Downtown Lima and our first bus journey

Trip Start May 08, 2013
Trip End Sep 30, 2013

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Flag of Peru  , Lima Region,
Monday, May 13, 2013

I'm writing this while travelling by bus south from Lima to a town called Paracas. More on that in a bit - first I'll tell you about our day in Lima yesterday. As is obvious from me being able to write this, we survived! We sat down with Angelo again in the morning, he gave us a map of downtown Lima and a suggested route of places to visit. We went out with him to the main road where he flagged down a taxi for us. The price of 15 soles (£3.75) was agreed and we were on our way to Plaza Major. After a slightly nervy start while we adjusted to the surroundings, we made our way around the various sights.

We had been looking forward to visiting the Convento y Catacumbas de San Francisco, and it didn't disappoint. A lot of the features were original from several hundred years ago. I was particularly wowed by the library with a whole collection of original books, but saddened to hear they have no money to pay for proper preservation. There was a painting, a Latin American version of 'The Last Supper' with Jesus and the disciples eating guinea pig (a local delicacy). The catacombs contained graves of many bodies, all the bones catalogued and neatly displayed. The skulls were a little unnerving. It's estimated that the remains of 25,000 people are present at the site.

Time for food, and we had set our minds on eating at a Peruvian restaurant this time. We avoided the tacky 'Machu Picchu Turistico' restaurant and instead settled on a bustling place called Roky's. It's speciality is Pollo a la Brasa (roasted chicken, very popular in Peru) and it was heaving with families out celebrating Dia del Mama. We ordered a 1/4 chicken with fries and salad, and another dish called Arroz Chaufa con Pollo - which looked like rice and chicken in the picture. It turned out to be quite similar to Chinese-style chicken fried rice available in the UK and was pretty good. They brought a massive plate of it (about twice the size of a portion in the UK) along with the 1/4 chicken. The chicken was so good, I could eat it all day. Nando's back home doesn't even come close. It wasn't strongly flavoured (spices etc) but was very juicy and full of natural flavour. Highly recommended. In all the bill came to 45 soles (£11) for both of us - not bad!

Our last stop before heading back was the Magic Water Circuit. A few years ago the Parque de la Reserva was give a makeover and many fountains were installed in all sorts of patterns and shapes. Some are interactive and you can see people running in and out trying to avoid the water (most unsuccessfully!). At night the place takes on a new dimension as the fountains are lit up in various colours. The main event takes place 3 times each night: water, music, lasers and video projection (onto a screen of water!) all come together for a great spectacle - and all for only 4 soles. We left the park to look for a taxi back to Miraflores. It's difficult to know which taxis are legit, especially in the dark, so with a little reticence we flagged one down. Fortunately he spoke English (the exception rather than the rule) and quoted us a fair price. A successful day I think!

This morning we packed up our bags, said goodbye to Angelo and jumped in a taxi to the Cruz del Sur bus station about ten minutes away. Unlike in the UK where all the buses depart from a common bus station, here each company has its own depot. Our taxi driver today was definitely angling to be Pastor Maldonado's replacement, taking gaps that didn't exist and zooming in and out of traffic fairly wildly.

Bus travel in South America can be quite a luxurious affair, at least with the more upmarket companies. We paid around 30 soles (£7.50) each for our tickets, and for that we got comfortable seats with about twice as much legroom as economy class on a plane with a hot meal, drink and movie on an overhead screen. Luggage is checked in and collected at the destination, just as when flying. The meal on our 3.5hr trip was chicken in a tomato sauce with rice and potato, some sort of quiche and a very tasty toffee/caramel cake (dulce de leche with everything!). I wimped out and had coca cola to drink, but Jen took the local soft drink, Inca Kola. It's coloured bright yellow and we had no idea what it would taste like. Weirdly it tasted mainly of Vimto with a hint of Irn Bru in there somewhere. I will try it again sometime though.

We are staying in the coastal town of Paracas for the next couple of days. We've arranged to take a boat trip to the Islas Ballestas tomorrow morning, where all sorts of marine life can be seen. In the afternoon we will visit the Paracas National Reserve.
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