We arrived in Arequipa at 7am in the morning and checked into our reasonably luxurious hotel. It’s got a TV! With 102 stations! And a hair dryer! It looks quite like a hotel in Europe, except for the cost – and we were to be glad of this, as you’ll see! We initially checked in for two nights.
We spent the first couple of days doing the main city attractions. We visited Juanita in her museum – she was a 12 year old Incan girl sacrificed to the gods on the Misti volcano 500 years ago. The ice at the top of the mountain preserved her body almost perfectly and it was discovered when the eruption of the volcano melted the ice. We weren’t allowed to take photos there, but it was definitely worth seeing. We also took a walk around the Santa Catalina convent, which is pretty amazing too. It’s a huge convent that’s like a city within a city. The nuns’ cells are basically like little apartments. They clearly weren’t too pushed about the vows of poverty! There are three different cloisters and streets like a little village. We also did the ubiquitous free walking tour, which wasn’t the best and wasn’t the worst one we’ve done. It was cool to see the city.
After this, we booked a 2 day 1 night trip to the Colca Canyon, which is a canyon (obviously) about three hours away from Arequipa. The canyon is supposedly deeper than the Grand Canyon, but it’s not as impressive. I was, however, excited at the promise of condors flying above it. I somehow had the impression beforehand that there would be massive flocks of them and we’d be ducking out of the way… but was informed by our guide that December isn’t a great time of year for them and we’d be lucky to see one. So that was a little disappointing. The tour was quite fun; we stopped for volcano photos, visited a hot springs (that was so hot that I had a little dizzy spell), ate (dodgy) traditional Peruvian food, watched traditional Peruvian dancing, joined into a traditional Peruvian ritual (well, Michael did), stayed in a pretty grotty hostel with a VERY grotty breakfast, looked at ancient pre-Incan terraces and burial sites, got photos taken with tame eagle and alpacas, and finally… saw two condors! I was very very very excited, as I was so worried we wouldn’t. Apparently we were very lucky.
Lunch followed at a buffet place before taking the drive back to Arequipa. I hate and detest South American buffets. The food is always greasy, lukewarm and of uncertain origin. So I stuck to (peeled) salad items. Michael did not. And sadly paid the price. Hence why I said we were lucky that we had a nice hotel. We ended up staying three nights longer than expected, with poor Michael suffering quite a bit. The hotel offered to call a doctor, but a nice pharmacist had understood my broken Spanish/English/mime act and provided tablets that sorted it out! He’s much better now and after a relatively boring couple of days (so glad we had the TV and internet!) we’re leaving tonight to head to Nazca and Huacachina and on to Lima. The hotel and the bus company and the hotel in Lima were incredibly accommodating to us, which was lovely of them. More news when we get to Lima!