Lima, Peru - Day 1
Our sail-in this morning was masked by a very thick fog – in fact so thick, that the Captain had to blow the fog horn every 60 seconds (as required by maritime law) to alert other nearby vessels. The weather the past two days has been primarily overcast with occasional rain, temps in the low to mid-70’s, with relatively calm seas. Apparently, the fog in Lima is typical for this time of year and in fact, we were told by our tour guide that it’s usually overcast 8 months out of the year. We docked on schedule at 8am – the ship was ‘cleared’ by local authorities by 8:15 and by 9:00, we were on our tour bus heading to city-center. Holland America makes every effort to book comfortable vehicles, and the buses this morning were among the most comfortable we’ve ever been on – very modern, clean, plush, with a good sound system & restroom.
Peru is located in the central part of South America and borders on the north with Ecuador and Colombia, on the east with Brazil and Bolivia, on the south with Chile and on the west with the Pacific Ocean. The Peruvian territory covers an area of 1,285.216 square kilometers. More than half of the Peruvian population (54.6%) lives on the coast – here in Lima, the population is 8+ million – the entire population in Peru is 27 million. The Andean region is home to 32%, whereas only 13.4% of the total population lives on the Amazonian plains. Lima is the capital city of the Republic. Peru is the third largest country in South America after Brazil and Argentina, and ranks among the 20 largest countries in the world. The country's location facilitates the access to markets in Asia and the United States of America, which enables its projection as a linking bridge between markets in South America and Southeast Asia.
The big economy drivers here are mining and refining of minerals; steel, metal fabrication; petroleum extraction and refining, natural gas; fishing and fish processing, textiles, clothing, food processing. Unemployment rate is currently 9%, pretty close to that of the U.S. Poverty rate here, however, is 39% we’re told, with 13% classified as extreme poverty and it can be readily seen. Predominant language is Spanish.
By 9:30 the fog burned off. The signs of hardship & destitution were immediately apparent upon leaving the pier; however, we were amazed with the level of cleanliness. Even in underprivileged areas, all of the residents were busy & industrious. Typically, you see people sitting on the curbs or benches in these areas amidst rubbish & trash, but all of the streets, walkways & alleys were very clean, with garbage packed in plastic bags and placed neatly alongside the roads. You really have to take your hat off to these folks!
According to our local tour guide, there are approximately 150 different ‘neighborhoods’ within Lima and each has an iron gate at the entrance – some are as small as a few city blocks and other may stretch for miles. The farther we traveled from the pier, the taller & nicer the homes and buildings became. There are some large structures (primarily government & religious buildings) in city-center that are between 300 & 400 years old. Despite their age, they’re kept in excellent condition with continual renovation & maintenance. Traffic is among the worst we’ve seen anywhere, but the people are also among the most gracious & pleasant. Everyone had a smile or kind word, even though the dominant language here is Spanish.
We went from government buildings & cathedrals to upscale shopping malls and also a jaunt along the coastline. Beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean – beaches here in most areas are a black pebble/sand mix – quite unique – and landscaping throughout the city, as large as it is, is kept neatly trimmed and planted with fresh, brightly colored flowers. Never once during our entire tour did we run into an area or a situation where we said in aversion, “Oh, look at that!” Very impressive city given its age and also massive destruction over the years because of strong earthquakes.
We are docked here overnight, and scheduled for another tour tomorrow morning. There’s a poolside BBQ at 5:30 this evening we plan to attend, then straight to bed after that. We were advised not to venture off the ship after sunset – that as friendly as the neighborhoods may seem in the immediate area, it’s best to stay on the ship unless you’re with a large group.
Here are a few photos to start with – check back as the days pass & I have time to post more!