Perhaps it was the effect of the 12 hour flight but my first impression of Peru was that it reminded me of Vietnam.
Peru looks nothing like Vietnam of course. In my defense I will say that, when I first drove through the unpaved suburban slums of Lima, bustling with crowds, Peru had the same busy, third world feel as Vietnam. And smell of poverty that fills the hot air. Yet as I walked across the Plaza de Armas at the heart of old Lima, I discovered a distinctively Latin American capital. A man from Trujillo told me that he found Lima boring, with only ancient colonial mansions as main interest. I am merely a gringa but I was impressed by the old casas and their carved wooden balconies.
I have since been to Trujillo and I think I can see his point. The nearby pre-colombian sites of Chan Chan and the Huelgas are unique in South America. They also share a gruesome past. Most pre-colombian civilizations, Incas included, practiced human sacrifices to try to appease the gods and stop the devastation of the El Niño phenomenon. But it did not work and El Niño is still coming back every few years. There is another unpleasant recurrent phenomenon in Peru, and every building has an area marked as “safe in case of earthquake”.
Today I am in the Nazca desert, with temperatures approaching 100°F. They have not seen rain in five years, and then everyone thought it was the end of the world as it had not rained for 50 years. The water here comes from the mountains in underground rivers at around 25 feet below the surface. Nazca is famous for its “lines”, unexplained large drawings of a humming bird, monkey, dog, etc. that can only be seen from a plane but were made hundreds of years before planes. So I flew above in a four-seater (pilot included) Cessna plane, to view the lines and surrounding desert. I am still recovering from cuba libre drinks that were forced on me by my fellow hotel guests in Lima, but I managed not to get sick as the plane was banking left and right.
I now know what an Adobe looks like, it is not just a software company I used to work for but also a mud brick that is used to build houses in Latin America. It usually also houses an infestation of little critters and is better left alone. But the cockroaches in my hotel room are definitely smaller than in Vietnam.