Days 473-484: Vegetarian Restaurants, Relaxation, and a Robbery

Explorations off the Bikes: Lima, Canta, and Huacho
August 7 - August 20, 2013

We spent the past two weeks with my sister Meghan.  Our activities included: exploring Lima and some of the surrounding sites, discovering an astounding number of vegetarian restaurants, investigating the bicycle shop scene Lima, a large amount of napping, and unfortunately, recovering from a little robbery. 

Here are are some photos:

Peru: Part Three

Explorations: Up to the Mountains and back or the Coast... The easy way

As hard as we tried, we could not coax Meghan into biking with us.  She insisted that the bleak coastal conditions and intense mountain climbs were not her idea of a vacation (fair enough!).  So, instead we got to try out Peru's public transport system... Which only served to remind us that we prefer travel by bike!  We all spent several days in Lima, which we discovered is an enormous city. The population is somewhere around a third of the countries population, and the city itself is broken into over a dozen different neighbourhoods that each functions semi-autonomously.  As one might guess, with a city this size, the gap between rich and poor is huge, and this is reflected in the neighbourhoods - some of which are shiny clean with equally shiny inhabitants.  While other neighbourhoods feel much more like much of coastal Peru...dirty and very chaotic.   Meghan was a good sport as we went from one neighbourhood to another looking off some bike parts that needed replacing.  

From Lima we headed into the mountains to the little town of Canta.  It is a popular weekend getaway for people from Lima, particularly in the winter months (now), when Lima is almost constantly shrouded with fog.  Canta is sunny, dry, and picturesque with waterfalls, and ruins, and friendly people.  We got there on a Saturday, so we got to spend a few days with the Lima crowd... And it was crowded.  But, by Monday it was pretty empty and very quiet.  Unfortunately Meghan was not feeling so good, we weren't sure if it was the altitude or something she had eaten so we headed back to the coast.  

We decided to spend a few days in the town of Huacho.  Glenn and I had passed through this small city a couple of days before Meghan's arrival, and its proximity to several archeological sites, along with a very good vegetarian restaurant made it a good location to hang out in for a bit.  We were able to visit the ancient city of Caral, which while not as impressive looking as Machu is actually the oldest known city in all of the Americas. 

And then we were robbed...

We have felt very forutunate to tell people that we have had no problems at all in terms of robbery, or threats to our personal safety.  Sadly, we can no longer say this.  Meghan was still not feeling great, so  Glenn and I decided to walk to another archeological site that was about 10 km from Huacho.  The road took us right along the coast passing multiple beaches.  It was even described as a 'tourist circuit' in a brochure we came across.  The walk was quite lovely, but we realized fairly quickly that no one was around and it is likely more popular in the summer months.  We were enjoying the quiet, the birds and the views of the ocean, when we saw two men approaching.  I knew something was wrong when one of them lifted a t-shirt to cover his face.  Then I noticed that the other one was wearing a hand-crafted t-shirt mask, complete with eye holes.  It's funny to notice how you react in situations like this, all of my fantasies of heroism went out the window fast. As soon as I realized what was about to happen I just started screaming 'NOOOOOO!', even though there was absolutely no one in ear shot.  Glenn's reaction was to try to punch one of th guys.  Fortunately the only weapons they had were the rocks that were lining the road.  T-shirt mask guy held a big rock over my head as soon as I started screaming, and then demanded my camera.  The other guy was not so quick to pick up a rock, and while he was ducking to avoid Glenn's punch, Glenn was able to grab a rock of his own.  I was not having so much luck gaining the upper hand over my personal robber, and for some reason all I could think was that I wanted to keep my memory card even if I had to give the camera up.  So I told my guy 'tranquilo, tranquilo...', while I got the card out.  Then he started grabbing the camera so I gave it up, and they ran.  I started screaming 'NOOOOO!' again, and Glenn chased them and got them with some rocks, but they were fast and had a getaway car parked at the bottom of the hill.   Then, I started to cry.  

A few minutes later two guys in a mototaxi showed up.  We had actually seen them earlier.  I guess they heard my screaming, I'm still not sure if they heard what was going on sooner and were waiting for it to be over, or not.  If that was the case, I can't fault them for it.  Survival instincts do not compel one to get involved in a violent robbery.   Anyways, when they did arrive they were very nice and gave us a ride back into to town.  In fact they dropped us right at the police station. 

For a few minutes I thought that we might actually get the camera back.  The police got all excited, getting all the details, talking over their radios.  One car took off, and we got in another.  But then we ended up just driving back to the scene of the crime, when we had told them that the car had sped off the other way.  The police would also ask us 'is that them' every time we passed a shady looking character.  Then we saw the other police car was also at the scene, and I realized no one was actually looking for the vehicle.  Then we cruised around the city for another half an hour looking for the robbers.... Strange techniques. 

So, that is the story of the t-shirt, rock robbers.  We were fortunate, as we were not hurt at all and only the camera was taken (plus I rescued the memory card!).  I would like to think that these guys are Peruvisn Robinhoods... And that whatever they get for the camera will be used to help feed the poor, or help the sick get medical attention.  But, I'm afraid this is probably not the case...

Back to Lima and so many vegetarian restaurants!

We decided that a change of scenery was in order, so the next day we went back to Lima.  We spent the next few days visiting more parks and museums and eating a lot of vegetarian food.  This may come as a shock, it certainly did to us... But vegetarian restaurants are taking off in Lima... And spreading all over Peru.  We had come across some in the mid-sized towns we had passed thorough, but the number of veggie places in Lima was unbelievable.   We laid eyes on eleven restaurants, and ate at four of them.  I'm sure there are many more as we only explored a fraction of the city.  They are all simple and cheap.  They are the same style as most Peruvian restaurants, there is a set menu but you often have a few choices for your starter and main course.  They are almost always Peruvian dishes, made vegetarian using soy or gluten in place of meat.  It was a real treat to have so much choice of where to eat!  We even found one city block that had five veggie restaurants on it.  What is remarkable, is that business is booming in these places.  You often have to share a table with someone else during lunch hour.  We asked around and most people say they are popular as people enjoy eating healthy, but otherwise there was not much explanation for the boom.   Whatever the reason, it suited us just fine!

And then the time came for meghan to head back home.  Sadly her stomach issues persisted for much of the trip, so I think that part of her was happy to heading back to Canada and clean food and water! But we miss her already... :(