From Easter Island I flew to Lima. If travelling in South America is a breeze, Peru is a backpacker paradise: cheap accommodation and food, many hostels, frequent and inexpensive transport throughout the country and an enormous variety of things to do and places to visit: from surfing in perfect sandy beaches to trekking in the Andes or visiting the Amazonian Rainforest.
Most of the museums and sites in Lima are located in the historic centre, near Plaza de Armas. From there, some time ago, the viceroy of Peru governed a large chunk of South America.
Lima is a city of marked contrasts. South of the historic centre, you find modern and elegant neighbourhoods such as San Isidro, with its trendy golf, or Miraflores, with a nice waterfront and tennis clubs. In the suburbs to the North, there are working-class neighbourhoods, largely occupied by immigrants arrived from the interior of the country in the last decades. This is a common pattern in Latin America: inequality is very visible.
Another thing that strikes the newcomer to Lima is its public transport. In the main avenues, one finds a slew of combis (vans), small buses, buses, colectivos (shared taxis) and taxis. Alongside the driver there is a conductor who shouts the route, and so they pass by like greased lightning, competing between them. The first days, I had no idea of which one of the thousands of combis I had to take, so I always used the Metropolitano (bus with a dedicated lane). As I learnt the names of the most important avenues in the city, all that started to make sense and I could figure out the route from the hints they cried: <<¡¡TACNA!! ¡¡TODO AREQUIPA!! Baja, baja… ¡¡LARCO!! ¡¡BENAVIDES!! Sube, sube…Al fondo hay sitio…>>.
One of the main tourist drags here is the food (yum yum!!). You can find from perfectly okay menus at 5 soles (1,8 US$) to the most upscale restaurants. Aside from Peruvian or ‘criolla’ food, there are also plenty of Chifas in town. They looked like Chinese restaurants to me, but a Peruvian would quickly point out that this is fusion between Chinese and Peruvian cuisines. Anyway, they are recognised to be one of the best Chinese food outside China. It’s pretty good, and inexpensive.
But the undisputed star of the culinary scene in Lima is cebiche (raw fish marinated in citrus juices). It is typically served in cebicherías, often open at lunch time only. Oscar, who I had met in Easter Island, took me to taste a good cebiche in a restaurant in the port of Callao. Yum yum!! Very good. And for a drink, the famous Inca Kola, one of the very few sodas that have beaten Coca Cola in its country of origin (until it was bought by Coca Cola, of course…)