently that’s how much my blood has thinned now.  I didn’t have too much time to think about it though, since we were cutting it very close on being able to catch the changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace, which happens at noon every day, although the friendly street cop told us to get there at quarter to.  The Presidential Palace is an impressive looking building that is the official residence and office of Peru’s President.  Here’s some interesting information I found about the palace on ‘Time – Travel’: “Back in the time of the Incas, the site had strategic and spiritual meaning, which is why the last Inca chief in Lima also lived here. Pizarro, the conqueror of the Incas, so liked the site that he kept it for the first Spanish palace, whose construction began in 1535. Since then, Government Palace has been rebuilt numerous times; the current French-inspired mansion was constructed in the 1930s.”.

It was nice we had the guy tell us to get there early because for a few minutes we were able to walk right up to the gates, as we were the only ones waiting outside it at the time, and snap a few close up photos of the building before the crowds came.  And boy did they.  Not even five minutes later, there were hundreds of people gathering in front of the palace to watch the show that was about to start.  Guards ushered everyone off the sidewalk and into the street (which was closed to cars in that area), but luckily we were still able to keep our spot in the front row.  It started with some high kicks from guards strutting around right in front of the palace facade, and then exiting just next to them was a full marching band.  For awhile I was so intent on watching the band that I didn’t even notice any guards that might be changing.  But then I was pulled away by Matt to watch something even more interesting.  There was a little old lady at the back of the crowd that was walking by and whacking people with her purse, for no apparent reason!  At first I thought she was just trying to cut to the front, but she’d wander in and out of the people, her only mission to clobber people with her bag.  Once the police tried to escort her away, she began whacking them as well!  You could tell there were two shows going on, with half of the crowd watching the changing of the guard, and half of the crowd watching her.

8.25.13 (13)

8.25.13 (14)

changing of the guard, Lima Peru

 By now our stomachs were growling as we realized we had not eaten anything since our airport Pizza Hut dinner last night.  Drifting through the streets and keeping an eye out for food, we came across plenty of little street vendors that were in the business of selling knit items like winter hats and leggings…and, oh my god,… llama gloves!  I don’t even know how long ago this conversation started between Matt and I, probably when I couldn’t find any winter gloves at Meijer in the middle of August, but I told him that it was likely we’d want some for this trip since we would be visiting cold places, and if we couldn’t find them in the States we’d just have to buy him llama gloves once we got to Peru.  I had been totally joking, I didn’t even know they made them.  But here they were, little knit gloves with images of llamas on the front.  It must be fate.  Although Matt, who still didn’t find them necessary at the moment, said he could live without them.  Ho hum.

Also along the streets we found little vendors selling empanadas for only $0.40 and each settled on one of those until we could find something better to eat, which, between our little dance of ‘Where do you want to eat?’  ‘I don’t know, where do you want to eat?’, can sometimes be hours.  Rounding the next street corner though, we saw what looked to be some kind of food festival going on with rows of chefs in front of one long table, all preparing different dishes.  The prices looked to be in our budget and there was definitely local fare there, so we decided to give it a shot.  Can you guess what dish ended up with?  The guinea pig.  We promised ourselves we’d try it at least once while in Peru to say that we did it, and this seemed to be as good of a time as any.  Splitting the dish since we didn’t know how we’d like it, we also got a pitcher of chicha morada (a natural beverage made out of purple corn) and brought it to an open table in the back.  The meat in the guinea pig itself wasn’t bad, kind of like eating the dark meat from a chicken or turkey, although it was kind of hard to pull it off from the body, and the little paw of the guinea pig that was sticking out at me kind of grossed me out.

Which makes the next set of events even more surprising.  We ate the toe nails.  I know, I know, eeewww!  And they were, too.  But back when we were visiting Matt’s grandma, she told us of her own time spent in Peru and how the toe nails of guinea pigs were a treat for the little kids to eat, and they’d snack on them the same way we eat potato chips.  I think they ones they got were a little more deep fried than ours, and it was definitely and experience that I can say I did once but I will never try again.

8.25.13 (17)

guinea pig lunch

 Since the town center of Lima seemed to be getting colder by the minute and we were not in any way dressed for it, we started making our way back toward the hostel where we could at least visit a few museums inside until our room was ready.  On the way back we passed through one more main plaza, Plaza San Martin.  There was one thing there that I quickly wanted to take a look at before moving on, and it was something I had actually read on another cruisers website (Bumfuzzle) when they also were doing land travels through this area.  Here’s a quote from their blog:  “Right across the street was another big plaza, this one with a statue in the middle that I found pretty amusing. The statue is of Madre Patria, the symbolic mother of Peru, and when it was commissioned the artist was told to give her a crown of flames. However the word for flame is llama, just like the animal. So here on the good lady’s head sits a tiny little llama with giant flames shooting out next to it. My favorite part is that they simply left the llama on there. That takes a good sense of humor.”.   Gotta love the important information that gets shared between cruisers.

Maria Patria statue

 Not a great shot (I didn’t have my zoom lens), but you can just make out a llama on top of her head.

Plaza de San Martin

Plaza de San Martin


Crossing through the giant outdoor mall between us and our hostel, we purchased tickets from a kiosk to get ourselves to Nazca tomorrow, and probably made the girl at the desk wish she’d never see us again after asking a million questions and coming back three times after checking things out on the internet.  I was ready to go back to the hostel and just sit for the rest of the day, but Matt wanted to go to the art museum since it was still fairly early in the day (about three o’clock).  I managed to gather just enough energy, since I’ve only slept about nine hours in the past two days, to force myself to trudge through MALI.  The fact that the $4 entrance fee was reduced to $0.40 on Sundays, didn’t hurt either.  There were many impressive works of art inside,  with a good portion of them featured by prominent Peruvian artist José Sabogal.  The top floor of the museum was closed off for renovations, so it didn’t take us more than an hour to get through, and by then I was more than ready for some rest.

sitting in MALI