Because I came to the Peruvian capital off getting my passport stolen, I wasn’t a particularly good tourist there. It’s an absolutely huge city, something you don’t realize when you just stay in the tourist area, Miraflores. The actual city stretches out 300 square miles out from the Pacific coast, and it holds nearly 8 million people. Historically, its growth was down to its status as the port the Spanish used to hold then transport the gold and silver they took from Southern Peru and Bolivia, meaning it became a hub of trade and activity.
The area you will most probably be in while visiting is Miraflores, which hugs the cliffs beside the sea, and to many locals and citizens of Peru’s other areas is representative of what is worst about Peru. There you’ll find the most tourists, hundreds of restaurants pandering to them, plenty of flash department stores and all of Lima’s young professionals. As I was told when talking to a man selling maps from Cusco, these people are too rich and pampered to understand the real Peru, and its real problems. They have their wealth and are happy maintaining it. Miraflores really doesn’t conform to other parts of Peru. The cars don’t honk, there are outdoor tennis clubs, outdoor gyms, huge apartment blocks overlooking the sea, and even a shopping centre built into one of the cliffs (Larcomar). There I actually saw Peru’s own Simon Cowell, the ‘harsh’ judge on Peru’s Yo Soy (I am), an X-Factor like competition, standing in a queue to go to a movie.
While it’s in this area where you can eat some amazing ceviche, go paragliding etc, a little inland is where many of the hostels are. There’s a Loki party hostel, which apparently isn’t as good as any of the others, but I stayed at Dragonfly, Parawana, and Flying Dog. Dragonfly wasn’t great, Parawana was a really well run party hostel, and Flying Dog was well situated (as it was by my favourite sandwich place), but a bit more chilled than Parawana. To be honest though, I wasn’t in much of a mood to party while there, and I stayed there with friends, so enjoyed it. These hostels all surround Parque Kennedy (JFK park), which is a great place to get some street food, watch some dancing or live music, and stroke some of the many cats that inhabit it. There’s a church next to the park, and apparently the nuns take care of them, in case you were wondering if they’re diseased or dying or whatever. There’s a tonne of them and they’re kind of cute.
A cat that and a friend and I played a kind of cat-jenga with, using leaves. My cat, nicknamed Zencat, won, and is rumored to still be sitting there with leaves all over its head to this day.
Once I’d sorted my passport out at the embassy, I booked a ticket to Medellin to get to the American embassy, and also booked a place at the paragliding they do off one of the cliffs in Miraflores.
I headed there a couple of hours after I was due, as a friend hadn’t been able to make it, and met the guy who was going to be taking me up.
All the prep was done very quickly, and I paid the 18 or so pounds just before gearing up and being swept off the cliff by the sea winds.
I had people tell me they were really scared about going paragliding, and someone in Medellin in Colombia even said they’d heard of people throwing up during it. I don’t quite understand this, as it’s effectively similar to being a bird. Tranquilo, serene, quiet. You get an awesome view of Miraflores, the sea, the beach, people playing tennis etc. The dude who brought me up (with a go pro attached), was trying to make it into some other extreme sport by shouting WOOOO in my ear, which I thought was a bit exaggerated, as by the end you do get a little bored. Overall though, paragliding is an awesome experience, and can be taken to the next level, as I would find out in Medellin.
That night I went out with my American friend Rick and various other people from ours and other hostels, and although it was only dinner and pub afterwards, we had a great time. I hadn’t met many Scots in South America up to that point, so took it upon myself to discuss the independence movement with the three that were in attendance, which ended up with me writing something very inappropriate on their flag in the pub. Let’s just say it would confirm any suspicions Alex Salmond has about the English opinion of the movement.
Anyway, Lima’s a nice place, you just can’t stay there more than 3 days or so.