So I left Puno, with a sour taste in my mouth, the place was a dog eat dog world of who could screw the foreigner the most and it didn’t matter if they screwed over their own locals either. I did manage to pick up a few more alpaca wool products for the family, who suffer in the Canberra winters, which I find quite pleasant. The bus terminal is quite pleasant and I boarded the bus and had a 1st floor primero class lounging recliner.not quite a lay flat bed, but comfortable none the less. I was chatting to some Americans who are coming to Australia in 4 months and I think I’ve convinced them to visit Canberra also.
The bus ride was uneventful except for the ham roll we got at 3:30pm, just after the bus departed, never to see the bus host ever again, except to collect blankets as we arrived into Arequipa. This meant most of us were hungry and it was 9:30pm when we arrived. A taxi driver decided to screw me over but I paid him rather than argue and checked into “El patio de Elisa”. The street was pretty empty and bland at 10pm. I managed to find a small corner hamburger shop that sold me a hamburger with cheese and egg for about $1.50 AUD. I washed it down with an Inca Cola. I’ve yet to really mention Inca Cola. Its a lurid bright yellow drink sold everywhere normal coke etc is sold. I bought one to try and realised its creaming soda with another name for the locals. Its even made by Coca Cola.
The next day I realised my hotel which has a street frontage of a door with a green canopy over it was on a street full of opticians and optical wear shops. Ever single shop is optical related for the whole block and more! The pros to this are I don’t get hassled to buy anything a metre from the doorway. I wandered down to the main square with the impressive cathedral (technically a minor Basilica). The three sides without the cathedral are all two stories of arches all the way around.
I headed up to the meeting point for the Arequipa Free Walking tour (FWT Peru). I met a trio of guides, Yonathon, Carlos and Miguel. Carlos was photographing, while Miguel and Yonathon were taking the walk. Its all very professional including free sunscreen with insect repellant and a free map. They make it clear the tour is free, but won’t happen without a decent tip at the end. I have no issue with this, its when you pay and then guilted into tipping more at the end, without prior notification that annoys me. Turns out I was probably the only person older than 30 on the walking tour! They also run these walks in Cusco and Lima, but I didn’t see any info about those. I’ve done a few of these around the world and they generally are pretty good if your guide is enthusiastic!
Our first stop was in the San Lazaro neighbourhood, full of houses made from a white volcanic stone. They call Arequipa the white city because of this, but in my opinion Sucre in Bolivia is more suited for the nick name
Its a nice quaint neighbourhood and where the city was actually founded. Unfortunately the guides provided a lot more info than I can remember on this tour. The next stop was to Mundo Alpaca (Alpaca World) and while the name was grandiose in nature, the place is basically an alpaca products shop, with a small museum and some llamas and alpacas out back. I was a bit concerned about stopping at a shop so soon, but we left rather quickly, and llamas and alpacas are important to the Peruvian people.
We then visited the main square, where I learnt initially the arches were only a single story and after an earthquake they built a second story, most of which are balcony restaurants fighting for every tourist they can get to order food and sit on their balcony! Thing is they all have very similar menus so nothing ever stands out from them.
We then went into a chapel or similar religious place, basically to get up onto the roof to see two of the three volcanoes that are near Arequipa. Unfortunately cloud obstructed the view sowe walked to the local market. Now I was getting hungry by this stage and the tour had taken quite a lot of time (it was not going to meet the allotted 2 1/2 to 3 hours), so I found a place selling empanadas and got one. Really tasty and I’ll be back for supplies for my next bus ride! We cam here to taste a local fruit that is rather sweet and tasty. I think its called the Chirimoya, but could have been the Guanabana. Google is not my friend today!
We stopped briefly outside the Museo Santuarios Andinos, where a frozen girl “Juanita” found a top a volcano, most likely as a sacrifice is on display. I really wanted to go here, but when I visited earlier, there were far too many restrictions like no cameras, no bags, pay this, have to have a guided tour etc, so I said I told them I’m not interested.
I was told two more stops to go and both were worth it. The next stop was to a restaurant I plan to visit again. The restaurant was in the archways on the main square, but we headed to the roof to see the volcano “El Misti” nicely bordered by the cathedral towers. The restaurant “Sonccollay” specialises in pre-Incan cuisine and cooking it like it was a thousand plus years ago. We met the chef/owner called Walter, who is a very interesting character. He explained he cooks without oil, onions, garlic and many other things and uses only herbs and salt to flavour the food. He cooks an alpaca steak for us to try and its delicious.
We bid Walter goodbye and head to the last place, a chocolate factory, where we try some free chocolate tea and thank and tip our guides. The walking tour is highly recommended, there was never pressure to buy anything or return to the places we visited, but all of them fit in with what the tour was trying to achieve. My feet were exhausted and I stumbled back for a rest before dinner, which ended up being one of the balcony restaurants, but this one sold “Alpaca a lo pobre”, which is effectively alpaca with an egg on top, veggies and chips.
The next day I went to the cathedral itself and took the enforced guided tour of the cathedral, which is now a minor basilica, which means no one gets married here anymore unless they are important. The cynic in me thinks, wow a church not for the real people! We toured the attached museum with so many treasures made of gold, silver and gemstones its hard to know what to look at. There were some garments also with gold thread in them, many crowns and other exquisite pieces. Eventually we got to the bit I wanted which was onto the roof to see the volcanos and the square! The guide was really nice though and very informative. Makes me wonder how churches can hoard such wealth yet claim to help the poor and needy at the same time!
I then did a walk through the Santa Catalina Monastery which is quite large and covers a block at least with its own streets inside! The monastery of Santa Catalina housed many nuns in its prime and there was a maze of chambers and three cloisters in the monastery. I believe a part of it is in use or was rebuilt and in use, while people are able to tour the old grounds. I spent an hour or so wandering around. On nun whose name eludes me but lived something like 500 years ago was only beatified by Pope John Paul II in the 80’s. Those miracles take some time to occur and they needed three doctors to agree a woman was cured without medicine. I wonder if those three doctors names are on a list of doctors to avoid seeing!
My final stop for the day was to have an iced mocha at Chaqchao Organic chocolates. A nice end to the day. For dinner I went out to the restaurant we visited on the walking tour the day before, Sonccollay. I had an Alpaca steak and a large Cusquena Negra to wash it done with. Not the cheapest of places and its almost like a stone grill in some ways, except they cook it between two stones and bring it out for you on a stone, thats not that hot.
Tomorrow i’m off on the bus to Nazca to see the Nazca lines in a small aeroplane!