Movin’ On Up

After 40 hours of bus rides, multiple plates of ceviche and one presidential election, we have arrived at the northern coastal gates of Peru.

Tomorrow, we head to Ecuador after an interesting week spent in Arequipa, Lima, the northern coastal town of Mancora, and, of course, twisting in our seats through extended hours of bus travel. The presidential elections reached their conclusion during our time here in Peru, with Ollanta Humala squeaking out a narrow margin of victory. Peruvians, like most South Americans, utilize their right to vote in numbers that put the US elections to shame. Over 90% of Peruvians voted in this election, which was decided by little more than a single percentage point. The elections are held on Sundays (as opposed to a weekday) to allow more people access to the polls. Plus, you can’t buy any alcohol anywhere in the nation for two days preceeding, and one day after, the elections. I guess you could say it was a sober affair.

The choice of candidates was a little difficult for the people here. On the one side, you had the daughter of currently incarcerated ex-president Alberto Fujimori, while on the other, a former radical accused by his opponents of taking money from Hugo Chavez. Both candidates spent their campaigns distancing themselves from their past, which made for an interesting dynamic. In the end, Humala pulled out a win on the strength of provincial voters and the anti-Fujimori vote.

Urban Peru has developed a great deal since our last visit, as evident by the abundance of new restaurants and glitzy boutiques in Arequipa that have sprouted since we were last there, three years back. We spent our day in Arequipa hanging out with Juan, an aeronautics mechanic we met while sitting on a bench in the central plaza.

While in Lima, we stayed in the Barranco district, a sort of ritzy in parts yet bohemian and scruffy arts district on the south end of the city by the water. It has the feel of Williamsburg, mixed with the East Bay. Williamsburg, for the abundance of fancy-looking, modern “loft” buildings. The East Bay, for the wide boulevards, colorful buildings, and, of course, ever-present possibility of getting mugged.

We’re not sure if Lima is as dangerous as its residents claim, but we were warned several times to take care of our belongings and maintain constant vigilance. We left our valuables back in the room, but as New Yorkers, it was hard to feel as if we were in any real danger. Central Lima is full of big city hustle-and-bustle, with a sense of colonial grandeur in its official buildings and industrial grittiness in other parts. Lima, like the majority of coastal Peru, is overcast and foggy without remit for the entirety of its winter months. The temperature is still pleasant, but the grey skies add a bit of gloom that, I suspect, add to Lima’s undervalued reputation.

Among underground music fans, Lima’s music scene in the 60’s and 70’s is considered to be some of the best in South America. With this in mind, I dug around the dark corners of Spanish language music forums to find a record stall where I might score some treasures from the past. There are streets in Lima that harken back to the glory days of New York City, when you could find used book and record stores in semi-abandoned storefronts throughout neighborhoods that smelled perpetually of urine and spilled liquor. It used to be that you had to go to a bad neighborhood to find good music.

We located our query on Avenida Quilca in central Lima, where several used book dealers have set up stalls. In one dirty garage, we found a “galeria del vinulo” housing three or four dealers. Just as the internet brings you closer to us, here in Peru, it also brings well-heeled hipster record collectors in Paris or Tokyo a click away from the guys slinging vinyl in Lima, hence raising the price of the more eclectic finds. While I did not encounter my personal Holy Grail (Congregacion’s lost 2nd record), I did discover a few groovy groups from Lima’s swinging 60’s and mellow 70’s. Rather than dropping a lot of money on vinyl and even more money to ship them home, I cheaped out and bought some digital CD burns from the stall-tender’s computer.  Not as much collectors’ items, but certainly of greater utility on the 18-hour ride from Lima to Mancora.

The morning of our departure from Lima, we set out to visit some art galleries, all of which were closed the previous days on account of the election and traditional Monday off-hours. Wandering the streets of Barranco, we stumbled on an abandoned mansion turned art-space. Akin to the early days of PS1 in New York, the exhibition space at “8chenta m2”  utilizes the mood and idiosyncracies of the building as part of the installations. The works were an interesting mix of modern art dating from the 60’s to the present, spread through different rooms, hallways, and corners of the estate. Altogether, the work and presentation had a way of dissolving the barrier between art and viewer, as both were enveloped in the same spacial environment.

As I sit here outside our cliffside bungalow above the surfer town of Mancora, I can’t help but feel like we are missing a bit by rushing through Peru. Having said that, the days are turning and we are looking forward to making the most of Ecuador and Colombia with the time that remains on our voyage. Following our border passage north of Tumbes, we will head inland to visit some national parks and nature reserves in southern Ecuador before arriving in the colonial city of Cuenca. There, we plan to resume our Spanish lessons for a bit before heading on to the rest of the country.

(All pictures from Barranco, unless otherwise noted)

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About andesnotthemint

Alexis, Mark, 2 seasons, 1 continent, a very long mountain range.
This entry was posted in Mark, Peru, preachy-teachy, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Movin’ On Up

  1. mom wyman says:

    With each blog I am more amazed — I really liked the “choo-choo”—–so cool!
    love mom w.

  2. Pingback: ANTM Travel Awards: Geography | Andes Not The Mint dot com

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