Saturday, September 5, 2009

Peru: Our first day in Arequipa

This is the second installment of Peru blog posts. There will be quite a few more as we have around 3000 photos! Keep checking back.

We flew into Lima, Peru late and spent one night. We can't tell you much about Lima except that it is a big, bustling, capitol city on the coast. We were up early the next morning to fly to Arequipa. Arequipa is a Spanish colonial city in the south and is Peru's second largest city. It is surrounded by volcanoes and is at an elevation of approximately 8000 ft.

I think we would all have to say that is was our favorite city that we visited. It is an excellent place to spend a couple of days beginning to adjust to the altitude before proceeding to Puno or Cuzco which are at 12,500 ft and 10,500 ft respectively or even to the nearby Colca canyon were you go over a pass that is at nearly 15,000 ft. Arequipa is not visited by nearly as many tourist as Cuzco and Machu Picchu so prices for hotels, food and shopping are lower.

El Misti volcano from the airplane flying into Arequipa

After settling into our centrally located hotel, we were met in the lobby by a local guide for a city walking tour. Arequipa is often called the "White City" for various reasons, one of which is the widespread use of silar, the white volcanic rock, as a building material. We walked through narrow, charming, colonial streets to the Convent of Santa Caterina de Siena where one other tourist joined us for our tour.

us at the Convent of Santa Caterina de Siena

The convent is a photographer's dream. It is still residence to about 20 nuns, so the only way you can see it is with a guide. The guides work only for tips. Our tour took about an hour and was certainly intriguing.

Caleb demonstrating how to fill clay basins with water at the colonial "laundry" in the convent.

Arequipa has the most fascinating doors opening onto intriguing courtyards. This door at the convent was worm eaten, and very beautiful.

Some places in the convent the silar stone was painted in traditional colors that just glowed in the high altitude light of this city.

Caleb and the light from a stained glass window at the convent

After the convent we walked to some colonial houses in the city which were built around courtyards. Everywhere in Peru they used stones set in concrete in patterns as a paving material. I really want to do this at a home of my own someday. From there we proceeded to a monastery and church and then to the cathedral.

facade details at a monastery in Arequipa

Little girl feeding pigeons (palomas) at the Plaza de Armas in Arequipa

Plaza de Armas (main plaza) in front of the cathedral in Arequipa

inside of the cathedral

carved cedar pulpit in the cathedral

cathedral in Arequipa

We happened to be in Arequipa for the August 15th founder's day festival and parade so we ended up in the middle of it on our walking tour!

The chicha (corn beer) queen

The chicha king

At the end of our tour we visited a place with llamas and alplacas and demonstrations of traditional wool processing and weaving.

In the evening we walked on our own over to the city center and found a rooftop restaurant on the street directly behind the cathedral, which is lit up in the evening, for a candlelight dinner. Dan ordered an alpaca steak. The southern part of Peru is altiplano (high desert) so they don't raise cattle. Alpaca is the standard red meat that is served whenever you order anything con carne. As is often the case, we had a couple of musicians playing Andrean pan pipes and guitars entertaining us at dinner for tips and the chance to sell their CD. I really can't tell you how many times we heard El Condor Pasa while we were in Peru or how many Simon and Garfunkle songs we heard on pan pipes.

We went to bed that night to the sounds of exuberant merry making at the Founders' Day festival and woke in the morning to roosters crowing.

Check in again soon for my post on Colca Canyon and watching the condors fly!


text and photos Copyright 2009 All rights reserved

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the detailed information about your trip to Peru. Very interesting and the photos are fabulous!