The city of Arequipa stands in a beautiful vally at the foot of El Misti volcano, a snow capped, perfect cone. There are two impressive mountains either side aswell. Many people think of this as Peru`s second city because of the importance of the agriculture.
We arrived after an excruciatingly cold journey by bus. We arrived in the middle of the night and it took us many hours to warm up !! We met Miki and Barbara at the hotel.
As Miki was leaving the following day we got a driver to show us around the city to see some of the main sites. We visited many different districts with good views and we all got to ride a champion bull. The bull fighting in Arequipa is one bull against another. They fight until one shows its dominance, the other will then run away !!! The bull was huge (1400kg) and looked fairly fierce !! Of course we weren`t scared......
We visited the museo Santuarios Andinos. This contains the frozen mummies recently found on Ampato volcano (6288m). The mummy known as Juanita is particulary fascinating as it has been naturally preserved in the volcano for 500 years and was only discovered after the last eruption when the snow was melted. The corpse is amazingly well intact and the features can easily be made out. Juanita was used as an inca offering and had probably walked from Cusco to Ampato with priests to be offered. It was amazing that they could make it up to the top at 6300m !
We went to the Santa Catalina convent, which is a city within a city. It is over 2 ha and about 450 nuns lived here in total seclusion. It is a complete contrast to what you would expect from nuns who have taken vows of poverty. We took a guide around and learnt all about the place. There are several streets within the complex where the nuns and other women lived. The women that lived here lived in separate houses in the complex and the size of the house depended on the wealth of the family.
We said our goodbyes to Miki who was flying back to Lima and then Hungary. We then booked up a tour to Colca Canyon.
Our tour started the next morning and it was a long bus ride over a pass at 4900m to Chivay. We passed through the national Vicuna reserve where we saw lots of Vicuna (llama like animals (but more expensive fur !)). In Chivay we went to the hot springs at La Calera. The water is 80 degrees when it comes from the mountain. It is then cooled to about 38 degrees celsius. In the evening we went to a touristy restaurant with poor food and an average dance show. Not impressed !!!!
The following day we made our way to the deepest point of Colca Canyon, Cruz del Condor. Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world at 3500m (the first being 164m deeper in Cotahuasi, just down the road). We sat and watched the Condors glide past us. They come remarkably close, sailing on the wind currents. They only stay around for about half an hour, but it was an incredible site.
We made our way back to Chivay for lunch before heading back to Arequipa. It is a long long way on the bus, but still worth it.
The next day we tried to see some bull fighting as it was a sunday. After a 2 hour taxi ride we gave up as it didn`t seem to be on anywhere. In the afternoon we went to the shopping centre and saw a film (war of the worlds - not very good !!). In the evening we had some great kebabs and a few drinks, as Barbara was leaving the next day.
We had a good morning lazing around and after lunch we said a sad goodbye to Barbara.
El Turko - fabulous kebabs and cheap. We managed nine in one day between 3 of us !!!!!