Arequipa is a ‘nice city’. Not put like that because it’s not nice, far from it. There are a few places which have picked up the ‘nice city’ tag in my mind: Cuenca in Ecuador, Popayan in Colombia, Merida in Mexico, to name the ones I can think of. They are all colonial cities of varying sizes but with a small-ish feel, a really lovely place to sit around and enjoy the sunshine and the people watching, or go for a wander. I had a really nice time in all of them, and they usually are beautiful with lovely buildings to visit and things to see and do.
They are however, difficult to write about. It’s all very well posting pictures of more cathedrals, saying it was great, listing the various sites, but it doesn’t really say much about the place or our time there. There are of course interesting and different aspects to visiting each one, so instead of writing about everything (we were there a fair few nights), I’ll just cover a few of the key bits.
Ok it was beautiful
I do say it about lots of cities but it’s true. We were surrounded by snow capped mountains, fantastic architecture, nice parks. It was just lovely. Not so interesting to read as to see so some pictures:
It’s an easy place to not do much and just soak up the sights but we did manage to make ourselves do a bit more…
We were in Arequipa for the weekend of semana santa (holy week) so there was a bunch of stuff going on. It wasn’t really all that well advertised so it was hard to know where to be when for certain processions etc. but we kind of muddled through. We caught a but of a recreation of the Passion in the main square, which ended with a gruesome crucifixion and lots of wailing of ‘POR QUÉ???’, which was interesting to watch, and drew huge crowds. Even better, Jesus gave a speech at the end thanking everyone for being there which was very nice.
We also popped into the cathedral on Easter Sunday to have a peek before mass started. Seats seemed to be very much a premium and people arrived ages in advance, but we didn’t stay for the actual service.
It was odd being around for this week. Some days (e.g. Good Friday) everything was closed/quiet and we were at a bit of a loss. Others it was lively and cool to be around.
Santa Catalina Monastery
Lonely Planet recommended that this was well worth a visit and, despite being a little sceptical due to a high price of entry, we decided to give it a go after reading a lot of high praise in reviews. It was actually really pretty cool. It used to be home to hundreds of nuns, almost like a city within the city, with streets and houses. It was an honour for rich families to send a daughter there, and they lived in a crazy amount of luxury until the 1800s said no more to that. It’s now got a small group of nuns living there and the rest is a museum, which we had a great tour around. A weirdly interesting place.
One of the main attractions from Arequipa is to visit the Cañon del Colca, one of the deepest canyons in the world and a good place to spot condors. The best option to see this takes two days, and involves a hike in and out of the canyon. If you’ve read my previous blog, you’ll know that at this point I was still not long from having sprained my ankle, so it was already definitely a bad idea for me to do this (although I was considering this). However my decision was made by tripping over and breaking my big toe (probably caused by previous injury making me walk funny), and so the hike was definitely out of the question. This is a self diagnosed break so maybe I’m being dramatic, but almost a month on and it still isn’t working properly… Anyway, Rav went for the hike option and I went for a one day bus tour, so we went our separate ways to see the canyon.
The tour was nice; lots of ins and outs from the bus and some pretty great views. The canyon itself was a small part of the drive, but there were still some awesome viewpoints to be had, and we stopped in some pretty villages/churches too.
The best part of the day was Cruz del Condor, a viewpoint known for being close to condor flight paths. We managed to see a whole lot of juveniles resting on a rock before we even got there, but to see them in flight was the best.
So Arequipa was great. And as a last surprise, as we were buying a bus ticket on to Puno and Lake Titicaca, we bumped into a familiar face! I don’t think she came up in the blog as I did a bit of a speedy writeup of Baños, but we spent a few days with a girl called Nonna from Holland and there she was at the bus station headed exactly where we were. The gringo travelling world is certainly a small one. So, new travel companion in tow, we headed off again onto Puno, our last Peruvian stop.