Condors, canyons and… crepes?!
Trip Start Feb 06, 2011
20Trip End Jul 24, 2011
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After catching up with a slightly jet lagged Amanda over breakfast (and after she had doled out some unexpected cream eggs!) we decided spend the day exploring the city. Arequipa is a beautiful city with one of the most impressive central plazas we have seen on our trip to date, complete with huge palm trees, pretty fountain and overlooked by a huge sillar cathedral
Arequipa is also renowned for being the home of the “ice princess” Juanita. In the 1990s a group of explorers climbed one of the surrounding mountains, whose usual snow-capped peak had melted following the explosion of one of the nearby volcanoes. They discovered all number of Inca burial sites and artefacts, the most impressive of which was Juanita, believed to be an Inca princess who was sacrificed to the mountain gods over 400 years before. Juanita is not mummified in the traditional sense, but rather has been naturally preserved by the ice. Although Juanita was away for restoration, we saw many of the beautiful fabrics and artefacts that were buried with her and another ice mummy who was found some years later called Sarita
After the quiet of Copacabana we were also pleased to discover that Arequipa is quite a lively city of an evening and feels like a much bigger place than we were expecting. As Amanda had just arrived, we wanted to make sure she had a very authentic first night – so went out to, er, a French creperie. They were gourmet crepes in our defence. And as it turned out Peru would bring more than its fair share of local delicacies (yes, including guinea pig…)
For the next few days we decided to go and explore the surrounding area: the Colca valley and, of course, the Colca Canyon. The countryside around Arequipa is very hilly and green, with many fields of maize, wheat and the Andean favourite cereal quinoa. We soon became very familiar with the flora and fauna as we had a tour guide who seemed to have underestimated our age by at least 15 years, forcing us to endure regular tests throughout the trip: What is this? Quinoa. 10 points to James! Nonetheless we got some incredible views of the surrounding volcanoes and came away with some everyday essential knowledge like the difference between quinoa and kiwicha. Someone call Magnus Magnusson! The surrounding area also has many remnants of Inca and pre-Inca cultures, from the terraces where they grew all kinds of crops, to tombs set high in rock cliff faces, to storage areas on the edge of the river where they stored seeds and grains. The Colca Canyon itself was stunning, particularly the viewpoint Cruz del Condor where we were lucky to see a stunning, huge adult condor flying right overheard. The male adults can have wingspans of up to 3 metres in diameter so they really are a stunning sight.
You’ll be pleased to know that our last night in Arequipa was a little more authentic than the creperie. I tried some alpaca - a cuter, smaller version of the llama, Amanda tried some river trout and James wimped out and went for pork. You’ll be pleased to know James did eventually man up and try the cuy (guinea pig) but more on that in subsequent posts…