Arequipa valley is surrounded by 2 snow capped mountains and 1 volcano. The Plaza de Armas (main square) has a huge Cathedral and is flanked by old colonial buildings either side and opposite. With palm trees surrounding the three-tier fountain in the middle - pretty special! The little figure at the top of the fountain is called a to-too-to-to, which is Quechua for Trumpet player. In Quechua, (one of the ancient Peruvian languages) they used to name things by how they sound. Can you guess what they call a baby…… yup…. Waa-Waa!
Some of the lovely food we had:
After our 2/3 hr Spanish classes in the mornings we would find something to do in the afternoons (besides our Spanish homework!).
Our last afternoon in Arequipa was spent visiting the suberb of Yanahuara where we had stunning views of the city and El Misti volcano. There is a church in the small plaza and because it was Saturday, it was ‘one in - one out’ with weddings!!
We then strolled to a lovely garden restaurant to sample some typical Arequipena food. Kyle had Rocoto Relleno; stuffed pepper with meat, cheese and potatoes and I had a stuffed avocado with chicken and veg. Very tasty.
And again, there was a wedding reception happening so it was fun to people watch and listen to the loud cheesy Peruvian pop songs – a few of which we are very familiar with already! Catchy!
Some more pictures…
- Santa Teresa Monastery
- The Plaza by night
Colca Canyon/ Canyon de Colca
On Sunday we woke at 2.30am to be picked up at 3 by bus to be driven to the Colca Canyon – one of the world’s deepest canyons- 3191m! We were to do a 3 day trek. We were certainly a little nervous as we are complete novices when it comes to trekking and for those of you that know both of our extensive injury histories – this was perhaps a little risky for us! Nevertheless we went for it!
It was about a 3 and a half hour journey to Chivay (the provincial capital at the head of the canyon). Here we paid the unexpectedly high price of the tourist ticket (s/70 each - £15) – a little worrying as that used up quite a bit of our cash straight away. We then stopped off in a pretty square where the local girls and woman were dancing their local dance in a circle around the central fountain.
Surrounding them were vendors selling lovely alpaca goods – me in heaven – finding it very hard to not buy lots; with such cheap prices I have to remind myself that it’s more about space in our bags than money… There were also ladies with massive eagles for photos.
Then on a little further for breakfast. The first place we had visited where Coca leaves were offered alongside the other teas and coffee. Kyle got stuck in! The leaves are supposed be help with altitude sickness and digestion.
After breakfast we trucked on further (still on the bumpy bus) to Cruz del Condor – a stunning viewpoint – unfortunately very touristy where Andean condors can be seen – alas none spotted here.
We started our trek at Cabanaconde around 10am. There were 11 of us in the group plus Luce, our guide who is originally from the little village we had breakfast at. We had a Dutch couple, an old Arequipean couple, 2 girls from Canada, 2 German guys and a German girl travelling on her own. It was ALL downhill from the top to the bottom of the canyon… ‘Easy’? I hear you say?! Downhill is actually really quite tough! Not on the lungs but on the legs and especially the knees! The older couple really struggled with this.
Once finally at the bottom, we had a little rest and dipped our feet in the river before heading on.
A beast of a hill was waiting next where another member of our group got affected- the terrain and the hot sun was quite a test. It then flattened out through some lush greenery on the way to our evening accommodation in San Juan de Chuccho.
We tasted our first alpaca meat for lunch – went down nicely after our 7km hike! We chilled out for the rest of the day and met another smaller group staying there too – MORE Germans(!) a girl – Krista, whom we had met briefly already in our hostel in Arequipa, Oliver (aka Funny guy – absolutely hilarious!) and an Austrian couple- super fit! Our newly combined group wandered to this ‘pool’ that we had discovered earlier with perfectly crystal clear water in the forest. We decided to go for a swim, however when we got there we discovered that the water had been drained by half and definitely looked a lot less appealing with algae and other conspicuous looking things! The boys and one of the German girls however braved it whilst we all stood around and watched!
Our huts were very basic but all we needed and had a luxuriously late breakfast at 8am the next morning – bliss! Toffee pancakes :)
This day was mixed terrain for about 6km – up, down and flat.
On the path along the way there had been a bit of a landslide which was a bit dodgy to cross!
Kyle discovered a new technique for going downhill to avoid too much pressure on the knees and the blister on his little toe – going backwards at a bit of a jog! Making people laugh on the way was an extra bonus!
We also made a new friend along the way. A dog we named Jeffery! We picked him up at a place about a third of the way there and he continued with us all the way to our destination! So cute! He latched onto us when we arrived and followed us to our room and lay down in our doorway.
Our hostel, ‘Paraiso’ was situated in a beautiful oasis. It was stunning, with a swimming pool built in between two huge boulders, a lovely garden space with wonderful flowers, volleyball area, hammocks where you can laze and hear the sound of the river below; all surrounded by the canyon…ahhh…..would have loved to have stayed longer!
The afternoon was a chilled one again, resting our now very achy muscles!
More traditional food for lunch and dinner
and our after dinner tea that night was lemongrass – delicious. It was early to bed as absolutely knackered. There was no electricity in this place so we had a little candle by our bed and our head torch came in useful for the first time of the trip!
The alarm went off at 4.30am and we set off at 5.15 for our BIG final climb – back up the canyon!
Quite a few tourists opt to ride mules back up the canyon but not us.
We woke with very sore bodies so it was twice as hard to start but after a while our bodies soon warmed up.
We both climbed it in just under 3 hours. It was hard graft.
Once into the climb, groups separated and it felt at times that we the only ones on the canyon.
When we finally made it to the top it was such an incredible sense of achievement.
Unfortunately though it was not over! We discovered that there was another 15 minutes to walk to breakfast! That was difficult as mentally and physically we had finished!
During breakfast, we realised to our amazement that Jeffery was there! He had walked all this way! A true mountain dog.
Back on the bus…ahhhhh!! No more walking! We had various stops on the way back
and finally saw some condors which was great!
For lunch the majority of the group went to a local restaurant for the ‘menu’ – soup, segunda dish and a drink all for s/6 (£1.50). It was really popular with locals and tourists and the old waiter/owner was serving tables on his own. He was very cute; small and round with his shoulders up by his ears – he was super stressed – running all over the place, back and forth from the kitchen – providing real entertainment for us! Kyle temporally became a waiter when he helped clear the tables into the kitchen, much to the relief of the old man.
Returning back, we climbed high to just under 5000m through the bleak and very cold altiplano with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and volcanoes.
Then, through the Reserva Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca where we saw the vicunas, llamas and alpacas.
We arrived back home in Arequipa very dusty and in need of showers just before 6pm – completely gone! A few of us shamefully went straight in search of a McDonalds mmmm….. we deserved it!