South America on a shoestring

Travel time: June - December 2004  |  by Rob W.

Arequiping it real

Arequipa (1), June 19 - 25

The night bus with Cruz del Sur was actually not too bad. I'm not normally able to sleep unless I'm lying down but seem to have finally developed the skill and didn't have a problem on this bus. There was a hostess service with a hot dinner, films, and even a game of bingo. And all for 5 quid. National Express in the UK could learn something from their Peruvian counterparts me thinks... although as they have a monopoly they don't need to. But that's a story for another day. The bus got into Arequipa stupidly early and I got a taxi to Hostel Nunez on Calle Jerusalem which turned out to be fairly nice, and even had cable!! The taxi driver was a decent guy and waited for me outside the hostel, saying the area wasn't safe for a gringo alone at night. I appreciated it, although he was tiny and old and would have been about as useful as my gran in a fight!

My main reason for wanting to go to Arequipa was to visit Colca Canyon, so I booked a trip for the following day and had a look around the city in the meantime. It has an impressive Plaza de Armas with a beautiful backdrop of snow capped volcanoes, and I was quickly quite taken with the place. Except for the fact that I kept being given fake 5 sol coins. I asked various people to explain how to tell a fake, but never has any idea what they were going on about when they replied so just smiled and nodded and walked off muttering swear words under my breath. In English. I visited the Santa Catalina Monastery because the Lonely Planet told me to. It's a weird place and I think in a fwe years time I'd appreciate it as a site to visit. As a young, care free backpacker however I want adventure and this meant a 3 day trek in the canyon.

After an ungodly wake up call of 6am (anytime you do an activity or take a trip in South America you have to wake up at 6am, it's the law) I met my group for the trek and we headed to the Terminal Terrestre. There were 2 Aussies (Alex and Cam) who turned out to be a lot of fun, and 2 Israelis who turned out not to be. Our guide Jonny (bookl through Hostel Nunez) was a bit of a legend who laughed a lot, spoke great English and seemed to know everyone along the way. Life in the Canyon is bizarre, the villages are only accessible by foot and as such everything has to be brought in by mule. There are very basic places to stay in the villages, and as there was no electricity we found ourselves going to bed pretty early both nights. The 2nd day we walked to an oasis at the bottom of the canyon and spent a few hours drinking by the pool. After clearing out the small campsite of beer we began to worry that our impromptu piss-up was over, but saviour came in the shape of a beer mule. Rather than carrying the Virgin Mary, this donkey had beer on its back allowing the boozing to continue. While this seemed like a good idea at the time, I would regret it a bit in the morning. This was mainly because the morning started at 2.30am and involved a 4 hour trek out of the canyon befoer breakfast. It was fucking steep, I didn't have a torch, the altitude made me feel sick, and I had a hangover. The Aussies and I made it to the top moaning all the way about why we had chosen to put ourselves through this. We were helped massively by a little old Peruvian lady sat about an hour from the top who was selling Sprite and chocolate. I remember telling her I loved her, and at the time I really did!

Back in Arequipa I bought a ticket for Puno, with the intention to head over to Bolivia and then down to Chile. However Euro 2004 struck again and I ended up not taking my bus so that I could watch England v Portugal in comfort. We lost and it was horrifically unjust, I still don't know what that wanker of a ref thought was wrong with Sol Campbell's goal. I went out with a couple of English lads with the intention of drowning my sorrows, but they also turned out to be into local whores so I made my excuses and left. Besides, I had an early bus to catch the next day to Puno which people kept telling me is the world's most God forsaken hole. Que bien.

Arequipa - the good

  • Beautiful scenery, beautiful buildings

  • Some decent bars

  • Friendly people

  • Lots going on

  • Colca

  • Solmar Tours - on Calle Jerusalen. Professional and don't take commission on Cruz del Sur

Arequipa - the bad

  • Some of the tour agencies are totally full of shit

  • Fake cash

  • Cheating Swiss referees

© Rob W., 2004
You are here : Overview The Americas Peru Arequiping it real
The trip
Backpacking in South America then 5 months at uni in Brazil, despite the fact I don't yet speak Portuguese. Bum.
Start of journey: Jun 12, 2004
Duration: 6 months
End of journey: Dec 24, 2004
Travelled countries: Peru
The Author
Rob W. is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 17 years.