19/10/2011 - 19/10/2011
After 10 hours on an overnight bus, we arrived in Arequipa, the Ciudad Blanca (White City). It is the second-largest city in Peru behind Lima, surrounded by mountains, volcanoes and canyons, and gets it's name from sillar (the pearly white volcanic rock used to build with)
Today was a free day and a chance to acclimatise to the slightly higher altitude. At 2300m above sea level it is definitely not the highest I have been to on my travels so far, but having been down at sea level for the best part of the last month I feel my body needs to get used to the reduced oxygen again. There are plenty of things in Arequipa to keep you occupied though.
I had a quiet morning whilst I waited for my camera to be cleaned, having stupidly dropped it in the sand in Huacachina when we were sandboarding. Thankfully there was no lasting damage. I then had lunch on a balcony overlooking the Main Square and watched the world go by whilst listening to the little yellow Peruvian taxis beeping their horns to get the attention of passing trade like there was no tomorrow. They are tiny cars and I don't know how they can fit in them, but then again Peruvians are quite short!
I then visited the Monasterio de Santa Catalina where you can see the old living quarters and furnishings of the nuns that used to live there. It was a very peaceful and calming place to be, and I spent ages just wandering about and taking pictures.
Finally, I headed out of town to Yanahuara which is a little suburb overlooking the main city of Arequipa. I hoped in a combi which is a public bus in Peru and communicated with the 'conducter' in my best Spanglish where I wanted to go, after a few blank looks on both our parts he ushered me out of the door at the main plaza. Here there was a mirador which gave you great views of the city iteslf and of El Misti, one of the active volcanoes towering over Arequipa.
Our tour leader had informed us as we arrived in Arequipa that there are approximately 40 earthquakes in this area a day, apparently it's quite a normal thing and you may just notice your drink wobbling a bit but nothing to worry about. Quite a large one of between 3 and 4 was felt yesterday and apparently there was also one last night about 2am but I didn't feel anything.
I had a lot of first tastes of things today:
Inca Kola, a very sweet fizzy drink which tastes a bit like bubblegum.
Guinea Pig, which was very crispy and tasted like chicken.
Alpaca, which is a very lean meat with 0 fat and 0 cholesterol, and tasted a bit like pork.