The South America trip is off to a chilly and sleepy, but fun, start. After checking into my hostel in the beautiful neighborhood of Miraflores in Lima early in the morning on Sunday, I struck off to explore. The Pacific coast was only a few blocks away, and I found a nice walking path that led to a swanky mall right on the coast. Upon arriving, I immediately realized how much colder it was here and that I had not brought enough pants. I bought a pair at the mall and then had a delicious brunch by the sea of egg and avocado and fresh-squeezed camu camu, orange, and pineapple juice.
By the afternoon, the jet lag was really setting in badly. I broke one of the cardinal rules of traveling by taking a 4 hour nap between 2 and 6pm–finally having a proper bed after flying for 2 days was too tempting! I then woke up, hung out in the hostel’s common area for about 2 hours and made some friends, and fell back asleep at 8pm. Big mistake! I awoke to the sound of Sarah’s arrival in our room at midnight, and it was so good to see her!! We caught up until about 2am, when she fell asleep and I found I could not go back to sleep, even though I tried. I spent the next few hours catching up with friends in Europe, and went to a local cafe shortly after sunrise to get a coffee. Once Sarah woke up, we got ready and walked to the coast to enjoy another coffee with a beautiful view, then caught a cab down to the Lima historic district. Our cab driver dropped us off at the Plaza de San Martin.
This is when it got interesting. Sarah and I had been warned that Lima is a dangerous city, so we were already a bit on edge. We also noticed several locals were leering and making comments as we passed by. We tried to ignore and kept walking through the plaza. All of the sudden, a man quickly approached us with a blue card in his hand and started shouting. “No gracias,” Sarah and I both said, and kept walking. I thought he was trying to sell us a map, while Sarah thought he was trying to give us a flyer to a club. He shouted at us again and continued to wave the blue card. “No gracias!” we repeated, a bit more assertively, and continued to walk. All of the sudden, I heard Sarah say, “He’s following us.” I turned around to see he had, in fact, been following us across the plaza. As we started to freak out and walk faster, Sarah said, “Wait!” She turned around and took the blue card from the man–her birth control packet had fallen out of her purse, and the man was trying to return it! We apologized profusely and he shook his head at us, and we began to laugh hysterically!! It helps to be cautious of strangers, but it’s more important to make sure essential items remain in your bag at all times! 🙂
After this hilarious encounter, we proceeded on to watch the changing of the guard at the palace in the Plaza de Armas at noon. It was a grand affair with a full brass band and lots of flags and marching. After this, we got lunch at a local restaurant and tried Inca Cola (we did not like it!) and cancha (we liked it! It is like edible unpopped popcorn). We then walked around a bit more, then decided to take advantage of the sunny day and find a rooftop bar.
Leave it to the 2 girls from NYC to try to find a rooftop bar in a city where there are hardly any at all! After searching for about an hour (even with the help of TripAdvisor), we found a sufficient one just a block away from our hostel in Miraflores (haha). We ordered 2 pisco sours, the national drink of Peru. After serving us our drinks, the bartender told us one ingredient is raw egg white, and we freaked out a bit. We did try one sip, and decided it wasn’t for us. The bartender sympathetically then made us 2 margaritas at no extra charge! The rooftop had comfortable couches, and as the jetlag started to set in full force, it took all my willpower not to fall asleep on them. I am so happy Sarah was there to hold me accountable!
With no nap, we went to an early dinner at my brunch spot from yesterday, where I had a delicious quinoa, egg, and shrimp dish. We then went back to the hostel, where I got a solid 10 hours of sleep! I’m hoping the jet lag is defeated now!
The next morning, we boarded a Cruz Del Sur bus for Paracas. This ride was much more posh than we expected, and Sarah and I had very comfortable seats! The bus had an attendant that served drinks and snacks, just like an airplane. After 3 hours, we arrived at Paracas National Reserve.
Paracas was absolutely beautiful and was very surprising, as I really had not researched it before arriving. Our tour picked us up from the bus station, and we stopped at several vistas and overlooks along the coast. We also saw lots of flamingos and fossils. I felt like I was on another planet! I found myself soaking up the views, and comparing what I saw to what I had seen in Vietnam just days before, particularly in Ha Long Bay. It is incredible to me how much natural diversity our planet has, and how so many places can be so beautiful in their own unique ways.
Paracas is a protected space along the coast of Peru, and only a small number of fisherman are permitted to fish along its coastline. For lunch, our guide took us to a restaurant on the reserve that serves fish caught in Paracas. Here, I had the best meal I have had since I left New York–fresh ceviche (raw fish, squid, and scallops marinated in lime) served with sweet potato chips and crisps (my favorite!). We enjoyed watching a sea lion play in the water right in front of our table during lunch.
Sarah and I also met some interesting people during our tour. We shared lunch with a British girl our age who is spending 4 months traveling solo through South America. We also got to know our tour guide very well–a friendly guy from Holland who visited Peru and has never left since. He also randomly decided to open up to Sarah and me about all of his baby mama drama, which was quite interesting!
After the day-long tour, it was time to head back to the bus stop for the hour-long journey to Ica. We are only two days in, and already feel like the adventure is well underway. We are excited to see what the next few weeks hold!