So This is South America

Arequipa Travel Blog

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At the airport casting off with my enormous backpack.

I left Sunday in the wee hours of the morning. My daughter Sarah dropped me off. One of the perks of having a teen daughter. She can finally chauffer me around for once. Sarah walked with me into the airport and I had a vague guilty feeling since this is the first time I have traveled while Sarah is home and not visiting her dad in Florida. When she dropped me off at the airport she stood and watched me go through security looking all sad and dejected. I miss her already.

But the good news is I made it to Peru, albeit late due to an airplane engine issue, but I arrived in Lima around 1 am on Monday. My sister, Chris, had arranged for a pick up to our hostel and I was so relieved to see someone holding a sign with my name.

Together again after 13 months!
I wasn´t sure with the delay if he would be there and the exit at the airport was chaos, with scads of people holding signs and shouting names and rushing me to ask if I want a taxi. My command of the Spanish language is limited to simple phrases like "I´m sorry" and "Good Gorning"and "I want some milk" and "I love Taco Bell" and the few swear words I picked up from my Hispanic friends growing up, so I was thankful that I didn´t have to negotiate cab fare.

I got to the hostel and Chris was waiting for me. It was awesome to see her since I haven´t seen her since May of 2007. I got a little misty for a minute there but it really felt like I had only just seen her yesterday. We sat up talking into the wee hours catching up until I finally faded and passed out.

My first view of the South American Pacific ocean, from Lima.

Monday when we got up we decided to check out the city of Lima. All of the guidebooks and websites I have read are pretty hard on this city. Most of them say that a day is all you need to see all this city has to offer. I am afraid I agree. Lima is dirty and crowded and run down. I don´t mind hanging out in a city like this, but I came to Peru to see the country, kind of do the eco-tourism thing, and Lima and I had enough of each other after a day. We will be back here on our way out of Peru and at that time I am hoping to hook up with a local I have been talking to on this site and maybe she can show us her Lima. I am sure it will be better then.

Anyway, Chris and I decided to head down to the Centro area, where there is shopping and a walking mall and lots of other gringos.

The buses in Lima.
After figuring out, with much help from locals, which bus to get on, we settled in for an hour long bus ride through the maze that is Lima. The driving here is much like many other countries I have visited. Lanes are a suggestion, a mere guildeline and stoplights are only valid if someone else is waiting at the same one. There is much honking and swerving. Each bus has a fella hanging out of the door yelling names of stops as the bus approaches intersections and often they get out to let people on and the bus starts moving and they have to run and jump back in. It is chaos. In a good way. Traveling around on the public transport is actually a pretty good way to see Lima since the bus curves and winds through all the different neighborhoods on the way to downtown.

We got to Centro and had lunch, looked around and did the tourist thing.

Lima--Centro. Walking mall.
We weren´t there long though before we decided to head out and find a bus home. This one was even longer since we didn´t get off on the right stop and after a while I realized that we were headed too far south. We had to get off and with more help from a local, get on the right bus. I heard him tell the guy hanging out the door to take care of the gringas. That is what my limited Spanish tells me he said. I am sure in reality it was more like, "Good luck getting these stupid American girls back to where they belong." Oh well.

We had initially planned to stay two nights in our hostel in Lima but somewhere on the endless bus rides around the city we decided to head out to Arequipa right away.

Plaza in Lima.
So we found a bus to take us there.

Now Chris had ridden with this same bus company from Ecuador to Lima and loved it. Said it was spacious and comfy and that they gave her food and a blanket and they even played bingo. But I am on a super budget and so we booked through the same bus company only we took the economy line instead of the luxury line she had taken before. It was only $15 but would take us 17 hours overnight to get to Arequipa. There would be no blankets, no food, no luxury and to Chris´s ultimate dismay, no bingo. That bus ride was an experience.

The bus follows the coastline and winds through the foothills of the Andes. Which sounds scenic, and some parts are. But here is something I learned--a large part of the coastline of Peru is desert.

Cute kid.
Most of the landscape is brown and desolate. I did wake up sometime in the middle of the night because the full moon was shining in so brightly it woke me up. I looked out the window and we were winding through rolling hills down toward the ocean. Everyone else was sleeping. It was an absolutely hypnotic site. Stunning. I stared out the window hardly believing how beautiful it was.

The next time I woke up we were careening around cliffsides that dropped off into deadly rocks and surf. I had to close my eyes a lot. Chris moved to a window seat so she could watch. Around that time the heavenly stench of the bathroom at the back of the bus started to permeate the air. One girl behind us kept spraying perfume to ward off the odor but that wasn´t working at all.

Sometime in the middle of the morning, our bus broke down in the absolute middle of nowhere.

Lima city streets
Desert on all sides. We all climbed out to wacth the driver replace a belt. The bus was fixed before long, but the new development meant no a/c for the rest of the ride. That coupled with the eau de dirty bus bathroom meant little comfort.  Awesome.

