We landed in Callao which is the port area of the city of Lima.
Peru is a with a population of 30 million and Lima, it's capital, has about a third of the nation's population. It is a vibrant up-and-coming country
We found the port area to have pleasant weather in the 70 and got up to the mid 80s in the main downtown area of the city. Downtown is 9 miles from the port. The city is very wide and in a very dry area. It rains only approximately 2 inches per year. Water for this large city is not an issue since the interior of the country is high mountains, dense forest areas and has a rainy season.
I was quite surprise to see a high degree of public mobility and normal city activity throughout the city. We rented a taxi to show us the city. First stop was a reconstructed historical fort that also houses the military army base. It was open and inviting and and most of the soldiers at the entrance and in the compound area were women. As we traveled throughout the city were saw a large portion of women as police, traffic directors, tour guides, and health officials. All very professional and ready to help.
We then proceeded downtown and there was a social services public gathering in the main square area. There were many students and public booths. Schools are out on summer vacation. There were several military bands all around. It had a festive feel to it. Security was everywhere since the one of the building was the presidential building.
The midday changing of the guard was quite unique. The band marched out to the outer gates and played multiple and beautiful symphony pieces to the public. We took a free tour of the Lima municipal building which was part of the central square. We had a free private guide and saw practically the entire building. It took about half an hour.
From there we walked nearby to the a Franciscan church and again took a tour. There was a church, the grounds and museum area. There were many large historical religious paintings dating back to the early 1600s. What was special was to go into the catacombs under the buildings. Thousands of persons were buried there. It was the first time I had visited catacombs. I missed seeing the ones in the Basilica last year in Rome.
Next we drove to the hilltop to the Cross of San Cristobal. From that site we could see the entire city and surrounding areas. The city is clearly widespread. What was missing was greenery. Not many trees, scrubs nor greenery. At the distance we could see that they are constructing a modern metro system. One area is operational and you could see the extensive construction where more lines are being built throughout the area. Brick and cement block is the main material for housing construction. Building are modest, nice and typically two or three stories high.
We then traveled to the east side of the city to visit the private Peruvian Gold Museum. It's a tourist stop and well worth it. The gold collection was very extensive. They must have had at least 2,000 gold artifacts. They had one exhibit that was a least 10x10 feet cloth lined entirely with gold.
Next stop was to visit was the Miraflores area. It is the southern and newest section of the city. It is on the coastline and we were actually a bit cool. For a moment we thought we were in the Santa Monica cliff area. This is a coastal area with all the modern high ended shops. We had a drink in a restaurant which was next door to a Tony Roma restaurant and KFC.
It was time to head back to the ship and the city traffic increased. We were in traffic just like Los Angeles. Our driver had to take many of the side streets to get us to the port and that was an experience. Cars crisscross each other. Honking is common. I don't think it's to push those ahead or just to warn them that your coming through. Lots of zigzagging amongst the drivers and I didn't see any accidents.
Currently 30% of their cars are now using natural gas. The cost of natural gas is 80% lower than gasoline. All the gasoline stations offered gasoline, diesel and natural gas. A high percentage of their cars are made in Korea.
Throughout the city people were very warm and friendly.
Once the day was over I had time to reflect and realized that my background information about Peru was clearly outdated. Persons I talked to highlighted that the 80s and 90s were depressing years for the country. Political corruption was common and the narco trafficking was prevalent. As I understood it the country back then had high unemployment and in general it was at a standstill.
Well, it seems that Peru has done a 180 degree turn. I would not use the term "third world" to describe this country. It's quickly up and coming. They credit their turn to investment in education, for foreign investments and long term public planning.
It is clear that they are building their public transportation infrastructure. They are aggressively reducing their dependency on foreign oil. One can see diverse construction projects throughout the city. There is heavy modern machinery working throughout the city. You can see new major city public works projects.
On our return cruise next month we will be going into the interior of the country for 3 days in order to go to Machu Picchu. It will give us a closer perspective on this fascinating country.
The next day we visited the most northern city of Chile. We visited Arica. It's a very small but quaint coastal town in the driest desert in the world. It's dry but not hot. There is a river that begins in the highlands of Bolivia and flows to the ocean through the town. There is some commercial fishing here but it is mainly a town for copper miners and families. The miners go into the interior of the country to work 11 day shifts in open copper mines. Its an 8-hour drive to their work site. Since the mines are deep in the desert it would not sustain families and the necessary support communities. Locals mentioned that they will soon be opening gold mines. Given the current world prices of gold, it will probably be very soon.
As of today we have been on the cruise for 15 days.