We arrived in the colonial city of Arequipa at around 9.30am on Friday 17th April following an overnight bus journey from Ica. Outside the main bus station we found a collectivo taxi which, although we didn’t know it at the time, stopped just around the corner from our excellent accommodation – Hostal Bubamara……
You might remember that I told you that the main economy in Peru is based around mining. There are increasing numbers of environmentalists, understandably in my view, concerned about the impact of this. What these – I assume “School of Mining” – students and lecturers were basically saying [as I understand it] was that if efficient business, intelligent technology and a responsible state worked together they could lead the way [or maybe were leading the way – my Spanish is nowhere near that good] with [joining] mining and agriculture – i.e. “rape” of the land didn’t have to be result of mining. Having read that Peru’s mining areas are the poorest and most polluted in the continent, there is clearly still a long way to go.
Anyway, on with the sightseeing and the obligatory cathedral…..
As one might expect, one of the paintings in the cathedral was of the Last Supper.
Unfortunately it is not immediately obvious but the main dish is “Cuy” [Guinea Pig]. We have been interested throughout Latin America to see how often local foods, clothing and animals are depicted in religious paintings. It will no doubt be a theme which continues as we travel around – which is hardly surprising and will be similarly obvious in Europe now I think to look for it.
La Catedral is similarly quite plain outside except for the carvings over the main doors….
We also visited “Casa Ricketts” with its dual courtyard…..
Day two in the city and we decided to take a walk to the Yanahuara neighbourhood from where we got another view of El Misti……
……and where we found a typical local arequipeño eatery. We paid around £5.50 for two lunches [soup, then fish, chips (fries) veg and salad with a glass of juice each], and shared a large beer. We were a bit of a novelty – don’t think many tourists had made it through their door.
It was then time for another spot of culture and, although again religion based, I would say that a visit to Arequipa would not be complete if you did not see the “Monasterio de Santa Catalina”. The convent, founded in 1580, occupies a 20,000 sq metre block. Like most of the buildings in Arequipa – it is constructed from “Sillar”…..
… and individual dwellings [which reminded me of Greece].
The entrance leaves you in no doubt what it’s all about
After those four years they could choose to leave the convent [at great shame to their family] or graduate to the Orange Cloister [named for the trees not the paintwork!].
The nuns made and bartered handicrafts such as soap and baked goods but their main “occupation” was making Communion Wafers using this silver press.
There is also a small cafe in the convent – run by the current nuns – which serves large portions of sticky cake and acceptable coffee. Apparently, a restaurant open in the evenings can be accessed from outside the walls – but we didn’t visit that, neither were we there on one of the two nights per week when the convent can be visited after dusk so you can traipse through the streets etc by candlelight to get more of a feel for how it was centuries ago.
Coming out of the convent we ran across what we initially thought might be another demonstration. However, led by an enthusiastic band….
We found night life in Arequipa to be more European style with a few bars, good small restaurants and tables in cobbled courtyards and, as any of my blog posts seems incomplete if it doesn’t have some mention of alcohol [thanks Mark for that observation!] then here is this posts contribution – Mike quite likes trying the local brew [even if its just a local name and not a home brew style]….
We were collected from our accommodation at 8am and found ourselves part of a very small group of people [five] for this trip. We had booked the trip online and paid in advance as had one of the other travellers. All online bookings are apparently honoured so it could have been that we ended up with a private trip but it was nice to get some company – especially as they were three pleasant young people, two of whom were very glad we had made the booking because it meant their “walk in” inquiry resulted in them getting the trip when they wanted it.
Having driven out of the city we headed up into towards the mountains and plains [Pampa de Toccra]….
We were shown a moss which is particular to this area….
Alpacas and llamas are herded [often together]….
We then got what we were told was a much unexpected sighting of our first condor…
It was great that they were both so enthusiastic about the sighting – one of the real value for money sides of the Colca Trek organisation was that they wanted us to see as much of the beauty and nature of their country, even though – as you can see – the clouds were really beginning to roll in.
This rabbit like animal….
We finished our first day at the Colca Trek Lodge [not to be confused with the more luxurious, but I believe much more expensive, Colca Lodge]. Our accommodation was solely for people trekking with Colca Trek and was, I have to say, pretty luxurious anyway…
There are four separate fireplaces within the central pillar though for our small group only one of them was lit that evening – which was very welcome after our final 45 minute walk of the day to the start of the lower canyon. I went to bed that evening hoping that the rain and cloud which had descended would lift so that the Condors would fly and was so pleased to be greeted with this view from our bedroom at dawn the following morning.
….but, at 2km long and a climb of approx 200metres [when we were already at an altitude of over 3,000 metres] it was no mean feat – especially as I am not the keenest cyclist in the world. There wasn’t much question of Mike managing to do it but I must have had the world’s widest grin on my face when I made it to the top of the rise – especially as one woman about half my age didn’t. Smug or what!!!!
After that it was all downhill to the village of Cabanaconde and a small traffic jam at the edge of the village….
….. which, as you can see, comes in red and black as well as the more often seen creamy brown. I felt it was a sad indicator of the unfairness of world economics when we were told that Peruvians pay more for quinoa in the shops than we do in Europe and the US.
Most fascinating were the intensely terraced hillsides….
….which have been this way since pre-Inca times. They are not like paddy fields in that they are not water logged, but instead form a kind of aquaduct system to direct the water back and forth and from top to bottom. In this way erosion is minimised and the agricultural area maximised.
On both days we were taken to very pleasant lunchtime restaurants where typical food was served buffet style and before finally leaving the canyon we indulged in one of the famous La Calera Hot Springs.
They were two fantastic days and I hope that I have been able to portray the beauty of this place which will remain with me always. Of course, we still had Lake Titicaca and The Sacred Valley to visit and as my forthcoming posts will hopefully show they too are brilliant. However, I think if I could choose one place in Peru to revisit it would be the Colca Canyon.