Published: July 9th 2012June 3rd 2012
Arequipa and Puno
Having just finished Machu Picchu and in no big rush to do anymore hiking, we figured Arequipa would be a good place to chill out for a few days and take in some sights. We just had no idea how long we would be there… We didn’t exactly get off to a great start heading to Arequipa. We (well, Jon and Nate) bought some pretty cheap tickets to get there, which unfortunately also meant no heat on the bus all the way through the night. No joke, the ice on the windows was enough to make a cocktail with if you really wanted. Then again, we probably could’ve used a stiff drink right about then just to warm up a little bit. Jessie had on just about every piece of clothing she could possibly wear, and we both had our hoods tied tight with our hands in our pockets while desperately trying to warm up. I SWEAR to God, Dolly Parton would’ve poked eyeballs out of her chest if she was on that bus! Needless to say, being exhausted, freezing all night long, and not having any sleep throughout the night definitely wasn’t a good combination for
any of us. Poor Jon developed a cough that rivaled the sounds of a wild animal, and all 3 of us got to spend some time in bed feeling like crap. Getting sick before even heading into a much colder climate is NOT the way you want to start out.
As soon as we started gaining some strength back, we obviously set out and did some exploring. Arequipa is quite a bit different from Cuzco obviously, but still a really quaint little town with plenty of food options and a bit of shopping to do if you so choose. One of the best parts for us here was that we got in our Mediterranean food fix by smashing some falafel. We very carefully opened up the tortilla, salivated for 20 seconds, and orgasmically enjoyed every…little…bite. Nah, just kidding. But, we WOULD end up eating here like 3 times by the time we were all done. Sometimes you just need those little treats on the road. Besides, we were celebrating 500 days on the road! (Yeah we know…500 at Machu Picchu, but this was the actual DAY, so we had a good excuse) How could we not treat ourselves just
a little bit? Of course we took a few typical dip-shit type pictures to commemorate the event with Nate’s goofy ass leading the way. How the hell is it possible 500 days could have passed so quickly…makes ya wanna just stay gone 500 more, huh? (Just kidding mom and dad)
For our first couple of nights we had the entire dorm to ourselves. That is, before 3 loud, obnoxious 20/21 year old boys moved in downstairs from us. At first we thought we were going to be in for some long nights, especially after Nate ended up turning off the ipod to avoid fueling the immature, nails on chalkboard singing along from below. This wasn’t exactly going to be the case, and we doubt they had any idea what they were in for. The first night they were there, Nate heard them come in late and one of them sounded like he was about to shit a brick. “Dude, the guy knows where we’re staying and he’s pissed. I told him ‘no’ but now he’s really pissed! We gotta get out of here right now!” The man managing the hostel at that point was outside the door, collecting
the money for the room and showing the boys out within about 10 minutes. It was pretty easy to figure out that they had messed with a drug dealer on the streets and shot their mouths off at the wrong person. We’re not gonna lie, we would have paid good money to see the look on their faces at that point when they realized…oh shit, we’re not in a “western” country anymore and I can’t pop off at the mouth to the guy on the street and expect he’ll just call me a “wanker” and go on with the rest of his night. Actually, we kind of wished we had theatre style seats up on the roof with a bag of popcorn in our hands watching the action and thinking to ourselves, “HA! What a bunch of dick-beaters!” OK, maybe that’s a little mean but you just KNEW they had it coming…I mean, you could just TELL.
