Lima, Peru, is the story of two cities with tourism, poverty | Living

As I strolled through Lima, Peru on a wintery July morning, I noticed right away that the city embodies the story of two cities.

Along its coastline, beautiful neighborhoods offer stunning ocean views, landscaped parks, police presence and pedestrian walkways. The luxurious JM Marriott Hotel Lima and the famous Larcomar shopping center mark the area where many tourists walk safely. There is also the magnificent Museum of Contemporary Art.

But the further I went from the coast towards the heart of the city, the more evident the poverty of the city became. There are crumbling buildings, plastic covers over some windows, damp clothes hanging from lines in the cold air, shabby sidewalks, wandering children, homeless people sleeping in vacant lots, and excessive litter on the streets. My opinion of Lima kept going from a nice city to a rough city.

I took the Turibus tourist bus from near the JM Marriott to Plaza de Armas, Lima’s bustling main square.

I entered the Cathedral of Lima and was stunned by its amazing main chapel and side chapels filled with religious art. I watched the changing of the guard outside the presidential palace as trumpets sounded, drums beat and cymbals crashed as the guard marched in military step.

The main square seemed like the perfect place for tourists. There’s even a colorful “LIMA” sign in the middle of the main square with the cathedral in the background.

As I walked a few blocks from the square, the poverty of the city reappeared. I even met a street vendor who conducts his business with extreme caution. He wouldn’t let me pick up a candy bar to inspect it before buying it. I suspect he was the victim of theft, and resources in this area seem hard to come by. We each clung to the exchanged objects, then simultaneously released one while pulling the other.

Then I took a one hour flight to Cusco. Cusco causes problems for many visitors as it sits at an elevation of 11,152 feet above sea level. I temporarily felt short of breath, so I slowed down.

I watched a parade and visited the Monasterio De Santa Cataline. I ate at Paddy’s, which prides itself on being the biggest all-Irish pub on the planet. Note that it is Irish owned – not specifically an Irish pub. I didn’t put this together until I read his menu and saw that he serves lasagna and not Irish stew. Didn’t see Cusco’s famous baked guinea pig dish on the menu. (No, I wouldn’t have tried it if I had.)

Cusco has cobbled streets and clay tile roofs. Many people wear native clothing that shows their color and diversity. Street vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables. One even sold cocaine. He walked slowly while dragging a flat wooden board that contained tobacco products and sweets. He warmed to his drug offer by offering cigarettes, then gum, and finally cocaine. I said no to everyone.

Cusco also has an interesting flag. At first glance, it looks identical to the horizontal striped rainbow flag which is a symbol of LGBTQ pride. But a closer look reveals that the flag of Cusco has an additional blue stripe. The LGBTQ pride flag has six colors, the Cusco flag has seven.

I went with a tour group to Machu Picchu from Cusco using the well organized Happy Gringo Tours. He picked me up in a van near my hotel, I drove for about two hours, then took a two hour train to Aguas Calientes. It is a cozy little town at the foot of the eastern part of the Andes where Machu Picchu is nestled above the slopes of the mountain.

The slow bus ride to the top was a little scary. The bus took sharp turns as it climbed a narrow, winding mountain road. I kept staring at the beautiful view of the mountains then to the side and thought if something went terribly wrong I’d be screwed. But the views from the top and the walks over the ancient structure made this nerve-wracking trip worth it. I will never forget Machu Picchu.

As I prepared to leave Cusco to return to Lima, I sat silently in the domestic terminal and watched the other people waiting with me. I was different from them. I am a tall white man with hazel eyes and I speak English. The other people were shorter, had different shades of brown skin and dark eyes, and spoke Spanish. Yet, with all our differences, I took comfort in the fact that we were all going to the same place.

On my journey, I saw things that were different from my understanding of the world, and I learned from them.

David Plcher is a Fort Wayne writer, photographer, and world traveler who values ​​experiences over things. He is always on the lookout for cheap flights and cheap hotel reservations. When Placher is not traveling, he drafts and reviews information technology and security contracts for a living. His travelogues will occasionally appear in The Journal Gazette.

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