But we made it to Arequipa.  Which is beautiful. After we found a room, we immediately headed out to the Museo Santuarios Andinos, where Juanita, the Ice Maiden, is kept. Juanita was discoverd by Johan Reinhard, a Nat´l Geo. explorer-in-residence in 1995. I remember this being huge because I was an anthropology/archaeology major and this was huge news around our university. Juanita was a 12 or 13-year-old child who was sacrificed by the Inca 500 years ago on the peak of the Ampata, a volcano.

Our dusy roadside stop--on the way to Arequipa from Lima.
She was sacrificed to appease the volcano gods. Apparently around that time, the volcanos in the area, and there are quite a few, were quite active. They say Juanita was chosen at birth for the honor of being sacrificed and would have been told about it her whole life. At the time of her sacrifice, she was marched up the side of the volcano, given some sort of alcoholic concoction. She would have been fasting and would have been tired and cold. The sacrificial blow was dealt to her right eyebrow. She was buried in the fetal position along with a bunch of tools that she would need in her next life.

After following the discovery in ´95 and the subsequent expeditions by Reinhard so closely, I was  excited to be able to get to see her up close and personal.

Desert stop.
We took a tour of the museum and learned about the research and the dig. We got to see artifacts that were found with Juanita and with other children also sacrificed on the volcano. She is tiny. So small. I stood there trying to imagine how incredibly scared, proud, tired, cold, disoriented she must have been on the day of her sacrifice. She was going to join the gods and become immortal. And in a way, she has.

After we visited the museum, we took it easy checked out the city. It is a beautify city, built in colonial style and laid out with a big plaza in the center. It is surrounded by three volcanos and you can see the tallest, snow-capped one, Misti, from our hostel window. It is breathtaking.

Today, we are taking it easy--shopping and such. We are heading up higher to the Colca Canyon tomorrow, which is deeper than the Grand Canyon, and we need a day to acclimate.

Desert stop.
I am super excited about the Colca Canyon trip which will mean hiking and a trip to a hot springs among other things.

So without any proper seque-Chris amazes me. She has turned traveling into a veritable art form. She has the packing and unpacking thing down to a science. She has been giving me a hard time because while I brought a ton of stuff, I am hardly prepared to travel. It has been 5 years since I last did this backpacking thing and I had forgotten that it can be hard sometimes. I also forgot a lot of essentials like a towel and a watch. But in my defense, I had to bring all of our gear for a 4 day trek up the Inca Trail next week, which means I hauled two sleeping bags, two sets of trekking poles, trail snacks, warm weather wear for both of us, flashlights, water bottles, etc.

The desert from the bus window.
along with all of my own stuf. We have been joking about how I was so busy preparing for the trek that I am woefully unprepared for the other 3 weeks I am traveling. Oh well. It will work itself out. I am just super happy to be here. Chris makes me laugh until I cry and she gets me. It is nice to see her again. I can´t wait for all the adventures ahead.

Tomorrow the Canyon and then we head to Puno which is the gateway to Lake Titicaca, where indigenous people live on islands they made themselves out of reeds. Sounds incredible. I am sure it will be.

 

volleyballblondie says:
I can just see you two yuckin' it up! Please give Chris a huge hug for me. I miss her so much I could cry. I can't wait to see you BOTH when you return. Until then safe travels and I can't wait to hear about your adventures over a beer at JJs! Love you ladies!
Posted on: Jun 18, 2008
peruana28 says:
Hello my friend
I am to glad to hear that you and your sister will meet and travel together visitting some places from my country i hope to meet you when i will back from my trip vacation i am ready to travel too :)
Regards,Jenny
Posted on: Jun 11, 2008
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At the airport casting off with my…
At the airport casting off with m…
Together again after 13 months!
Together again after 13 months!
My first view of the South America…
My first view of the South Americ…
The buses in Lima.
The buses in Lima.
Lima--Centro. Walking mall.
Lima--Centro. Walking mall.
Plaza in Lima.
Plaza in Lima.
Cute kid.
Cute kid.
Lima city streets
Lima city streets
Our dusy roadside stop--on the way…
Our dusy roadside stop--on the wa…
Desert stop.
Desert stop.
Desert stop.
Desert stop.
The desert from the bus window.
The desert from the bus window.
Our broke-down bus and our traveli…
Our broke-down bus and our travel…
The road to Arequipa. I was afraid…
The road to Arequipa. I was afrai…
The long dusty desert road to Areq…
The long dusty desert road to Are…
All of our stuff laid out. We some…
All of our stuff laid out. We som…
Chris with her gear.
Chris with her gear.
Me with mine. This is not really t…
Me with mine. This is not really …
Our hostel courtyard in Arequipa.
Our hostel courtyard in Arequipa.
Crazy Peruvian disseminating the w…
Crazy Peruvian disseminating the …
Plaza des Armes, Arequipa
Plaza des Armes, Arequipa
Misti Volcano, Arequipa
Misti Volcano, Arequipa
Another volcano seen in the distan…
Another volcano seen in the dista…
Taxis line the street of Arequipa.…
Taxis line the street of Arequipa…
Arequipa
Arequipa
Arequipa
Arequipa
Arequipa
photo by: halilee