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Day 142

sunny 18 °C
View South America itinerary on carochauvet's travel map.

Ryan and I finally met again on the Oltursa night bus from Arequipa to Ica. After Bolivia, I was expecting very limited bus service (last time I asked in Sucre if there would be food served on the night bus to Samaipata, I got laughed at...). But as soon as I had finished eating the sandwich I had brought, I got served a hot meal! On a little platter with a drink and dessert! I was impressed and ate dinner again haha.. We also had wifi on the bus, and even though I had picked the cheaper service, I still had a good reclining seat with a blanket and pillow and slept very well which was very much appreciated...

When we got to Ica we took a taxi straight to Huacachina where we had planned to stay only one night as there is only one thing to do in this tiny touristy town: sandboarding! It is pretty much located in the desert and is therefore surrounded by dunes. So we booked our sandboarding tour for that afternoon at 4pm to avoid the heat. It was amazing, we had such a great time! Half of the fun was actually to enjoy the buggy ride with our crazy driver who made us feel like we were on a rollercoaster haha... To avoid any injuries (apparently it happens a lot), he recommended us to lie down on the board which was actually really fun as we could feel the speed much more! Plus the view of the dunes at sunset was absolutely beautiful...

The next morning we set off straight to Paracas. There weren't as many buses as we thought so we had to take a Cruz del Sur bus (more expensive) for a 1h bus: we had individual screens like in the plane!! so I just watched my own movie while we got served some snacks - the ultimate luxury. In Paracas we stayed at Kokopelli, the best hostel in town with its amazing pool, bar and direct beach access. We quickly realized we would be staying there a bit longer than originally planned... After a nice seafood lunch, we just came back to our hostel to chill and I enjoyed the sun while reading by the pool. We made some great new friends, Bartek, Polish and Olivia, British (she was actually working for an advertising company in London before, and worked for Sunsilk! we actually knew a few people in common - how random!) so ended up hanging out with them for a few days.

The next day we went on a boat tour to explore the Islas Ballestas, also called 'the poor man's Galapagos'. We got to see a lot of amazing wildlife from upclose, despite the fact that no one is actually allowed on the island: many birds (guanay guano birds, blue-footed boobies and tendrils) but also the very cute Humboldt penguins as well as fur seals and sea lions. From the boat we also got to see the Candelabro, a large-scale geroglyph in a shape of a trident: its signification is still a mystery but it is thought to have been a sign that sailors could see from the sea to help them navigate. Next stop was the National Reserve where we got breathtaking views of our surroundings in a dramatic setting by the sea.


Our next bus was to Lima. There wasn't any night bus available so we took it in the morning and got there mid-afternoon. And what better way to start our stay in the new food capital of South America than by a gargantuesque late lunch? We met up with Lohne, Ryan's friend from Buenos Aires that we had met in Chile before and went to Panchita, usually you have to queue but we managed to get a table quickly as it was quite late. And... we went a bit crazy and ordered EVERYTHING: tiradito, parillada, tacu tacu, lechon, chicharron, hmmm I am still salivating just thinking about it, it was incredible! All this accompanied by a pisco sour of course. We ate way more than we should have but it was so good, we couldn't help it! We didn't do anything else that night, especially not eating again ha!

The next day we explored the nice Miraflores neighbourhood where we stayed, with plenty of little parks, trees and pretty views of the sea. That evening I met up with my friend Paula (who used to be my intern at work) for a little reunion as she was in Lima for a 3-month work mission! We went for drinks in Barranco, the bohemian neighbourhood, and then dinner in Tanta, in the Larcomar shopping mall by the seaside. It was really nice to see her and catch up after so long! I loved Barranco so I went back there another day to enjoy the slow pace that reigns there and the colourful surroundings. The first time you cross the 'puente de los suspiros', don't forget to make a wish in your head and hold your breath the entire time to make sure it will realize...

The next day Ryan and I did a walking tour of the historic centre, where we learned that a lot of the important buildings on the plaza had been destroyed by earthquakes and so had to be rebuilt. It is also interesting that the old town is now a quite cheap area (and a little dodgy if you venture a bit too far) while Miraflores, where all the hotels are and where the wealthy live, is much more expensive. As we were walking by the Basilica Catedral and the Iglesia de San Francisco, we learned that the Peruvians have adapted catholicism to incorporate some of their ancient beliefs. For example on the Dia de los Muertos, they go to the cemetery and bring beer, food and music to celebrate the dead with their family, pouring beer near the grave to cheer with the dead! After the tour which finished with a nice pisco tasting, we were ready to eat again and went for another giant meal at La Mar, the original cebicheria created by famous chef Gaston Acurio (and number 15 on the list of Latin America's 50 best restaurants apparently!). Once again we weren't disappointed and went all in: traditional ceviche, crab-avocado-mango makis and scallops' sauteed rice, it was all incredible...

I had to be ready to eat again the next day as I had booked a cooking class!! I was really excited about learning some of the secrets of what I consider the best cuisine of South America. It was just me and Jill, an American lady attending this class in a very relaxed setting with a well-organized open plan kitchen with a terrace and a view. We listened carefully to the instructions and learned how to prepare a traditional Peruvian 4-course meal:
- Causa rellena: a starter composed of layers of mashed potatoes and aji amarillo molido (Peruvian orange chili paste), avocado and chicken
- Ceviche: the traditional fish dish marinated in lime juice with onions, corn and sweet potato
- Lomo saltado: main dish composed of sautéed beef with onions, red peppers, French fries served with rice - the sauce is influenced by Chinese and Mediterranean cuisine and includes soy sauce, red wine and oregano
- Picarones: donut-shaped pastry made with a base of sweet potato and zapallo and served with a spicy and sweet syrup
I like what the chef said about how Peruvian cuisine is always more complex than it seems and often includes ingredients that you wouldn't expect. We learned a lot about the Peruvian cuisine and culture and of course the food was absolutely delicious!! I bought some aji amarillo molido to bring back home and recreate those dishes. What a wonderful way to finish my culinary experience of Lima...

Peru has been amazing so far and as you can see I've already fallen in love with Peruvian cuisine... I can't wait to share with you the rest of my stories and pictures of this fabulous country!

Come back soon for my next post to discover the beautiful Cusco with its many Inca ruins and, and of course, the painful Inca trail journey all the way to Machu Picchu...


Posted by carochauvet 11:39 Archived in Peru Tagged churches birds sea food wildlife beach city lima sand paracas dunes penguins huacachina sandboarding sea_lions citylife islas_ballestas

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Sandboarding time made you appear in a car like hotse from Maxd Max movie !
Fortunately you got a rest period on sea shore, discovering all those island animals inhabitants.
Lima and neighborhood appeared very nice and friendly, not only for food, but also for this bench looking like that one in Barcelona in Gaudi garden, also those wide areas in front of official buildings. The city did not seem to be over crowde in your pictures, is it real ?
Obviously, you found there so many possibilities to feed up and strength you power for next steps, but Peruvian meals appealed naturely to seat around a table and taste !

by Pap

Lima seems to be a very nice town. I am not surprise that you took a cooking class . I hope you will make us some of those marvellous plates when you'll be back home !!

by Mummy

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