My adventure began at 3.30 am. Far too early a start if you ask me. The many people happily drinking pints at Glasgow airport at this early hour seemed to disagree. Someone said to me that it seems like more of an adventure if you have to leave for a flight in the middle of the night. I’ll try to look at it that way next time.
I’ve always been pretty good at packing light. For 6 months my total baggage weight, including both hand luggage and hold luggage, was 18 kg. I’ve been on holiday with friends who have packed more than that for 6 days!
Arriving in Peru
Unfortunately, when I arrived in Lima after the 12-hour flight, I watched the baggage carousel slowly empty. My bag was nowhere in sight. Thankfully, it was delivered to the hostel I was staying at a day later.
I’ve only been in Lima for 3 full days but I feel like I already have so much to write about – I can’t possibly cover it all. So here are the things that stood out to me most during the first days of my adventure.
Firstly, I’m glad that I learnt some Spanish before I left. I’ve actually spoken to a lot of people in Spanish, from people staying at the hostel to the taxi driver who drove me from the airport to my hostel, to a kind stranger who helped us get the bus, to the random local youth who I think was trying to chat me up on a park bench. Although my Spanish is still very basic, I’ve been able to get by with it so far and feel like I’m picking up more vocabulary already.
Secondly, I’ve tried a lot of the local cuisine. On my first day in Lima, I went to Al Toke Pez, a ceviche restaurant, with a new friend from the hostel. It had been recommended to her and supposedly became popular after it was included in a Netflix documentary. I knew it was a good sign when locals were queuing up outside before it had opened. Inside, the restaurant was tiny.
We all sat elbow to elbow; cooking and washing happened right in front of us. You may be wondering what ceviche is. Ceviche is a traditional Peruvian dish made from raw fish, cured with lime juice.
Lima is on the coast of Peru, so is well known for its seafood. As a bit of a hypochondriac, I was mildly worried about contracting a parasite from this unappealing delicacy. Eager to push myself out of my comfort zone, I bravely tried it. It actually tasted really nice! And so far so good on the parasite front.
At the ceviche restaurant, we were offered a purple drink. We accepted without knowing what it was. It looked and tasted like spiced plum juice. Afterwards, I discovered that this drink, Chica, is made from purple corn. It seems to be very common here. Elsewhere, I’ve tried traditional Peruvian street food, empanadas (meat pastry with icing sugar), picarones (sweet potato and squash doughnut) and various other things.
As part of a walking tour of the historical centre of Lima, we went to a chocolate shop and tasted different kinds of chocolate. The most unusual were quinoa chocolate and chocolate coca tea (yes, coca as in cocaine). The sales assistant commented, “I drink this tea whenever I have a problem, so every day!” I’m unsure if he was joking or not.
Thirdly, I want to mention what it’s been like travelling alone and mostly without plans. As someone who often plans too much, the only thing I planned for this trip was to visit Lima for 3 days before my rainforest expedition. I’ve really enjoyed being able to be more spontaneous and was very quickly recommended the best things to do in Lima, by other backpackers with experience.
As for travelling alone, there’s been ups and downs. Feeling a bit lonely and homesick at first wasn’t unexpected. However, I really think it’s been worth it, as it has forced me to start conversations with strangers. In only 3 days I’ve already spoken to people from all over the world and have been out and about in Lima with some of them. When I’m doing things with other people, the homesick feelings tend to fade away.