A beautiful colonial city; our first day in Arequipa was a bit of a disaster.
We ended up staying an extra day in Haucachina because I got sick. We took the night bus from Ica, having decided to skip Nasca entirely. The bus meandered down the coast of Peru before turning inland for the 2400m climb up to Arequipa. Usually a 10 hour trip, something was up with our bus. It struggled up the winding roads at a painfully slow pace, and the air conditioner kept cutting out on each incline.
We arrived in Arequipa three hours late. Renee had a sleepless, nauseous night on the bus and I was still not right from the day before. We checked our email to discover our hotel had given our room away.
We taxied from the bus terminal to the Plaza de Armas, found a cafe with wifi and started looking for somewhere new to stay. We settled on Le Foyer, a hotel a few blocks from the plaza. It gets mixed reviews because it is on top of a nightclub, but to be honest, it didn’t bother us at all.
And that was it, day one in Arequipa.
OK, so things picked up from there. Our stay in Arequipa couldn’t have been more different to our time in Lima. We were right in the historic centre, within walking distance of all of the things you are supposed to visit.
Arequipa is quite a beautiful city. Three volcanos, Misti, Picchu Picchu and Chachani dominate the horizon.
The colonial buildings are constructed of white volcanic stone, and with the narrow paved roads you could be forgiven for mistaking the city for somewhere in Spain. We spent quite a bit of time wandering the historic centre.
We visited the Santuarios Andinos museum to visit Juanita, a frozen Inca maiden who was sacrificed to the gods at the top of Mount Ampato, in regional Arequipa. At the time of our visit however, she was away being taken care of to ensure she is preserved in good condition. In her place was another frozen body of a child sacrificed to the mountain gods. The museum has heaps of Incan artifacts and was quite interesting.
That night the rain set in. We wandered the streets looking for food. It wasn’t cold, so the rain didn’t bother us. We awoke to the news that the pleasent showers we wandered through actually flooded parts of the city. The rains also took out the water treatment plant, leaving the entire city without tap water for around 30 hours.
We visited a chocolateria where they go through the process of producing chocolate, and you get to make your own. It was quite interesting, and the place was nice for sitting around. I suspect it’s run by Australians, the decent coffee and craft beer selection kind of giving it away.
Arequipa is home to a famous nunnery, Santa Catalina.
For hundreds of years girls would join the convent and then close themselves off from the rest of the world, within the walls of Santa Catalina.
It is now open to the public as a museum, with the nuns now living their cloistered lives in a new section of the residence.
It is a city within a city, and with a very knowledgeable guide to help us make sense of it all, was a well worthwhile visit.
From Renée: What I found most interesting was that the nuns were completely shut off from the outside world. Even if family wanted to visit, they could only speak in a certain place where a wall and screen separated the nun from their guest. The church held public services, the nuns would sit behind a curtain, out of view. Complete isolation.
We are getting slightly better at just-in-time planning. I went downhill mountainbiking on Picchu Picchu, then we figured out how to get to Colca Canyon, and then we were gone.