Something To Do In Lima and On To Cusco

The Larco Museum houses 4,000 years of pre-Columbian Peruvian relics, and this was the one thing we all agreed we should see today. We had booked an afternoon flight to Cusco, thinking that we might be cutting our time in Lima short. Now that we were in Lima, we recognized that there are reasons people bypass this city entirely, but our morning would not go to waste.

We had a lovely breakfast in breakfast room, consisting of the crusty local bread, a fried egg, fruit, and marmalades. Our hosts are M and K, and they’re a sweet couple. They mostly host guests who are staying overnight on the way to Cusco, so we are a bit unusual, and M was glad to have us stay an extra day.

M had come up with a great plan. The airport sat between us and the museum, so we took Uber to the museum, and K would later meet us at the airport with our bags. So we called a driver, who picked us up out front. Here’s a photo of the neighborhood. Excepting some of the really wealthy neighborhoods, I suspect this is one of the nicer residential neighborhoods in Lima. It seems to be trying to be a gated community, although the gates are never closed.

For ~$7, the driver drove us 45 minutes to the Larco Museum, which similarly stood behind gates, but this time this time were actually closed. The guards greeted us and let us in without question. L was bothered that we were probably the beneficiaries of racial profiling, and I guess it bothers me on some level, but I’m not Peruvian and I don’t live in Lima, so I have difficulty judging their decisions about these things and therefore I shrugged it off.

Within the grounds, we find the building standing in bleached white, surrounded by meticulously maintained gardens, garishly bedecked in flowers of red, pink, orange, and purple.

As I said, the museum chronicles 4,000 years of pre-Columbian relics, much of which is funerary art. Most if it is pre-Incan. Some animals continue to appear again and again. The sign informs of that the bird from heaven, the feline of the earth, and the serpent, with its access to the subterranean, were sacred animals in ancient Peru.

The vessels are known for the saddle-shaped spout. I don’t understand the purpose of this and it is never explained.

As we move through the museum, we move from ceramics into more and more metals. These pieces are less ancient (Incan, I think), and still we see birds and cats being depicted. Elsewhere in the museum we still see the serpent as well. As we look at that nose jewelry, we all suspect they’re going to be the next thing in nose piercings.

As we exit the museum, we stop in a series of massive storage rooms that are open to the public. The formal display is but the smallest fraction of the works that they have collected here. Wow.

Down a ramp into the downstairs garden, there is the museum of pre-Columbian Erotic pottery. There are depictions of the living and the deceased engaging in sexual acts. There are depictions of childbirth, which are fascinating. Here’ s the Wikipedia link, if you would like to see another example.

We stopped in the downstairs garden for lunch and tres leches cake before heading to the airport. Our driver got us there with 15 minutes to spare, and we all got a bit nervous when K arrived precisely on time, having had some anxiety about leaving all of our possessions with him. But he did, in fact, arrive and we were ready for the next part of our trek.

We checked into our flight and headed inland into the precipitously tall Andes of Peru, landing at the Cusco airport. The airport isn’t the smallest I’ve been to, as plenty of tourists come here, but it has only an airstrip. Somewhere in my mind I realize that aircraft cabins are pressurized to the equivalent of ~10,000 feet above sea level. Cusco is above this, at ~11,000 feet. I don’t think this is anything but a curiosity, but it gives me pause.

Our guides collected us and took us to our hotel, giving us the beginnings of an orientation. We will meet tomorrow and get a tour of town. They want to get us acclimated to moving around and working our bodies at altitude, and these are the first steps.

After check-in we went to a class on making Pisco Sours, the Peruvian cocktail that we are consuming like water. They’re fantastic, and go down a bit too easy.

After that, we head out for dinner into the misty night, our windbreakers wrapped tight around our torsos and our hoods pulled low to our eyes. During the drive to the hotel we had asked our guides to suggest restaurants with good Peruvian food, and they had returned with two suggestions. The first recommendation turned out to be a Japanese restaurant, and none of us wanted sushi. The next recommendation was Italian.

We realized we were on our own, so I did some searching online, settling on the first recommendation that came up. This was a place that specializes in stews, so we had a somewhat unusual combination of chicken quinoa soup (amazing!) served with crusty bread, followed by a second course stew. In my case this was an alpaca stew with pears, figs, and cashews. It was absolutely fantastic. Alpaca, for those wondering, taste like lamb.

Well sated, and ready for the primary adventure to begin, we headed back to our hotel in the murky darkness.

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