Trip Start Aug 15, 2008
Trip End Aug 14, 2009

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Arequipa - Saturday 24th Jan

Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, is beautiful. All of the buildings, in the historic part where we were, are built from sillar (a white volcanic rock that is quarried locally). Being a Spanish Colonial city, you can't move for Cathedrals & Churches. The main square, Plaza de Armes, is beautifully kept & is flanked by the Cathedral & Municiple buildings all built from sillar rock. Behind the Cathedral, on a clear day, you can see the imposing El Misti volcano which together with two other mountains, dominates the norther skyline.
On our first day, relaxing in the square, we were treated to The Beatles 'Magical Mystery Tour' played on Peruvian Pipes. 'Hey Jude' sounds really good.

Legend has it that the name "Arequipa" was coined by the Incas. The story goes that Inca leader Mayta Capac & his soldiers camped there, when breaking camp some asked if they could stay & he replied "Ari quepay", which in local Quechua means "Yes, stay here". Sounds like a load of old bull to me.
The first inhabitants did some drawings on some walls 8,000 years ago, Spanish Conquistadores built a city here in 1540 & now it's a UNESCO Heritage site.

The traffic in Arequipa is manic, hundreds of little yellow Daewoo taxis perpetually circling the one way system hoping to pick up fares. When the drivers want to attract you, they play sirens which replicate police cars, ambulances or swanee whistles - most confusing.
Nobody gives way at junctions & pedestrians take their life in their hands when crossing the road. There are Zebra Crossings, but I think the white strips are only there to make it easier to mop up the blood.

Monastery of Santa Catalina

The monastery, about 2 blocks away from the main Plaza de Armes, is like a fortress surrounded by featureless, high walls. It was founded in 1579 by a rich old Spanish widow who stocked it with daughters from wealthy families. These new nuns were used to a rich style of living & kept up their hedonistic lifestyle of partying & debauchery until the Vatican finally clamped down - three hundred years later. The nuns were given a choice of observing the rules of the strict Dominican Order or returning to their families, which many did.

The monastery is like a small medieval city with narrow passages, open courtyards & little self contained living areas with their own cooking ovens (so many ovens!). The religious order must have been very progressive - I'm sure some of the nuns slept in double beds, one of the nuns 'cells' even has a piano.

The walls of the beautiful cloisters are painted rich blue or burnt orange & are planted with trees like orange trees. There is an extensive art gallery containing some of the most important religious works of art in South America many from early 'Cusco School'.
The monastery was severely damaged by earthquakes in 1958 & 1960, restored & opened to the public in 1970.

We had our first Pisco Sour here, it's very similar to a Margareta, quite refreshing. I also discovered a new cocktail - The "Machu Picchu" which is Pisco (the local fire water), Orange, Mint & Grenadine.

Juanita - The Ice Maiden (sorry no pictures - they were banned)

We went to a museum & saw a fascinating exhibition of 'Juanita - the Ice Maiden'.
This was about a chance discovery in 1995, of the mummified remains of a 500 year old human sacrifice, at the top of Ampato Volcano.
It was discovered by Johan Reinhard, an anthropologist, when a nearby volcano erupted in 1995 & showered hot ash on Ampato, melting the ice at top & releasing "Juanita". They were very lucky that the mummy had only been exposed for 3 weeks & was still frozen when discovered.

The human sacrifice was a beautiful young Inca girl of about 12 - 14 years of age who had been taken from Cusco by Inca Priests up the 6,380m high volcano, to appease the Gods. This was a difficult climb even with modern equipment but it was accomplished by this young girl. They think she was drugged then killed with blow to head & laid in the grave in foetal position together with gold & silver offerings.

Incas sacrificed young girls to appease the mountain gods & prevent natural disasters.
Girls were selected for sacrifice at an early age & trained in a special sanctuary in Cusco. They were being prepared for the moment when they were to become Gods themselves.
The Incas thereby had a supply of maidens ready to sacrifice when disasters struck.
(In modern times, this sacrificial function is generally carried out at the High School Prom.)

Juanita is currently 'resting' from the exhibition (her place has been taken by one of the other mummies) & is being studied by scientific teams who are investigating her genealogy, diet, viruses & bacteria that affected her.
Since this discovery, several other mummies have been found on other mountains throughout the Andes but none in such good condition.
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holly08121 on

Very interesting. Have you had any Pisco Sour yet?

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