Lima: I pay $7 for a man to risk his life

kennedy-park-lima-peru

Alicia and I consider ourselves “foodies”.  We’re always on the prowl for a good meal.  Lima didn’t disappoint, with a unique cuisine and dishes to try while taking in some scenic views.  Before we get to the evening and dining, here’s a few more scenes we took in while walking and biking around Lima.

paragliding-lima

We are on a bus tour where we are on top of the open-top bus.  This paraglider is maybe 20 meters from us (when you leave the US you are required to talk only in meters.  Gotta sign a form and everything).  Yes there are two people on that paraglider.  For the low, low price for $40 USD you can risk your life!  I looked up the statistics on this and found that it’s merely 3x more dangerous than cars.  The accident rate worldwide for cars is 1.8 deaths per 10,000 while for paragliding it’s close to 7.  They take off from land very easily as they ride the air currents coming up the cliff.  Alicia said I couldn’t do it. =(

There are usually 5-10 paragliders over the Lima coast at any given time.  It rarely rains in Lima, and the wind and current is always persistent making it a great location for something like this.

lima-diving-monk

Mountain of the Monk(?) Riding out of the Barranco neighborhood, we encounter a seaside outcropping of rock with many locals congregating to watch the ocean crashing into the rocks. On top of the rocks over a ~70 foot drop into the water stands a man in white robes who dives for the crowd. There’s a story behind his jump, and per usual it’s one of forbidden love. The story goes that some time hundreds of years ago there was a servant boy in love with a noble girl. The father catches wind of this and forces the boy into the monastery at the tender age of 15. They continue their love in secret until the father decides to move the family away. The young monk, stricken with grief, flings himself from the mountaintop nearby. The diver’s monologue gives homage to the tragedy. That’s a great story and all, but then I enter and screw it all up. I missed the first jump of the “monk”, so I give him 20 soles (~$7 USD) to do it again. He’s very happy to do it again as that’s generally how much he’ll make during a full day or two of dives. Then it occurred to me that I gave a dude 7 dollars to risk his life because I can’t work my fancy first-world-overpriced iPhone. Then I felt dumb.

One of the things we learned in Lima was that prices didn’t quite conform to the quality of the food.  For the most part, the mid range and high priced restaurants severed similarly tasty food according to our palettes.  The expensive restaurants we went to were priced more for the view than the food.

mama-olla-tacutacu

The best food we’ve had in Lima (and perhaps all of Peru) was at a little place called Mama Olla’s.   Alicia has some mystery steak that she loved, and I had thin beef done “tacu-tacu”: it comes with a fried banana, fried egg, and formed rice.  We were in Lima the night before the elections. There is a required 24 hour ban on alcohol before and after the election process, presumably because it’s a very serious matter. Our biking guide explained it best: it’s the only weekend everyone gets completely drunk, as there are discounts on liquor since they can’t sell for a few days. So all the locals have parties with cheap booze on election day while the tourists are the ones who are punished.  The system works!

drinks-at-la-rosa-nautica

La Rosa Nautica is a cute little restaurant that sits on a pier extending from Miraflores.  It’s a very classy place that requires a reservation and has some pretty solid food.  But for a cab ride there and back along with the upcharge for having an exclusive location doesn’t make it a great value.  Going for drinks out there is a definite “must”, however.

huaca-pucllana

Inca meets McDonalds: Huaca Pucallana is an Inca ruin site in Lima that’s made of adobe bricks (baked straw and mud). The kicker to this ancient city is that on top of it now resides a high class restaurant. In the picture here, that is a centuries old mud oven just a few feet from the modern kitchen that serves hundred of guests each night.  Having a centuries old ruins as a backdrop to a good meal is pretty neat.  I can’t say I’ve ever done it before.

