We entered a door into a winding narrow corridor. I’m a big guy and my shoulders barely passed through without touching the walls. We entered from the wall of the massive fort and followed the guide as the hall descended into the tower. The further we progressed, the darker it got until finally there was no light at all. We were immersed in darkness, a black so dense that at one moment it seemed to stretch into eternity and the next to press against your face in a smothering mask.
The guide told us the place was haunted by the ghosts of those men who had died imprisoned here. Tortured, starved, left for the rats, they could not rest in peace. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck raise, a chill wisp of a breeze brushed against my cheek, was it one of the ghosts? Then the lights came on. The relief from the tour group was audible, an intake of air as if we all had forgotten to breathe.
A young gringa with strawberry blonde hair whispered to her fiancé, “I don’t like ghosts.” I don’t think she knew that “Ghost Hunters International" had filmed an episode here in this tower. The fiancé pulled her to him in a protective embrace as the guide went on to explain the purpose of this tower in the Forteleza Real Felipe. We continued on until we exited onto the turret to see cannons pointing in all directions, they stand as testament to another era. The turret provided excellent views of the Pacific, and the busy port area. Fishing and Naval vessels could be seen anchored off the coast. The tourists gathered in small groups to take photos against the dramatic backdrop of the Pacific.
Guards at the fort
The fort, which houses over 1,000 soldiers and also acts as a museum, is located in the port of Callao which is to the north of Lima. Callao doesn’t consider itself as a part of Lima but, you wouldn’t know that you had left one and entered the other if not for the signs. Built by the Spanish Viceroy Manso de Velasco to protect against Pirates and Corsairs, the fort eventually was used to repel the invading Spanish Fleet who sought to reclaim Peru after its independence. The museum houses artifacts from Peru’s rich archaeological past, uniforms, weapons, busts and portraits of Peru’s heroes as well as creepy manikins dressed as Inka Warriors. As you tour the grounds, you will also see tanks, personnel carriers and artillery.
A turret at the fort
The tour of this historical site is well worth the price of admission. We went on a Sunday and had to pay six soles to get in, about $2.20. That price included a guide. As far as I know the tours are only done in Spanish. So if you don’t “habla español,” make a Peruvian friend who speaks English and take them along to translate, it’s a great experience. The tour lasts about 2½ hours. Close by, you can also cruise the port area in a boat, another great experience in this area. These two are only a couple of the many rich experiences you can have in the wonderful city of Lima.
Since 2009, Rodney has been living in Peru and writing about travel, archaeology and more. He is a true Lima enthusiast. He chronicles many of his experiences in Lima on his blog. You can read his fiction at the Peru Writer\‘s Group.