Friday 21 August

We wake at ten past six, quickly finish packing, and are ready downstairs by half-past. It is eight soles for the taxi fare to the airport and we are probably the first to check in. The airport itself is clean, tidy, and efficient, similar in size perhaps to Derry City Airport. We now have a wait of nearly two and a half hours before our flight leaves.

(magnify) Huaca Pucllana

We touch down in Lima on time after a flying time of just one hour – a different world to the bus that took us north three weeks ago! We spend longer in the taxi, driven by the same small and quietly spoken man as last time, battling through mucho trafico towards the Hostal El Patio. They are expecting us and have the room ready. They have heeded our request for an upstairs room and we have one right at the top this time, perched on its own on the roof making it very private.

We wander down to Parque Kennedy to get lunch and end up walking down what the guide refers to as Pizza Street (Calle San Ramón). This pedestrian street is lined with tables and awnings and at each one a waiter tries to pull us into his establishment. We choose the one where we do not get hassled like this, and order a slice of pizza each.

Mud bricks

We ‘do’ the artisan markets along Avenue Petit Thouars after lunch. There is a huge variety of crafts from all over Peru (though mainly the tourist south) but nothing much grabs our attention. From there we continue up towards Huaca Pucllana, more because we are nearby rather than any burning desire to see it. It looks like a big mound of dirty earth but as we draw closer we see that it is actually made up of hundreds of rows of mud bricks.

(magnify) Huaca Pucllana

We decide to pay the entrance fee, and are rewarded with the most excellent guided tour. We share the guide with three lively Americans who have a lot of questions. He is happy to answer them all, even though I think that he would have got through three normal groups in the time he spent on us. His standard script certainly went out of the window – but at least he was rewarded with a generous tip.

Our guide tells us that when he was a kid he used to play on this mound. Nobody knew what it was, and a few decades ago it was nearly lost when a new city development was halted just in time. Excavation still continues, the painstaking brushing away of loose dirt to reveal the dry and dusty bricks underneath. The site itself is a ceremonial platform built by people from the ‘Lima Culture’ in about the fifth century AD and consists of layers upon layers of bricks built up over many generations, each filling in the level below and adding a new one on top.

Roof-top view from our room

Some of it has been reconstructed and our guide challenges us to tell him which bits are new. It is not too difficult to tell if you look closely because the reconstructed bricks are a little more regular.

Dinner is in one of the may restaurants off Parque Kennedy. I decide I have to try the traditional ceviche meal – a sort of pickled fish with corn on the cob and sweet potato. It is nice enough, but a bit overpowering for a main course. It would probably work better as a starter. Rachel’s fried fish is a safer option.