Monday, April 18, 2016

Lima, Peru: Family Time, Surfing, and Soccer

From Cuzco, I pulled a very un-backpacker-like move and flew to the capital of Lima (it is apparently a 24-hour bus ride and when I said never again, I meant never again. Or at least never again if there is an affordable flight).

Arriving in Lima, I headed to my friend Martín's apartment. Martin is a friend of mine that I met while studying abroad in Japan, 11 years ago (CRYY). He was one of my best friends - we basically did everything together while living in Osaka during Fall Semester 2004. He's Peruvian (like, actually from Peru - not in the way that I'm Chinese), and I'm pretty sure his stories about Peru are what inspired me to want to visit the country in the first place.

Martin now lives in Lima with his wife and 1-year old (adorable) baby, and they so-very-kindly let me stay with them for the weekend. Not only that, but Martin sent his work driver to pick me up from the airport - which was amazing (balllerrrr).

Look at the photo I managed to scrounge up from the depths of the internet!
Here is me and Martin at a takoyaki party in Japan; circa 2004. SUCH BABIES.

And here's Martin and I now!  Looking like we haven't aged a day (right?? ....RIGHT??)

And here is Martin with his adorable fam: his wife Adriana, and their daughter Olivia

What It's All About:
Lima is the capital of Peru with almost 10 million people, and is located on the Western Coast of the country - right on the ocean!  There's tons of neighborhoods that make up the city, with the two most popular neighborhoods for tourists being Miraflores and Barranco.  Both these neighborhoods are super nice and are located right on the coastline.

Looking out over the ocean from Miraflores

Besides having the coastline, Lima is also known for its restaurants.  It's kind of a gastronomic capital as well, and there are so, so many delicious, amazing places to eat - from sushi to seafood to ceviche.

I stayed with Martin in his apartment between the two neighborhoods (which has its own name, but which I've promptly forgotten) over the weekend, and then holed up in a hostel in Miraflores for two more nights before flying out.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Spent a couple of days just hanging out around Lima with Martin and his fam - eating delicious food, sprawling out in my own bed, taking walks, and catching up.  

We went to a super-trendy farmers' market (because everything was fancy and organic) - Martin claims these weird lumpy green fruits on the right are the most delicious fruit of all time, but I forgot their name and I accidentally left mine on his kitchen counter when I left. So rumor unconfirmed.

We went down to the neighborhood of Barranco for lunch. Seriously, they have this amazing ceviche here - just huge fat chunks of pink fish, giant corn (Peru is known for giant corn), onions, avocados, and some olive oil.  It's amazing. Why did I not take a photo.

Wandering around Barranco on a perfect day

Olivia loves music - so when we found these street musicians, she was enthralled. How adorable is she.

I think this is in Miraflores - overlooking the ocean.

We took a brief walk through the tons of parks that border the water in Miraflores.

On Sunday, Martin's brother hosted a BBQ at his apartment with the entire fam. I LOVED this - not only were the apartment and views and roof deck absolutely beautiful, but Martin had the most delightful, sweetest family ever. His brother and wife have three kids, and both Martin's parents were there as well. 

And it didn't hurt that the BBQ was delicious

Home-cooked meals are seriously the best. Especially when I'm not the one doing the cooking.

  • After three days of living a proper Lima life with Martin, he had to head out of town on a business trip (actual..responsibilities..?) - so I checked myself into a hostel for my last two nights in town.  My friend Eddie and his friend had just arrived into Lima and met me at the hostel - my fifth time meeting up with him in South America (met in Buenos Aires, had dinner in El Calafate, bike riding in San Pedro, and a night out in Cuzco).  Seriously, so many people have such similar travel schedules that it's super common to be in a city at the same time someone else you met in a previous city.  

This is Parque Kennedy in Miraflores - which Eddie refers to as the "cat park", because there are tons and tons and tons of cats who chill at the park and have the run of the place.  It's like a cat wonderland. And as soon as the park ends, there are no more cats. It's like they know it's their territory.

Cats cats cats

It was actually a really nice park. Some of the cats were cozied up in parkgoers' laps and such.

  • Eddie, Niclas (from Sweden; I'd met him already in San Pedro; he was on the canyon bike ride), and I went surfing right off the coast - a 10-minute walk from our hostel.  We seriously just sauntered down to the coast and there were tons of outfitters offering wetsuits/surfboard rentals and lessons.   Lessons were so cheap that the three of us signed up for a 2-hour lesson (50 soles a person, which is ~$15).  At this point, I've taken my fair share of surfing lessons - so arguably, I probably don't really need additional ones - but I'm terrible at picking waves and I like having someone there to tell me exactly when to paddle, when to stand up, and which wave to wait for. It's like the lazy man's way of surfing. 

