The National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History of Peru is a mouthful but it was worth a walk around even if almost all the explanatory panels were in Spanish. It provides a little bit of history and culture without having to leave the city. It is located in what looks like a former colonial residence. Funny how Lima seems to recycle its buildings in this way. “Let’s put our national treasures in someone’s old house”. I don’t think it is a case of not respecting their heritage. But over the years it may well be case of simply not having the funds to house them in premises that would more effectively set them off.I stumbled over the Natural History museum a few days later. What a shabby mess. It is a faded image of what it was and even could be. Still, it is a small boys dream of stuffed snakes, birds and all sorts of animals with sharp teeth and patchy fur. Some of them I have never heard of and I thought I was reasonably well informed on things zoological. Some of the stuffed things have been painted with shellac or something similar so they take on the appearance of a bad grade six project. Indeed the plaster has come off the tusk of the mammoth revealing coarse wood grain. In the poor light you might not have noticed it. The place is guarded by a bunch of guys who look like they have come out of the mafia – swarthy moustachioed chaps with three days growth, hair escaping from under their shirts and all built like the proverbial out-house. But they prove enormously friendly and want to chat. That peters out when the discover I am limited to gracias.
So far I have managed to not starve due to not having any Spanish but it sure makes for an interesting conversation over the counter. As with China I am about to discover exactly what it is that I have ordered.
I think it was a hotdog. Well, it has meat and pastry and tasted fine. But it was from a street vendor, I am many blocks from the hotel and my stomach is now cramping. Worse, well almost, I am without my grab bag in which I have an instant remedy for such things. I find a park bench and work out where I will bolt to if the rumblings become eruptions. But things settle down and I move on. Carefully.
I am not too sure what to expect by finding the residence at Francisco de Zela 919 (it is the white one) where Herb used to live. Initially some relief that it still exists I guess. But it is a new time and a new place and a generation or two have intervened and these thoughts temper a plan to ring the bell to see what happens. It is a pleasant street and it is as strategic as you would expect a place belonging to them to be. The Ministry of Health is only a two minute walk away and the house sits quietly between a couple of very strategic avenues. The prophet’s chamber (guest house) is quite clear on the roof. The locals are all wary. I have taken photos and am standing in the shade (yes, unusually the sun is out) and jotting notes in a notebook. They don’t like it at all. But I guess I would be a bit leery too if someone stood outside my place and scribbled notes after taking photos. I am not exactly being very subtle about it.
I move off with a sense I have ticked a box but wished it could have been something more. It is too much to expect they would be home of course, but as deeply immersed as I am in their correspondence right now it is a possibility that has a faint ring of sense to it. I see them coming and going, guests trafficking the front door in a steady stream, youth group kids spilling out after a feed on a Friday night and delegations coming at all hours to ask for help. I leave before I go completely barmy. It is the tidiest museum building I have enountered so far.