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Lima Peru Insider Adventures

Travel Tips

Lima, (the capital of Peru) is a giant sprawling city of more than 8 million people, spread out as far as the eye can see. It’s urban sprawl to the max, with few tall building and the city expanse covering over 300 square miles.

Following the terrorism in the countryside, nearly 2/3rds of the country moved to Lima, creating a “poverty belt” around the inner city, much like the poor Burroughs (Bronx, Queens) that surround New York City. Lima is about 30% Native American, 25% Spanish and 40% Mestizos (Peruvians of mixed Spanish and Indian descent), and they seem to be very proud of there heritage, although I did see this strange t-shirt which I cannot figure-out.

   

Lima has an active IT industry and they just had a great open source conference on Linux and the Peruvians are also working with Oracle databases.

 

Native Peruvian foods  

Native Peruvian foods are a mix of seafood (usually served raw as Ceviche), and Argentinean-style carnes. Some notable Lima delicacies include:

  • Roasted guinea pigs – gutted and skewered and served on a stick, the local “Cavy” is very much like squirrel on a spit. You eat a cavy by starting at the back, eating the hams off the back legs. Next, you scrape the rib meat off with your teeth and nibble-off the front leg meat.
     
  • Ceviche – The Peruvians love to take all sorts of raw seafood and serve it up, drenched in lime juice.

The port of Callao is the largest bay on the west coast of South America, a bustling shipping port.

The people of Lima are very friendly and they will commonly wave to tourists in busses.

 

Even though Lima is very close to the equator and at sea level, Lima has very cool temperatures (60-80 degrees) because the heat is moderated by the icy Humboldt Current that flows up from the Antarctic. It’s almost always overcast and humid in Lima (except in January and February), but there is very little rain, and the landscape is grey, dry and glum except for the parks which are watered daily.

 

Located right on the ring-of-fire, Lima has a history of devastating earthquakes where thousands of people have been killed.

In Plaza Major, we see a big square with an impressive statue:

 

The Cathedral on Plaza Major has been rebuilt several times, after several giant earthquakes (Richter scale=9) leveled the earlier edifice.

In Lima, military commandos are everywhere, and street corners often have concrete lookouts: 

Taxi Madness in Lima

Taxi’s can be very dangerous because they are totally unregulated and anyone can buy a taxi sign from the corner vendor and become a cab. Anyone, with no background check whatsoever can instantly become a cab driver.

Poverty in Lima Lima is one of the poorest cities in South America, with over 60% of the population unemployed and an average wage of less than $150 per month. Many people take to the streets, selling goods on the street corners, only making $3 per day.  If you want to make a kid's day, give a child a $5 bill for a pack of chicklets! The glow on their faces is priceless as they run to Mom and Dad to show-off their great fortune.  I always carry at least $30 in fives for the street kids; it's great to be able to do something really nice for people, at little cost.

All of the houses have re-bar sticking up, a Lima custom to prepare for the next generation.  When the kids grow up, that simply build their home on top of their parents' house.  There is always the threat of civil unrest and the streets of Lima have many riot-control trucks placed throughout the city of Lima:

Miraflores

The southern suburb of Miraflores (literally “See the Flowers), is a relatively safe area, set on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean:

There are also great restaurants in Miraflores, including the popular Nautica restaurant, right on a pier.

There is also the “Lovers Park” on the Miraflores cliffs, replete with a statue of lovers:

Southeast of Lima we have the scenic lake Lake Titicaca, a worthwhile visit. Lima also has a wide variety of birds and you can see many Boobies at Titicaca.

Shopping in Lima

Peru Handicrafts are the best bargains in Lima, as-are the local gold and silver, alpaca blankets, clothing and native art works by the Inca descendents. The currency is the “Sol” (Sun), but dollars are accepted widely at an exchange rate of 3.2 Sol per dollar.

  • Precious metals and stones - Silver, gold and turquoise
     
  • Original Art - Hand painted oil and watercolor paintings can be purchased for as little as ten dollars.
     
  • Alpaca Goods – blankets, sweaters and scarves are a great deal Wood carvings Buying Alpaca
     
  • Wood Carvings - You can gat great wood carvings at very reasonable prices.

The safe places to shop in Lima include Miraflores' crafts market in Av. Petit Thouars, three blocks from the Miraflores roundabout and a great place for bargains. The is also Polvos Azules, Lima´s official black market, where prices are best of all, provided that you take steps to stay safe. 

Alpaca wool is among the rarest and highest quality wools available, with unparalleled insulation properties and super-soft fibers that are more desirable than cashmere.  Even though Alpaca wool is now produced in the USA, Peruvian Alpaca is consider better because the cold dry Peruvian climate fosters softer, better insulated wools.

Buying fine hand-woven Alpaca in Peru

Alpaca is naturally silky-soft and contains no lanolin, making it perfectly hypoallergenic.  The best Alpaca is from animals which are less than 8 years old, although Alpaca's can live to be 20 years-old, and the fleece from elderly Alpacas is used to make inferior products.

The products of centuries of animal husbandry, Alpaca have been bred in South America for thousands of years (vicuñas were first domesticated and bred into alpacas by the ancient Andean tribes of Peru, but also appeared in Chile and Bolivia).  This careful cultivation of the wool makes it among the best in the world, soft, super-fine and glossy.  The neck fibers are the best and the Peruvian weavers only select the best fibers for fine scarves and sweaters.

Beware that some unscrupulous dealers may advertise goods as 100% Alpaca, when it really a 25% Alpaca-synthetic blend.  Make sure that you buy your Alpaca treasures form a reputable merchant.

Genuine Peruvian Alpaca is generally more expensive as cashmere, with top-quality hand-woven scarves selling for as much as $120 and sweaters which can sell for over $1,000 in fine shops.  In Peru you can get amazing bargains in Alpaca, making it one of the greatest benefits of visiting the Peruvian highlands.

Crime in Lima

The street crime in Lima is rampant, even by third-world standards, which is not surprising, given that the average resident earns less than $200 per month. The police are useless, and a lady had some cheap earrings, ripped from her ear, destroying her earlobes.

The crooks (called “Ladrones”) are everywhere and they will work in teams to rob you, and they carry razor blades to cut-open ladies purses and camera straps. They also practice “strangle mugging” where they come-up from behind and strangle their victims (sometimes killing them). Lima is out-of-control, and you must constantly watch your luggage, even at the best hotels. Lima safety tips include:

  • Never wear earrings.
     
  • Always carry a weapon, even if it is just a pocket knife, and be prepared to use it when you are attacked.
     
  • When outside Miraflores, always hire an armed escort when shopping.
     
  • Wrap your camera and purse strap with heavy wire to prevent it from being sliced with razor bladed.
     
  • Ladies should line their purses with chicken wire to make them knife-proof.
     
This is an excerpt from the book South America Insider Adventures by Rampant TechPress. 

This is the definitive guide for the U.S. American traveler who seeks to safely explore South America.  You can order it directly from the publisher and save over 30% at this link.


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