Exploring a new continent

Travel time: March - June 2010  |  by Dominik Weber

20 - 23 April Arequipa

As always with Cruz del Sur, I arrived on time in Arquipa. I was asking the information desk for the direction to get to the city by walking, but she said immediately that this is too far. So I took a taxi right to the center of the city: Plaza de Armas.
Arequipa is also called "La Ciudad Blanca", the white city, since most of the historic buildings in the centre are made out of the white stone of the are. The city has its roots by the Spanish conquerers and most of the building are still dating back to this time. If you compare Nazca and Arequipa - well, actually, you can't compare. Arequipa is a much nicer place to be. Since there are also a few universities in town (and not only tourists), the entire city has a very nice atmosphere during the day and in the evening hours. Not to talk about the landscape: from the city, you can see three volcanos (of which one is still active) and to the other side you can see the dessert. The city is located in a green valley and is the second most important city of Peru (after Lima of course).
Since I had a very nice experience with The Flying Dog Hostel in Lima, I also wanted to go to the hostel of the same chain here in Arequipa. I walked to the address, a few blocks away from the main square, but when I arrived there, the addresse was right for sure, there was no name, no hostel sign, the windows were closed. I rang the bell and someone opened. I asked if this is the hostel and he said yes and let me into the 300years old palace. He gave me a bed in a four-bed-dorm, but everything was pretty funny: The hostel opened just a few month ago, but the only have 5 of they 17 rooms ready. So, they are not yet really advertising the hostel, but if someone shows up, they can stay here. Like me. During my entire stay, I was the only guest of the house, had the computer with internet for free and for my own, I even got a key for the room and for the front door. It was pretty amazing and fun. The last day, I even had a beer with Carlos, the manager (and restaurator). And after the second day, the dog wasn't barking all the time when I entered. It was a little bit like home.

I tell a lot what I did, but there are so many little things that happen that never make it to these reports. One of which are my little bottles in my toilet bag. When I arrived first in Bogota, I realized that due to the high altitute, all my bottles were blown up (luckily, none broke). Going down the mountains, the bottles are usually in a vacuum state. it is funny to see that. Although I know that now and I try to keep an underpressure in all bottles before I go up the mountains, in Arequipa, one more time, they were blown up again. I simply forgot that Arequipa is over 2000m high.
But I didn't go to Arequipa because of the hostel, I went there because I wanted to go to the nearby Colca Canyon. Initially, I wanted to travel directly from Lima to Cuzco, but after talking with other travellers, I decided to travel to Cuzco via Nazca and Arequipa. And it was worth it.
As always in cities where you can begin a tour or an excursion trip, there are always travel agents on the streets trying to sell products. A German in the jungle lodge, recommanded a travel agent, so I went there and decided to do a 2-day trip to the Colca Canyon the next day (more about this trip in a separate chapter).
I heard a lot of the difficulties about booking a trip to Maccu Picchu. You need a license to get up there (which the travel agent can apply for) but it takes three days to get it. On top of it, the number of visitors per day are currently stronger limited due to the floodings some months ago. In order to avoid being stuck in Cuzco without a trip to Maccu Picchu, I dedided to buy the trip in Arequipa. I booked it through a travel agent that started offering me his products on the street. Beside the trip to Maccu Picchu, I also bought the bus ticket to Cuzco and a horse riding trip. In his brochure I saw that he was offering this trip and since I have never been on a horse, I decided to do it the day after my return from the Colca Canyon.

And I have to say, it was pretty fun, but also scary: of course, my guide didn't speak any English, I was put on a horse, here is right, here is left, here you can stop (I didn't really manage to control the speed of the horse, but my guide did that verbally...). We went up a stony hill, trough the half-dessert area, and also I told my guide that this is my first time, sometimes we went full speed. Well, after the horse trip, I felt well shaked and I think I could do it again, but then with explanaitions I understand!
When the Spanish conquerers came to South America, a lot of catholic orders came with them to bring the catholic religions to the people. Today, almost every city, has churches, cloysters and or schools by the order of of the Holy Francisus, the Holy Dominicus, the Jesuits or the Salesianers. Since I am little bit tired seeing so many churches, I decided to see the church of the Jesuits with its beautifully ornameted chapels (for the monks, this was usually the last place before they were heading to the jungle where most of them were killed), and the main clerical attractions in Arequipa, the Cloyster Santa Catalina. It is actually a small village in the centre of the town, with several streets, places and houses, where the nuns stayed apart from the world. Still today, there are some nuns, but they make most of the money from the tourist that visit the place. Every nun had a little house, usually not more than two room, and every nun was responsible for one thing of their daily routine: was was washing, the others was the "doctor", other were cooking. It is like a city in a city.
The other highlight of the city is the Museo dela Universidad Catolica de Santa Maria. Whenever there was a natural catastrophe, like earth quake or vulcano eruption - and this happens here from time to time - the Inkas believed that their Mountain Gods Apus are angry with them. That's why they donated innocent human beings, children up to teenager age, to Apus. They went up to the mountains, sacrificied a child and burried it together with some donations. By doing so, the kid became God as well and it was an honor to be chosen to be donated. Usually, these kids were chosen within the entire Inka imperium. When in 1990 a vulcano erupted and the ice cap of a neighboring mountain melted, a young girl was found that has been donated. Because she was frozen, the entire body, including the cloths are in a excellent shape. After they found Juanita, they found other seven mumies in the same region. You can see one of them, including a lot of donations like juwelerie and cloths in this museum. A really great inside look into this culture, especially since everything was just frozen for several hundres years. On the mumie, you can even see finger nails and hair! Definitely worth seeing this museum.
The travel agent recommended a different bus company for the trip to Cuzco. I don't know if it was a better choice, but for sure, I was the only tourist in the bus. Beside me only Peruvian, some of them in the traditional cloths (the usually stinks like Lama pee). Well, I slept most of the time and we arrived somehow the next day in Cuzco.

The beautiful Plaza de Armes in Arequipa with colonades on three sides.

The beautiful Plaza de Armes in Arequipa with colonades on three sides.

And the same Plaza at sun set.

And the same Plaza at sun set.

Horse riding in a nearby valley, half dessert, half oasis.

Horse riding in a nearby valley, half dessert, half oasis.

View from the roof tops of Santa Catalina. All the red houses in the front belong to the cloyster; one of the three vulcanos of Arequipa in the back.

View from the roof tops of Santa Catalina. All the red houses in the front belong to the cloyster; one of the three vulcanos of Arequipa in the back.

Fruitstand at the local market.

Fruitstand at the local market.

Rich ornamented facade of the church of the Jesuits. One of the remains of their attempt to cathelocise South America (as others orders did as well).

Rich ornamented facade of the church of the Jesuits. One of the remains of their attempt to cathelocise South America (as others orders did as well).

© Dominik Weber, 2010
You are here : Overview The Americas Peru 20 - 23 April Arequipa
The trip
 
Description:
After working for too long without a real break, I decided to go on a long planned backpack trip. After changing the departure date and the destination several times, I decided to go to South America. Starting in Colombia, then Peru and finishing in Bolivia. At least, this was the plan but once on tour, you never know what to expect. This report is for all people asking how I am doing, but also for those who are thinking about doing something similar. I hope I can inspire them.
Details:
Start of journey: Mar 19, 2010
Duration: 13 weeks
End of journey: Jun 15, 2010
Travelled countries: Colombia
Peru
Bolivia
The Author
 
Dominik Weber is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 11 years.
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