Chilly Sunday in Arequipa

Trip Start Apr 24, 2008
Trip End May 29, 2008

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Sunday, all!

Today was a rather gray and chilly day in Arequipa. I had a cozy first night in my room (watched "The Birdcage" in Spanish!) and even slept through all the blaring music from the restaurant behind the hostal. The owner had been very honest when I checked in about how loud Saturday nights are there and I was fine with that. Itīs better than the sound of traffic barreling right past my room like at the first hostal!

I continued to be happy that I switched hostals this morning when I showered...great hot water, great pressure, a big shower and even a hot water tap in the sink! This is the very first place Iīve stayed where the sink had more than just freezing cold water. Makes washing socks and undies much easier! I had breakfast on the sunny patio (that was the last of the sun for the day) and spent the morning hanging out around the Plaza de Armas, enjoying a leisurely coffee at a café on the plaza, booking my onward flights to northern Peru, and trying in vain to call Martha,Martha for Motherīs Day from almost every public phone I could find! I purchased a crummy phone card last night that just wouldnīt work, but it was probably the phone system too because tonight the owner of the hostal let me use his phone with the card and even that didnīt work. I finally gave up on the card and came to this internet place to just dial directly...even that took a couple of tries, the connection was terrible, and it was all of 2 minutes, but I finally got to hear my momīs voice! Happy Motherīs Day, Mom!!!  :-)

As for my flights on Wednesday, they are set. I decided to fly LAN for both segments although there is only a 35 minute layover in Lima. I was very skeptical, but the lady in the LAN office assured me there would be no problem making it. I told her in Spanish, "OK, great, but since Iīm a pessimist, will my luggage be on the following flight if it doesnīt make it?" She was like, "Yes, but it will make it!" She must think Iīm a whacko. But there is another flight that night so at least I know there is another chance for me and/or my backpack to get to Trujillo that same day. Iīve already reserved a hostal there and will probably use them for a day tour or 2 half-day tours as well. The Trujillo area has some incredible pre-Inca ruins!

So, morning errands and dawdling out of the way, it was time for lunch. I went to a place called "El Turko I" around the corner from my hostal. It is on a list of 10, count īem TEN, restaurants that I want to try here in Arequipa! As of this moment I have hit exactly half of them! El Turko I serves Middle Eastern/Turkish food. I had some kind of chicken with vegetables and was good, incredibly filling and cheap! Then it was time to walk the 2 blocks back to the Plaza de Armas to catch the tour bus (which, incidentally, is called "Tour Bus." Ingenious, ŋno?).

The four hour tour was pretty good...nothing stunning but Iīm glad I did it. We circled around the Plaza de Armas and got an explanation of the founding and design of the city by Pizarro, the sillar (white volcanic rock I explained yesterday) of all the buildings, etc. Almost immediately we crossed the Puente Grau over the Río Chili and headed into the suburbs (countryside) of Arequipa. We visited a couple of cute little towns with their own cute little plazas...I swear, I could live in each of these places for 6 months and keep moving around to try them all! Each one had a church with extremely ornate, white sillar facades. And it was the second time Iīve seen an all-green cross in front of a church to symbolize the combination of Catholicism and Incan beliefs surrounding nature. Next we parked at a pretty mirador and took pictures of the valley behind Arequipa, the Río Chili and the stunning volcanos as their backdrop.

The next stop was an alpaca factory outlet. If I havenīt mentioned it before, alpaca is BIG here...for meat and wool. It is much softer than sheepīs wool and very warm. I didnīt have much interest in the fancy store, but the guide took us out back to see alpaca, llamas and vicuņas and she explained the differences between them, their wool and how often theyīre sheared, etc. The vicuņas look kind of like alpacas and llamas but their fur is by far the softest! Those products are incredibly expensive because they can only be sheared every 2 years. I think she said a scarf costs several hundred US dollars! Iīll stick with my synthetic fleece, thanks very much.

Next stop was La Mansión del Fundador....the Founderīs Mansion. This is a "mansion" that was first owned by the founder of Arequipa in 1540, Garcí Manuel de Carbajal....then it was a Jesuit retreat center....zzzzzz....zzzzz. Not my bag, baby! But the next and last stop I found totally fascinating! It was El Molino de Sabandia: a working flour mill that still uses the force of water to grind flour! The spring water runs downhill in a narrow channel into a small building where it hits and turns a wooden wheel...the wooden wheel turns a stone wheel up above, which grinds the wheat into flour. What! I couldnīt get over how amazing this is. Definitely cool.

But to be honest, and this will sound very silly, the best part of the tour was sitting on the top level of a big ole touristy double-decker bus! The very same type of bus that plies the streets of Manhattan every day, bulging with tourists, while I roll my eyes and jaywalk in front of them on my way to and from work. Yup, I was one of those camera-toting tourists today! It was so fun to see Arequipa float by from so high up, then to see the surrounding countryside and mountains with an unobstructed view. I loved being outside with the wind whipping through all 4 inches of my hair! The most interesting part was seeing Peruanosī reactions to the bus everywhere we went. They looked up and smiled or laughed, and always waved frantically! No eye-rolling here.

We got back to the Plaza de Armas at 6pm, and I headed straight to the hostal to try to call Martha (without success, as described above). From there I headed to dinner....Los Leņos Pizzeria, #5 on my list! I had a tiny vegetarian pizza with onions, eggplant, tomato and kalamata olives....yummmmmmmm. The place was cozy too, with dim lighting, arched ceilings and funny grafitti on the walls. And they cook your pizza in a *real* wood burning oven! I noticed it as I was leaving.

That has pretty much been my day today, not a whole lot to report! Thatīs where the relaxation comes in, I guess. Tomorrow I will visit either the monastary (a city unto itself within Arequipa) or the main museum here, and whichever I donīt do will be reserved for Tuesday.

Hope everyone had a great weekend! Iīm off to find whatever decent movie is dubbed in Spanish on my TV....

Lots of love,
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