The Journal  

22 January 2006


Author: Jeremiah

Photographer: Holly


Lima , Peru

January 8-15

The process of getting the tire changed on our motorcycle meant that we spent a week in the Peruvian capital of Lima . An oasis in the middle of the country's coastal desert, Lima appeared as mud hut suburbs that got thicker until they became a modern city as we approached on the Pan American from Trujillo . The trip had been more of the straight line desert highway riding that we had done since we entered Peru , occasionally broken up by green patches of irrigated rice fields. The highway neared the ocean again as we approached Lima , the sandy countryside lined with rows of open sided chicken houses.


The desert continued to touch the Pacific coast all the way to Lima.


Small villages that looked deserted dotted the sand dunes about 20 miles outside of the city.

Starting in Colombia , we began to encounter toll booths that had special free lanes for motorcycles. These continued through Ecuador and Peru and were good places to get ahead of traffic. The only problem was that the lanes were made for tiny South American motos and the Guzzi, wide with saddlebags, sometimes scrapped the side barriers. Ten miles outside of Lima , we clipped a guardrail that sectioned off a narrow motorcycle lane, tipping the bike. The spill, again luckily without injury or damage, marred what had been an otherwise perfect day.

In Lima we fought our way through unexpectedly heavy Sunday afternoon traffic, passing through the city center and continuing south to our hostel in Miraflores, a suburb that had once been its own little beach resort before Lima's sprawling mass gobbled it up. The hostel we had planned to stay in was closed down, but luckily there was another just down the street. With amenities like free Internet and a kitchen, we spent the week catching up on journals and avoiding restaurant fare by cooking all of our meals.

Our hostel was three blocks from the Pacific Ocean , separated by a sandy cliff that plunged 100 feet to a paved coastal road that was protected from the waves by gravel barriers. A pedestrian walkway led to the edge of the dark and foul smelling water. Wet suited body surfers were the only ones venturing into the waves, while others sunned themselves along a rocky beach where the roar of the waves was mixed with the rumble of rocks being washed onto the sand and back out to sea.


Lima rests right on the coast with the city's center being farther inland, but a coastal road curves within 50 feet of the crashing waves.


A walking path curves along the edge of the sea cliff in Miraflores next to a functioning lighthouse where Peruvians come to watch the setting sun each evening.


The beach along Lima 's coast is covered with dark stones smoothed over by the pounding waves. A few swimmers and surfers braved the waters that were said to be polluted.


Street lights illuminate cactus planted along the park sea cliff.

Among the attractions that we caught in Lima was the Museo de Oro del Peru , a recommendation from a fellow rider we met in Bogotá. The downstairs of the building held the gold and archeological exhibits, many labeled “recreación,” after a scandal several years ago exposed many of the items as fakes. But the museum's biggest draw came in the form of its upstairs arms museum, an eclectic collection of weapons and militaria, where confusing displays mixed Napoleonic cavalry helmets with plastic helmet liners, antique Winchesters with broken air rifles and medieval swords with Chinese-made pocket knives in halls guarded by mannequins whose features recreated the Peruvian generals whose uniforms they displayed.


Lima has a museum containing an eclectic mix of mummies, gold artifacts and antique guns and uniforms.


Skulls whose craniums had been "patched" with gold plates, an ancient surgery, were part of the collection.


Inca Kola, the national drink of Peru , tastes like something like a mix of bubblegum and cream soda.


It doesn't matter how far south you go, pigeons are all the same. Here they are roosting on the Monasterio de San Francisco.


The Monasterio de San Francisco has a beautiful library which is part of a guided tour.


The monastery also has a painting of The Last Supper with traditional Andean food including cuy, or guinea pig, on the center dish.


The monastery is also famous for its underground catacombs that are estimated to have housed 70,000 burials.


When the catacombs were restored femur bones and skulls were separated into different piles and arranged in patterns, but original burials included the entire bodies which were stacked upon each other.

The quiet, residential Miraflores neighborhoods, with their coffee shops and grocery stores, insulated us from a city that was caught in the turmoil of an election year. Along the downtown streets were camps of Peruvians who were protesting Alberto Fujimori's attempt at a third presidential term. When we traveled to the Plaza de Armas, Lima 's central square, we found the area shut down for several blocks, riot police manning barricades to keep crowds of protesters away from the presidential palace. We got a policeman to let us through the lines, two foreigners making their way through a crowd of Peruvians who were being denied access to their own capital center. Holly said it was the only time my light hair had been an advantage to us. The plaza was deserted, except for more police, foreign tourists and Peruvian workers whose job was to chase away pigeons who landed on the park benches.

We walked several blocks to the Plaza San Martin where we found just the opposite environment. The park was flooded with Peruvian families, riding bikes or playing games, making the world of politics seem farther than four blocks away.


The Plaza San Martin in central Lima.


Limeños enjoy twilight in the Plaza San Martin.


This little boy was too shy to have his picture taken after his mom asked me to take it, but I snuck one photo as he peeked back as they walked away.


All photographs © Holly Marcus / Page design by Robin Marcus