On My Own

Trip Start Sep 08, 2012
Trip End Nov 27, 2012

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What I did
Juanita, Ampato Ice Maiden

Flag of Peru  ,
Monday, October 8, 2012

After feeling like my time in Puno was complete, I hopped an early bus to Arequipa to begin my solo adventure (I considered going to Boliva but they charge us American folks a whopping $135.00 plus the hassle of crazy paper work to get in... no Copacabana for me. Apparently that's what we do to Bolivians trying to visit the US). Ellen and I said our goodbyes at the bus terminal (she was heading back to Cusco). The bus ride was long but the seat was very good... that was until the three children of the family sitting behind me started vomiting. Poor kids, they probably were not used to riding the bus. Luckily, it smelled more like Gerber's and less like rotting semi-digested food. I would classify the bus I took as somewhere between a local and a tourist bus (read: relatively clean with reclining seats and a sprinkling of the typical 'hop on' vendors). We drove through very beautiful country before arriving at the bus terminal (Terrapuerto). I was a bit nervous to take my first solo taxi ride but I found a legit driver who took me exactly where I wanted to go. Thank you again, Pachamama! Although for the record, I was fulled prepared to jump out if need be.

The Casa de Avila was recommended to me by two Canucks I met on the Lake Titicaca Islands tour. I had my own room and private shower for a pretty great price; there was even wifi in the room! The only downfall was there was no kitchen access in the evening which meant trying to find reasonably priced food in the Plaza de Armas. After wandering around looking for places recommended by the guide book, I ended up finding a pizza place that was actually still in existence. It was not my top preference but the other options listed did not seem to be where the book said they were. I concluded pizza was what made me very ill in Cusco, but decided to risk it since I was about to turn into an angry leprechaun (something akin to what happens when you feed a Mogwai after midnight, only I needed to eat BEFORE the clock struck twelve). The pizza place was really mellow and featured a traditional cement oven to bake the pies in. I knew everything would be OK when I dialed into the Dire Straights live album playing in the background. I turned out to be correct on all counts and the pizza was definitely OK.

Arequipa is Peru's second largest city and is the launching point for most Colca Canyon tours. Colca Canyon is considered to be the second deepest canyon in the world with its neighbor Cotahuasi being the deepest (Grand Canyon is the third). I considered forking over the cash for the standard Colca tour (3 days, 2 nights) but decided it would be better to investigate climbing Misti instead. Misti and Chachani are are just out side of the city and are very, very high (Misti: 19,101 ft, Chachani: 19,931ft). Both appealed to my mountain soul but Misti is a bit of an 'easier' climb.

I went on the hunt for a good guide service for Misti and found one that went so far as to give me a 20 sole discount. In the end, I decided against it since I had my fair share of elevation gain and loss already (2,000 ft down only to go 7,000 ft in one day on our trek). Plus it will be a good reason to come back... I'm just mountain climbing window shopping right now. Although, I hear there's a "walk up" just outside of Quito I may attempt next month. And there's still exploring to be done in Huaraz.

Arequipa became more about finding my solo travel legs than about climbing mountains, not what I originally thought. My spiritual journey in Arequipa consisted of an ordinary day wandering into a bookstore and finding a really beat up copy of the Dalai Lama's Ancient Wisdom, Modern World in the book exchange section. I didn't have a book to exchange or enough money to buy it outright (the bookstore lady also refused to change a 100 soles). I went seeking for change at the Museo de Arte Virreinal de Santa Teresa. I figured since 'Teresa' was my Confirmation name, I would be in luck changing the 100 soles and get to see the Monastery. Thankfully, I was able able to do both. Win!

Santa Teresa was only recently opened to the public to help financially support the cloistered nuns who live inside. I had an amazing tour guide and I learned a great deal in my short time there. I could even hear the ladies of God talking as we passed between galleries. It's wild to think about them not having any interaction with the outside world, as if they are living ghosts haunting the museum during operating hours. Side note: I really do think I was a nun in a past life and for those old friends who may be curious... yes, I still have my old costume from last century.

After the tour, I headed back to purchase the book and close out the day with a late lunch at a local vegetarian restaurant. I had veggie chicharron (not sure if it was TVP or soy) which I never expected I would find. Hey Rhy- there's at least one place you can eat at in Peru. HA! All in all, my time in Arequipa was enjoyable and I even got to see Juanita, the Ampato Ice Maiden at the Museo Santuarios Andinos. This was one of the coolest sights I've seen. Juanita was discovered in 1995 and is said to have been between the ages of 11-15 at her death. She is technically a well preserved body and NOT a mummy- as her insides remained in tact. It was oddly fascinating to see a frozen person that lived around the mid to late 1400s. Even more fascinating was standing next to the highly temperature controlled glass contraption that kept her so well preserved. It was a real treat considering she's rarely 'home' these days; she's a world traveler too. 

So in honor of now traveling solo and trying to live life to the fullest, here's a brief list of some of the neat new things I've tried:

Cuy ( guinea pig)
Inka Cola
Pisco Sour
Chica morada (purple corn drink). There's also an adult version.
Cusceņa malta - really good beer!
Peruvian hot chocolate
Choclo con queso (corn with cheese)
Peruvian quinoa soup and smoothie

Onwards and upwards!

Thanks for reading!

Alchemy: Dire Straits Live
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Uncle E on

“Let your mind start a journey thru a strange new world. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be...Close your eyes let your spirit start to soar, and you'll live as you've never lived before.”

Be careful Kellmiester....we love you:):)

Ruth Hooten on

see you in one month!! My countdown is on! Let me know what you want me to bring(toiletries, clothes, snickers bars). Also do you want to stay in the Hilton After I leave-I am booking it for the day but I can do it for all night.(I leave at 11pm) And you get breakfast and a good nghts sleep! Can't wait to see you! Love Ruth

Rhy on

Wow, and I thought I'd have to un-vegetize if I ever traveled to South America. Or Asia. Or Africa...

mc1rvariant on

HA! Don't get your hopes up just yet. :)

mc1rvariant on

YAY! See you very soon!!!

mc1rvariant on

I am very lucky to have such a great family! I love you guys!!!

Blind Bill E. on

Dire Straights: Alchemy. The album that made me a fan of that band!

And what could be better for a alchemist's trip ;)

mc1rvariant on


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