Tues 26th June
I arrive in Arequipa early, around 0630 after a night bus from Cusco. Oltursa service wasn’t too bad but nowhere near as comfortable as Cruz del Sur. I did however sleep most of the way.
I get to my hostel around 7am and luckily my room is available so I can check in straight away. I book a city walking tour for later that morning and fall asleep. I wake in time to shower and head out.
On the way to the meeting point, I slip in what I thought was water but it seems someone has watered some street plants with a vat of oil! I meet to nice people Kim (from the States) and Amber (from the
UK) off the walking tour by asking for a wet wipe to clean myself up!
We meet our guide, get given a cocoa tea and we set off.
Arequipa we are told was invaded by the Incas and apparently got its name when they didn’t want to leave and asked Inca Mayta Capac if they could stay, he replied Ari qhipay – which meant yes.
As other cities in the area celebrate their independence from Spain, Arequipa’s biggest celebration is its founding by the Spanish. One of the things that stood out from other Peruvian cities was Arequipa’s explicit and public commitment to the Spanish crown. As a result, the Spanish Monarchy gave the city the title of Faithful by Royal Charter in 1805.
As we move through the area, we pass a church with a green cross outside with different artefacts on it
I’ve seen several of these around Peru and not really thought much about it but now it’s explained, does make perfect sense. When the Spanish invaded, they told the Incas and local people that their rituals of human and animal offerings and sacrifices were wrong and barbaric. Seeing Jesus nailed to a cross seemed hugely contradictory to these people and this is why these crosses exist
We walk through some local tambo houses which aren’t in keeping with the rest of the local architecture and despite being quite nice now
were actually built for labourers and merchants working on the river.
We visit Mundo Alpaca where we see a woman at work weaving, get to see and feed some alpacas
and learn about the different breeds of alpaca and the quality of their wool – a vincuña alpaca is only sheeted 4 times in its life yielding a total of 1kg in wool. A vincuña scarf would set u back about £1000!
Next is a place that used to be an orphanage for girls and a school.
Following an earthquake in the 1860s it became a prison and is now an artisan market
The best bit about here thou are the views of the surrounding volcanoes – Chachani and Misti – both of big interest to me as u can hike these!
In the 1960s – people didn’t read much. 4 South American people changed that….including one famous Peruvian author – Mario Vargas Llosa. We visit a posh European house that is an ode to him.
Arequipa is full of beautiful houses
and is one of 2 cities voted in Forbes magazine that you that must visit. This is based on landscape, architecture and gastronomy.
Medellin is the other. Glad I can say I’ve now done them both!
Arequipa buildings contain a lot of Baroque architecture and influences
It is nicknamed the White City as nearly everything is built out of sillar – a white volcanic stone. Houses were at one point painted in fashionable colours but a ban was put on this in the 20th century. Arequipa historical centre is now also a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000 but a huge earthquake in 2001 destroyed many of its historical buildings.
One of the towering sites here is not the amazing buildings, but the impressive almost perfectly cone shaped volcano. Over 600 years ago when this erupted, almost wiping out the entire city…rather than worship, praise and provide offerings, the local people decided to stop and ignore it. It was a volcano with no name until the Spanish named it Misti.
Arequipa has suffered many terrible earthquakes and not many of its amazing buildings have lived to tell the tale. Most, including Iglesia La Compañía have had to have been rebuilt several times.
Last but not least, we arrive in probably the most famous part of the city – Plaza de Armas which houses the amazing cathedral. This was built in the mid 1500s but has a a turbulent history with natural disaster. An earthquake in 1583 reduced it to rubble. In 1590 it was decided to rebuild it but a huge volcano eruption in 1600 when it was almost complete destroyed part of it. On rebuilding again, another earthquake in 1604 completely destroyed their efforts. Over the next 200 years, there were a further 4 earthquakes and a fire that caused some damage but nothing major until 1868 when another struck causing the collapse of the towers and other parts. This happened again only as recently as 2001 but was rebuild from 2002. It is quite a magnificent building with a huge history.
Arequipa is an interesting city with a mix of people and cultures and an interesting history. It has a long standing history of animosity with Lima especially after the occupation ofLima during the War of the Pacific where Arequipa was named the capital of Peru by Lizardo Montero in 1882. The people of Arequipa have felt a bit cut off from the rest of the country resulting in a strong and united bond between the mix of cultures that reside here. This can be seen in a lot of the artwork around the city and also in its food.
We end the tour at a viewpoint above the tourist info office which gives magnificent views over the square and the volcanoes behind it.
Having chatted to Kim and Amber throughout the tour (these guys know each other from Sucre), Kim invites me to join them for lunch. We decide to head off to one of the local picanteria’s mentioned to us by our guide. We get there and several are closed. A local taxi driver tells us of another so we go with him only to find it’s tourist restaurant and massively expensive. Starving, we go in search of another. With the help of a policeman we find another which too is closed! Must be something about Tuesday’s! We eventually go somewhere but it isn’t that great!
We head back to the square for a drink overlooking the main square for sunset
where we discuss what we want to do whilst here. Kim is sporting a tshirt of interest – she has scaled Huayna Potosi in Bolivia! Wow – respect to this woman who is marginally younger than my mum! I know this is one challenge I am not fit enough to complete. But there is Chachani….staring down at us as we sit there having a drink. A challenge I can do that will take me over the 6000m mark and all 3 of us are game! As we talk of if we’ll summit or not, Kim draws a picture of the 3 of us holding hands at the top
She tells me to look at this every time I have doubt about summiting! The 3 of us are keen so we go off in search of a reputable company to enable this. We visit quite a few but none strike me as that good. There isn’t a that much info on the internet that helps either. After some recommendations from a closing tourist info office, we go again and finally end up at Naturaleza Activa. Good TripAdvisor scores, they offer a 3 man tent and their equipment appears much better than others we’ve seen. The guy goes for the hard sell, telling us that a private tour would be much better. Despite what we have been told by other companies about maximum group sizes of 5, this is usually a lie. Having had issues with altitude already, being at 6000m, I don’t want the pressure of being in a big group. After having an awful guide for her Potosi trek and not summiting, Amber too is up for the private tour. With Kim in agreement too and a haggle to knock off 50 soles we book the tour there and then!!!
After a hectic day with 2 fabulous people who I feel I’ve got to know so well in only a day, we head to Pasta Canteen for a spot of dinner which was lovely but I did think portion size was a bit small….