The thing we probably enjoyed most about this sunny, warm, beautiful city was our trip to a museum to see Juanita, the ice princess. She had been discovered on the Ampato Volcano, well preserved in the ice for over 500 years. We
truly could NOT believe just how well she was preserved after all that time. You could still see her skin and plenty of details on her body. It was really interesting to see everything that had been found around her, as well as in other various parts of the mountain. This was the spot of many human sacrifices the Incas used to carry out. They picked some of the most beautiful kids from a young age to sacrifice when needed; for example when there was a drought and rain was needed, or when a volcano was being active and the people thought the Gods were angry. They would actually give the person being sacrificed a hallucinogenic drug and have them walk miles (all the way from Cusco!) to the right spot, where they would receive a quick crack to the skull to end their lives. Seriously, we had a hard enough time just walking NORMAL on our trek, let alone trippin’ balls and knowing our journey would only end in our deaths! The courage they must have had is hard to comprehend nowadays. Naturally after reading our last blog post about hiking to Machu Picchu you can easily tell
we are NOT Incan.
Our morning started off pretty well with Nate getting to explain what he had heard from the neighbors below, much to the amusement of Jon and Jessie, and then having our visit with the famous Juanita. However, OUR moods would change real quickly when Nate went to the ATM. For the most part, you put your card in without thinking to yourself, “I wonder if I’ll get it back.” Well, that thought will be in our heads for a LONG time now. There was definitely a part of him that wanted to see how much abuse an ATM machine can take in order to open it. Nate’s thoughts; “Hmm, I wonder what would happen if I threw it in front of one of those armored cars…maybe I could pay one of the cops with the big ass shotguns to blast it open…WAIT, I GOT it, I’ll pay someone from the mountains to bring their llama down and KICK the damn thing open… Obviously, none of these incredibly genius ideas were helping in any way. Not only did the card get eaten, but when Nate went to the bank to find out how to get it
back…he found out he had to wait for about 5 more days on top of the 3 we had already been here! What the hell do you do with all that time in Arequipa and no ability to spend much money? The answer…not a whole lot! It was more down time than we had had in a long time! It was a good thing we hadn’t booked any Colca Canyon hiking beforehand, not like we were planning on it anyways. Yes we know we’re spoiled, but having seen the Grand Canyon in the states, we weren’t exactly jumping at the idea.
With all this time to spend in a place we were planning to be leaving the day after the ATM ganked our card, we were definitely happy that weren’t on a very tight schedule. If we were only here for a few weeks and that was our whole trip, man would we be pissed! Instead, we were pretty much forced to cook all of our meals, spend some time catching up on drama crime shows since it was the only channel in English, and overall just being unproductive. All we could think about was hoping we could leave
soon, and finally we DID end up getting our card back, even though our bank told us it’s actually illegal for them to return it when it gets eaten. Luckily our bank fixed the problem and we could actually get some money out to pay for our room, or it could’ve been a bit of a predicament for us. After all, you can’t wash dishes to pay for your bill…and no way in HELL are we scoopin’ alpaca raisins for a family member living in the hills! It’s not like we didn’t enjoy our time here, but it was just way too much for us. Although, we were really grateful that our hostel understood the situation and didn’t give us a hard time about not paying until we got some money again. Actually, one of the things we would miss the most here was our banana pancake breakfast every morning with caramel streamed over the top. Having said that, we still couldn’t wait to head to Puno…this time on a day bus as we were already battling feeling like ass.
We have to say, there is one huge difference we’ve noticed about the people we’ve been around lately. There
is definitely a lack of patience, and that goes for a variety of situations. For instance, when a bus is running late and people are ready to leave. This was a first for us…listening to people chanting “vamos!” (Let’s go!), while stomping their feet and pounding on the roof and windows of the bus. Most of the time we just deal with the fact that nothing is ever on time, but not the people on THIS bus…oh no! We’re pretty sure everyone outside of the terminal knew our entire bus was ready to leave as they were acting like impatient 5 year old kids who didn’t want to stand around while their parents kept talking to a friend they had just bumped into on the street. This wasn’t the first time we had witnessed impatience though. It seriously seems like every time we’re in line somewhere, we get skipped by a local who, God forbid, can’t wait 2 minutes for you to pay or ask for something. We understand things like that happen sometimes, obviously. But, Nate has gotten to the point where he’s actually left a couple of times because it was just too irritating. We KNOW we’re not
at home, but if we were…at the very least someone would tell you to get in line, if not tell you to go fist yourself for being an asshole.
