After so much time (sorry it’s been a month! I’ll try to catch up by the end of the week…), I feel overwhelmed by the task at hand: to share with the world the fantastic and absurd adventures of our spring break in Peru.
It starts on September 9th in the Santiago airport as we await our 4 am flight to Arica, the northernmost city in Chile, from which we plan to cross the border into Peru. The flight was lovely, except I missed out on the little cookies LAN hands out instead of lame snacks like nuts (thanks, Piñera!). Anyhow, upon arriving in Arica, we had no time to process where we were before being swarmed by the taxi, colectivo, and bus drivers that stood around yelling their destination and animatedly pursuing their next customers. We were swept away to a colectivo to join a young German man, Temme (we’re now friends on facebook), in the journey across the border.
We arrived in Tacna, Peru at the bus station, bought tickets to Arequipa, the first city on our list, and had a bite to eat with our new friend, Temme. By this point, as drinking tap water is out of the question in Peru, Charles and Emily began their steady decline to dehydration-induced delerium (more on that to come), and I ate an entire fish. Sliced in half, battered, fried, head, tail, and all. Or better said, I ate around its bones.
Arequipa, a city you don’t want to miss
The bus ride to Arequipa was not particularly interesting or picturesque; much of northern Chile and southern Peru is desert. The transformation from desert to the second-most-populated city in Peru started with an unimpressive thread of water in a river bed, which quickly developed into a lush valley and POOF! White buildings, women walking around in traditional clothing and carrying babies on their backs with woven rectangles of cloth, and three distant, snow-capped volcanoes that cut into a perfect blue sky. We made our way to the Plaza de Armas, found our hostel, and I quickly fell in love with this city. If you have the chance to be in Peru, go to Arequipa.
We spent the night in a hostel very close to everything we wanted to see: Plaza de Armas, the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, and the artisanal market near San Francisco.
Plaza de Armas: Every city that’s ANY city has one. But Arequipa does it better with buildings made of sillar, a gorgeous, white, igneous rock that is used in the city’s remarkable architecture. We arrived in the evening to see the Plaza lit up and shining… the sillar buildings seemed to carry their own glow. (We weren’t expecting to see around 300 pigeons there the next day, nor did we expect Charles intense hatred for them.) We decided to search around for “authentic” food. After wandering the shopping center in search of authentic Peruvian cuisine, we found that if we didn’t want to eat half of a chicken with French fries, we’d have to settle for some quasi-pizza place… but it had chicha morada = legit.
El Monasterio de Santa Catalina–The next morning, we woke early to beat the tourists to the monastery. After four hours of exploring the enchanting town behind those walls, Emily and I had some serious conversations about becoming nuns… As you can imagine, for three college students to spend that much time in a nunnery, it is either a fantastic site, or they spent the entire time acting out both Sister Acts from start to finish. This is a must-see.
Mercado Artesanal: The biggest regret I have from this trip is not buying more things in Arequipa. We assumed that there would be more opportunities to buy things like sweaters, hats, and mittens from alpaca wool, but this market turned out to be much better than the very touristy ones we encountered in Cusco. It took a while to get used to the expectation that we barter down prices, but when in doubt, Emily and I could always call Charles over… he has a way with these things.
Next to come, the bus ride from hell.
* Hey! I noticed those words start with the same sound! I think that’s interesting.