Arequipa

Arequipa Travel Blog

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We arrived early in the morning to Arequipa and made our way to the hostel Los Andes to find rooms. Emma, Sam, Sandy and myself took a big room between us while Liz and Ryan had their own.

Our immediate need was then to get some food into us, so we headed out for breakfast. Lonely Planet had recommended a restaurant that specialises in crepes called Crepismo not far from where we were staying. We made our way up there past the Plaza de Armas, which is the central square of the city. The plaza is very popular with the locals who congregate in the square, and it is also very popular with the pidgeons who take advantage of all the locals who like to visit!

It took a bit of detective work to find Crepismo because it is not obvious from the front. The crepes they made for us were really good and so were the coffees made with real espresso, which is far too rare for my liking at the nicer cafes. A great place to go for those in Arequipa who want an impressive breakfast, and it wasn't all that expensive either.

After breakfast we went to the Colca Trek office to pay for our three day Colca Canyon bike tour and the two day El Misti hike. Sam and I decided to hit the local equivalent of a Big W (or Walmart for those poor nations without Big W's) to get power adaptors since some Peru wall sockets had only two round prongs instead of the three we had in Ecuador. We wandered through the huge place trying to find them when we came across the alcohol section. After having a quick look at the prices we realised the bottle of Bacardi for under 30 soles (~$US10) was too cheap to pass by so we grabbed one of those and a big bottle of Coke. We tried to find Passion Pop (a shout out to all the cheap drinkers in Australia) but all we could see was "espumante", so we just went with the Bacardi. We finally found a power adaptor and headed back to the hostel.

We waited around in the hostel for the rest to get back and then headed back out to get some lunch/dinner. We found a restaurant on top of one of the three big buildings that along with the cathedral surround the Plaza de Armas. Up the top is a great view over the plaza and over much of the nearby city, as well looking out at El Misti and some snow-covered peaks further away.

I had a great asparagus soup and an average steak on quinoa risotto, but the real highlight was that Ryan and Emma both ordered the guinea pig to see what all the fuss was about. For those who don't know, guinea pig (or cuy as they call it, from the sound they make) is a local delicacy, or at least an easy animal to raise in large numbers for cheap meat. The guinea pigs came out prepared as hilariously as we could possibly hope - deep fried with its legs sticking out as if they had dived into the oil, and with their faces looking stunned at their fate. Ryan and Emma promptly attacked the fried creatures and mostly struggled to get much out of it. I tried some and it was just small bits of average meat, nothing to write home about taste or texture wise (but definitely comedy wise). We were all glad to have tried it but not in any rush to ever order it again.

With guinea pig, beer and other food stuffs in us we headed back to the hotel to have our Bacardi and cokes. We didn't have any glasses of our own, so one of us raided the kitchen and all that was found were what we figured must have been candle holders, but good enough for our purposes. Soon enough we were nearly through all the Bacardi and in need of more so Ryan went to the supermarket for a grog run and came back with Bacardi, Inca Kola, limes, and cheese and biscuits. We were unsure of the purpose of the limes until Ryan informed us of a drink he just had concocted - the Inca Libre. Made from a shot (or two) of Bacardi, a dash of Coke, a dash of Inca Kola, and lime juice, it is surely the greatest drink ever devised, or at the least that was our opinion at the time. After a few of those Ryan treated us to a probably-Incan dance while wearing his mask he bought from Otavalo. A few more and we went to bed.

The next morning I slept past breakfast and then went out with Sam and Sandy to a restaurant in the sun just behind the cathedral for lunch. Next we went over to the Santa Catalina Monastery for a tour.

The Santa Catalina Monastery was for over 400 years an isolated convent where young girls from rich families would come to study religion, and literally never leave the monastery for the rest of their lives. They had servants to do the hard work and to get food and water from outside. Only recently was it opened to the public, although there is still a closed off part of the monastery where around a dozen nuns are still living in the same way they always have there.

We paid the entry and then waited around for a guide to give us a tour of the monastery. The tour took about an hour going through all the different rooms and areas. The whole place was really amazing to walk through, thinking that the nuns had lived there in near solitude and religious subservience for their entire lives. A must visit for anyone going to Arequipa.

That night we wanted to go to a top restaurant so we went to the Zig Zag restaurant that is affiliated with Crepismo. I ordered the alpaca steak with mash and it was easily the best meal I've had so far this trip. First you get given this big paper bib to wear over the front of you, and although it looks a bit childish it is for good reason - they bring out the steak meals on a big wooden plate with a smaller very hot stone on it where the steak sizzles loud and spits bits of oil. The bib was saving our clothes from getting wrecked but our arms still got hit a bit. The steak was awesome and so was the mash and sauces that came with it. Sandy had a similar meal but with three meats - alpaca, beef and ostrich. The ostrich was a unique meat and none of us could properly describe it. We finished off with some great desserts and headed back to the hostel and said our goodbyes to Emma who was heading off to do a different Colca Canyon trip to the rest of us.
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Arequipa
photo by: halilee