Tag Archives: Arequipa

Day 63 – Walk this way

Another “free” walking tour is available in Arequipa, undertaken by tourism students from the university and run out of the tourist informal office.

It felt much more like an option than the one in Valparaiso, for example we weren’t quoted a value for our tip.  Here’s a link to the tour http://www.facebook.com/pages/Free-Tour-Downtown-Arequipa

A relatively large group, maybe 12 people, start the tour which due to the volume of Spanish speakers in done in the native tongue.

There are three of us that cannot speak Spanish but our partners can so we head off with the agreement that they will translate (in all cases it was the man that needed the assistance).

At the start we are warned about some of the dangers of walking round the town. Namely cars and holes.

These risks are not solely associated with Arequipa, or Peru for that matter.  After two months in S.America we are accustomed to large unmarked holes in the pavements and that the paint used to mark out zebra crossings is a waste of resources as you could stand there all day and cars won’t stop for you.  Even the animated green man at the traffic light controlled crossings starts to run with 10 seconds remaining.  Presumably for his life.

The tour is excellent and we are take to see a few hidden gems that we might otherwise have missed and our guide organises so that we get a free taster of coffee (world coffee of the year in 2010), a chocolate flavoured tea and a cheese snack at various stops along the way.

We learn that the city is at risk from both volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.  The volcano is 17km away and from hearing it explode it takes 6 seconds for the city to be destroyed (it happened centuries ago) so the activity is monitored closely.

Earthquakes are more regular, in fact minor tremors are a daily occurrence (most too small to be felt), but they do suffer more violent ones too.  The entire city was destroyed in 1878 by an 11+ Richter scale event, but as recently as 2001 one was strong enough to bring one the towers down on the Cathedral.

The defiance of the people of the city against these odds is remarkable, and in part will be responsible for the strong sense of independence they have.  Like Catalans, they are Arequipans first and Peruvians second.  In fact during the Pacific War Lima fell to Chile for a period of time, and as the second largest city in Peru, Arequipa created its own passport.  They still exist today, but not for official purposes.  It’s the kind of thing that Yorkshire would do given half a chance.

The biggest surprise of the tour was that it shared, albeit 20yards some of Niki’s scenic route from yesterday!

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Day 62 – The Frog Chorus

A combination of guidebooks, Trip Advisor and a recommendation from some friends helped us book our accommodation in Arequipa.

It’s lovely and when they found out we are on our honeymoon they upgraded our room! It’s not happened that much on the trip, but enough to make you mention it if you get chance!

As well as accommodation it also houses a Peruvian Cooking school that again was recommended as well as featuring in the Lonely Planet (even better you get a discount of 20% for being a resident).  For an additional charge you can add a market tour and a Pisco sour making course – well it will be rude not to.

We are joined by an Austrian lady (Maria) and too young Germans (Melissa and Michelle) and head off under the expert guidance of Natty.

The markets tour is amazing. We did a guided market tour in Buenos Aires  but this is much better, partly because the market is far more varied, and also because Natty organises to let you taste things as you are going round.

Some of the more interesting areas we see are the butchers with chickens spliced open to show that they are hens (you can see partially grown eggs inside); the fruit section is extraordinary with lots of stuff that you cannot even get at Waitrose (it is THAT exotic); dried llama foetuses (to be used as offerings to the gods); and lastly frog juice.

Warning! Do not be fooled into thinking this is a euphemism for some kind of green smoothie.

This is actual frog juice. A juice made of actual frog.

You get to pick the poor unfortunate amphibian, who then gets killed, gutted and blended in front of you (makes the what is green and red and goes 100mph joke seem a little too close to the truth). A quick sieve (to remove bone etc) and there you go. A health drink that apparently helps improve digestion. Not sure that this will be a variety of Innocent anytime soon.

I spend a period of time debating whether I want to taste this or not and it prompts a rather long discussion on Nik’s Facebook page.