Exploring Lima, Peru

street-art-lima-peru

While in Lima, we stayed in the Miraflores district.  It’s a listed as a touristy place to stay that is well maintained with lots of security guards and police around.  This part of town is also one of the cleaner areas you’ll visit in South America.  The interesting part is that I felt this city was more authentic than other places in Peru that we’ve traveled.  We were often the only tourists around [that we saw], but the signs and menus in English suggested otherwise.  In other areas of Peru there are busloads of tourists swarming a tiny area, but not here.  In Lima it was great to see the local population as they enjoyed the parks, surfing, and general living.

Tourists are often advised to skip Lima on their way to Cusco and Machu Picchu, but I wish we would have stayed more than a week in Lima.  Heck, even the taxi driver taking us to our hotel in Lima told us in his limited English that 6 days was too long.

We did manage to do some fun things and not work all the time:

  • Tried a new restaurant every lunch/dinner
  • Bike Tour
  • Bus Tour
  • Enjoyed both the Kennedy Park and Coastal Parks
  • Walked around and explored

Kennedy Park is a cute little park by our hotel in Miraflores where a lot of locals come to hang out.  It’s kind of a central entry point into the trendy district where someone can sit down and relax.  The weird part about the park: cats.  Cats everywhere.  They are wild cats and live in the park.  People pet them and hold them.  They seem to be in OK shape for wild cats, which isn’t always the case.  There are a lot of stray animals in Peru, and some of them look pretty beaten up.  These cats look they are doing just fine.

The other weird thing is the cat shrine: there’s a church near Kennedy park that has a small shrine to the Virgin Mary that is fence-enclosed.  When the cats have had enough human interaction, they escape into this tiny kitten zoo.  At any time, there are 10+ cats hanging out with Mary.  Bike/Running tours are great things to do on vacation as they take you around the city where you get to learn a lot of the history.  They trump a bus tour because you get personal time with a local, and it’s here where you learn the best stuff.  For example…  These iron blue poles are everywhere in Chorillos, another district of Lima.  Our guide tells us that they were placed there by a previous mayor of Barrano in an effort to brighten up the city.  He also tells us there’s more iron in these poles than in the Eiffel Tower, and it’s not hard to believe that if you see how many of these darn things there are in the neighborhood.  There’s one problem: the mayor who had these put in also owned the company which sold the materials.  It’s disappointing to hear about that kind of corruption, because Chorillos is a mostly cute neighborhood which could have used actual help instead of this visual white noise.  Here’s why I say it’s a “mostly” cute neighborhood: this is our guide for the bike tour, and he’s holding a can of mace.  Finger on the trigger and everything.  Later when I ask him about it, he remarks that it’s mostly for dogs and that he’s never had to use it on people.  But that the area has a lot of poverty and crime recently as the mayor, currently on his 5th term, caters to impoverished people to stay in office.  As our guide put it: it’s easier to please someone who has almost nothing, rather than try to compete with Miraflores, but now you have a lot of people in one area who are all fighting just to survive.

propane tanks on a bike

What’s more dangerous than a motorcycle?  A motorcycle with three propane tanks strapped onto it.  Gas doesn’t flow to each persons’ home via underground pipe: instead they buy a standard tank and hook it up to their home.  Run out?  Guys like these deliver them right to your front door.

Inca Cola is a popular soft drink in Peru that I see absolutely no one drinking, ever.  Fun fact that you probably already know: it wasn’t the official drink of the Inca.  That went to chicha, a semi-sweet drink made from purple corn (morada) that could be alcoholic or not.  Anyway, I had to get one just to try it.  Inca Cola tastes like melting candy on a sidewalk strong cream soda.  I couldn’t finish it.

street-art-lima
Street art is common in Lima. Some of it is more professional than others, but there are many areas brightened by murals on the sides of walls and buildings.

