The city in the mountains, Arequipa!

Trip Start Dec 29, 2007
Trip End Dec 22, 2008

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Day 4/5 - Overnight bus to Peru's 2nd largest city in the mountains, Arequipa!
Knowing that our bus for the night was to be a double decker with us on the top deck, I was somewhat dreading the experience and was half wondering if I would make the journey! It ended up not being total hell, it got pretty hot at one point and I almost exited out the window but thanks to Louisa whose second language is Spanish she managed to get the guy to open the door for abit which helped. I managed to do it without the valium but the Irish lads enjoyed taking it instead of me and slept well for the journey slightly dazed and a lot quieter than usual! Ha ha!
After about 8 hours the sun began to rise and we could see the valley around us, more desert and poverty as expected but ahead of us also were the snow capped volcanic mountains of El Misti at 5,822m, Chachani and Pichu-Pichu, the scenery was stunning. Waking to the assistant on the bus putting on some awful pan pipe English tunes of Lionel Richie and Edelweiss followed by a very dry chicken breakfast sandwich, then a gyrating video of 'Shakira' which Tom and Barry (plus Adam!) were most pleased to see,  we finally arrived in Arequipa at an altitude of 2,380 metres. Slightly nervous about how the height would make us feel it wasn't too bad as long as you didn't do much, Machu Pichu was going to be hard!
Shattered we sat chatting with Robert and Aggy over coffee, such a lovely couple, Aggy has actually had a book published about how you can apply business strategies to enable you to find your perfect husband/wife and be married within a year, so she was keen to hear about the many stumbling blocks along the way with how Ads had proposed. After much needed sleep, a very slow sandwich in a nearby coffee shop, we then went on a tour to see the once mysterious 'Monasterio de Santa Catalina,'  a 16th century city built within a city which once housed 450 nuns and their servants living lives that nobody else knew about. Finally opened to the public in the 1970's it was just beautiful. A maze of rustic red and bright blue cobbled alleyways, small wooden doorways and arches, churches, paintings and amazing ancient cooking ovens, wells etc... portraying this life that for so many years nobody knew anything about, it was fascinating. The backdrop of the volcanoes behind made this such a wonderful setting against the ancient stone/city walls and in many ways it brought back memories of a trip to Morocco with mum many years ago.
Afterwards we went for coffee into the plaza. Already we really liked Arequipa, it had that colonial charm about it that we found in Mexico, cobbled streets, clean, a plaza dominated by a palm tree lined square and huge cathedral, much of the stone of all of the buildings being made from pearly white volcanic material, hence its name 'the white city' surrounded by white snow capped peaks. Watching the sunset from a coffee shop roof top whilst sharing a very large portion of chocolate cake with mum, we then headed out that night to a local rustic restaurant famous for its Peruvian dish - 'Cuy' which is GUINEA PIG!!! Yuk! Having had a guinea pig as pets myself and mum could not bring ourselves to try this dish and thankfully not one of the group ended up eating it either. Having heard it is de-furred then literally fried in a deep heat on a stick then placed in the same state on your plate I couldn't imagine anything more grim but many a joke was made by the Irish guys teasing us about the state of what we would see. Again another funny night sitting opposite Bazza and Tom! Then all shattered we were in bed for about 9pm, good night!
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