Leaving Arequipa

Trip Start Sep 16, 2002
Trip End May 31, 2004

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Flag of Peru  ,
Sunday, February 22, 2004

"Not all those who wander are lost" - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring.

"Maps encourage boldness. They are like cryptic love letters. They make anything seem possible" - author unknown

Recently I have been studying my map of South America. A sign perhaps that it is time to travel again. I have recently been feeling restless and now a friend of mine, Anjil, has decided to join me out here in Peru. Its time to move on ... towards the north where Pizarro first started his conquest of the Inca and where the Equator divides the earth in half ..... to Ecuador. However to get there I still have most of Peru to travel through - the Nazca Lines, the surreal mountainscapes of Huaraz and the shamans of the north all await.

But before I move on I must pay homage to this great city and its people. Arequipa has been a revelation and to think I almost skipped it. I should have known that I was meant to visit the city when I was greeted at the bus station by a woman holding a sign with my name on it! It seems the hostal owner in Puno was determined I should stay at this hostal. The city which not only is surrounded by ancient volcanoes, one being semi active, but also happens to be located in an earthquake prone area has now been my home for the last 4 months. They say Arequipa experiences tremors nearly everyday and the fact the last serious earthquake which reached 6.9 on the richter scale a couple years ago is reason enough to leave soon....

During my stay I have taught English to Peruvians although I personally learnt more about my own mother tongue here in Peru than I did back in England. I witnessed history being made as the first Peruvian football club lifted the coveted South American cup (equivalent to the UEFA cup) and I almost made it to the top of the volcano El Misti. Unfortunately at 5,500 metres above sea level I began to suffer altitude sickness and had to turn back with only 300 metres to go.
And on the cuisine side I have now eaten "bolas de toro" (bulls testicles) and I must say ....... it was not too bad but next time I might just give it a miss.
And I have lived with a fantastic family .... the old adage "its the people who make the place" rings very true in this case. When I first arrived in Peru nearly 5 months ago I really could not have contemplated spending this much time here. I was almost ready to return to the old life. However Peru was always the main attraction for me travelling to South America. And so it never made sense to just spend a few weeks and then leave. And now having spent 5 months in the south of Peru I realise what a diverse and culturally rich country this really is. Machu Picchu is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other equally impressive ruins and other worldly landscapes which continue to spellbind you. This diversity is mainly due to Peru having 3 different types of climate: Starting on the coast you have the deserts which sweep up towards the plains into icy mountain ranges towering above 6000 metres and then gently sliding back down into lush green which bursts into jungle and what some people might call .... green hell.
These 3 types of climate are the reason for the diversity in wildlife, plants and terrain.
And then you have a myriad of other cultures who have left their relics hidden under growth or desert sands: the famous geoglyphs of the Nazcas, the feline worshipping Chavin cult and the mud temples of Chan Chan. Man I need another 6 months here, maybe IŽll have to come back one day ....

Unfortunately I will not be cycling now. After 1700km by bike I have decided to do the final leg by bus - my buttocks decided it was for the best. But one day I hope to resume this mode of transport. In the meantime Anjil and myself will try and do this country justice by visiting as many of these places as possible before heading back to the real world ......
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