Our stay in Lima was short, yet sweet, and I am writing this brief post from the backroom of one of Urubamba’s cheap internet/restaurant/convenience store/house-cafes.

Lima is a beautiful, beautiful city, and the affluent neighborhood of Miraflores is especially catching, with flowers everywhere – on the ground, in the trees, along the walls and gates of houses.  Which is fitting, of course, since miraflores means “to see flowers” and which helps to dispense some of the gloomy mood gifted by the perpetual haze of smog/fog that hangs heavy over the city everyday.  We stayed with a family of physicians there – what luck! – and felt rottenly spoiled by the luxuriousness of our surroundings, and, well, just how dang nice they were.  Our hosts spoke English and they gave us a good earful each day on their culture – especially on the healthcare and politics, double luck!  They even warned us of the frightening-looking cuy dish (guinea pig) which all the rural highlanders eat – however, we are now in the highlands and have yet to see any cuy.  And, I don’t think we’ll spend too much time looking.

Lima is a gigantic, sprawling city, which, in addition to the smog-fog, contains trillions of plastic bags which fly hither and thither through the streets.  There are three unofficial divisions of neighborhoods of Lima, each with its own level of affluence – the suburbs, the poor urban neighborhoods, and the shanty towns.  Residents of each rarely cross-over into the other, unless those from the poorer parts work in the richer parts.  The affluent neighborhoods lie far outside the center of the city and hug the coastline beaches.  There are ultra-modern mid-rise apartments popping up amidst the doomed colonial and republican-era buildings, which are made from concrete with cut-out, open-air windows.  Everything lies behind tall iron and concrete walls, even in Miraflores where each block hires 24-hour guards.

The central downtown is reserved for people and families who have undertaken the urban migration from the Andes and inland forests, yet are not poor enough to live beyond the city limits in the shanty towns.  We took a trip downtown to see the ancient buildings and central park.  There, the old colonial buildings which are left have been divided into flats for multiple families.  We took a tourist-bus to the top of a steep peak where an enormous cross watches over Lima.  When we reached the top we could see all of Lima, sprawled out under its haze, below us.  Best yet, we finally found out where all the errant plastic bags come to rest – at the foot of the cross.  Each minute as we stood there, a new bag would arrive, floating in the breeze, to settle at our feet and stay for the rest of its little plastic existence.  Quite comically appropriate.

Anyway, we never made it to the shanty towns, but we have heard that they keep growing and are being pushed farther and farther outside the city as the urban sprawl and urban migration to Lima continues.