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March 7, 2012
Day 19: Callao, Peru

At the street market in the port of Callao

After two more days at sea, Callao would be our only port in Peru. Once again, Callao would serve as an entry point to the “real” tourist destination: Lima, the capital of Peru.

Princess Patter: Once the stomping grounds of the Inca Empire, Lima was taken over by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. Today, the Historic Center of Lima is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you can view the 1,600 renowned balconies built during its viceroyalty era, in addition to such impressive colonial structure as the San Francisco Monastery and Cathedral. Peruse the gilded exhibits at Lima’s Gold Museum, or watch an entertaining presentation by the famed Peruvian “prancing horses” at a hacienda in the country.

For our only Peruvian experience, Gail reserved one of Princess Cruises’ excursions. We would take an all-day bus ride, touring the city and museum. Then we would head out into the country where we would view some Incan ruins and visit a hacienda for lunch. At the hacienda, Peru’s “prancing horses” have a unique gait: instead of moving their opposite feet at the same time, they move their same-side feet at the same time. As a result, their ride is absolutely smooth.

In order to make the ship’s scheduled port departure at 3:30 pm, we would have to begin the tour at 7:10 am. This meant setting the alarm for 5:30 am.

We were up bright and early. As usual, we stepped out on deck to see what the port looked like. It was so foggy that we couldn’t see a thing. We stepped out on the other side. Nothing but fog.

The view from the starboard side of the ship

The view from the port side of the ship

At 7:00 am during breakfast, the captain came over the loudspeaker. We were not in Callao. Instead, we were anchored three miles offshore. The port was closed due to fog. The captain had no idea when we would dock, but it would not be until the fog lifted. We were due for a long wait.

During our long wait, we saw dozens of jellyfish congregate around the ship

The hours ticked by. The captain made periodic announcements, informing us that Callao was also a fueling stop, and that we were in danger of going no further in our cruise if we couldn’t make port. At noon, the fog had still not lifted. Assuming that our tour would be severely truncated if not outright cancelled, we decided to get lunch up at Horizon Court.

While eating lunch, we saw a small pilot boat come up alongside ship. Sure enough, the captain announced that we were finally going to Callao.

Our port departure would be pushed back until 6:30 pm. All tours were now scheduled to depart at 1:00 pm. Gail was already leaning toward cancelling our excursion. She was further miffed when she was informed that we wouldn’t even learn our revised itinerary until we were already on the tour bus.

Our arrival in the port of Callao (we have no idea what all those cars are for)

We dutifully debarked from the ship when our tour number was called, and headed down the long line of waiting buses. Gail had to pry her answers out of the tour guide. We would not be going to the Incan ruins. We would still have a scenic country tour, but Gail was concerned that we wouldn’t be able to see anything in the fog. We would still have a hacienda lunch, but we had already eaten. Gail cancelled our tour.

We debarked to find dozens of tour busees that must have been waiting there for hours

This left several hours to see Callao itself. All of our advance information told us that Callao is not a friendly or safe city. It is so bad that taxi drivers are known to pepper-spray and mug their own fares before abandoning them on the side of the road.

We were advised to stay in a secured area adjacent to the dock. Fortunately, there were several street vendors and a small market set up for us. (We imagine that the poor vendors had been standing there all day waiting for our ship to arrive.) So we spent the next several hours shopping. We picked up some souvenirs for the grand kids, including a baby doll (with her own passport) for our new granddaughter Avery.

There were some safe vendor stalls set up on the dock

There was also a safe indoor market set up across the street

It was a disappointing day – certainly not the day we expected – but it was not a total loss. We were able to see a performance of Peruvian folk dancers who came aboard ship.

Russell also surprised Gail with a little stuffed cui (gunea pig) made of soft alpaca fur that he bought at the street market. She walked around the ship with it in her arms, convincing people that she had a live animal. She has named it “Callao.”

Gail with “Callao” the cui


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