Desert Storm

Arequipa Travel Blog

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Condor 1
To my surprise the entire Peruvian coastline is a desert.  I was expecting lush green mountains similar to what I found in the Andes of Ecuador but there are just hours and hours of gravely sand.  We passed through many dusty little shanty towns along the way.  Almost all of buildings have concrete and brick walls with long bits of rebar point at the sky on all corners.  Most of the buildings in the towns have straw roofs.  It appeared as though everyone who decided to build a house ran out of money just before they finished.  Our ever noligible and entertaining guide, Nat, informed us that the majority of the buildings are unfinished because they do not have to pay property taxes on a partially completed building.  The locals took this to the extreme and have not finished anything.
  Even chain gas stations and pretty decent hotels have rebar jutting out at the sky.

Central Arequipa was a nice change of scenery.  A combination of tourists money and the fact that most of the buildings were constructed by spanish colonists meant that the town center was very clean and charming.  The 500 year old Monastery was the highlight for me.  In early colonial life the second daughter of every family was sent to a Monastery when they were about 12.  They were never allowed to leave nor talk with anyone from the outside for their entire lives and they were not even aloud to learn how to read.. because they were women.  The Monastery I visited was one of the largest and most elegant of any in the world.
  All building were either bright royal blue, blood red, or burnt orange.  It made for some great photos.

Wednesday was our first chance for us to hit up some bars as a group.  Calle San Francisco houses many lively pubs and clubs.  We ended up at Deja Vu where the local band rocked out to north american hard rock.  The half and half drinks flowed easily as the rock turned to techno.  The local dudes are relentless in their efforts to hook up with the fair skinned tourists.  A few of the girls were willing to entertain and had no problem finding company.  There was one muscley peruvian guy who was particularly slimy who ended up swinging his shirt over his head while grinding with a girl from my tour on a table.  Personally I stuck with the tourists.

We took an overnight side trip to the second highest canyon in the world, the Cocala.  The trip gave us our first taste of real altitude.  The highest point was a dizzying 4,900 meters.  There was one puker, some tingely limbs, and lots of headaches.  Personally I did not notice much other than a little shortage of breath.  Everyone had there coca tea and several chewed the coca leaves which has been used to fight the effects of altitude sickness since pre inca times.  The canyon itself was a little disappointing to me because I was expecting something that looked like the grand canyon.  This was more like two mountains side by side with more gradual slopes with a really deep valley.  The main reason that people visit the canyon is to see the heaviest flying birds in the world and this day did not disappoint.
  The 3 meter wingspaned condors gracefully road warm updrafts to the delights of hundreds of tourists.  There were a couple instances when the incan gods were no more than 5 meters overhead.

Friday night in Arequipa got a little messy.  Eight of us staggered out of Deja Vu at 4:30 and had some sketchy BBQ snacks on our way back to the campsite.  The long journey to Cusco the following day required that we had an early breakfast at 5:00.  So it was straight from the bar, to breakfast, packing up the tent, and on the bus to Cusco.
priome says:
Good to see you're back taking photos. Did you get receive the battery charger?
Posted on: Sep 05, 2007
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Condor 1
Condor 1
condor 2
condor 2
photo by: halilee