Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Trip Start Sep 07, 2012
Trip End Apr 26, 2013

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Day Eighty Three - Wednesday 28th November 2012

Having rolled in at the crack of dawn, we took a taxi from the bus station to the Casa de los Pingüinos, where we had made a reservation for two nights. Happily, we were able to check into our room immediately and even have breakfast there despite not having stayed the night. We unpacked and took showers before heading out to explore the town.

Arequipa is Peru's second city and consists largely of elegant, low-rise, colonial buildings made from grey volcanic stone. They don't build anything very high here due to the frequent earthquakes and ever present risk of a volcanic eruption. The city nestles at the foot of the conical volcano El Misti, with several other high mountains filling the horizon in most directions. We started in the main plaza, which is flanked on three sides by beautiful two storey arcades and on the fourth side by the huge cathedral.

We wandered around the main shopping streets, popping in and out of quaint courtyards and passageways running between the buildings. It's a picturesque town centre and not as touristy as Cusco, although there were still plenty of tour agency workers hassling us in the streets and offering 'information'. The only information we were interested in at that point was how to have a tranquil walk without being disturbed every few metres. We were also frequently approached by sunglasses salesmen, even though we were both wearing pairs.

For lunch we went to a French creperie and had some of the best food we'd experienced in Peru, before heading back to the hostel to watch the second half of the Manchester United versus West Ham match and use the computer to upload the latest blog. Tiredness was catching up with us and we weren't hungry after the large lunch so we didn't venture out again and had an early night.

Day Eighty Four - Thursday 29th November 2012

We awoke feeling much fresher! Up early we ventured out to a local museum which contained the 500 year old frozen remains of a sacrificed girl named 'Juanita' after the scientist who found her. It was quite an amazing scene, albeit with a sad story behind it. Neither of us can even begin to understand how so many young children were sacrificed back in the Inca times.  

After the trip to the museum we decided to also visit the Santa Catalina monastery, which was a city within a city in the city centre!  It was a very interesting place which was still inhabited by around 30 nuns but used to house 300 in its time. The inside was beautiful and looked very much like a southern Spanish city. The ashes of Sister Ana are available to those who wish to take some - apparently she has the powers of a saint and her ashes helped to cure a lady with cancer. 

Feeling particularly hungry after the morning of activities we decided to visit the best fast food chain in the world, Bembos, where we stuffed our faces with a delicious burger. It was time to digest our feast so we headed back to the hostel to have a relaxing afternoon in the garden on the hammocks and to give us time to start planning our impending next country - Chile.

That evening we went out to enjoy many cocktails with some girls we met on the Inka Trail trek and enjoyed dancing the night away until the small hours of the morning. The night was spoilt somewhat on the way home when a bad dog decided it fancied a bite of Paul's right leg. We hurried home to wash it and apply the cure for everything - Germolene. 

Day Eighty Five - Friday 30th November 2012

After another night of only a few hours sleep we packed our bags and headed to the bus station for our ride to Chivay, a small town about 3 hours from Arequipa. The bus ride was a windy one and the effects of alcohol and lack of sleep were taking their toll so we both drifted off for most of it. After arriving in the town at about three in the afternoon we checked into a hostel recommend by Lonely Planet (as usual nothing like the description) and walked to the hot springs for a much needed hot soak. The baths were lovely and full of gringos! 

We felt absolutely shattered in the evening so had a bite to eat and hit bed at about nine.

Day Eighty Six - Saturday 1st December 2012

The morning started with a trip to the local medical centre to get Paul's leg checked out after the dog bite. We should have done this on Friday morning before taking the bus to Chivay but we didn't think, so we went along for some advice. The doctor cleaned the wound but told us she didn't think Paul needed any vaccination. However, we planned to get a second opinion when we get back to Arequipa on Monday as we were beginning to worry more about rabies despite it only being a small scratch through jeans that barely broke the skin.

Following the trip to the medical centre, we decided to go for a walk recommended in the Lonely Planet. It was firstly a 6 km walk to the next town. Simple, we made it in about an hour and a half.  The town wasn't very big and signs of life were limited so after resting our legs and stocking up on crisps we moved onto the next town. We could see the next town, however it wasn't signposted and to reach it meant crossing the river. Not a problem though, the trusty Lonely Planet and map told us there was a bridge... 

After tackling our way down through terraced fields we finally reached the river, although there was no bridge in sight! So like the adventurous types we are, we wandered down the river looking for a suitable place to cross. Of course we struggled to find anywhere with enough stepping stones to cross the whole river so reverted to taking our boots and socks off and waded across. Jemma however didn't follow Paul and instead if tying her boots round her neck held them in her hand. Of course the outcome is obvious... she fell and soaked not only herself but her walking boots and socks! We dried off as much as we could on the rocks on the other side of the river. It wasn't Jemma's day though as she slid off a rock and hurt her side. 

Eventually we scrambled up the bank to the road and made it into the village of Yanqay from where we took a minibus back to Chivay. The water was off in the hostel, so we couldn't even have a shower or wash when we got back, so we went out for some food and then had an early night as we were due to catch the 07:30 bus the next morning.

Day Eighty Seven - Sunday 2nd December 2012

We took a bus along the road that follows the top of the Colca Canyon downstream from Chivay towards Cruz del Condor, a viewpoint for watching condors overlooking the deepest point of the canyon, which is the second deepest canyon in the world. For the best chance of seeing condors you should get there at dawn, but we didn't fancy the 4:am bus and decided to take a chance on there being some late rising condors on a Sunday morning.

