An open-air market located very close to the tourist-dense Ovalo de Miraflores, the Mercados Artesanal has a whole slew of vendors selling everything imaginable made from Alpaca wool–from fuzzy guinea pig-shaped key chains to business-casual ties. Wrought silver jewellery and uniquely Peruvian musical instruments also abound. We are not shoppers, David and I. In fact, we are the antithesis of shoppers and did the most cursory browsing only. Despite our brisk pace as we wandered the colorful stalls, we still felt slightly hounded by eager shopkeepers as they hawked their wares. If you’re a shopper, this place might appeal, but if not and your time in Lima is short, I wouldn’t put this high on the list of “must sees”.
Located at Av. Petit Thouars, block 52 to 55, the market is also accessible right off of Avenue Arequipa and is within walking distance from Huaca Pucllana (about 20 or so minutes, walking briskly). If you want to explore the area by bicycle, a rental shop is located right at the Avenue Arequipa entrance to the market.
Amidst the glass high-rises, apartment buildings, and traffic-jammed streets of Lima squats the terraced adobe and clay pyramid of Huaca Pucllana. This pre-Inca temple spreads over more than 10 acres in the Miraflores district of central Lima, easily reached on foot from most hotels in the area. We arrived just in time to catch a 10:30am English speaking tour (45minutes in length). The walking tour leaves promptly at each allotted time and will not wait for those who are tardy, even if the tour guide can see that you are in the process of purchasing your tickets. Several Aussies who were late to the ticket gate missed the first 10 minutes of the tour. Tours are conducted frequently throughout the day. Our guide regaled us with a bevy of fascinating facts about the ancient site. During the years 200AD to 700AD, every seven years or so the ruling priests paved over the existing ceremonial & administrative center and built a new one on top (talk about an ongoing employment program). Until relatively recently, before the site was excavated, the hill was both a garbage dump and a popular spot for bicycle and motor-cross races.
The remains of Tumba Wari (500AD-900AD) were found onsite, as well as a tomb containing the remains of two masked adults, and the bones of a sacrificed child alongside a third adult.
The ruling priests controlled the viaducts and irrigation around the surrounding farmlands, and although the rivers that were then in existence are no longer present, one section of the archeological site has a garden with a sample of the crops that were commonly grown at that time.
A patio restaurant backs right onto the archeological site and makes for a fantastic spot for dinner, with the clay-brick terraces lit up before you as you dine under the night sky. Located at Cuadra S/N, Calle General Borgoño 8, Miraflores 15074, dinner reservations are recommended for the restaurant… and yes, the food is great.
The Mercados Incas, also called the Mercados Artesanal or Indian Market, is within about 20 minutes walking distance from Huaca Pucllana, south down the Avenue Arequipa. There’s a tiny little tourist information booth about 200 feet away from Huaca Pucllana that has free street maps.
“It’s coming straight for you! Don’t move!” the captain of our little tour boat called. Face-down in the water & shivering hard despite my wet-suit & snorkel gear, I froze in the “sea-star” float position. With slow, majestic grace, a 1,000 pound manatee glided inches underneath me, close enough that I could see each whisker on its ever-so-cute snout and trace every patch of algae on its comically rotund body. This was way better than shaking hands with an oversized mouse dressed in bloated white gloves! Located about 2 hours northeast of Orlando, Florida, Crystal River is home to about 400 manatees that migrate each winter from the cold Gulf waters to the relatively stable 72 degrees of the freshwater springs of Kings Bay. A few of these placid vegetarians remain in the bay all year, offering humans a year-long opportunity to view them in their natural habitat. A plethora of businesses in Crystal River offer paddle-boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, & boating tours to view the manatees, and local bed-&-breakfasts abound. Rather than join the Spring Break/Easter holiday crush of Disney World (an estimated 2.9 million visitors for spring 2018), we instead drove from Orlando to Crystal River for an unforgettable manatee-swim. We broke up the 120 minute drive by stopping en-route at Cooter Pond in Inverness, adjacent to Hwy 41. Apparently, the pond’s water-weeds shroud several sunken railroad cars, derailed in 1930. According to Albert Johnson of Inverness, quoted in an Ocala Star-Banner article, his grandfather saw a flat car and several box cars derail.
Turtles of Cooter Pond
Fish visible in the clear water
Loaded with canned hams and women’s apparel, “many town residents lined the banks and dove in”, hoping to salvage the items, but a large alligator scared them off. Was it the same alligator we saw from the boardwalk while we were stretching our legs?
A short drive after Cooter Pond, we arrived for our manatee-swimming tour at 1:30pm, at Fun 2 Dive , an eco-conscious tour-group that stresses that Crystal River is not an amusement park, that the manatees are here as a survival tactic, and that it is essential that we adhere to rules to limit disturbing them (such as freezing in place when they approach swimmers, and not chasing or touching them).
During the 3hr tour, we saw dozens of manatees, both while we were in the water & on the boat, and we were immensely pleased with the experience. Our Captain regaled us with fascinating facts about the manatees & amusing stories about manatee-human interactions, such as stories about “Charlie”, a rather amorous male manatee, or the baby manatee that was prone to hugging & snuggling swimmers one year.
Our Captain even provided a multitude of snacks & hot chocolate after our snorkel experience–which proved necessary, despite the sunshine, as there wasn’t a single one of us who wasn’t shivering hard after the swim!
Go early in the day!
Even if it means getting up at the crack of dawn to drive the distance from Orlando, the earlier the tour you’re on, the less traffic on the river. The waterways were packed with manatee-viewers by 1:30pm, and despite the quiet natural beauty of Three Sisters Springs and the sober presence of Rangers in kayaks monitoring the human activity, there was a lot of nonsense going on (tour boats blaring music as drunk tourists chugged beers, folks stomping through the water & stirring up silt instead of swimming, & even one tourist in a kayak impulsively cannon-balling into the water, just feet away from a roped off “manatee sanctuary quiet zone”).
Bring a towel & coat on the boat with you for afterwards! It’s cold after the swim!
Crystal River Airport – CGC (Captain Tom Davis Field) is located 3 miles southeast of Crystal River, and, according to the Airport Courtesy Car app, a courtesy car is available for visiting pilots.