28 January 2012

Arequipa, the White City

We got to Arequipa and immediately headed out to the main square to meet my friend from Huanchaco, Jon. Wayne had never met him and of course, with a few pisco sours, and random dinner at Che Café, we all quickly bonded. We laughed about traveling, about drinks, about more. We ended up completely smashed, finding a candy store and discovering the elusive wafer candies that tasted oh-so-delicious when drunk (and delicious the next day when we were sober as well!).

The next day, was our explore Arequipa day. We had a short run (My asthma proves to be problematic at high atltitude.), then went to Monasterio de Santa Catalina, which was really interesting. We learned a lot about the nuns. After, Wayne and I had lunch for 7 soles ( a little more than $2) and then went to Museo Santury to see the frozen body of an Inca maiden – very interested. We learned all about how these select royal children were raised just for the purposes of being sacrificed. Sad. The body was well-preserved due to ice and snow covering the mountain.

Then Wayne and I explored Arequipa, walking around, eating popcorn, helados, popping into various shops and streets, people-watching. It was so nice because for so long, Wayne and I have had such opposite work schedules that we haven’t had time to just chill, to just walk around, hand-in-hand, talking. It was really lovely.

We had dinner again with Jon, eating at the horrible Wild Rover hostel (though the food wasn’t horrible). Then we found a club and got 2 for 1 pisco sours and got wickedly drunk.

Then, we had to get up at 2:45 to get picked up for a two day Canyon de Colca trek. Canyon de Colca is the second deepest canyon in the world. (The first deepest is another in Peru in a more remote region. Also, Americanos, this canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.) We squished into the back of a minivan where I promptly fell asleep and Wayne stared out the window and tried to sleep. We arrived in a small town at a freezing restaurant where we ate bread and cheese and jam and coca tea for breakfast, drove a little more, then stopped an amazing lookout where we saw condors and some other animals. We drove a little more and then began day one of our trek.

We climbed down to the bottom of the canyon, which took a few hours.  The soil was dry and rocky and the footing could be slippery and I fell on my butt and another hiker’s shoe at one point (Better than landing in mule poop.).

When we got to the bridge at the bottom, we waited as our guide instructed. And waited. And waited. Our group was only eight plus our guide, and the first six of us waited. Apparently, two of the girls had problems – one had knee problems and downhill was problematic for her, and the other was afraid of heights. I’m not sure why they thought it was a good idea for them to sign up, but we ended up spending a lot of time waiting (and less time in the pools!). Then, we hiked another hour to our lunch spot, where the food was actually decent. There were lots of avocado groves we walked through, so of course we had delicious chunks of avocado with lunch.

We walked an easier hike, mostly flat and down, passing agave and aloe vera and all these beautiful places whose names I don’t know. We walked on this tiny single-track trail that was the only way to get around the towns – there were no roads. You had to hike many kilometers over rocks with steep ups and downs and cactuses on other sides, with just mules as your method of transport – and you had to lead them so it’s not like you got to relax. Our guide told us some interesting stories until he had to go back to help the others in our group.

We waited at the next bridge for another hour or two. The sun sunk low in the sky as we waited. But then the all arrived and we headed to Paradiso.

Paradiso had warm water pools – heated by a waterfall high up that was fed by a rather warm lake. The sun was setting but Wayne and I jumped in the pool anyway and swam around for a little bit. Then we went to our room to change and I noticed something odd on the wall, something I had never seen before.

“Uh, Wayne. Is that a scorpion?”

Wayne looked at the wall and just stared. And stared.

We went to our guide. He told the property owner. He followed us to our room. He looked at the wall and then smashed it with a tissue. Just like you’d kill a little bug at home.

We were a little nervous so we put all our stuff in our bags, worried about bugs. Then we ate dinner and went to bed. Wayne and I were a little nervous and slept tight, holding each other and I dreamed about scorpions. When we woke up, we were both alive, unbit, but we had a new scorpion on our wall. We quickly dressed and prepared to climb up the canyon.

Our guide estimated three hours. From the start, it was a difficult climb, my calves aching at the beginning but soon getting used to it. My asthma struggled, and I used my inhaler as the altitude increased. We got to the top in two hours, an hour less than our guide said we should climb it in. And then we waited. And waited. We grew colder and colder, no longer moving, the sun not yet fully over the mountains. We ate our snacks and moaned with hunger and cold.

We were waiting for a slow German hiker, and a South Korean guy who brought his entire backpack – all 17 kilos of it! – on the hike. They were having a tough time. The two Dutch girls who had problems the prior day were taking mules up. Just when Wayne was proposing to save the day by running down to help them, our guide came up. He told us they would be a lot longer, and gave us directions to our breakfast restaurant. We went into Miriam’s which had plastic lawn chairs and nonfunctioning water in the bathroom, but Miriam served us rolls and eggs and butter and marmalade and we put the coca leaves in water which helped us with the altitude and recovery.

After everyone hiked in, they ate and we headed out to an amazing lookout point. Then we went to the hot springs – many in our group were too lazy/poor to head down, but Wayne, a Swedish backpacker, and I fully enjoyed the hot pools – our favourite pool was outdoors and at 40 degrees Celsius.
 We ended up befriending these two old Peruvian guys who shared their drinks with us and told their stories. Wayne and I ordered pisco sours which we drank in the water, stretching our legs, enjoying the day.

After we returned to the bus, we went to a buffet, which surprisingly had vegetarian options. Then we stopped and saw some lamas and alpacas and took photos, and headed back to Arequipa.

We were tired. We showered, flipped through our Lonely Planet and tried to make plans. We grew frustrated, and headed out to dinner. I had an Arequipa Sour, which was papaya juice instead of lime. It was pretty incredible.

And then we got back to our room and cuddled up together, sleeping until it was time for one more run in the beautiful city of Arequipa.


danfromnh said...

Great pics Cherie. Wish I wasn't such a homeboy :)

V said...

you're going to have to make me pisco sours the next time I see you, and those arequipa sours sound divine, too!