Mountains of El Misti, Chanchani and Pichu Pichu in the background
The cab ride to the hostel was almost as interesting as the bus trip as when I tried to show our cabbie the address he told us he didn't have his glasses (that's one ill-prepared cabbie if you ask me) and although we could get almost to our hostel it was in a neighbourhood where the blocks all had letters and we couldn't remember the pronunciation for the letter 'G' in Spanish. Luckily our part of town was rather well healed so we had a security guard looking after our gated community that our cabbie could ask, after a moment of wonder at our stylish new pad we dragged our weary carcasses over the threshold and up the stairs to our new room and into bed. This hostel (Arequipa Backpackers) has to be possibly one of the best hostels I think I have ever stayed in, pool, brand new computers with 17" flat screen monitors that were all free to use, the best equipped kitchen I think I've ever seen in a hostel, a huge flat screen TV in the TV room, hammocks and a palatial ensuite to our room - needless to say I ended up recommending it to quite a few people afterwards.
Pasaje de Catedral
Day one we spent doing research on our Colca Canyon trek and Nazca Lines Trip, in the end we actually ended up deciding on the company that our hostel partnered with, they seemed the most professional, friendly and offered the right itinerary for the right price. If cash hadn't of been a deciding factor I have to admit I'd had liked to have gone with Colca Treks who had the most amazing itinerary. Randomly on our meanderings around town we bumped into Jen & Gareth and arranged to meet them later for dinner and drinks. We filled the rest of the afternoon with exploring the city and doing a bit of window shopping as Anna was searching for gifts for her folks but around five o'clock we'd had enough walking around and jumped in a taxi and headed back to the hostel to get changed, check our email etc.
Doorway - University San Agustin
Even after only one day in Arequipa
I had fallen in love with the place and it became my favourite place in Peru so far, and like Sucre in Bolivia, I could have spent a long time here just soaking up the atmosphere. Arequipa for one is pristine, and this effect is further amplified by the laundry detergent whiteness of all of the stone buildings, the reason that they are so pearly white is down to the local stone that they are made from, Sillar. Not only are buildings so white they also incredibly beautiful, even my inner modernist has to admit that these historical gems are quite something, Arequipa has Cusco
's beauty without the touristy feel, there are no touts hassling you for tours every five minutes and the only thing the locals are asking is if you want to frequent their restaurant.
Cathedral, Plaza de Armas, Arequipa
My Peruvian friends tell me that Arequipa also happens to have the best coffee and Ceviche in all of Peru (I'm sure folks from Lima
might disagree), and in fairness it did seem like a foodies dream. Arequipa is also home to some of Peru's best universities and it is not uncommon to hear raging intellectual debate taking place over coffee or lunch, Arequipa also seems to have much more wealth than some of its southern neighbours and this combined with its place as an intellectual powerhouse make people from this fine city fiercely independent, to the point where they claim independence from Lima (apparently they even designed an Arequipa passport and flag).
Plaza de Armas, Arequipa
Anyway onto our evenings exploits; we met Jen and Gareth in Farren's, an Irish pub we'd found behind the cathedral and over drinks decided on what we'd like for dinner, settling finally on Mexican as after we'd missed out on Mexican in Cusco Gareth was still hankering after his favourite cuisine. We found some cheap and cheerful joint in the old LP, the portion sizes were pretty big for how much you were paying but that's where the pluses ended however as it wasn't the best Mexican I'd ever had but at least it filled the void. We thought we'd round the night off with a few drinks and had seen another Irish pub not far from the main square that we thought we'd check out....it didn't prove to be a very good choice! The service was terrible and I'm not sure if the chick making the drinks had ever made a drink in her life, thankfully it was happy hour so we didn't waste too much much money but somehow we still felt cheated.
I, in my infinite wisdom, had decided to try a cocktail called Macchu Picchu, it started off well and tasted pretty good but by the end tasted like mouth wash, even I couldn't finish it and it's unlike me to leave any kind of alcohol (I also have another friend who tried the same drink in Cusco and said it was god awful there too), all I can say is if you're ever in Peru under no circumstances try this drink, its foul! Stick to the Pisco Sours instead, they're much nicer. Even this ablution in a glass couldn't dampen my party spirit unfortunately Jen was volunteering at a school the next day and didn't want to smell like a brewery when she arrived and Anna was planning to get up at 6am to watch the Germany game so it was an early night for all concerned. We did however arrange to meet Gareth the next day to watch the England match in Farrens.
I awoke the next day to find that Germany had lost to Serbia and a none too happy Anna but to cheer up we went to visit the Monesterio de Santa Catalina. More of a complex that a building, at approximately 20,000m2 it's almost a citadel in itself, certainly when you step inside and experience the winding streets within it feels like another world. It originally started out life as a place that Spain's rich wold send their second daughters to enter into a stint in religious service, usually convents are associated with an austere life but no so for these rich kids, they had servants or slaves and threw parties, sounds like children of the rich and famous these days doesn't it? Then the Pope intervened and sent a battleaxe of a nun in to sort out the hedonistic lifestyle, from 1871 there were real nuns who lived their existence as it should be lived and most never left the convent walls.
Although I've stated previously that religious buildings aren't really my thing (I used to squirm when I went into churches like Damien Omen) but architecturally I found the place really interesting, the narrow cobbled streets, fountains, austere cells and kitchens and a great point from which to view the city made for a great visit. After about two hours of aimless wandering around the monastery we just about made it to the pub in time to meet Gareth, not that we needed to have rushed, the resulting match was an embarrassment to the nation and possibly one of the worst international games I think I have ever watched, leaving us as usual with yet another knife edge situation as to whether or not we'd make it out of the group when on paper we should have drubbed our opponents.
This cocktail was called a 'Macchu Picchu"and was probably one of the most disgusting things I have ever drank, it started off quite nicely but tasted liked mouthwash at the end.
..enough about that anyway otherwise I'll be encouraging the wrath of some online backlash from a footy nut. Thankfully we blocked the dross from our minds and spent our afternoon enjoying Arequipa, window shopping, exploring bookstores, picking up supplies for our trek the next day and we also booked our Nazca flight. We spent the evening in the hostel where I whipped up a Spaghetti Bolognese, valiantly trying to remember my mom's kick ass recipe, it turned out ok but wasn't quite as good as normal, we also tried not to drink all of the red wine we'd bought as our pick up was arriving at 3.30am and I didn't fancy starting the trek with a hangover.