Well after the flea infested bus ride and sleeping in a small dingy hostel. Which actually wasn’t too bad for only s/15. I mean since I was in a private room, the only one on the main floor I essentially had my own bathroom. However, I thought I would treat myself so after dipping into my peanut butter I headed out to look for another place to stay. I settled in a great place next door, with a great view, wi-fi and buffet breakfast.
Spent the rest of the day exploring the city. It is beautiful and I can see why they say it is one of the nicest Plaza de Armas in South America. With tall terraces, even more spectacular at night when it is all lit up.
The fortunate and unfortunate thing is that Arequipa is not really a huge tourist destination. People stop here mostly to see Colca Canyon. One of the deepest canyons in the world, deeper than the Grand Canyon. However, there are great treks and mountain biking to do here as well. Like up the volcano El Misti (Mister) or Chachani (spouse or wife of El Misti). So I really wanted to climb up Chachani (because it’s taller than El Misti. Of course since it is the woman, it over powers the man) and bike down. But like I said really hard to find a group, even a small one that is doing that and a single person can latch on. Most people do a drive half way up El Misti and than bike down. That seemed lame to me. Sorry.
Anyway, I sat myself down in El Gaucho for a fabulous steak dinner with all-you-can-eat salad bar, huge stack of fries, sangria, fanta and creamy vanilla ice cream to drown my disappointment. Boy that was an awesome way to drown it and contemplate what to do in this town.
I settled on doing a London style double decker bus tour the next day and than a 2 day Colca Canyon tour.
The bus tour although a little boring at times was a great way to see the outskirts of Arequipa which would take forever on local transit and too expensive by taxi. Highly recommend. Plus you get a cool foam visor. 🙂
Spent the afternoon in the Convent. I must see in Arequipa. I serene, brightly painted tribute to how the nuns lived not to long ago. But stay clear of arrogant, young, vegetarian Canadians reading the signs out loud to each other and mispronouncing words longer than 6 letters.
If you want to do Colca Canyon there are several options now. Either a one day, just to the main look-out (mirador) to the see the condors, and two day, which includes some cultural events or a 3 day hike that brings you into the bottom of the canyon where people still live. I opted for the 2 day tour, not feeling all that great. I think I have finally over did the dulce de leche. There is a lot of it in Arequipa, little cookies filled with them rolled in little cone shaped paper you can buy at ever corner. And I did. Ugh! I need a tummy rub!
The tour consists of some beautiful drives through farm areas and fields filled with vicunas, alpacas and llamas. Vicunas are the “top model” of the three with long elegant necks and are completely wild. They are sheers once a year by the community and government and it is forbidden to kill them. A female vicuna costs $50K and a male only $5-6K. The one species where a woman makes more money. All these animals can run 65-75kph.
We hiked in the afternoon through fields of golden quinoa and purple potatoes. As we passed over a tall bridge holes dug out under the bridge were pointed out to us. These were along a steep cliff, high above a raging river. What are these holes you ask. Well so did we. They are old style refrigerators. But how they got stuff in and out of there I couldn’t believe it. It looked so dangerous. You certainly weren’t going to get a midnight snack anytime.
We stopped in Chivay for the night, which is Quechua means “baby maker”. I was glad I was sleeping alone that night. Played on the see-saw with some local children and then headed out to watch a great cultural show. They do the craziest dances with man eating oranges and then convulsing in some sort of orgasmic seizure until the woman puts her skirts over his head a fans him. Then they reverse and do it all over again. I think you have to be drinking angry Incas to fully enjoy the experience, essentially a hot toddy with pisco. Tasty but deadly.
The next day was Colca Canyon and the condors. I got to say it was a bit disappointing. I would highly recommend the 3 day tour. Since the canyon is so deep but very narrow (unlike the Grand Canyon) you can’t really see how deep it is unless you walk in the bottom of it. As for the condors. They were awesome. Unfortunately, in my attempt to get away from the crowd of tourists I walked to the other mirador and only say them from a distance. They is a reason everyone hangs out at the main mirador. I recommend pushing your way into a spot and wait, patiently. Me not so patient. I think the closest the condors got to me was when I was seated in the bus. I don’t have a lot of luck with wild life this year.