Day 5: All day in Arequipa
Arequipa Travel Blog› entry 8 of 17 › view all entries
July 31st, 2009 – by: davdstraat
We only have to live through that for about ten minutes, until the bus arrives, and we set out for our tour of the city.
Our first stop is at a viewpoint with a very beautiful view of the three volcanoes surrounding Arequipa (only one, El Mysti, is still active, the other two, El Chachani and Picchu Picchu, are extinct) and the valley of the river Chili (which actually means cold, quite the contrary to what you might expect from dishes with similar names, and after which the neighbouring country is named).
Also their is a plantage, where they grow quite a many local plant, from which an even larger number of local dishes is made. I can't remember all the names, but among what we see is the grain Quiña and a plant from which the fruits are used in just about everything, and they say it works as a medicine to just about everything too. They even claim it tastes very good. Well, if all claims are as true as the last, I don't give it much hope...
And when you talk about local plants processed into local food or used locally, coca can't be omitted. And we also get the urgent advise to buy cocastuff (coca leaves, coca sweets, coca toffees, coca tea, ...), which should help us get by altitude sickness tomorrow, as we go another kilometer higher to the Altiplano, near Lago Titicaca.
The next stop is near a church in one of the city's quarters, which is nicely built. The view of the volcanoes, however, is more impressive than the church, as is the little craftsmarket on the other side of what looks like a city wall.
A quarter of an hour of citytraffic later, we arrive at one of the oldest alpaca wool factories in the country, where we also get a guided tour (all the tour is done by our cityguide). Just behind the entrance, there's a little circumfenced field with three alpacas and a lama (or llama, as they are called locally - pronounced as "jama"). We may enter the fence to look at the animals from up close. Fascinating, those cute furry nephews of the camel.
Having fed and stroked the lama and alpacas (They're adorable!), we take a look inside the actual factory, where the wool is sorted (did you know that alpacawool naturally comes in thirtytwo different colors?), spun into threads, coloured by natural ingrdients and woven into cloths. Most of the work is still done by hand (although we can see a number of unused automated spinning machines in another part of the factory). To nobody's surprise, the tour ends in the shop of the factory (very nicely designed, with a fountain in the middle), where none of our group buys anything: the products look very nice, but one look at the pricetag makes you loose all interest.
When we return at the main square, we visit the cathedral of Arequipa. In front of that, a folklore festival is taking place. It is the ... anniversy of the founding of the city, to the locals known as the Free State of Arequipa - with its own flag. We stay a couple of minutes to enjoy the tradional music and dance.
The walk from the cathedral to St. John church takes us past our hotel - so that's where we make a very quick break before continuing. The second church, with a cloyster attached, is now partly transformed into a shopping mall (two of the three cloysters have been given a commercial assignment. Most of the shops are selling alpaca wool clothing, but at a much more affordable price than at the factory we visited (even though some of the shops here belong to that factory).
Our last visit on the citytour is the Santa Catalina monastery, which is built like an small Andalusian town. The houses are very colourful, the streets are narrow, and it is partly still in use. We get a guided tour through the monastry by a special guide, who works there. The tour takes about three quarters of an hour, and shows many nun's cells, kitchens, churches and chapels. There's also a viewpoint, from which we can overlook a large part of the city.
After the monastery, we can each go our own way, but most of us lunch together at a nearby Italian restaurant (for me it's a pizza calzone of very good quality and very richly filled).
We split up from there, and with just half of the group (seven of us), we go en route for a museum, that is very special for Arequipa: the museum of Juanita, the Ice Maiden.
The museum is very interesting, starting with a movie about how Juanita was found, after which we visit the five expostion halls with a large variety of archeological finds from the Inca and Pre-Inca periods. The last hall contains te most special piece of the museum, hoewever: Juanita herself, sitting in her deep freeze coffin. Juanita was a little girl of about thirteen years old, when she was sacrficed to calm the god of the volcano El Mysti. She was sacrificed at the top of a sacred mountain in Chili, where she lay buried for nearly five centuries.
The visit to Juanita is most impressive, and afterwards we conclude that there must have been an error in writing the program of our holiday: Juanita should have been in the central part of the city tour, not in our free time - it tells a lot more about Peru than the monastery we did visit all together.
I spend the rest of the afternoon strolling around the centre of Arequipa, taking some photographs and doing a lot of shophopping - but find not very much of my liking, so this afternoons shopping session won't put on overweight for the plane tomorrow.
In the former-cloyster-now-alpaca-wool-shopping centre, I join two of my (female) companions for the last hour or so of the afternoon, and observe them in their quest for some jewelery - at that time, they already made the remark themselves about women and shopping, so I don't have to (let's say they did their very best to confirm that prejudice).
Dinner at the hotel (Creole soupe, alpaca meat and crèpe Suzette) is the last activity today, for there is yet another early wake-up awaiting us tomorrow. And we need enough rest before we get high...
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