I typically say “Hello” to Peruvians when I first interact with them.  I’m not trying to be a douche that’s too good for their language, but my Spanish is beyond awful despite 5 years of study.  Even though I wanted to learn another language, my classmates in high school and college were terrible.  Every class I took we basically started from scratch even though it was “Spanish 4”.  No teacher wants to fail the entire class, so they re-taught Spanish 1 every single year.  Anyway, it turns out that the quickest way to tell a Spanish speaker that I don’t know the language is to actually try and speak Spanish.  It’s quite a blow to the old ego.  As noted before, Lima earns the nickname “the grey” by having constant cloud cover.  Being from Minnesota and a nerd to boot, I showed them just how fragile I am: I got sunburned through the clouds.

lima_character
Outside of Miraflores, the sidestreets of Lima have their own special character to them. Most of the streets have seen better days, but there’s a quiet dignity and beauty to them that we enjoyed.

First stop, First Impressions: Lima, Peru

miraflores

We finally arrived at our first destination: Lima, Peru!  This city has the nickname “la gris”, or “the grey” because of the constant fog conditions over the city.  It never really rains here, despite being overcast.  While the skyline can look pretty sad and depressing since it’s like this all the time, the cityscape is much more vibrant.

It gets prettier, I promise!  Upon arrival, we saw paragliders in the distance.  Paragliders are like hang gliders, except with a little seat that sits underneath the parachute.  There are no motors pushing it, they rely on the wind and warm air currents coming up off of the cliff.

paraglider-grey

This is mildly upsetting to me to see these basically flying over the city buildings, and here’s why: Below is a DJI Phantom 2.  It’s a “quadcopter” equipped with a GoPro.  Basically it’s a remote-controlled toy.  This device can fly a mile in any direction and take great aerial shots.  It can travel 50 mph and is completely amazing.  What I’m trying to say is that I would have literally murdered someone for this thing as a child.

dji-phantom-2-with-gopro

Here is my specially purchased bag for carrying my Phantom 2:

empty-drone-backpack
Sigh…

Yep, my copter got confiscated by Peru customs.  I researched beforehand on countries that would allow them, and Peru was promised to be one of the most progressive countries in this regard.  There are videos of copters flying over Macchu Picchu and everything, so I was sure I was safe. Going through customs there were three guys barely paying attention to the X-ray screen for luggage.  They were mostly joking around in Spanish when I heard a word I know and hate: “DRONE!”.  Turns out that there was a law passed banning “drones” (I hate this term as people associate this RC toy with a military device that fires missiles) back in August.  Obviously the government’s website wasn’t updated and so I walked right into this.  They say that I’ll get it back when I leave the country, but I’m thinking of just sending it home if and when I do get it back.  If the so-called “drone friendly” country confiscates it immediately, where else could I even take it?  To add insult to injury, there was even an article on the plane ride into Lima on “dronies” becoming common – selfies taken with drones.

miraflores
Looking down from the cliffs onto the beach, this cement soccer court has the city name on it.

 

We stayed in Miraflores.  This is the tourist district of Lima, and it’s very noticeably so.  There are cops literally on every street corner to encourage safety, and it’s not surprising that this is where most tourists choose to stay.  It’s an upscale district with a lot of trendy shops and food options.  And trendy pricing to go along with it.  But as we discovered, walking a few blocks outside of the trendy spots we were able to encounter more local flair.  And no English, which seems to be a recurring theme outside of the United States.  So we rely on the universal language of pointing at stuff we want, like any toddler.  It’s easy to see how the locals might think all tourists are dumb.

Everything is just harder when you’re on the road.  We have to wander around for nearly everything.  Lunch has gone from a 15 minute break to a several hour ordeal where we stumble around and try to find somewhere that sells simple sandwiches.  Sure we could visit the Subway or McDonalds that we saw, but where’s the fun in that?  Instead we at least visited the “Bembos”, which is a fast food chain local to Peru.  Though when I ate McDonald’s in Tahiti, it was completely different: deli style cold sandwiches and no french fries anywhere.

work-time-in-hotel

Here is Alicia holding a conference call from our hotel room slash new office.  Working on the road is now a big part of our life, typically taking up all Sunday through Tuesday – 14+ hours working those days.  Right now I’m typing this from the best American WiFi export product that sometimes sells coffee, Starbucks.

