2 Days in Arequipa, Peru

September 20-21, 2015

We arrived in Arequipa after a long and very uncomfortable 12-hour bus ride. We figured we would save on travel costs by booking an 'econociva' bus...this bus had no air conditioning, narrow seats that hardly reclined, an unhygienic bathroom, and a bad smell. We have been spoiled by our previous over-night bus experiences on the 'excluciva' bus­the more luxurious bus provided by the same bus company, Civa.

Feeling slightly hung-over from lack of sleep, we tried to navigate the taxi system. Arequipa is the first city we have been to that has set taxi prices from the bus station. We took a cab to Plaza de Armas, a piazza in the middle of Arequipa’s historical center. From here, we walked around the city until finding our hostel.

After settling into our dorm style hostel room and taking a brief and much needed nap, we wandered to San Camilio market. We enjoyed some fruit and casually strolled around the market. We observed the lack of refrigeration, and in my opinion lack of sanitation at the meat and fish counters—bare hands, bloodied aprons, and buzzing flies.

From the market we decided to check out the Museo Santuarios Andinos. Our first museum of the trip. We were lured to this museum because of its exhibit starring the "Ice Maiden," the well-preserved remains of a 500-year-old Incan girl sacrificed to the gods. We saved 20 soles on entry to the museum thanks to our student ID's ;). Entrance to the museum starts with a 20 minute informational video about finding and excavating Incan relics and mummies in the Andes Mountains. The ice maiden, or Juanita as she has come to be called, was found on the summit of a volcano nearby Arequipa.  She was chosen to be sacrificed and lead up the mountain accompanied by spiritual leaders of the community. It is truly remarkable the trek that these Incans made. Chewing Coca leaves during tier trek helped to curb their appetite and give them energy to journey to the summit. After a ritualistic ceremony, Juanita was killed by a blow to the head and buried in a grave surrounded by gold, shell, and ceramic artifacts. Because of the environmental conditions of the mountain Juanita’s body was well preserved. She was one of several children whose bodies were found on top of the mountains. After watching the informational video we followed a guide through the museum and saw vases, textiles, figurines, shoes, and clothing all amazingly preserved by the mountain climate. We were able to see Juanita’s small body, shaped in the fetal position with her skin, hair and nails still intact. It was fascinating and eerie to see her so close! She was held in a refrigerator-like machine to keep the humidity and temperature at a controlled level to further preserve her body.

For dinner that night, Scott did some research and founded the highest rated restaurant in Arequipa. Most importantly, this restaurant, Zig Zag, offered Alpaca steak—a delicacy Scott has been searching for since we've been in Peru. We split a bottle of wine (and definely felt is heightened effects with the altitude), a cheese plate, a salad, a meat plate with steak, alpaca, duck and potatoes, and two desserts­ chocolate mouse and an apple tart. I took enjoyment in being served in the style of a fancy restaurant­ sampling the wine before being poured a glass, bread to start the meal with butter and a pesto dipping sauce, oil and vinegar on the table­ the little things. It was nice to be spoiled for a night.

Dessert at Zig Zag in Arequipa, Peru

Meat Plate at Zig Zag in Arequipa, Peru

We started our second day in Arequipa by finalizing plans for a 3 day, 2-night trek of the Colca Canyon. Colca Canyon is acclaimed for being the destination to see condors and for being even deeper than the Grand Canyon (twice as deep). We shopped around for the best price with several tour agencies in the area and choose a tour for 150 soles per person (47 USD). This price did not include entrance to the park, 70 soles per person. We will be picked up from our hostel at 3am and arrive at the canyon at 6am. Should be fun!

We spent the rest of the day exploring the city and getting lost on our way to look out point of the city. We stopped for lunch and tried a local specialty, rocoto relleno­ diced meat cooked inside a spicy pepper. I found it a little spicy but Scott enjoyed it. After lunch we went to monastery Santa Catalina. It is huge, a city inside a city, almost like a fortress. It was built in the 1500s’ but had been restored many times due to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. We were able to explore the grounds—we saw some of the sleeping quarters, kitchens, infirmary, and places of worship. The rooms were pretty dark and made from some…not very inviting. Nuns still live here today in a small area blocked off from tourists.

View of nearby mountains in Arequipa, Peru

For dinner I got a meat pizza and Scott finally got his fried guinea pig.  He said it was much better than he anticipated and looks forward to getting it again.

Fried Guinea Pig (Cuy) in Arequipe, Peru