February 12th, 2008 – by: sissanoel
The Cathedral at the Plaza de Armas, Arequipa.
Lots of walking and culture today. Most of our tour group went rafting and boating, but we´re more arty farty so decided to hit the museums of Arequipa
, of which there are quite a few to chose from. We walked down to the Plaza de Armas with HJ and Yvonne from our group, and walked quickly through the Cathedral. Surprisingly, this is much less ornate that we´ve been used to seeing - very large, but much less gold and ornate decoration. Wandered across the suare to go to the Museo SAntuarinos Andinos, a terrific little musuem dedicated to explaining all about the children sacrificed to the mountains during Incan times. Four mummified children were found in the same area, in various stages of preservation, and one mummy and many funerary items are on display at any one time.
Cloisters at the Santa Catalina convent.
The museum is divided up into rooms and, after watching a 20 minute video explaining how the mummies were found and preserved, a guide takes you through the various rooms giving a very clear explanation as you go. The famous mummy, Juanita, is not on display from January to May, but another is available for viewing - it is absolutely incredible to see how well preserved the skin is, you can even see the creases on the fingers. You tip the guide at the end. This place is well worth a visit for an insight into the local Incan traditions.
After lunch (one of the famous S/6 for 3 courses and drink deals!), we walked up to the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, a Dominican convent still in use today. This one is quite expensive to get into, at S/30, and you if you want a guided tour you then have to tip the guide as well, but it is quite a big site - around 5 acres, in fact.
Noel & Melissa through the window of a nun´s cell, Convent of Santa Catalina.
There is a huge amount of artwork from the Cuscan school, mostly 18th century, plus lots of gold, silver and other artefacts. The many courtyards are like an oasis from the outside world - very quiet, it´s like the walls have a higher invisible barrier that seems to keep all noise out somehow. We walked through lots of the nuns´cells - fascinating to see that even in religious life, there was a division between rich and poor, with the nuns from wealthy families having much bigger, better equipped rooms and even servants (until one mother superior told them they all had to live in the same style - this apparently caused major ructions for a while!). A section of the convent is like a small town, with lots of winding alleys and lovely streets with hanging baskets of colourful flowers, a communal laundry, kitchen and so on.
After all this walking, we then headed back to the hotel for a rest before meeting our guide, Erica, who´ll be taking us on our Colca Canyon tour tomorrow. Didn´t want much to eat, so we went out and walked for blocks to try and find something to take away, just to find a small Chinese restaurant across the road from the hotel that we hadn´t seen before!