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Peru- Arequipa

sunny 19 °C

Friday 13th August 2010
(It´s alright, Friday the 13th isn´t unlucky in South America- Tuesday 13th is the date you want to be worried about!)

We got up in time for breakfast (tasty pancakes with jam for Liam, sugar for Jaz) and consulted Lonely Planet and Footprints to plan out our day ahead. We decided to visit some of Arequipa´s most famous sites- the Santa Catalina monastery and a museum which showcases a real Incan `ice princess´- Juanita.

As we stepped out of the hostel, we were pleasantly surprised- the weather was amazing and Arequipa is quite simply beautiful. It is a town of old architecture, cobbled streets and big plazas. We hadn´t really planned on visiting Arequipa so didn´t know much about it until that first morning.

The first stop of the day was the extremely over-priced Santa Catalina monastery (s/.35 each). The monastery was founded just 40 years after Arequipa (which, by chance, was celebrating its 470th birthday the very next day) and is famed for being a `city within a city´. At one point over 450 nuns lived there, so you can only imagine the size! It was closed to the public until around 1970, but still a portion of it remains private.
The monastery was genuinely massive- it took us hours to meander round. It is filled with different brightly-coloured court yards, cloisters, tiny dark bedrooms and many a clay oven as the nuns used to make their way by making cakes and pastries for the local towns people. Unfortunately, I deleted half of the photos from the convent by accident but the few that remain show a small vista of inside the sillar (volcanic ash) walls.

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Post-monastery it was time for a bite to eat, so off we went to a branch of the same Turkish place as the night before, being assured by Lonely Planet (and the hostel) that the falafel was to die for. They weren´t wrong. The falafel wraps were huge and we replenished our energy levels a little bit more with another bottle of Inka Cola...niiice.
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Post-luncheon we meandered down to the museum which houses Juanita. We bought our tickets, checked in our bags (and camera-booooo!) and sat down infront of a National Geographic video about the discovery of the `mummy´. Just for those who don´t know (like we didn´t before we got to Arequipa), Juanita is a 12 or 13-year-old Incan girl who was believed to have been sacrificed at the top of one of the mountains surrounding Arequipa. She was left at the site of her sacrifice and the snow preserved her perfectly until her discovery a few years ago. The museum still keeps her perfectly preserved in a cubicle kept at a temperature of -20 degrees celcius.
After the video we entered in to the museum with our guide, who showed us other Incan relics that had been discovered such as pottery, shoes and clothes. Looking at the equipment that they used and carried to the top of mountains, we came to the conclusion that the Incans must have been a pretty strong race. They walked up mountains to altitudes of 5 or 6, 000 meters in just sandals made from straw and blankets coverieng them. Add on to this that they were carrying HUGE pots filled with drinks and food etc and it must have been pretty hard going.

The pinnacle of the visit was, obviously, seeing Juanita. The first thing that everybody commented on weas her size- she was tiny, maybe the height of a nine or ten-year-old, with tiny hands and feet. It was very surreal seeing this Inca princess and I found it hard to comprehend that she was actually real- that she lived in the days of the Incas, was sacrificed at the top of a mountain (as a payment to the mountain) and was wearing real clothes from back then, too. It really was a surreal, but great, experience.

We weren´t allowed to take any pictures, but here is one we took from http://www.arequipainfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/momia_juanita_arequipa.jpg

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The next stop on our list of things to do in Arequipa was to get an ice cream from one of the two reknowned ice cream shops in the city. According to the hostel, one of them stocked beer flavoured ice cream, so Liam was keen to try that! On our way there, we got sidetracked by a church with an exterior more detailed than any building we have ever seen. We decided to go on in and as soon as we did so, we got accosted by a little old Peruvian lady pinning holy badges on to us. This had happened to us previously in Buenos Aires, where we just gave the woman the equivalent of a few pennies and she went on her way. Not here. This woman demanded s/. 5 per badge (over a pound!) and when we started to take them off to give them back, she told us it was for the poor children. Feeling guilty we handed over the money and about 10 seconds later couldn ´t believe we had. We immediately took them off- pricking our fingers at the same time- and felt robbed, we´d have much rather just given the money to a poor child!
S/.10 poorer we made our way the few doors down to the ice cream parlour- where they didn´t have beer flavour and decided on a Queso Helado (frozen cheese) to share. This is not, as you may think, actually frozen cheese rather milk, egg, cinnamon and whatever else. It was actually really nice!

A popular tourist sight to visit from the city of Arequipa is the Colca Canyon, which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and inhabited by giant condors. However, after a bit of research we realised that to properly make the most of the canyon we would need to do a three day trek, which we just didn´t have time for. Another option was to take a one day tour beginning at the ridiculous time of 2.30am and costing the equally ridiculous price of 35 pounds each. All of our research led us to believe that this would be a very rushed option and we would be cooped up in a bus for a total of 14 hours. Not worth it. Instead, we booked our bus tickets to Ica for the next night. That evening we were very excited to eat out at Tacos & Tequilla (a very highly recommended Mexican restaurant). We ate enchilladas and quesadillas washed down with pisco sours and our verdict was that it was okay but very overrated and undeserving of all the hype.

Saturday 14th August 2010

After the mammoth couple of days travelling, all we wanted was a good nights sleep and a bit of a lie in. We thought, being in just a six bed dorm, this would be possible. Apparently not. Around 8am a fellow traveller announced his arrival in our room with the persistant unzipping and rustling of bags and constant entering and exiting the dorm. Unable to get back to sleep, Jaz got up and went for more pancake goodness and Liam followed about an hour later. We had no real plans until our 10pm night bus so we lazed around and visited the market before arranging to meet Helen and Elliot (of jungle fame) for lunch. For the third day in a row we ended up back at the Turkish restaurant. We had forgotten that it was Arequipa´s birthday until part way through lunch when we were suddenly reminded by the sound of an approaching brass band. Elliot, the only one with a view of the road, shouted something about seeing a clown and sure enough when we stood up to have a look we saw an army of clowns marching by followed by dancers, donkeys and bulls. Hit with the sudden realisation that the journey to the bus station might take a while because of all the celebrations, Helen and Elliot made tracks and we headed back to Bothy Hostel.

That night we gave the Mexican restaurant a second chance (it still didn´t live up to the hype) and before we knew it we were in a race against the clock to get to the bus station in time thanks to the gridlocked, taxi filled roads in the city centre. Thankfully we made it with time to spare and got on our overnight bus to Ica (Cruz del Sur, semi-cama s/.90 each), excited for the next few days of anniversarying, sandboarding and Nazca line-ing.

That´s enough for now, more to follow!

Jaz and Liam xxx

Posted by JazandLiam 21:14 Archived in Peru

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