This will be my last and final post on my year living abroad in Peru in 2008. It’s my last
because I simply have nothing left to tell of my adventures.
Next year will be 10 years since lived there, and since compiling these posts, many of the good friends I had made there that I am still in contact with are suggesting a reunion. I would love that, as since then I have become a more seasoned traveller and I am better equipped to document my travels to. I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see!
How did I land up in Peru?
I had just graduated from my university. I did a postgrad diploma in marketing and I was ready to find a job and travel. However, most work visas at the time required a lot of money, which I didn’t have. This was 2007, so jobs and various type of work opportunities were aplenty back then. You could pick practically any country and quite easily find a job.
I knew nothing about Peru, I didn’t even know where it was in South America at the time! We don’t learn too much about the history of the Americas in school in South Africa, and so I thought why not!
I had no idea what to expect and I was unsure if I could actually spend a year abroad by myself. I knew nobody there and I couldn’t speak the language. It was going to be on my own for the first time.
Lima is the capital city of Peru and main business district of the country. Peru’s political and economic climate has been an unsteady one in the past, but when I arrived in January 2008 things seemed pretty stable. New businesses seemed to be growing and the currency, the Peruvian Soles, was in a good state.
Lima was…..unique. The central part of the city moved to the upscale neighbourhood of Miraflores which lies on the cliffs by the ocean. Many new businesses and offices were built here as well. It is also the main tourist spot where many travellers stay before embarking on their next destination in Peru. Besides the urban developments in the city, it was also built around many pyramids and ancient sites.
A brief history
Before the arrival of the Spanish the city was inhabited by the Costinos, or coastal people of South America. It was later taken over by the Incas as they expanded their kingdom. The original name was Limaq, given by the Incas. Eventually, the Spanish took over and it became the main trading area and city. Lima is also the third largest city in the South America.
I wanted to stick to the realm of marketing and I found an opportunity to work as a copywriter in Lima, Peru on jobsabroad.com. There were many options, but this one stuck out. It would be great for my resume and they offered fully paid accommodation along with free Spanish language lessons! I applied, did the interview by telephone and got the job.
My job in Lima was copywriting for a young business which sold a natural herb called Maca. Maca is a well-known root found in the Andes and used for various medicinal purposes by the locals. The company I worked for sold Maca as a tablet to help alleviate Menopause symptoms.
The other part of the job was helping them create new content for an art history website where various art products would be sold. I never got to see the completion, as it was still in progress when I left. When I arrived me and another foreign worker were actually the first two to be hired for this position as we both were native English speakers and we had studied Art History.
As I said before, Miraflores is the main centre of Lima today. It was originally an affluent neighbourhood that has now become a sort of CBD of the city. I got to live and work in the area and it was rather safe. All the nightclubs, parties and events took place in Miraflores.
It was always bustling and alive. There is the Miraflores Park which is always busy and serves as the sort of central plaza by the main church. There are many restaurants along the roads and around the park.
El Parqu del a Amore or The Park of Love is also a popular spot to hang out for locals and tourists, you can get great views of the coastline and even do some paragliding to get better views of the city. The Parque Del Amore is also home to the famous statue of two lovers in an embrace. Some hate it, some love it.
Further down from the Parque del la Amore is an open-air shopping mall. At the time, it was a new development which housed a museum, some souvenir shops, dance clubs and cafes. It had outdoor escalators as it very rarely rains in Lima!
The centre of Lima contains a lot of cool historical museums and places that came to define it by the Spanish colonialism. Most of architecture in this part of the city is inspired by the old Spanish and Southern European style with elaborate buildings and a central plaza. While the history of Peru’s native and ancient cultures lies all over the country, the history of the Spanish presence can be found in the centre.
One of the popular places to visit is the Catacombes or Catacombs. The Catacombs can be found in the Convento de San Francisco, which served as a monastery and church by the early Catholic colonialists. Below the church lies the burial grounds of thousands of deceased church members.
There is a main road that once housed numerous shops and restaurants of goods. Today you will still find shops, but mainly cheap imported good are on sale and cheap restaurants. This is mainly because the CBD has moved away from the centre.
It is a good place to explore and discover in one day. We also found an amazing building selling authentic traditional Peruvian goods made from Llama and Alpaca leather and souvenirs for really low prices!
Pachacamac is an ancient and historical site in the middle of Lima. The inhabitants who lived here were not Incas, but a smaller coastal tribe of Peruvians who believed in the Earth God as well as many other deities which included a potato god.
The area was later conquered by the Incas who used it as another stop to occupy as the expanded their kingdoms and to recruit more men into their armies. The buildings and architecture still holds some of the same distinct style with huge square blocks made form granite rocks found around the other ancient sites in Peru. However, over time many of the buildings were built over or restored by the local people and Incas.
There are lots of random pyramids and sites dotted amidst the city’s landscape. It’s def worth checking out!
Nightlife and leisure
Most of the city’s hustle and bustle takes place in Miraflores with some places in Barranco, an area next to Miraflores. There are many bars, night clubs and shopping malls around these two areas. Most place are open late and every day to accommodate tourists. A popular club/bar was Sargiento Permiento in Barranco which has decent music and live sets on weekends.
The beach in Lima is not the best for swimming. This is only because the coastline is littered with hard stones and pebbles! It’s really painful for your feet, and you’ll probably need a pair of socks or shoes. There are a lot of surfers though, as apparently the waves were in good condition.
There are a lot of factories in Peru, and you can find some big outlet malls right outside the city too. Peru wasn’t a place I would identify with fashion shopping, but should you be in need of anything there are big departments stores such as Ripley and Sagafallebella in Miraflores which sells a variety of homeware and apparel.
I remember there also being a lot of fashion boutiques from local designer in San Pedro. San Pedro is also an affluent neighbourhood with smaller businesses littered in between. They had more trendier goods, but at a higher price.
There are souvenir shops all over. To get the best I recommend the centre of Lima for best prices and to avoid crowded markets.
Grocery shopping wasn’t too bad either. Their selection of produce and products were rather international and you could find just about anything in stores. It was cheap too. My favourite store was Vivanda. They have various branches littered around Lima and a good ready-made section.
Eating out in restaurants was not bad either, we would frequently get lunch together at a local café when the weather was good.
Travelling within Lima is really inexpensive. Most buses go into the centre and to and from Miraflores so it’s rather easy. The buses are not in the best condition, so dress comfortably and prepare for a bumpy ride. Overall, it safe to use in the day time. You can also take a taxi anywhere, these are also cheap.
Unless you have a car, I think travelling within Lima with public transport is best left during the day time, especially if you are a solo traveller. If you are staying in Miraflores, most places are open till late and within walking distance.
I lived in Peru in 2008. To this day, it has been probably my most awesome years abroad. It was my first so there was a lot of growing up to do and new things to learn. However, finally writing these posts about my year and time there has made me nostalgic and super grateful I got to experience this country. Should I return, I promise to take more pics of llamas!