Trip Start Nov 05, 2006
Trip End Jan 14, 2008

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Flag of Peru  ,
Sunday, September 30, 2007

We departed Puno via bus to arrive six hours later in Arequipa.  Our bus line, Cruz Del Sur is geared towards tourists and kept us occupied  with movies and bus bingo during our trip.  The scenery from Puno to Arequipa is amazing although barren.  The high mountain desert looks as I imagine the surface of Mars does.  We left the cold damp climate of Puno and stepped off the bus into an arid, and warm Arequipa.

Arequipa is Peru´s second largest city and boasts fantastic restaurants, canyon hiking, historic convents and monasteries all at the foot of the active and HUGE volcano, Misti.   The "experts" say a major eruption is a certainty and as Arequipa has expanded into the gulleys and craters that will catch and lava flows, this could be a problem.  Fortunately, the "certain eruption" may not be for hundreds of years.  

We began our tour of Arequipa with a visit to Santa Catalina´s convent.  This doesn´t sound like much fun, does it?  Actually, the convent isn´t used anymore and now serves as a museum, more than a museum it´s a snapshot of time (the nuns live next door in what look like condos) from when 100+ nuns lived in seclusion from the outside world.  The grounds cover two city blocks and the history, architecture and preservation of the site make it a great place to spend half a day.  Personally, I find the concept of nuns living in isolation a bit ironic since you´d think that the clergy would go out and see all the world in appreciation for it and spread their message to the masses.  Then again, who ever said the Catholic church made sense (remember the inquisition museum?)  That said, the convent is amazing.  Cobble stone streets lined with living quarters that still retain their original furnishings.  A small exhibit of devices used for self-punishment was also in included in one of the building.   I believe these were used by priests (the head of the church,) not  nuns but seriously, who listens to a guy for spiritual guidance who wears barbed wire underwear?  Also included is a cafe where nun-baked goods are available for sale (best chocolate cake in S. America yet.)

We filled our evening with fine dining  feasting on Ostrich and swilling Malbec. 

Our second day included a visit to "Juanita the Ice Princess."  Juanita was discovered in 1995 atop a volcano when the neighboring volcano erupted and released her from her glacial prison.  A twelve year old Inca royal who was sacrificed (it was considered to be an honor and a good thing to be one chosen from birth for sacrifice...go figure) to the volcano god over 500 years ago.  Found in the fetal position near perfectly preserved, Juanita was confirmation of Inca human sacrifice.  This runs in conflict with everything we´d been told at previous Inca sights. This was not quite as creepy as the mummies in Guanajuato, but seeing a frozen solid, 500 year old mummified corpses is a decent way to spend your morning.  Pictures of Juanita are not permitted, but not to worry!  Here´s a fun site for you to satisfy your craving for all sorts of mummies, Juanita included.

More later...
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