Arequipa - the white city

Arequipa Travel Blog

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he next day we caught a bus to Arequipa, the white city. Buses in Peru are really quite luxurious. They put our coaches in Australia to shame.
There are dozens of companies all vying for your custom, but we stayed with one called Ormeno which is one of the largest and we figured it would be the most reliable. This company has a service called Royal Class (other companies have something similar). Think something a touch better than business class in an aeroplane. More of an armchair really, that reclines quite a way back till you're almost flat.The buses are big double decker modern Volvos, and snacks served by a hostess are included in the price. The buses have videos playing, and music (sometimes not a good thing if you want to sleep).
There are toilets on board so they don't generally stop which makes them fast. The best thing is that they are not very expensive. Our 5 hour trip cost less than $20. So it is not necessary to take the chicken buses unless you want to, or are really watching the pennies.

Arequipa is an attractive city with the huge active volcano 'El Misti' looming over it. The city is right on a fault line and has seen a few earthquakes in its time (the last one being 2001). It is called the 'white city' as many of its buildings are made from the white stone found in the area. It has a beautiful main square, which is lined on all sides by graceful colonial buildings including a huge cathedral.
Nearby is the Colca Canyon. At its deepest it is 3300m to the floor of the canyon, making it the second deepest in the world.
The deepest is only 150m deeper and is also in Peru, 200km away.

We took a trip out to the Colca Canyon on one of the days we were there. We left at the ungodly hour of 3am in order to get to the canyon by 8am. Huge condors glide on the thermal air currents of the canyon and this is the best time to see them. They are huge birds with a 3m wing span but when you see them circling in the massive canyon, it is hard to appreciate their size. Later when we made a stop at a small town, we saw a local village lady with a sad looking captured Condor (with a chain around its leg). She was waiting for tourists to come by in the hope that they would want to have their photo taken with it for a fee. She also had a llama with a chain around it's neck. I'd noticed a warning in the Lonely Planet about people doing this, and I don't think she generally had much luck as she didn't even ask us if we were interested when we walked by.
Close up to the condor, I was really struck with the size of the bird. No doubt it was wishing it was circling out in the canyon too.

The countryside around Arequipa is very wild. Its basically dry and dusty desert with only a few scrubby trees. Interestingly though, we saw many Eucalypts, introduced from Australia for their ability to grow just about anywhere and used for shade, fuel, and to prevent soil erosion. The region also has active volcanos, some of the deepest canyons in the world, and hot springs. Terraces made in Inca (and pre inca) times are cut into the slopes of the valleys for farming.
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photo by: halilee