Leaving the country for a year!

leaving-msp-airport

The day finally came!  We got on that plane, and are currently writing from our first stop: Lima, Peru.  We will be traveling for an entire year and writing about the experience.  The goal is to show fun and unique experiences from around the world.

Leaving MSP airport

Here we are in Lima, Peru!  Obviously a trip can’t occur without a few hiccups, like getting stranded in Dallas and Miami due to a storm taking down the power to 140K in the Dallas area.

The terrifying thought that came to me while we were stranded: we’re basically homeless.  As we’re waiting in line after line trying to re-route our flights, it was apparent that we didn’t really have anywhere to “be”.  Welcome to life with your home on your back!

breakfast-menu
The airport is now our home, and the breakfast menu looks great!

It took a surprising amount of work to get here.  We had to sell or donate a lot of items including our car, rent our home, and pack the rest into a pod.

We spent months dealing with the “wonderful” people from Craigslist:

  • A lady fell into the water while trying to board our boat for a test drive.  No, they didn’t buy the boat.  Yes, we took an awkward test drive while she was soaking wet.
  • “Forgetting” to bring the full amount of money doesn’t work, people.  There’s an ATM right up the street.
  • No I will not drive to a terrible neighborhood at night to deliver something.  I got this request no less than a dozen times.
  • People wanting to rent our house who A) don’t have a boat, B) work 40+ minutes away, C) don’t like the location, and D) don’t like the outdoors.   Sometimes I wanted to ask: “Why are you even looking at this house”?

In short, we will not miss Craigslist.  We left our home on the lake and comfortable lives so we could find tired happiness in a tiny hotel room thousands of miles from home.  We want to show what life on the road is like as well as life in new and strange places.  We hope you’ll join us!

Obligatory selfie of us looking tired after 30 hours of travel
Obligatory selfie of us looking tired after 30 hours of travel

Packing List

alicia-packing-before

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]What would you take with you when planning a year-long trip?  Here is our packing list.  We looked at other travelers to get ideas of what to take beforehand, and we had one very clear goal: to not check any baggage on airlines.  This would keep the amount we had to carry very low.  That becomes important as other countries don’t have the space or facilities to lug around huge suitcases.  Hotel rooms are typically tiny, and hauling a big roller bag through big cities is exhausting.

alicia-packing-before

The above picture is what Alicia was considering on taking.  Everything must fit in that little red backpack!

The backpacks have to measure 22″ x 14″ x 9″ or smaller (under 45 linear inches) and hold less than 40 pounds.  If you travel a lot, you’ll notice that’s significantly under the 62 linear inches and 50 pound limit that most US airlines require.  International airlines have a smaller size bag that we need to allow for.  Plus, the bag can’t be over-full since it will break those requirements.  After a few long nights and a lot of hard decisions, here’s the finished product!  Our lives are now stored in backpacks.  What’s in these packs?  Here’s everything in our packing list in regards to clothes.  Each of us has packed roughly this in our pack.  We mostly plan on warm weather environments.

  1. 3 pairs of pants – 2 jeans, 1 lightweight hiking
  2. 6 shirts – 1 dress shirt, 4 T-shirts, 1 hoodie
  3. 6 pairs of underwear
  4. 2 pair shorts – workout and swim
  5. 6 pairs socks
  6. running shoes
  7. sandals
  8. pull-over
  9. windbreaker

Specialty items include:

  1. toiletries
  2. laptops
  3. Kindle paperwhite
  4. UV water purifier
  5. duct tape
  6. Ibuprofen
  7. sunscreen
  8. GoPro
  9. power adapters/chargers
  10. sunglasses
  11. A separate, specialty backpack to hold John’s DJI Phantom 2 with recording equipment

That’s it!  We were able to get all of our lives into carry-on backpacks![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]