Back at the accommodation our Anglo-Germanic-Austrian alliance get on well and whilst chatting and laughing we whip up a couple of great local dishes under the guidance of Monica before relaxing and eat the fruits of our labour in the garden.  This was our second cookery class in S.America and I would recommend anyone travelling to look out for similar options wherever you are.  If you’re interested here’s the link to the class… http://www.peruviancookingexperience.com

Four new Facebook friends later we are the only people doing the Pisco course. Given I was made to dance whilst shaking the cocktail I will be forever grateful for this fact.

Niki did the whole Tom Cruise thing better than I did and threw some impressive shapes whilst making a mean Pisco Sour.  I’ll admit to being a little light-headed by the end!

Day 61 – Dancing in the street

Today marks a milestone of “The Big Trip (TM)”.  Day 61 marks the fact we have completed a third of our planned 6 month journey around S.America and S.E.Asia.

It feels weird. I many respects it has flown by, but at the same time it feels a long time ago since we were in the UK.  The human minds interpretation of time can be a bit schizophrenic at time I think.

This blog is mainly for us to reflect on what we have done and seen, and for family and friends to keep in touch.  I hope that it accurately represents the fact that we are simply loving the adventure as it unfolds, though we do miss the people we care about and love.

Nothing tells you are travelling than waking up on a bus, initially not sure what country you are in.  A decidedly average breakfast with not the worst cup of tea ever and you remember you are in Peru heading for Arequipa.

After a brief few days at sea level we are back at altitude and will now remain so until we have competed the Inca Trail. So hopefully we have plenty of time to acclimatise and will have not lost too much of what we would have got used to in Quito.

The city is described as one of the most beautiful in Peru (though I think lacks the UNESCO seal of approval), but as you approach by bus it looks like other ‘pretty’ cities in South America have done to date, that is, not living up to expectations (though we see a BMW dealership that couldn’t look more out of place if it tried).  However, as with Salta, Potosi, Surcre etc. before, as you get closer you realise why Arequipa has the reputation it does.

It is another beautify city, and its only a short walk from our accommodation to the the main square – perhaps the most beautiful we have seen in all of S.America so far.  Hunger is more pressing than the need to sightsee at the moment and we press on to a recommended eatery but are suddenly are stopped in our tracks by a procession of colour and noise approaching us.

For the next 30 minutes we stand and watch as floats, marching bands and groups of traditional dancers (the range of indigenous clothing and dancing is remarkable) troupe past in celebration of the local mercardo, which depending on which banner you read is celebrating is 130th or 133rd anniversary.  Thankfully as its the local market goers celebrating, our hunger is managed by catching the various produce they throw to the crowds in celebration.

And I mean throw.  If you don’t keep you wits about you, you’ll easily get side swiped by a toffee, lolly pop, apple, dog food (yes, really) or even cheese.  Someone throwing cheese at you?  That’s not very mature is it 🙂 ?

We grab lunch at the recommended creperie (thank you Lousisa!) and enjoy wonderful food and slightly slow service.  I’ll let them off as they sold Pale Ale – a decent beer for the first time since Puerto Natales.

The elongated lunch means that we cannot make the ‘free walking tour’ so Niki decides to take the map and create one.  The last time Niki did this was in Rio de Janerio where we got a close view of a military installation and domestic airport.

This time we see a newly constructed flyover, some rubble, and a couple of urine soaked underpasses.  Not sure there is a career in tourism for Niki in the future…

In trying to get back to a nice part of town we stubble upon Monde Alpcac (Alpaca World).  A mixture of free museum and high end shops selling products made from Alpaca wool.  We like it a lot, from the group of Alpacas munching food around the nativity scene, to the ladies doing some weaving (very similar to ladies we saw in Sucre, Bolivia).  They are even brave enough to let Nik have a go, so it you are in Arequipa in 6 weeks time (they take a long time to make) you might get a bargain in the ‘seconds bin’ (“one of two missed stitches”).