The beach in Lima! This one is full of giant black rocks. And to avoid said giant rocks, you have to go out super super far into the water to catch the waves. Seriously, 90% of the day was me trying to paddle myself back out to the ocean against the current, which was EXHAUSTING. Arms almost fell off.  The surfing lessons basically paid for themselves near the end of the lesson, when our teacher, Robert, had to start swimming out to me to drag me further into the ocean, because my arms were rebelling.

Surf crew! L to R: Niclas, me, and Eddie

We were trying to figure out what the hand signal is that surfers do #clearlyauthentic

It was such hard work paddling back out to sea that it got to the point where you would catch a wave, and you'd stand up and surf and feel like you were king of the world, but deep down inside you were thinking "oh sht, the farther I ride this wave inland, the farther I have to swim back out afterwards ABORT ABORT"
Real Eddie quote: "You were doing so well surfing, but why did you just jump off the board in the middle of riding the wave?"

A fancy restaurant that juts out into the water

  • My last night in Lima, Eddie and Niclas had checked into a different hostel because they had prior reservations - they sent me a message saying they'd drop by my hostel to pick me up and we were going to watch some soccer game.  I honestly assumed we were heading to a bar to watch some soccer game one of them cared about, but imagine my surprise when we got a cab and started heading way across town to the actual soccer stadium.  Two Peruvian teams were playing, and we easily picked up scalped tickets outside - because apparently the Peruvian teams aren't that good?

My first soccer match!  Which is obviously a game in super-high demand, judging by how full the stands are

The game was Sporting Cristal vs. Atletico Nacional.  Sporting Cristal seems to be the local team that everyone supports, and both teams seem to be absolutely terrible.

The final score of the game. Confession: I took this photo so I could later remember the names of the teams playing. 

Niclas (Sweden), Eddie (UK), me, and Sarah (Germany).
I've decided that I like watching soccer games!  I like that they are only 90 minutes. And I like the theatrics when the players fall over and pretend to be injured.

Terrible fuzzy photo of the opposing side's fans. When they scored the (one and only) goal, the fans went nuts and shoved each other and tumbled down to the front (typical move, apparently), which actually looked pretty dangerous.  Also, it is def a thing to be shirtless and swing your shirt above your head. 

  • Five days in Lima passed by super quickly, and even though I clearly didn't pack my days full of activities per usual, it was absolutely perfect.  I loved that Lima smelled of the ocean. I loved that there were hip, trendy cafes and mega-supermarkets again. I didn't love how my arms almost fell off while surfing, but overall, my entire time in Lima just felt so much more local, and it was exactly what I needed.  

MVP of the Day:
OF COURSE this goes to Martin and his incredibly lovely fam. Spending family time with Martin and his family and getting a glimpse into life in Lima was my absolute favorite part of all.  There's something beautiful about knowing someone at a completely different phase of their life, and then seeing how different and amazing life has turned out for them.

So MUCHAS GRACIAS to each and every one of the Riofrios.  <3

Moment of the Day:
I love getting to a big, modern city after a long time without big-city conveniences. One of my top items of business was to chop my hair off - it's gone way too long without a cut, and it kept getting caught in my backpack straps when I'd put my backpack on.  So armed with a photo and rusty high-school Spanish skills, I wandered into a nearby salon and asked for a "corte; pero no demasiado corto" (cut; but not too short) (I think my high school Spanish teacher is out there crying somewhere).  And then prayed that the stylist (who spoke zero English) wouldn't shave my head.


And there it is!  Points for not being bald!  The lady seriously cut off about 8 inches and I panicked briefly as huge chunks of my hair dropped to the floor, but it turned out fine - and you have no idea the sense of accomplishment I felt at having done this alone. AND IT WAS $10. And they threw in a manicure for $3.  It was the winningest moment ever.

$3 manicure, and a gratuitous shot of the arm bracelets, as they stand now.  I know it looks like a million, but you have no idea how many bracelets have snapped/fallen off/disappeared at this point.


  1. Well, now I'm dying to go to Lima...sounds like so much fun!

    1. You should!! It's just a hop skip away! <3