Boris and I are off again; this time on a river cruise on the Amazon River in Peru, followed by a visit to several Inca heritage sites, including Manchu Picchu. We are fortunate to be able to fly directly to the capital city of Lima, Peru from our home city of Houston, Texas, USA. Prior to going to the airport, we had to upload our passport and vaccine information (or COVID 19 test results). Additionally, you had to complete a questionnaire sponsored by the Peruvian government. The form was challenging; some of the questions were not intuitive or used terms or phrases that we were unfamiliar with (could have been the translation). Our forms kept being rejected. We assumed someone could help us or we could fill out a paper form at the airport, but not was not the case. Check-in was hectic. We struggled at the baggage counter to get the form uploaded. They finally let us check in; fortunately, we had gone to the airport very early given construction at IAH.
Peru has only one major international airport and one major commercial port, both are located in Callao where we landed. It was about a 40-minute drive to our hotel in Lima. We went in a day early since the direct flight didn’t land until 11 pm. After the long line at passport control, that we sweated through because Boris had the questionnaire in draft form only while I had an on-line acknowledgement, we picked up our bags and met our driver outside (among the sea of drivers). He was very friendly and exceptionally knowledgeable about Peru and the cruise details. We finally asked and found out he is our tour director Carlos. He likes to pick up as many of the guests as he can so he can get to know them early.
Our tour is limited to 32 participants, based on the cabin availability aboard the Amazon Aria, our river cruise ship. There will be 26 in our particular cruise tour. To begin the tour, we spend three nights in Lima at the Country Club Lima Hotel in of one the city’s most fashionable districts. In total there are 43 districts in Lima. We are near the city’s financial center. Carlos gave us some excellent advice about where to spend our free day in Lima.
After a full night’s sleep, breakfast, and a trip to the ATM for some Peruvian soles (the local currency), I was ready to head out to the Larco museum nearby to see exhibits related to the country’s ancient history. Museo Larco’s permanent collection “takes an in-depth look at the Andean worldview and helps visitors to understand the development of pre-Columbian societies, through an impressive collection of objects.” The museum also has visible storage with over 30,000 cataloged pottery artifacts on display. The Larco Museum came highly recommended by several sources; the museum’s café was also recommended.
Boris had other plans. He wanted to take it easy for a while. He relaxed and napped, and we eventually took a cab to the Huaca Pucllana ruins for a tour and an early dinner at the museum restaurant overlooking the lighted ruins. Unfortunately, touring ended at 4:15, so we weren’t able to visit the entire site. A 2-3 hour tour is recommended. “Built [using] millions of adobe bricks, these ruins once served as an administrative center and a pre-Inca ceremonial site dedicated to the God Pachacamac.”
The restaurant seating is on a patio outside under a high canopy. Be sure to have reservations; the restaurant is very popular. The food and drinks were excellent. Of course, we started with the national drink, a Pisco sour. We each had three courses (more food than we needed) and multiple drinks and the bill was under $100. I had the parmesan crusted scallops and the lamb with Peruvian spiced risotto. I closed out the meal with caramel in a pecan shell pastry, one of the best desserts I ever had. It was a wonderful experience in a romantic setting.
The next morning, we met up with our tour group after breakfast at the hotel. We had a brief orientation and then a city tour by bus. Of the 33 million people that live in Peru, 12 million live in the capital city of Lima. Carlos handled the first part of the city tour and then a local guide led us through the historical parts of the city. I was having a problem with my camera, constantly having to remove the memory card and replace it, but I got some wonderful pictures of the square and the even a dignitary in Amazonian tribal wear entering the government building. We made it back to the main square in time to even catch a bit of the changing of the guard.
We had the special treat of lunch at the home of a family who has had their home near the square for 16 generations and trace back their heritage to one of the early Spanish “invaders” or “settlers” depending on how you look at the history. It was a gorgeous home with multiple apartments. Homes of this time period had three patios; a ceiling had been added to one of them. Their center atrium featured a multi-story tree with a fountain on the ground level. One story up the opening was surrounded by a balcony with multiple seating areas. Our family member guide told us this was her favorite place in the house. The family had a pair of antique vases presented to them by the emperor of Japan when a family member went there on a diplomatic mission. But it was also a family home, where the children played hide and a seek in the rooms with priceless treasures like the vases. A copy of the declaration of Peruvian independence is proudly displayed in the home.
Our 45-year-old guide is a sculptor. She lived in the home as a child. Her surviving uncle and the widow of another uncle, currently reside in two of the home’s apartments. She said that as a child she was embarrassed by her family’s wealth and the way she lived growing up, being aware of the poverty that plagued the country. However, she has come to appreciate the heritage of her family and the history of their home. She acknowledges that all conquering peoples have their brutal tactics and that every civilization, including the Incas, were not perfect or even humane.
We enjoyed a lovely lunch in the home before heading back to the bus for our return trip to the Country Club Lima Hotel. In the evening, we enjoyed a group dinner on the patio of the hotel restaurant. The dinner featured Peruvian specialties, some of which we had last night at the museum restaurant. If we count our first full day in Lima as the first day of the tour and the second day was Lima city tour day, then our third tour day will be for travel and arrival at our river boat.
Wondering where those wonderful pictures are? I discovered the next morning that nothing recorded on the memory card. After a few attempts with different cards, the camera appears to be broken. This will be an entirely different trip for me, given I am relegated to only using my Iphone. I am hopeful my fellow travelers will be willing to share.
After a limit of 3, 70-pound bags each on our trip down here on United, we had to get everything into a single 50-pound bag for each for the domestic flights in Peru. We transferred heavy things into our carry on to make the weight limit. After breakfast, we were taken by bus to the airport for our flight to Iquitos. Our bags had all been marked as belonging to the same tour group. Carlos efficiently got us through group check-in, security and boarding, and then we had just a short flight of less than two hours.
We will have a brief experience in Iquitos, a very late lunch at the Iron House Restaurant, and then headed to ship. On to our Amazon River adventure…