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Arequipa and the Colca Canyon

Way up high

sunny 26 °C


After a realatively painless 8 hour night bus journey (apart from Enrique Inglesias blaring from the speaker above my head, soon put a stop to that!), we arrived in Arequipa and headed for our hostel.

We had breakfast and then decided to head straight out and explore the city.

We went to the Santa Catalina Monastry which is in the middle of the city and yet so quiet inside. We spent a good hour or so in there, walking around the little cobbled streets and seeing where the nuns use to live and eat and, erm, pray. A very nice place but no nuns around the day we went.

We also went to the museum where Juanita is.

Juanita (also known as "The Ice Maiden") was discovered on the top of Mount Ampato near Arequipa, Peru, on September 8, 1995 by Johan Reinhard. She was 12 to 14 years old when she was sacrificed and is believed to have died about 500 years ago.

Although she was frozen in the frigid temperatures on Mount Ampato, her body was discovered because a nearby volcano had caused Ampato's snowcap to melt. The undisturbed site of her burial included many items left as offerings to the gods. Two other children's bodies were discovered near her.

As of August 2006, scientists have become worried that increasing humidity within her display case will cause her body to decompose within five years. The problem with the humidity control was noticed by a tourist (who was actually a scientist at the Smithsonian Institute) who reported the problem. Further testing will help scientists determine whether the problem can be corrected.

Really interesting although it´s hard to get a good look at her as she´s in the double glass case which is kept at below freezing so that she doesn´t thaw!

We had an awful late lunch on the plaza des armas, well mine was awful. I´d ordered spaghetti pesto and what came out was not something that resembled spaghetti pesto!! An interesting bright green sauce with my pasta swimming in the middle of it! We were also serenaded by peruvian pan pipe muscians - I swear these blokes follow me around. Every time I sit down a pan pipe group appears out of nowhere. Straight out of a Fast Show sketch!

We then had a quick look in the main cathedral and then retired for the evening.

We were picked up early the next day for our trip to the Colca Canyon. It was long drive up into the mountains where we reached the highest point of 4800m. A lot of people suffer from altitude sickness and despite drinking coca tea and sucking on coca sweets which are meant to relieve symtoms, both Laura and I felt a little weird and had headaches. It´s also a bit harder to breathe, especially when walking around. Very strange!

By the way, a little info on coca tea:

Coca tea, also called mate de coca, is a tisane (tea) made using the leaves of the coca plant. It is made either by submerging the coca leaf or dipping a tea bag in hot water. The tea originates from the Andes mountain range, particularly Peru.

The leaves of the coca plant contain several alkaloids including cocaine; in fact, they comprise the sources for cocaine's chemical production, though the amount of cocaine in the leaves is small, around 0.001%, in order to make a kilo of cocaine more than 100 kilograms of coca leaves are needed.

Owing to the presence of the stimulant alkaloids, the coca tea provides a source of energy simillar to coffee. The tea is often sold commercially in filtering bags, each of which usually contains approximately one gram of the leaf. As coffee can be decaffeinated, the coca tea can also be decocainized; however, after undergoing such a process it will still contain a minute quantity of the drug (5 milligrams per tea-bag). When the cocaine is removed, the amount of cocaine is small enough for the product to legally sell in the USA according to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. In the 1980's the tea was used to wean cocaine addicts off of the drug

Laura says:
And in the 2006´s J9 appears to be weaning herself onto it, she orders a cup everywhere we go?

It´s nice!

Anyway, we stopped at various points along the way to Chivay, the main town in Colca where we would be spending the night. We saw lots of wild vinucas and alpacas which are both part of the Lama family. Vinucas are very rare and quite endangered so their fur costs a lot of money. Alpacas are 10 to the dozen so everything you might want to buy in the area is made of Alpaca wool. You can even have Alpaca steak for dinner (I didn´t care for it, it had a strange taste, a bit like liver even though it´s a steak).

Chivay was a cute little town nestled in the valley. We had lunch, had a kip (to ease the altitude sickness!), spent a couple of hours at the hot springs and then we spent the evening watching some traditional dancing and music - obviously peruvian pan pipes featured heavily!

We were up at 5am the next day to get to the Canyon and see the Condors. At first we thought we might be a little out of luck as we only saw one circling way below us in the canyon. However, after walking up the the main viewing section, 3 massive condors appeared and put on a great show for us. They came right above us, circling around for ages. A great sight.

After that it was back to Chivay for lunch and then the long journey back to Arequipa

In the evening we met up with Maeve, who had been on our tour, for a drink and a bite to eat and arranged to meet up the next day so that she could help us buy our bus tickets as she spoke excellent spanish!

The next day we met Maeve, bought our tickets, and then went for a wander into the suburbs of Arequipa. It´s a really pretty little town. Most of the buildings are made out of sillar, a pearly white volcanic rock, which gives the town a really beautiful appearance.

We walked around and then headed for lunch at a posh restaurant that the Lonely Planet recommended. Here we ate guinea pig. Yes, guinea pig!!. Well, we made Maeve order it, Laura had chicken and I had steak but we all shared although I have to admit, I didn´t eat all my guinea pig. It´s their local dish and is usually only eaten on special occassions!! Obviously we had lots of fun taking pictures of it. We ordered the half portion but it came out with it´s head and legs and skin on it. Not the most attractive plate of food I have to admit. It looked like a fried rat! But, it wasn´t too bad, it tasted a little bit of bland chicken! At least we tried it! Afterwards, Maeve, being a student medic, turned it over and started pointing out the liver and the lungs and the brain - nice!

The afternoon was spent shopping for Alpaca goods.

Next stop Puno.

Posted by J9travels 15:12 Archived in Peru

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