Caral, Ceviche Sundays in Chorillos, and Chosica
I recently had the opportunity to visit Caral,the oldest center of civilisation in the Americas. This was an archeological site that I had never visited before, and I was very excited to see this fantastic example of ancient Caral culture.
We took a four hour bus ride from Lima, and though it was quite long, it was fascinating to watch the landscape change before my eyes as we drove along the ocean into the desert.
Caral is literally in the desert in the middle of nowhere, but it overlooks a beautiful, luscious valley. The area is not highly populated, and because if this it is easy to imagine people walking along the same paths as you are thousands of years ago.
The tour was informative and the guide was very knowledgable and informed, but I wish we had had more time to explore on our own and digest the majesty and splendour of the site, picturing it as it was in years past.
Afterwards we enjoyed lunch in a hotel where I ate some excellent Pachamanca (Peruvian barbecue on hot stones) and returned to Lima.
The following day, I met up with some friends from the program in order to visit Chorillos (a district of Lima famous for it’s lagoons and beaches) in order to have some ceviche for lunch. On the combi we received some recommendations from a friendly man, but these places appeared too fancy and we were looking for an authentic experience so we walked down to the beach where there is a fish market and a strip of multiple different cevicherias.
The owner of every restaurant is yelling and advertising their dishes, and eventually we decided on one near the end of the strip that seemed like it would be good.
One friend ordered Ceviche Mixto, my other friend ordered Ceviche de Corvina (Sea Bass), and I ordered Ceviche con Corvina y Pulpo (octopus). For an appetiser we ordered Chicharrón Calamar, fried squid that is essentially the same as calamari.
The food was excellent and among the freshest I have ever tasted given that we were literally right on the ocean, but when we got the check we realised there was a problem.
We had been charged way more than the prices indicated on the menu and I could not make head or tail of the handwriting on the check the waiter handed us.
Thankfully we all speak Spanish or we might have gotten cheated quite badly. First he said that the pulpo was more expensive because there was a ban on octopus. This is obviously not true as almost every cevicheria in Lima sells pulpo to the extent that nearly every restauranteur in the city would be in big trouble if this was the case. Then we realised that he had brought us the family sized portion of chicharrón, even though we had clearly told him multiple times that we only wanted the regular size. Even after all of this, his math didn’t add up and he was still trying to charge us forty soles more then it would’ve been even if everything he was saying was true. We were able to talk him down to a more reasonable price, but we still ended up paying significantly more than we should have.
This spoiled the lunch a little bit, but it was still delicious and not nearly as expensive as it would have been in the states, so I couldn’t really complain. I spent the rest of the afternoon riding bikes along the Malecón (a strip of parks that border the beach) with one of my friends and her dog. All in all a very relaxing way to spend a Sunday.
As you may have heard, there was a lunar eclipse with a supermoon on Sunday, and I definitely wanted to see it, something that would not be possible with all the clouds in Lima. So I journeyed to Chosica, a mountain town outside of Lima, in order to see the eclipse and get out of the city. You can take a combi all the way to Chosica, for a little more than the equivalent of a dollar, but it can take as long as two and half hours due to traffic and the amount of times the combis stop to pick up more passengers. There are tourist buses that are far more comfortable and take a more direct route, but we went for the budget option.
Once we arrived next to the Plaza in the center of town, we got off the combi and began looking for a hostel to spend the night. Chosica is incredibly cheap, you could get a room in a somewhat sketchy hostel for less than 21 soles (about 6 bucks), but we decided to pay the extra thirty soles to stay in a charming hospedaje (sort of an upscale hostel) behind the statue of Cristo Blanco, one of the sites most associated with Chosica. There was a fair going on in the Plaza, and we walked around eating anticuchos (sort of Peruvian shish kebabs) and drinking emoliente (a delicious sort of herbal tea with a host of health benefits). Then we ate at a restaurant near our hotel, where I feasted on chicharrón de pollo and sopa criolla (essentially beef and noodle soup).
We had been a little concerned that it would still be too cloudy to see the moon, but as soon as we walked out of the restaurant the clouds parted right as the eclipse was beginning. We went to the plaza where an old astronomer was charging 2 soles por a look through his telescope, and watched the eclipse with some friends we made while drinking more emolientes. It was truly a stunning beautiful and spiritual experience, as I had never seen an eclipse before and this one was absolutely awe-inspiring due to the fact that is was a super moon and a blood moon. After the end of the eclipse, we stayed in the plaza talking with our friends before heading back to the hotel. We exchanged contact info with our new amigos and I hope to come back to Chosica to hike in the surrounding are and see them again.
My friend returned to Lima early in the morning because she had class and homework, but I stayed behind to see more of the town. I visited all of the local markets, drank more emoliente, and encountered one of my friends from the night before walking his dog. He suggested a walk along the river which I took before I visited the local soccer stadium. After eating an ice cream in the square, it was time to return to Lima, as Idid have a class at three I needed to make it to.
The ride back definitely took a lot longer and was a lot less comfortable than the journey there, but I still made it back to central Lima in time to take the Metropolitano back to Miraflores and take another combi to Pueblo Libre before class began.
I can’t wait to return and visit San Pedro, a smaller town higher up in the mountains that is rumoured to have the best Pachamanca in the world, and Markahuassi, a plateau in the mountains with rock formations that resemble human faces and animals and also Pre-Colombian burial sites.