Throughout 2016, I travelled for work. We closed out 2016 with a family vacation to Peru between Christmas and New Years.
When you travel so much as part of work, you just want to stay home and relax and wake up late and maybe laze around on a long weekend. It would be a wrong thing to do as it is probably the best time to go spend with family and take in some sights, spend some good times.
2016 had many defining moments. The most significant one I can think of was when San had an accident and was in the hospital for a few hours getting her head scanned after she hit her head on the pavement.. on my birthday! Everything turned out okay and she is the same old San, thanks to all the gods I know and don't know. That moment made me realize yet again, how fragile our lives are and how one mistep can change things.
After that happened I still had to go to Asia with her recovering. So I made a resolution on my return flight. We will go on this trip to Peru and I will try to be the bestest most obiedient hubby on this trip. I almost succeeded.
We left on Chirstmas eve and came back on the afternoon of New Years day. It was an amazing trip, with great sights, challenges we had to overcome as a family, interesting twists and turns.
Given this is going to be the first in a series of posts, here are some takeaways from the entire trip.
1. We were glad that all four of us were in decent shape. If you are older, have heart issues, are not in the best of shape, have small kids, talk to other folks and travel agents.. if you choose to follow our itinerary. In spite of all the yoga, there were times when I thought my heart could not take the strain. Also given my pores open up so easily, it was very difficult to manage the abrupt changes in weather and what I was wearing. The little one was going through altitude sickness practically the entire time, but she managed to brave it!
2. There is no shame in packing enough food. I was tired of all the curd rice and idly packing to Asia. We were told that there are vegetarian options and food should not be an issue. Not true. Vegetarian food and finding the right food can be a big challenge. So take those Maggi noodles and MTR pongal mixes.. you can thank me later.
3. Use a travel agent. We used Peru Expeditions and a guy by the name of Andres, who we did not meet, but who did an excellent job of co-ordinating things from the phone. When you have a busy schedule with taxi, van, bus, boat and plane rides with tight connections, you don't want to take chances.
4. My family was amazed that I remembered Spanish from College days ( I had taught myself Spanish from Primsleur for two years just to understand lyrics of what I was dancing to.. ) and San actually said "some good came out of all that dancing! We are able to communicate with folks here thanks to your dad!". So brush up on some Spanish! Especially when you bargain for those Alpaca sweaters... comes in very handy.
Now for the travelog!
We left Christmas eve on a red eye flight to Panama City, spent 4 hours in the Panama City airport which constantly reminded me of Kuala Lumpur's Air Asia area from the recent India trip. You are kind of trapped in an enclosure with minimal options for 5 hours. As usual, something intersting happened.
There was a Copa Airlines lounge. So I went there with my United card and lo and behold, they said they will let me in with one guest. So the little one tags along. She walks into the lounge and goes "so you get to stay in lounges like this on your way to Asia. I have no sympathy for you anymore. This is nice compared to how we wait at the gate!". Told her to hold her thoughts. After 30 minutes of sitting in that leather seat, she said "you are right. it is boring after 30 minutes. they have juice and crackers and stuff and the rest room is nice, but we are still waiting". Told her it gets worse when the plane is delayed and that is usual for China flights. So daddy Narayanan won back a point!
After that break we flew into Lima. We went to our hotel which happened to be in a very nice area called Mira Flores. The family noticed that there were no english signs anywhere on the 50 minute ride from airport to hotel. I spoke to our driver in Spanish and all those words came rushing back. Suddenly I was mixing Hindi, Tamil, English and Spanish and the kids were like "what is going on in your head"?. then the translate module in my head kind of stabilized and we had a decent conversation.
We were given a little under 1 hour to get ready for a "Lima by Night" tour with a guide. There were lot of folks driven in multiple vans to a common location. Then we split. Practically eveyone went in a big bus that was the "spanish tour" and the four of us and another couple from Kentucky ended up in a small van that was the English tour. Our tour guide told us he has spanish, local Inca and Japanese ancestry and he wove an interesting story line on the history and culture of Peru in 3 hours.
We did a brief stop (didn't get out of van) at a place called Huaca Pucllana which was an archaeological dig site. Apparently Lima is built on one large burial ground and there are sites like this cropping up everywhere and the folks today prefer to have their city develop instead of become pockets of archeological digs.
Initially the van did not stop anywhere in downtown plaza area as there was no parking and it was Christmas day. Most main streets were deserted, but the Plaza was a different story.
It had a street fair atmosphere that evening.
Then we walked through 300-400 year old streets. Every building was amazing. Just look at this door knob on one of the buildings!
Or the balconies. They were really ornate and had different roots w.r.t. where they originated.
Then we visited two chuches that were very popular in that area. It was a good thing to visit Churches that were hundreds of years old and get to say a prayer and take some pictures.
There is San walking in.. These Churches were amazing.. they were just the starting point. Over the next 5 days we would visit so many old Churches (mostly photography not allowed) which had so much gold and silver and amazing paintings in them it was breathtaking!
We continued to drive past the Plaza and things were winding down. This was shot from the moving van..
Then we walked through a few streets in the Plaza which were restricted only to pedestrian traffic. The narrow roads were full of shops, with really inexpensive goods, but we had to keep walking. We did stop at a bakery to have some paneton bread which is a must have delicay on Christmas (Peruvian tradition) but the bread has Italian origins in Peruvian culture. The bread was delicious!
and before you know it, you are in the Plaza. It was full of people. There was a large nativity scene on one of the buildings, a tall light tree and steet vendors selling things to kids. We had a great time wandering around and our guide was nice enough to click a family picture!
The gold plated water fountain in the middle of the Plaza was beautiful. We kept thinking, why dont we create these beautiful things today? Why did we stop 400 years ago or so? Even in India, you see the palaces in Jaipur and wonder why there are no new palaces which are being built that might last a few hundred years at least...
Remember, the default water you will get there contains gas. We learned that the hard way. So you have to explicitly say "Agua sin gas" before buying your water!
Once we were done walking around the plaza, it was time to head back to the hotel. We had a busy schedule for day 2 per tour guide. on the way out we saw four santas playing different instruments and folks getting portaits with the four santas.. Given Jr. is a saxophone player, captured this for her!
This was the last picture clicked on way back. There was a lot of traffic and our van was at a stand still. So I made a request to the guide and we both ran to the end of the street to get this pic and we ran back to the van just as the light turned green.
It was an evening well spent and a unique evening at that, it being Christmas!
The next morning we had to wake up at 3:45AM as there was a flight to catch from Lima to Cusco.
Day 2 post to follow!
ps. There are also wide pano photos and videos that were taken on every day on the iPhone. Will be posting the collection of Pano Photos on a separate page.
pps. "people photos" goes to FB!