Peru's Whitewashed Volcanic City
06.09.2012 - 11.09.2012 22 °C
Well our guests arrived early this morning after a long series of flights! They claim it wasn't all that bad but not sleeping for 30 hours tends to wear a body down. Unfortunately our rooms weren't ready for check in at 7am so we got a little chance to show them around Cusco before returning to the hotel @ noon so they can catch a few hours rest. It's awesome to once again have another set of travel companions!!!
In many ways Arequipa and Cusco seem similar and to be honest both are absolutely beautiful cities. Both have loads of colonial architecture and churches filling each and every town square or plaza, but in ways many ways they are different. For starters most of Arequipa's old downtown is all built out of volcanic whitewashed rock that gives the city a very distinct look to it. And the second most notable difference is the massive peaks towering above Arequipa's skyline... it's hard to miss El Misti volcano (5822 M - last eruption 1985) touring behind the city.
We arrived in Arequipa late at night after a long day of bus rides and border crossings but had pre-booked a hostel ahead of time close to the heart of downtown.
After a morning of Skyping with family and friends we set off out to explore the old downtown and to see what all this "whitewashed" hype was about.
Side view of the Monastery of Santa Catalina... you can take tours be we opted to just explore the city on our own.
The centre of Arequipa's old downtown or more specifically the Plaza de Armas has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site (someone messaged me on here asking me how many of those we've seen this trip. Beats me?? A lot. Not sure how many there are in the world.) Covering one side of the Plaza de Armas is the Basilica Cathedral... one of the most beautiful churches (exterior) we have seen yet!
By far not the only old church around town as almost every block/corner seemed to feature it's own. It definitely gives the city a distinctive look to it... one which we both really enjoyed. Here are a few pictures of the Church Of The Jesuits.
One thing we noticed right away being in Peru's second biggest city is how much more 'western' it is then Bolivia. Chain stores, ATM's, signage in english and an over abundance of western food. Can you believe Peru has Scotia Banks??
Thought that was completely a Canadian thing... guess the banks have their noses everywhere these days don't they. Along with western culture comes of course your Starbucks and McDonalds... I don't hate on 'em... I'm just damn glad to not be drinking Nescafe!
How they spelt my name at Starbucks...
It's funny... some countries have the hardest time pronouncing "Stacey" (mainly Asia - Cee-cee) and some places can't get my name right for the life of them (Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru). The touring around continued for the day and we actually made a stopover at a fantastic museum (not allowed to take pictures though) which featured several mummies that were found on the tops of Arequipa's surrounding peaks. I think more then 3 have been found around Arequipa and most have been in very good shape. All of them were young virgin children used for sacrifice by the Incas. Really interesting stuff and a way different take on mummies from the ones we saw in Egypt.
Walking back to the hostel with El Misti looming in the background...
That night we shared a bottle of Peruvian wine on the roof of our hotel... love the snow covered peaks in the background... snow always makes me feel closer to home.
The plan for our following day in Arequipa was to take in quite a lot but there's just something about the city that gives you this relaxed feeling. You never (us anyways) feeling like doing too much but just strolling around, drinking coffee and people watching. The first thing we did was take a quick visit to a close by park. Unfortunately it happened to feature some very poorly cared for monkeys.... we both HATE zoos (besides maybe western ones).
Besides the monkeys the rest of the park was quite lovely and had great views of the mountains and city.
The best lawnmower ever!! And when they're done with the grass you can make yourself a nice Xmas sweater lol...
After the park we toured a bit more of the downtown and made a quick pitstop at an old colonial spanish manor... Casa del Moral.
The manor needed quite a bit of restoration work after an earthquake (can't remember the year) but was beautifully restored and featured some amazing old furniture and wood work.
View from on top of the roof....
It also had a pretty good display of Peruvian currency. I still can't believe how many times the currency had to be changed due to inflation and hyper-inflation.
A few more different views of the Plaza and city shot from my iPhone.
This will be us very very soon!!
I purposefully rearranged the blog post order here because after 2 days we left to go hike the Colca Canyon (the deepest canyon in the world... technically second as it's sister canyon is a 100m deeper) and left town at 3am to start the hiking... you'll have to wait for the next post. But upon returning to Arequipa after 2 days of hiking we were dead tired and decided to spend an extra day in town to relax our weary muscles and bones. That evening however we had to catch a night bus that would take us to Nazca to view the legendary Nazca lines. The Plaza de Armas looks so amazing at night...
Unfortunately our travel agent got us to the bus station a little too early so we had some time to kill... no biggie... bus stations in different countries can be kind of interesting...
Finally!!! Luxury buses!!! One hell of a big step up from Bolivia lol.
And that sums up Arequipa. Great city and by far one of my favourites in South America for obvious reasons of course (the usual good food, scenery etc etc). Not only is the city enjoyable but the surrounding area is just superb (as you will soon see). So stay tuned for the hardest thing either of us has had to do in our entire lives!! (and that's saying a lot)... makes me sore just remembering it.