Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Johnny Rockets, Part III

The markets of Lima are so colorful and active.  For an Arkie neophyte international traveler it is somewhat overwhelming.  The first market I got to was with BC, after a long walk in search of a restaurant that served cuy, or roasted guinea pig.  We needed to find a few vegetables, and hoya de coca.  A little hut in the back had the coca, for about S/.4 for an oz.  We also found a woman selling fresh chicha, a mild alcohol drink made from maize.  This one came in a half-liter bottle, for S/.3.  I was good to go. 

At this point, after an overnight flight and 2 beers, I was slightly delirious.  My memory is still sketchy of what all happened.  It was warm.  I was in blue jeans and boots.  My feet were hot.  Drivers used their car alarms as horns.  Every corner has a community dog that lounges in the shade without a leash.  I never saw one get hit by a car.  Vintage Volkswagen bugs are common commuters, along with all the other newer compact cars: Toyota, Honda, Fiat, Peugot.  There were Chinese cars I’d never seen on the road, but in car lots on the edge of town; those little white mini-trucks and buses that only go 25 mph.  We did not find the restaurant he wanted to go to.  BC said it was because he is usually on his bicycle.  We walked a mile or so until we settled on a hole in the wall next to a rusted-out truck.  You could really see through the truck it was so corroded. 

The restaurant turned out to serve the best pescado frito (fried fish) with aji amarillo and red onion relish with arroz y frijoles blanco, possibly ever made.  It was like someone had chopped off the back wall of a house and put some tables and a counter in it.  The place was packed for lunch.  There was one table available, in the back next to a blue pantry by the kitchen.  We sat there.  A little black-headed toddler wobbled up and started pulling pots and pans out of the pantry.  His mother came over, pulled him out, and took our order. The boy broke a cup.  We all laughed. 

Another market I visited was the following day, with BC and Cindy during a tour of Lima by Andres.  Before I get to that though, allow me to explain how we got there.  We drove down the Costa Verde to Chorrillos, aka “Lover’s Lane,” with its huge statues of men and women making out.  Surfers were on carrying boards to the beach.  It might as well have been Santa Barbara.  The driver had tuned the radio to the city’s American music channel.  It was 70s hour.  “I love the Bee Gees,” Andres said, after one of their tunes came on.  Later, the announcer rattled off something about Barry Manilow.  “I love Barry Manilow,” Andres declared.  He and my mother would have hit it off.  My Arkansas compatriot, Cindy, in the back seat with BC and Andres, was proudly sporting the state’s Hog, and was never short of a quick question for our tour guide and driver.  Actually, it was just like having my mother with us.  Cindy was going to get her $40 worth.  She asked Andres about many things to do with modern Peruvian culture, from marriage and divorce rates to drug abuse and TV shows.  Cindy is a second-grade teacher.  She works daily with the best questioners in the world.

In the little car that could, we drove past many dogs and shacks on the bare hillside to get to the top of a mountain overlooking the sea and Mira Flores.  There, a massive obelisk commemorates Las Batalles de San Juan y Miraflores, 13 y 15 de Enero de 1881.  According to Wikipedia, this was part of The War of the Pacific, which I’d never heard of before.  “The War of the Pacific, aka Guerra del Pacifico, was fought in western South America between Chile and a united Bolivia and Peru from 1879 to 1883.”  The rest will have to be studied later. 

Atop this mountain, where so many died so long ago, I talked to Andres about Peru’s ancient cultures.  Since I knew we were not likely going to make it to the Nazca lines, I asked him what he thought they were.  He said they were likely a message to their gods.  And what about all the advanced stone carvings of Machu Picchu, and the ancient pyramids of Caral, the drug-induced rituals, all of those canals, the human sacrifices, the deformed cone heads, the trephination?  Yes, it’s all true.  They were an advanced, freaky lot.  (This is not what he said, I’m reading his mind.)  Honestly, I didn’t want to make him think I was one of those guys, who believes in aliens, so I resorted to my usual ways and told him about something I’d seen on YouTube about Caral, in northern Peru where a bunch of pyramids had been found that dated back to 2,500 B.C., or possibly even older.

I felt more comfortable talking to BC about this later, and since he has been to Nazca and flown over the monkey and spider and big hand, I felt like he was as much of an aficionado as anybody else.  BC thinks they were simply made to honor their gods.  And I think, yes, those gods could have been aliens.  That’s pretty much the jest of it. No one knows for sure, but we do know that there have been pyramid-building civilizations here since at least 2,500 B.C.E., which is about the same time the ancient Egyptians were doing the same.  And everyone knows that aliens had something to do with that.  The Moche are what archeologists call a “mother culture.”  The question to me is, why did all of this pyramid building around the world all begin around the same time?  Why was head deformation so common all over the Americas?  Did they all come into contact with the aliens?

At the market I saw no pyramids or aliens. There were red, yellow, purple, and green fresh fruits and vegetables and nuts of all kinds hanging up and in buckets, or displayed in crates.  The vendors were usually older women sitting in chairs.  There was a woman cutting the toes off of chicken feet and tossing the de-clawed feet into a bucket.  At another counter a whole chicken was laid out with its head dangling off the edge.  Fresh cuts of beef attracted some flies, but not too many really.  A large octopus was stretched out on ice, surrounded by red and white muscles and clams, filleted sharks, and 5-pounder flounder.  A boy was running around with a little dog.  Next to a wall was an alter to Jesus and Mary.  In a booth a woman made fresh pineapple and coconut juice.  We stopped for some juice.  This was just one corner of a massive market that stretched back for a block or more.  On our way back to the car I spotted a rack of new movies.  They were bootleg copies of recent films, like “Lincoln” and “Django Unchained” at S/.7 for three.  BC said he knew where to get them for less, but I went ahead and picked out three: those two and “Argo.”  Also at the market were a lot of wooden spoons, which I recommended Cindy buy to beat her kid with.  She chose instead to look at the fake Crocs.  But ,then she decided not to buy them because they didn’t have any pink ones in her girl’s size.  Andres paid a man a sole to stop traffic as we backed out of the market to putter on up the road.

And in Johnny's next and final post, you shall hear all about his grand adventures in Huacachina....  Stay tuned...

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