We also went to the Monasterio de Santa Catalina which had been run by a rich nun for other nuns from rich families who all lead rich lives inside the walls. It was like a little village, just a few too many dolls of Jesus bleeding from his wounds for my liking.
The next day we set off on an organised tour - not something we normally do, we prefer to rough it on our own picking our way through villages on motorbikes. But we couldnt find any motorbikes and everything seemed to be done through organised tours. So we joined some colombians and argentinians on a minibus to the Colca Canyon. It was an early start and the first stop was to purchase cocoa leaves, which are legal over here. They are the raw ingrediant for the drug cocaine but have been used for centuaries to combat altutude sickness by both the incas and modern people. It was like chewing grass and made our mouths numb but after my failure on that stupid mountain in borneo I wasnt taking any chances. I had only gone to 3000m before we were intending to go to almost 5000m on the first day of our tour. As the minibus climbed up into the Andes we stopped at various points on the way to look at Vacaņes grazing - the wild, protected cousin of the alpaca and llama. We saw their domestic relatives as well with bright coloured wool through their ears to mark which farmer they belonged to. The dusty dry plains spread out all around us but some how these animals found food and water. We stopped to look across spectacular views and soon the stops became predictable as a cute young girl in traditional dress with a baby llama appeared on the horizon - she was waiting for the minibuses to stop for a photo to to taken of her. We stopped in villages with craft markets selling everything imaginable made for alpaca wool. Women held hawks and falcons for photos and there the young girls were again with their baby llamas - they were cute though!
Tom and I saw a few too many gum drop smiles for our liking - this wasnt the real Peru? I wanted to stop in the little villages with no tourists and speak to the man riding the donkey in jeans and a t shirt and eat where the locals ate, not at a massive buffet with 100 other tourists. The food was good though and we got to eat alpaca steak which was very tender and also tried a Peruvian fruit called a Granada (I think) which was delicious, a bit like a passion fruit but orange. Can you see whatīs happened though, we have become spoilt? all these amazing places we ve been to and crazy individual experiences we ve had, we expected it everywhere! I suppose not every country in the world would be as fresh as Laos for instance, but we really wanted to get off the beaten tourist track. We stopped briefly at 4990m, doing anything was a major effort! we were out of breathe from walking and we both had massive headaches, felt sick and tired. We were still munching on the leaves but at that point I was greatful to be in the minibus and not riding a motorbike! We slept in a town called Chivvay, it was at 3500m and we were worried we wouldnt sleep. Our headaches didnt shift even with English paracetamol that Becky, Chris and Sarah let when they came to Thailand. We went to dinner with about 300 others and enjoyed traditional music and dance before we thankfully fell asleep in our hotel. The next day we felt loads better, the headaches had gone and what we thought was congestion in our heads had cleared - our ears were popping again, we had got used to the altitude but not the fact it was 5 in the morning! We regrouped at 6am and set off stopping at another village at 7am where they were in full swing dancing and selling wares....it was 7am! The reason we were up so early was to get into the canyon in time. As the road wound on we saw pre inca and inca farming terraces that stretched up the mountains and had been used for the last 500 years to preserve the melting snow to irrigate crops. This was a beautiful site, Tom said it was like an artists pallette, all the colours together.
We got to the Canyon at about 8am and in the distance spotted 3 Condors, just dots really, circling along the side of the canyon. That was our reason for being there - along with about 1000 others! We waited and watched as they came closer, suddenly one flew right over our heads! It truely was magnificent. It was huge, its wing span seemed at least 3m long as it scanned the crowded for some carrion to eat. A few more came over head and didnt fail to please - definately not something you see everyday!
The Canyon itself was amazing too, its supposed to be the deepest Canyon in the world and really did look like the earth had ripped apart. We got back to Arequipa and overheard some English guy saying that Peru has had its day and that they know exactly how to work the tourists - I think I agree with him. They are doing everything right, it just seems a bit like a play. Even though I am moaning, we did enjoy ourselves, the tour was well run and the guide really knowledgeable.
The next day we went down to Arequipas market and felt like we had found what we were looking for! Sheeps heads
, wierd vegetables, hundreds of different potatoes and hardly another tourist in site! We ate a lovely lunch and bought some veggies and alpaca meat and cooked a lovely stew back at the hotel for less than a pound! We had so much we even fed the hotel owner! We had to stock up....it was time for anothe night bus!
So we left Arica and Chile behind us and took a taxi to the border and passed smoothly into Peru. We arrived in Arequipa 8 hours later and were faced with hundreds of tourists! Not what we were expecting, with its courtyard and cobbled streets it felt like we had landed in a European city not somewhere in Peru! It was a beutiful little place and in the background we could see the 3 volcanoes that surrounded the city. We did some sightseeing the next day and went to the Museo Santuarios Andinos where we learnt about the inca culture and saw the mummmy of a young inca girl who had been sacrificed to the gods over 500 years ago on top of one of the volcanoes. Fascinating stuff and some beautiful artifacts. [PHOTO_ID_L=p1050590.jpg