Hanging with Los Pintos in Peru
Hospitality. It’s one of the those things in life that is often under appreciated. Sometimes you are unceremoniously handed a key to a filthy room by a grumpy receptionist with a ‘don’t even think about bothering me attitude’. But sometimes people open their homes up to you, embracing you as if you are family instead of someone they just met.
This was the case in Lima as I met up with my friend Nico from university, who flew in for the week to visit his family who live in the San Isidro area of the Peruvian capital. They graciously set me up with an enormous apartment in a building owned by their friend Clemencia. For a week in a near million dollar apartment Clemencia asked for nothing in return except to enjoy my time in Lima (and not trash the place of course). The ever expanding hallways leading to the guest bedroom with a private ensuite was a welcome change from cramped bunk beds and waiting for my chance to take a (usually) cold shower.
Even though I had an amazing apartment all to myself, I spent the majority of my time in the company of the Pintos. Margarita, the maid from Cusco who speaks Qechuan and has a positive disposition to go along with her delicious cuisine, prepared some amazing traditional Peruvian dishes like aji de gallina. Sitting at the table with Nico’s brothers (Joaquin and Antonio) and mom and dad (Jaime and Nicole) was reminiscent to eating with my family at home. (You never call your friend’s mom or dad by their formal name or they will take offense. Instead of Mr. and Mrs. Pinto it is more customary to use first names or tio y tia.) The banter between brothers is universal. Nico’s family referred to him as tia and the two of us as the two gringos (me since I am gringo and Nico because he’s been americanized).
The two gringos decided to do some exploring of the city the next few days. The costa verde runs along the cliffside, overlooking ocean waves crashing on pebble beaches, interspersed with well manicured gardens. We rented some bikes for 15 soles an hour are biked through the popular tourist area of Miraflores and the bohemian Barranco, until we reached Chorillos and wandered through some museums. As we biked back and saw the impressive swells of the Pacific Ocean we decided to do a bit of surfing the next day. Yanick, a college professor and local surfing legend, agreed to take us out to catch some waves.
Yanick got us entrance into a very nice sports club by the ocean. With wetsuits strapped on we paddled out amongst the breakers. The first wave I caught was by far my best of the afternoon, cruising along for 10 seconds before hopping off and paddling back out. Nico managed to catch a couple breaks and rode past in much more control than I’m sure I displayed. Yanick showed that age is just a number as his 50 something year old self expertly glided past us from the far breakers, another 60 meters out. After an hour and a half we were ready to give our muscles a rest and returned the surfboards and wetsuits, which cost next to nothing to rent.
During the weekend we headed away from the coastline and into the mountains for some family reunions. Saturday was Jaime’s side of the family at his sister’s house secluded in the mountains. They have a great set up with an amazing house, a lawn with a small river running through vegetable and herb gardens, and pets ranging from chickens to an alpaca with a spastic eye. We lounged outside, Nico catching up with his cousins and I meeting them for the first time, while enjoying pisco sours and some incredibly rich food. Chicharron, pork slow cooked over an open flame, was the main delectable course, paired with sweet potatoes and followed by more cake than you can shake a fork at. And I shook my fork at plenty of it. After eating we hopped on a four wheeler and rode to a nearby river running overtop of smooth rocks. All in all a very peaceful day and I left feeling very content, especially my bulging belly.
That night Nico, Joaquin, and I went to a party at one of his mate’s apartments with a spectacular view of the coastline. We wound up at a bar called Ayahuasca in Borranco. As we talked to a group of nice girls, the spanish started flowing naturally and we laughed our way through the night. That is until Joaquin showed them a picture of Pijachu (imagine the pokemon Pikachu made of male genitalia). We were still laughing but for some reason they didn’t seem too amused.
Sunday saw us back into the mountains to meet up with Nicole’s side of the family. Her brother Eduardo is a director and a really cool guy and has a beautiful house as well. Margarita made the most delicious eggplant lasagna I’ve ever had the good fortune to taste and we celebrated Antonio’s birthday with some apple pie. Nico’s cousin Andres is a hilarious guy and a pretty good songwriter. His song Potito Peludo is sure to be a top hit in the clubs by the end of the year. Nico’s grandmother is very sweet and a pleasure to talk to. One of our first nights in Lima she joined us in Larcomar, a mall built into the side of the cliff, and treated us to chicha and sandwiches.
As you can probably tell Peruvians take their food very seriously. Cevicherias can be found throughout the city, offering fresh seafood soaked in lime juice in order to cook without fire. Chifa restaurants are just as common, featuring the Peruvian take on Chinese food. Peru is also famous for its pollo a la brasa, blackened chicken with amazing spices. All of the food is very tasty and it is obvious that the peruvians are proud of it.
In order to do some more traditionally touristic things in Lima I walked amongst the Plaza de Armas and the Inka Market. The Plaza de Armas has some impressive architecture with a large Spanish influence. The Inka Market has all sorts of handicrafts for sale, from engraved plates to wooden incas sporting massive erections disproportionate to their bodies. I guess fertility was highly prized amongst the ancient empires. We also toured the Huaca Pucllana, an ancient temple believed to be built around 500 A.D. where mummies were kept.
And like a tourist in an unknown city I managed to get lost trying to catch a taxi from Nico’s apartment to where I was staying. It happens that there is an Avenida Sucre and a Calle Sucre, both within 3kms of one another. After I told the first cabbie ‘Sucre, about 2km away’, I wound up on Avenida Sucre, the wrong road. I walked around confused to the other end of the avenue where the blocks counted back down to the 200’s I was searching for. I caught a cab back to the apartment and asked what the house number was, thinking I had it wrong. With the number in hand, I told the next cabbie the house number and Calle Sucre, near the Ovalo with the cine. 10 minutes later I found myself back on the same Avenida Sucre, circuling around an Ovalo with a seminary. Cine, seminario, I guess they sound similar. So it was back to the apartment for a second time where I wrung the doorbell a bit embarassed. Eventually Jaime drew me a map to show the third cabbie and I made it back without a hitch.
The cab mixup was a small hitch in an otherwise great time in Lima. Catching up with my old mate Nico, great food, and hanging around with a great family made for a great week.