Updated: Jan 15
Thursday September 9 Arequipa
Arequipa is the colonial-era capital of Peru’s Arequipa Region. Framed by 3 volcanoes, it's filled with baroque buildings constructed from sillar, a white volcanic stone. Its historic center is anchored by the Plaza de Armas, a stately main square flanked on its north by the 17th-century neoclassical Basilica Cathedral, which houses a museum displaying religious objects and artwork. ― Google Elevation: 7,661′ Founded: August 15, 1540 Area: 1,180 mi² Population: 1.008 million (2017)
We finally got to the Arequipa bus station at 9:30 am. I was glad to get off the bus. I was hot and it was stuffy. Martin found us a cab to the hotel (house) where we are staying. It’s called Chez Julie. Julie is super sweet and showed us around the house and our room. She made us a fantastic breakfast. We had eggs, bread, butter, and her homemade strawberry jam. She served us papaya and passionfruit juice, coffee and tea. It was a nice meal after sleeping all night on the bus.
We cleaned up and rested until 1pm. Martin took us to the center of town. I liked the square better than Lima’s. Mainly the architecture. It seemed grand! The main church () was spectacular. You could see how the square was set up to do business from way back in (). We walked by another church just off the square on our way to a huge market. Larry bought a big block of cheese, and I found some sweet potato chips. We walked up and down many rows of vendors and at one point Martin and I lost Larry. Larry was picking out rolls for his cheese. We purchased 6 mandarin oranges for our tour tomorrow. It’s always good to have some snacks. We need to be up at 2:30am to take a 3-hour bus ride to Colca Canyon to see Condors. Last place we stopped before heading back to our hotel, was the Santuarios Andinos Museum. (LOOK UP) We saw the artifacts from graves they found in the top of () volcano nearby. The best and creepiest thing was the frozen mummy Juanita. She’s one of the best intact mummies and they have her in a large freezer on display. They allowed pictures in all the other rooms but not in Juanita’s.
Friday September 10 Arequipa to Colca Canyon
We needed to be up by 2:30am. I actually woke up at 1:40am with a bit of a headache. Arequipa is at (7,661) feet elevation. I packed my cocoa leaves for the day. It was chilly so I brought warmer clothes as we were heading up in the high mountain. We met our tour bus at the main square at 3:15. We knew we're going to see the condors and other activities in the towns on the way back. We didn’t know much really. We left Arequipa at 4 am as we picked up other folks at their hotels. Mostly all of them were Spanish speaking. One older guy spoke Spanish and one young girl. The man was friendly, and we had a few conversations throughout the day. Larry and I both went back to sleep for the 3-hour ride. The guide was a good friend of Martin, CiCi or Cecilia. She spoke a little English to us, but I think we missed out a lot of what she said plus we never knew where we were going. We never knew how long we would be at each stop either.
When we made our first stop at the volcano look out spot, I my head was still hurting. I started to think it was altitude sickness. (LOOK) The mountains were in now were up to 122250 feet. This is the highest we have been up to yet. We waited to take our medicine which was a mistake. I started to chew on my cocoa leaves and that relieved the headache temporarily. If I stopped chewing, the headache came back. We raced around at every stop. They (the driver and guide) kept yelling at us ‘Vamos’ as we were always the last ones on board. We only got 20 minutes to see the condors which really disappointed us. I had to walk down hill for 10 minutes to the restroom, so my time was really short. When I walked back up hill, I thought I was going to die. My head was pounding, my heart was racing, and I could barely catch my breath. It was so hard, and I clearly was having a bad time with the altitude.
The day got worse. We had a breakfast of one cup of tea, juice and 2 pieces of bread with butter. We had less than 30 minutes to eat and stretch our legs. Then back on the bus. ‘vamos’ We made another stop for zip lining- we didn’t want that…and it cost more money. We had to wait for folks to take their turns. We tried to find some birds but then we had to leave. ‘Vamos” Next they took us to the river () and some thermal baths. We had no idea, so we had no swimwear…. plus, it cost more money. $5 soles We asked to go in to look but they wanted to charge us. Nope! Larry and I hiked up a steep mountain to get a better look at the canyon. We saw some birds that looked like regular sparrows. We saw a small restaurant and decided to go share a beer. We had just had a sip and it was time to leave again. ‘vamos’ Back in the tour bus. It was like this all day. Larry and I realized that we both hate this type of tour. It just isn’t the way we like to do things. We made a stop at Chivy village 2 times in the square. Once going and once coming back. We all had to buy a Colca Sour for $6 so the tour guide could take our picture. I tried to act like I was having fun. The Spanish speakers were all having a blast. I felt so bad that I couldn’t even fake it. Near the end of the tour, I didn’t even feel well enough to get out. I missed out seeing flamingos, Alpacas, Llamas and (Pacinos). Larry took pictures, thank goodness. I didn’t tell him how bad I was feeling. Why? He couldn’t do anything to help me. They stopped for lunch at a buffet. Breakfast was included but lunch we needed to pay for. It was $35 each! Ridiculous. I was pissed because it was our only choice. Larry ate but I did not. I was disappointed at the way this tour worked out for us. They stayed at the restaurant way too long. I just wanted to get back to the hotel and rest. I wanted to feel better, be alone, be quiet and just be better. It was a challenging day.
We finally arrived in Arequipa at 6pm. What a long painful day. Sun was going down and the traffic was horrible. The city is 1.5 million peeps…..they were all driving right now. It took another 30 minutes before we got dropped off. I was hoping to see our street along the way because I wanted to bail out early. We didn’t get dropped off at the square and had to walk up 3 blocks, up a hill and up some stairs. I literally felt like I was going to die. Larry finally got concerned. It was nice. We found Martin at the tour office and went to find a cab. At the hotel, I had some tea and ate some almonds. I started taking our altitude medicine right away. I went to bed at 8:30 pm and was able to sleep until 8am. Waking up without a headache was a dream come true!