We arrived there at around nine o'clock and waited around for almost an hour without seeing much other than a good view, before a solitary small condor appeared above us. Moments later, three large condors rose up from their nests further down the canyon and circled around just below us for a few tantalising minutes before rising far above the mountains. They are incredibly graceful birds and it seems somewhat ironic that the world's heaviest flying bird should be the one that appears to use the least effort to actually fly! They just float around on the thermals with barely a flap of the wings.

After that we set off on the long journey back to Arequipa as we wanted a second opinion on the dog bite. It was two hours back to Chivay, where we had lunch as we waited for the next bus to leave for the three hour ride back to Arequipa through the spectacularly bleak Peruvian altiplano, a barren lunar landscape pockmarked with volcanoes. In Arequipa we checked into a hostel which coincidentally had a doctor visiting a guest with food poisoning, so we asked him what he thought of the bite and where we would be able to get a rabies jab. He suggested the Clinica Arequipa.

Day Eighty Eight - Monday 3rd December 2012

We went to the Clinica Arequipa first thing in the morning but they said that although they have a vaccination centre, they don't do rabies jabs and that we would have to go to Hospital Honorio Delgado in the east of the city, which is the only place with the vaccine. We took a bus there and it turned out to be a really huge and busy hospital with many departments. We were directed to the Centro de Vacunacion, which was fortunately not so busy and a nurse was able to see Paul immediately. They looked for a doctor, but there wasn't one available so they decided to just go ahead with an injection of Verorab. We had had a course of Rabipur injections a year ago before going to Gambia and that is supposed to protect you for a couple of years, but you still need two post-bite injections to prevent rabies even if you have been pre-vaccinated. Unfortunately this hospital didn't use Rabipur and weren't sure if Paul would still be protected, so they prescribed a full five injection post-bite course of Verorab over the next twenty one days. After the first injection, we were taken to a small office in a far flung corner of the hospital to sign the Dog Bite Register before being allowed to go.

Extensive Internet research showed that Rabipur and Verorab are pretty much the same and fairly interchangeable, so it should be OK to follow a course of Verorab, and in theory Paul should only need two injections, having been previously vaccinated, but he's been prescribed five and it's probably safest to have them all. It'll just mean having to find hospitals to administer the appropriate vaccine in another three different countries, which will be a bit of a nuisance. The nurses in Arequipa assured us that we would be able to get the vaccine in Chile, our next destination, but that we would probably have to pay for it. Hats off to the Peruvian health service, and in particular the Hospital Honorio Delgado, for they were quick, efficient, helpful and above all free! We had been planning to leave for Chile later that day, but we decided it was worth hanging around in Arequipa for another three days until the crucial second injection was due, just so we could go back to a hospital we could rely on.

Therefore, we checked into a much nicer, quieter hostel in the town centre where we could relax and kill time in comfort over the next couple of days of our unforeseen prolonged stay in Arequipa. We were given a 'double' room that actually had beds for five, with a sofa, TV and ensuite bathroom with clean towels every day. Innovatively, they also provided both hot water and soap, which could really catch on. This hostel just might be at the cutting edge of a revolution in South American budget accommodation hygiene. That afternoon we went into the Sky Airline office to enquire about flights to Santiago de Chile. They fly from Arequipa a couple of times a week, the next flight being at 11:35 on Thursday, the day of Paul's next injection. It was going to be tight as the hospital opens at 08:00 and is the opposite side of the city from the airport but we decided to go for it as it is so much cheaper and more convenient to fly all the way than the alternative of getting a bus to Arica and then taking an internal flight in Chile.

Days Eighty Nine and Ninety - Tuesday 4th & Wednesday 5th December 2012

We're bundling these days into one as not much happened. We basically spent time in Internet cafes looking for nice places to spend Christmas and trying to plan our next few weeks of travels, watching TV and eating meals, plus catching up with things like laundry.

Day Ninety One - Thursday 6th December 2012

With a long day of travelling ahead we rose early and left the hostel at 07:30 in a taxi bound for the hospital. Once again the vaccination department was quick and efficient. Paul was the first patient through the door at 08:00 and was out again nine minutes later having received his second Verorab shot. We had asked the taxi to wait, so we jumped back in and headed straight to Arequipa Airport to check in for our flight. In the end we made it with plenty of time to spare and were soon on our way out of Peru.

Roughly forty minutes after take-off we touched down in Arica, just over the Chilean side of the border, and everybody had to get off to complete customs and immigration formalities. After about an hour on the ground we took off again on the next hop to Antofagasta, where we stopped once more for about thirty minutes to pick up and drop off passengers. Then it was time for the final and longest leg of the journey down to Santiago. We finally landed there at about 18:30 Chilean time, which is two hours ahead of Peru at this time of year.

We had decided to head straight to the beach resort of Viña del Mar, where we could spend a few days relaxing in the sun and enjoying being back at sea level after almost two months above the altitude sickness line. That required another two hours of travelling by bus from Santiago, so we didn't arrive at our hostel until almost ten at night. Chile isn't a cheap country for backpackers and Viña del Mar is probably the most expensive part of it so we had opted for a dorm again. Unfortunately we were in with a pair of Argentinean brothers who were leaving the next morning and stole a pair of Paul's socks.
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