Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Getting there, continued

Back from my walk about and sunset viewing I have just re-read my last post and realized it went up with spelling and typo errors.  Don’t have internet access at the moment so I will go back and edit when I can.  This I say because I have had several people contact me and tell me they like my blog but would enjoy it better if it didn’t contain spelling errors.  O.K. then. 

Where was I?  Oh yes, showered and having napped a couple of hours it was off for a city tour.  I have done this before, but felt a repeat was necessary for a couple of reasons.  First, venturing into the downtown historical area is not something I have braved before and I wanted to be refamiliarised.  Second, this particular tour included a visit to the Larco Museum… something that was on my hit list, all with an English speaking guide.

(Speaking of showers (sort of), it is always a challenge to reacquaint myself with travel water protocols.  Lesson 1: don’t open your mouth when showering.  Further lessons include don’t use tap water to brush your teeth, don’t drink anything unless it is boiled or comes out of a sealed bottle and no ice cubes.  But I digress.)

…Thus I meandered over to the double decker bus and found my assigned seat… front row yes, but right behind a large safety shield that blocked most of the oncoming view.  Luckily the bus was not full so a stealth relocation occurred. 

Turned out the seat assignment wasn’t to be my only surprise, as the English tour was in fact a bi-lingual tour with English taking a heavily accented back seat.  In Peru this standard operating procedure often leaves English out completely, so I will call it even.

Pulling out on time we joined the other bazillion vehicles choking the streets, enjoying the full taste of unleaded traffic fumes and whatever other city smells waft in the smog filled air.  The guide’s voice comes booming out over the loud speaker, introducing himself and warning those in the upper streets to beware of tree branches and low hanging wires.  Which was funny only because I had already been hit by one of said low hanging branches.  No blood drawn or eyes lost, so I count myself lucky.

The tour took it’s first interesting turn when we drove by Huaca Pucllana, an archaeological site being excavated.  It dates back to the AD 400 Lima civilization, and sits smack dab in the middle of a residential area.  Made a note to myself to come back and see it more closely than the whiz bye given on the tour.  Ditto the Huaca Huallamarca, another ruin from the same era and which also sits surrounded by condominiums in another area of Lima.  

It took no time at all to realize this was going to be a sunhats and sunscreen kind of experience.  I just wish the gentleman sitting in front of me had pre-applied his spray on sunscreen, instead of having it blow back for me to choke on.  Totally inconsiderate. 

Meanwhile the tour continued, with lots of talk about green space and gardens, and repeated mention of how expensive the areas were to live in.  San Isidro caught my eye and I will have to make a point of coming back and poke around some. 

It is in San Isidro that the Museo Larco is located.  It houses the amazing private collection of the Larco family, and it goes down as one of the best museums yet.  It is not huge, but the collection is exquisite.   It covers mostly pre Incan civilizations from the north, middle, south and interior of Peru.  Carefully and thoughtfully displayed are pottery bowls and vessels, weavings and gold artifacts.  The pottery pieces started at 4000 year old and depicted the millennium of culture… including animal and agricultural likenesses and depictions of cultural practices such as human sacrifice.  There was a completely intact 2000 year old funeral shroud, as beautiful as the day it was woven, and the gold and silver items rivaled in splendour the amazing Lord of Sipan display last year in Trujillo. 

What really blew me away was entering the “storage rooms”  where thousands of pottery items, each looking as if they were newly made, sit stacked on shelves floor to ceiling in row upon row.  Incredible facial likenesses, vegetables and fruit of all kinds, huge variety of animal life and representations of people with disabilities such as blindness and stroke paralysis.  Bowls and drinking vessels, ceremonial items… a collection that is inconceivable unless seen.  All behind plexiglass, piled high and deep.

After experiencing this we were taken to the “erotic room”  where there were graphic clay likenesses of all manner of human and animal sexual behaviour.  As I had previously seen such specimens, this was actually anticlimactic for me after experiencing the “storage room”.  That said the pieces were excellent examples of the period, and I had not seen before those bearing striking childbirthing representations.

We took a short break in a lovely little on site restaurant for coffee etc. in a garden setting resplendent with climbing, trailing and potted flowers.  There were clean bathrooms (with toilet paper provided, yay!) and a couple of small gift shops.  I spent a couple of minutes looking at the jewellery… I mean who can resist shiny things, really?

Back on the bus to finish the tour through historic Lima, most of the original buildings have been restored several times after devastating earthquakes in the 16th, 18th and 20th century.  Churches, cathederals, government palaces, a series of wonderful plazas, fountains, statues and many of the covered balconies I find so interesting.  I could go on and on with a list of buildings, but then again all that information is available on the Wiki should you really be interested, so I need not babble here.  Suffice to say there were impressive things seen. 

What really stood out to me though was the thick layer of grime and soot caked on almost everything.  Only the buildings around the main plaza were clean.  I imagine that keeps quite a crew busy.

Back to Miraflores for dinner, and I am feeling altered from sheer exhaustion.  A quick stop at the  market for  some nuts and yoghurt for my next days breakfast.  A few minutes getting paperwork ready for my upcoming sojourn into  the Peruvian immigration maze, check email and finally, bed. 

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