Between Desert And Mountains

Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
Trip End May 02, 2013

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Flag of Peru  ,
Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The nine hour bus ride seemed to go by pretty quickly as we drifted in and out of consciousness. The final hour was highlighted by a 700 metre climb and Jason's altimeter tracked our progress while Sylvia clung to her last few z's.  The first glimpse of a snow white volcanic cone in a barren grey landscape was magical.

In a flashabck to Asia, the bus terminal was located outside of town so we had a few options to get to our hostel.  We chose a combi, or jam-packed minibus, for 80 centimos (~30 cents) each.  It dropped us close enough that we could walk and do some sightseeing the rest of the way.

The cobblestone streets were tightly closed in by high walls on either side, protecting pretty little courtyards and buildings behind.  Hospedaje Macondo was no exception.  It was way too early for check-in when we arrived so we simply left our large packs with them and went out for a walk.

We sauntered over to Colca Trek to confirm the tour we'd already booked via email.  Then we strolled along Ponte Grau toward Yanahuara.  After stopping in at Iglesia San Juan Batista and getting kicked out, we peered at the mountains through the portales, archways with a view.  We mired at how much warmer it was at higher elevation compared to the coast, especially since we had expected, and thus dressed for, the exact opposite.  We dropped a few layers and walked back.

Next we checked in, got settled and went to Cafe Casa Verde for lunch.  The cute little non-profit resto and shop helps give abused or homeless children a chance at a better life by teaching them skills, giving them work and a home.  We then planned to stop in at the hostel for a few minutes and go out again, but Sylvia immediately fell asleep in a hammock.

When she woke we headed to the Plaza Des Armes, watched over by a sillar cathedral.  Arequipa is known as the white city because many of its stately buildings are formed from this bleached volcanic stone.  We also stopped in at a really cool bank in an old mansion, then moved on to the Museo De Santury, home of Juanita, The Ice Princess

Sacrificed as a child at the summit of a nearby mountain about 550 years ago, she was discovered by accident during a 1995 expedition.  Her well peserved body remains frozen in time with her haunting stare looking back at all who dare lay eyes on her.  Over the years, 17 more child sacrifice bodies have been unearthed from the mountains, but none from as high or as intact as Juanita.

We watched the sun go down from the rooftop hammocks.  Then we dropped off laundry and walked in circles for a while before settling on fried rice with chicken, ham and egg for dinner, followed by chocolate cake for dessert.

The next morning started slowly with tea, fresh crusty bread and jam for breakfast.  We took our first doses of acetazolamide to prevent altitude sickness, then began packing for our upcoming trek.  Jason began to feel tired, dizzy and heavy-headed.  The diuretic effects were also quite pronounced.  We tried coca tea and lemon candies as additional preventive strategies.  We enjoyed a hearty homemade three course lunch for 5 PEN (under two dollars) each, then wiled away the afternoon at our hostel.

The Spanish-English language barrier proved to be a challenge for us.  Having taken a crash course, Sylvia understood the grammar and could form sentences while Jason used essential words to get his message across and had an ear for what was being said by others.  Combining our strengths and with a little help from our Lonely Planet phrasebook, we were able to get by.

We had dinner at the same place as the night before, then retired early in preparation for our first big tour at high elevation.
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