Country #1 is in the history books! We've left Peru. After spending a full three weeks there, we have a lot of observations about Peru's quirks and qualities.
1. There is a lot of trash on way out of Lima, right next to tons of billboards advertising high-end clothing and food. Quite the juxtaposition. It's the reality of life in impoverished areas versus the dreams that corporations feed them.
2. Shanties in Peru are unfinished brick homes, not lean-tos. People put corrugated metal roofing on top and live in them as-is.
3. In seaside suburbs (Punta Hermosa, Punta Rocas) on way out of Lima, dirt roads are lined with shanties, oddly placed surf shops, and bodegas on one side. On the opposite side of the road are tall walls and guarded driveways leading to oceanfront resorts. You can visibly see the dividing line between the haves and have nots.
4. Every restaurant has tiny napkins (servilletas) which are completely useless and fall apart after one wipe of hands or mouth
5. In all of Peru - don't flush the TP, put it in a trash can since the plumbing system can't handle it. Eww. TP is also a commodity, worth more than gold, so always carry your own roll. Most public restrooms don't have TP or a toilet seat.
6. Peruvians must not like wine at all. Small selections at grocery and liquor stores, and it took forever to find a corkscrew to purchase.
7. Snobby bartenders argue about how to make the best Pisco sour, but it really boils down to how much Pisco you put in it. 3 oz vs 4 oz. It's a weak argument in my opinion when they agree on the rest of the ingredients.
8. Cusco is super touristy, and you have to walk far away from the main plaza to get anything authentic or to not be harassed by people selling jewelry, artwork, tours, or massages on the street. It takes conscious effort, but once you scratch below the surface, it is a cool city.
9. No stores sell ziploc bags.
10. Peruvian wine is pretty awful. It is all way too sweet, but they do have great dark chocolate.
11. Political graffiti is everywhere - on buildings, houses, trails, rocks, etc. They promote candidates for mayor, governor, or ballot issues. But there is no other graffiti (i.e.- gang symbols, art, etc.)
12. Buildings: There are tons of unfinished buildings in every town. They oddly leave several feet of rebar sticking up from every column. Jose told us it's because they want to leave the option to add on for when kids or parents move in. Also, no walls have insulation so sounds carry incredibly far.
13. Peruvians are crazy drivers. Street lanes don't exist, and when stop signs or traffic signals exist, they don't matter.
14. Arequipa was our favorite city. Authentic and laid back, and not too touristy.
15. Peruvians are extremely friendly and hospitable people. There is always someone around to help out if you need it, and we always felt pretty safe in most areas of town.
16. Food: Every meal begins with a hearty soup. It's usually big enough to be a meal on its own. And every main dish contains a combination of corn, potatoes, rice, and pasta. "Carbohydrate-heavy" is an understatement. I was elated when a rare meal came with a side of steamed veggies.
17. This country as a whole is one of our favorite places we've ever visited.