Ahoy from the crew of the BlueJacket!
Ah yes, I know that you thought that we were done with cruising for the season, but the following reports cover our land based travel in Peru that we did as a result of our shortened cruising season. As you may recall, we ended our cruising season before we had planned due to battery problems.
We pulled into Shelter Bay marina in Panama several weeks ahead of schedule and immediately set about trying to figure out where to travel to. We eventually decided upon Peru because (1) it was a really cool place to go to and (2) because for a while I had contemplated taking the boat there, but after studying the weather, currents and dockage, it was clear that wasn't really a viable option. And as the saying goes, nothing goes better to windward than a 747.
Due to the short amount of time that we had between picking a destination and arriving there, we decided to utilize a travel agency to coordinate our lodging and touring. After receiving proposals from several agencies, we decided to go with Kuoda Travel, who provided an extremely detailed 19 day itinerary for us which included a private guide and driver for all of our destinations. This was unlike any travel that we had ever done before, and wasn't cheap, but in retrospect it was exactly the right thing to do.
We had originally thought that we would fly directly from Panama to Peru, but after studying the weather extremes that we would face, we determined that we didn't begin to have the right clothes on board BlueJacket. We decided that it would be better to fly home to Boston to get the clothes that we needed and then return. This decision was made much easier due to the pricing of the flights. Round trip from Panama City to Lima was $550 whereas round trip from Boston to Panama City to Lima was $700. This was a no-brainer, so on May 2nd we flew back to Boston and on the 13th we turned around and flew to Lima via Panama City.
As mentioned before, having the right clothes was going to be problematic, especially given the extremes of altitude and locations that we were going to be in. Basically we needed clothing to take us from lows below freezing to the mid 60s (20°C) to over 90°F (32°C) in the Amazon. We also needed rain gear as at the end of the trip we were headed to the Amazon basin during the transition between rainy season and dry season. That's easy to pack for!
On May 10th we flew from Boston to Panama City to Lima aboard Copa airlines. The 9+ hours of flying was made much more enjoyable due winning our bids to upgrade to business class for relatively cheap money. When we arrived in Lima the agent from the travel company was nowhere to be found, and after a scramble to figure out how to call them we were put in a taxi which took us to the hotel in Mira Flores where we were met by a very apologetic agent. It seems that that they had our flight times wrong. Not the greatest way to start a relationship, but any concerns would be quickly set aside.
One interesting thing about Lima is the incredibly consistent climate. The year round daily temperatures range from the 60s at night to the 70s during the day. Unfortunately they're also locked in a cloud cover about 8 months out of the year, but it rarely rains. They're very luck that it doesn't rain much as Lima and the surrounding towns are perched on cliffs composed of crumbly soil which collapse regularly, even without rain. During our visit some of the cliffs, shown on the left, slid onto the road below.
The next day we were met by a guide and driver who took us back to Lima where we explored the old city. However, the first thing that we noted was the intense police presence. It seems that protests are frequent in Peru and today the doctors from the government run hospitals were protesting the government's failure to keep their end of the bargain. The good news was that the protest was scheduled for later in the day and in the mean time the old part of the city was cordoned off to automobile traffic, making it a pleasure walk around.
Despite the overcast, it was a joy to wander around the old city and admire the beautiful architecture. We spent the majority of our time in the Plaza Mayor area, which is surrounded by government buildings, churches and cathedrals. If you want to be be awed by grandure, visit the cathedral (left). And if you want to know where lots of the gold that the Spaniards looted from the Inkas ended up, visit the the cathedrals in Lima and elsewhere...
We also had a tour of Casa Aliaga, which is a mansion which has been inhabited by the same family since it was built in 1535. This house, which has survived and been rebuilt multiple times due to earthquakes, has amazing architecture and is a testament to the power and wealth that the Aliaga family possesses. What's also surprising is that this incredible house is hidden behind a nondescript stucco wall on one of the side streets near the Plaza Mayor. You have no idea what's hiding behind that wall until you walk through the outside door.
We also visited Museo Larco, which has an amazing collection of 4,000 years of Peruvian pre-Columbian artifacts. The Larco Museum has a privately owned collection of pre-Columbian art and is housed in an 18th-century vice-royal building built over a 7th-century pre-Columbian pyramid. Their Gold and Silver Gallery has the largest collection of jewelry used by many notable rulers of pre-Columbian Peru and was absolutely stunning.
After lunch at the museum, we returned to Mira Flores which is where we were staying. Mira Flores is about 20 km outside of downtown Lima, but due to traffic it can take anywhere from 1/2 of a hour to 1.5 hours to get there. It's one of highly desirable areas to live in and is home to many artists and galleries. We decided to explore the area by foot.
One of the things that you quickly learn about Peru is that cars have the right of way and that crossing the streets is akin to to running of the bulls. Drivers rarely utilize turn signals and stop signs seem to be optional. Thus figuring out when to cross can be highly problematic and you don't dawdle!
Another thing that we saw that was quite interesting was that many of the older, tall buildings are uninhabited on the upper floors (third story and above). It seems that earthquakes have made these buildings unsafe and the upper floors of many buildings are vacant. It's a very strange feeling to look up and see empty windows staring down at the streets below. Newer buildings, such as these in Mira Flores, appear to be safe and utilized.
The next day we were up bright and early to catch our flight to Arequipa. Arequipa is about 1000 km (634 miles) south of Lima and is where our trip would really begin, but that's the subject of another blog.
-- Geoff & Sue
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