Travels with V
Peru & Ecuador
City of football and the dead
In the Football World Championship year of 2018 we travelled to Peru and Equador, two countries where history is always present. Both were once parts of the vast kingdom of the Incas. During six weeks we covered the area, to the capitals of Lima and Quito, to the mighty Andes and the coast of the Pacific, the deep Amazon jungle and the black lava islands of the Galapagos.
Five highlights in Peru and Ecuador:
- In Lima: Plaza Mayor with the Cathedral, the Bishop’s palace and other grand buildings. Don’t miss the open tombs in the cathedral’s crypt. Or the catacombs under the nunnery of San Francisco.
- Gastronomy in Lima. This city remarkably has three restaurants in the top ten in the world! Central, Maido and Astrid y Gastón. Must be booked months in advance.
- Other, Peru: Machu Picchu naturally, but also Pisac with its breathtaking terraces. Best beaches are on the Mancora coast in north west.
- Prettiest city: Tie beween Cusco (Peru) and Quito (Equador). Cusco is more relaxed, Quito more elegant.
- Best nature experience: the jungle of Ecuador with Yasuní national park. Best stay here is La Selva Eco Lodge, they have the best guides. And the best food!
Travel diary: July 1, Punta Sal, Mancora coast, northern Peru. I’m sitting on the veranda by our small cabana. V sleeps calmly after a rough night dancing with Montezuma. A tiny lizard with an astonishingly long tail runs past me on the stony path beneath.
There were thin clouds covering the sun this morning, but now the sky is all blue. The only sound heard is the occasional cry of a seabird and the splash of small waves that lap the sandy beach
It’s winter in Peru but this close the equator it’s quite like the north European summer. 25 degrees Celsius in the air and maybe 22 in the water. We enjoy lazy days by the beach after some hardship in the mountains.
Our journey started in Lima where we spent a few days in the bustling city. It’s a city like many other big modern urban areas, with swinging cranes and tall buildings rising, shopping malls and huge billboards. But later we will see other, not so modern sides of this 7,6 million city. The wheather is constantly grey, clouded and grumpy.
Maybe it’s a bit embarrassing that we didn’t know it, but this is what it’s like in this time of year. It’s called Garua, which is caused by the sea currents and most often wraps the Peruvian coast in a grey, wet, cold blanket that lasts for months.
We visit the city center where all human life seems to have stalled, but large groups are gathered outside bars and also by windows of shops that sell TV sets. The Football World Championship is underway and at this very minute Peru plays against France, a game that ends badly for the Peruvians. It means goodbye to the rest of the tournament for the red and white team.
In the Plaza Mayor, the central square in Lima, people are gathered in front of giant TV screens, but when we get there the game is over. Nevertheless we can’t see many signs of disappointment. People are painted and happy, there’s dancing in the square. Football is a fiesta and someone looses, it’s just part of the game. What a great attitude!
The rest of the day is to a large extent spent walking in the footsteps of death. At Plaza Mayor lies the great cathedral, famous for concealing the bones of one of the greatest assholes in human history. The conquistador Pizarro, responsible for the killings of millions of indigenous people and exterminator of the great Inca kingdom and culture. Cynically enough the violence of the conquistadors is depicted on a large painting in Pizarro’s crypt, ond on the floor in mosaic tiles the word PAX (= Peace) is seen. We feel nausea.
More dead awaits us in the nunnery of San Fransisco, actually right under the church, where Lima has buried its dead in catacombs for centuries. At some point when the catacombs became too crowded, the bones were collected and set up in decorative arrangements, circles and rows of bone and sculls. It’s an out of the ordinary experience, although quite a morbid one.
Lima definitely has something to offer the visitor, but for us it’s a relief to leave the grey Garua and head up into the mountains, above the clouds. And we stepped out on the tarmac in Cusco with a nice warm sun on our faces.
In the next chapter we accidentally stumble into a swirling maelstrom of partying people. Cusco is Fiesta!