Under the Donkey’s Belly
Finally arriving in Lima early this morning and after surviving the journey smushed by the window from sharing a airplane seat row with an older Peruvian couple who were flying home from the states. I can say, I have finally arrived in Lima.
Just imagine sitting next to an elder couple who are best described as the look-a-like characters such as Archie Bunker, without the comedy, and Mimi Bobeck from the Drew Carey Show and add about 30 years. Then, there sits me, with about 3/4 of my seat as the elder Mimi’s cane was not going to leave her side on this 5 hour plane flight. I am speculating since the cane was equally glittered and decorated as she, it must have been apart of that day’s attire. You have the imagine now right? Because this was leg two of three to get to Cuzco, Peru.
When you travel to new places, you are often in sensory overload and you are alert to the entire world around, every movement, every scent, every sound and every noise. This is a survival skill set you quickly adapt when traveling to foreign lands. So, I will tell you when walking outside of the airport you are literally slapped in the face by the most pungent smell imaginable. My first thoughts were, “I really hope this is the ocean”. My second thought, “if this is the ocean, then it must be void of all life”. Albeit, welcome to Lima, a city of 9 million in a country of 17 million and welcome to the scent of pollution and overcrowding. For a moment, I thought I had landed in India.
But Walter, my transfer taxi, in his broken English quickly takes me to the outskirts of the city. Crossing 41 of the 42 provinces, we stop in Miraflores at a small quaint hotel near the white sand beaches of the Pacific and dotted by colorful mosaic buildings influenced by the Spanish conquistadors. I have now arrived at the meeting place, the main gathering point of all travelers who will gather this week to begin a hike through the land of llamas and mystery.
But before we can take our 3rd leg of this journey to Cuzco, we have time to spend in Lima since all travelers are arriving at different times. Therefore, a city tour would fill the time. This is where we learned about living under the Donkey’s Belly. A saying in Lima which refers to the color of the skies which are grey, just like the underside of a donkey’s belly. And in Lima it never rains, the last recorded rain was in the 1970’s. I believe then it will be safe to leave the rain jacket behind today.
The tour takes the group to the governmental palace for the changing of the guards, by embassies and to several churches and catatombs. Where our broken english speaking guides inform us at each stop, ‘this is most important place, this most beautiful” – at every building, at every stop.
But, most notably, the San Francisco church, constructed in the 1620’s this church was the original burial ground for the community and over the years until the late 1800’s more than 25,000+ burials took place in the basement of the church. But to call this practice a burial would be rather trite. So in the 1600’s imagine a series of wells made of local mud, rock, and brick that were about 4 feet wide, 6 feet long and 15 feet deep, and lit by torches along narrow corridors. All underneath the floors of the main catholic church. Then imagine a well for the femurs, a well for the skull, a well for the hips, you of course get the idea now of the burial rituals and I am quite sure one of the more unique archeological finds of the 1900’s. Certainly an interesting place to visit and rather dust laden too, but after 400 years of skeletons laying around, a little dusty might be a fair assessment.
After a few hours around the city, we returned back to meet the rest of the group at the hotel. We are off to Cuzco bright and early, the guide says sunshine, wunderground weather says 90% chance of rain and thunderstorms. I really hope the guides are right and the sun is shining, but we will know for sure in a few hours. Off to fly into the Andes and hike into the clouds then down into the jungles.
Signing off tonight from Lima, Peru – South America