Day 13 |
Oct 24, 2008

Along Side In The Port Of Callao, Lima

By Toby Musgrave

Weather: Overcast and breezy, 22°C / 71°F and 85% humidity

This, the second day of alternate activities as a result of bad weather preventing our entering the harbour of Salaverry, saw us glide into Callao at 9 am and under a full cloud covering. After the inevitable faff of getting the ship cleared, some adventurous souls set off under their own steam and took an hour’s taxi tour for the cost of $US10.

For the rest of us, it was a leisurely morning and lunch before embarking at 13.30 on a half day site-seeing tour of Lima. The drive to the city centre was about 11km and went through suburbs of varying prosperity and architectural styles before we reached the main plaza, which is dominated by the cathedral. One obvious sign was the large security presence including riot truck fully equipped with water canon. Clearly the authorities had heard Prince Albert II’s guests were in town! The cathedral was a cool and calm oasis away from the bustle outside, and in addition to delightful museum and the striking architecture, the highlight was the shrine in which Francisco Pizarro was interred. As our guide explained, it may seem strange to accord an invader such an honour, but in Lima, Pizarro is regarded more highly as the city’s founder.

After half an hour of enjoying the cathedral’s elegant interior, we walked across the busy square to calls of ‘hello’ and ‘what is the time?’ coming from the many school children. Our destination was Casa Aliga, one of the few remaining 16th-century Colonial houses that have been in private ownership for 26 generations. Built by a colleague of Pizarro, it remains almost unchanged by nearly 500 years of history. Behind the unassuming gateway set amid a row of gift shops and fast food outlets was a dark forecourt, beyond which and up a flight of stairs was the entrance to the house. The interior, which was heavy on dark wood and walls lined with paintings depicting religious scenes, received a mixed response. Suffice to say I liked it as sufficient light penetrated to keep it airy. But we all agreed the tree-shaded courtyard with its fountain and balcony walk was just lovely. As a whole, the house really felt like stepping back in history and across a continent to Spain, perhaps a house in Pizarro’s native Trujillo.

A coach ride took us to the Larco Herrera Museum and its remarkable collection of Inca artefacts, many of which came from Machu Picchu. But I have to confess I spent more time in the grounds enjoying the floral exhibits of the show put on by the Lima Gardening Society. Others found the gallery of erotic Inca pottery more fascinating still!

Another coach ride took us to the arts and crafts market where there was a rare opportunity to indulge in some ‘spend, spend, spend’ and to discover some treasures amongst the tat. I settled for two terracotta angels for the Christmas tree at the vast outlay of $2. An hour’s journey took us back to the ship, arriving at 19.15 and mercifully in time for dinner.