The ride to Puno proved to be somewhat interesting. The scenery wasn’t anything all that amazing, but we got our first sighting of flamingos, along with some more llamas along the way. Even though this wasn’t a very long bus ride, poor Jessie was going to find out just how bad it can be when you don’t have an accessible toilet. No, don’t worry…she didn’t have traveler’s diarrhea or anything like that, she just had a little too much to drink before we got on. When she finally got to the point where she was sitting on ankles and squirming around like a toddler holding it till the very last second, she jumped up and knocked on the door separating us from the driver while telling the man she really needed to use the bathroom. He told her he would stop in 10 minutes, which gave her some relief. Too bad for her, that turned into a little over an hour! Now when you have to pee THIS bad, your
mind starts running wild with ideas of how to relieve yourself. Maybe I could just cut off the top of a water bottle and pee in there…Maybe I should just say “screw it” and let it go, at least I’ll feel better when it’s over…Maybe I could open a plastic bag and pee inside that…I seriously wish I had some adult diapers right about now.
The funny thing is, we’ve actually seen plenty of commercials for those things, showing how incredibly happy you can be if you can take a leak or drop a deuce right in your pants whenever you want! The make it seem like…WOW, this is amazing…who the hell needs a toilet with these gifts from God ready to take away the burden?... (We know there are people who really need them and we’re not making fun of that) Eventually, the bus would stop and Jessie would spring off like a wound up Jack-in-the-box toy. She nearly threw her purse at the lady who was asking for 1 Sole to use the bathroom, at that point she would have been happy to hand it right over. Never has peeing felt so good in her life, and the
rest of the women were RIGHT behind her! If you were the one standing outside that door, guaranteed you heard a long AAAAAHhhhhhhhhhh of pure pissing pleasure.
When it comes right down to it, there really isn’t a whole lot to Puno. There’s basically one long gringo street full of money changers, shops, and little places to eat with a small plaza type area to relax if you like. Obviously there’s more to the town than this, but it’s not exactly holding anything fun to do outside of the floating islands and we had already decided against that. Somehow Jessie managed to find a place online that seemed cheap, which we would check out after looking at a much more expensive option. That old saying is true, “There’s a first time for everything.” The hostal was brand new and running a special, which meant we got a pretty killer deal on our room. Truthfully we weren’t expecting a whole hell of a lot since this was just a little stop over before getting to Bolivia, but for what it’s worth, the town does have some charm to it. Although, it IS a bit weird to be on one block
where you see strictly locals and then walk 2 blocks the other directions and see groups of older, white tourists looking for a place to eat dinner. You could tell it could be an interesting mix of people at times. Actually we saw very few backpackers here, which kind of lead us to believe there are probably a lot of people who blow right through this little town. Truth be told, there were more, older package tourists here than anyone else.
We’re big believers in fate and the idea that everything happens for a reason. There was definitely a reason why we stopped in Puno, and that was to save us some hassle at the border. The lady running the hostal we were at not only recommended a good, reliable bus company to take across the border, but she also informed us that we needed photo copies of our passports as well…which was one thing we DIDN’T know at the time. Of course we were plenty aware of the $135 visa fee for Americans, which is basically a “you stick it in our asses and we’ll stick it in yours” fee. Don’t get us wrong, we get it.
It’s only fair that the fees are equal for both sides, but we won’t exactly be writing a thank you letter to our government any time soon for causing some stiff visa fees in a several South American countries (or for pretty much anything else…ever, for that matter…but that’s beside the point). We were totally prepared for the visa fee, but anything else that could hold us up was something we desperately wanted to avoid at a border where it seemed the flip of a coin might determine your fate. There always a part of you that’s a bit nervous with border crossings like that, but all you can really do is cross your fingers and toes and hope for the best. And, that’s exactly what we did. Traveler Tips Getting There
Arequipa-From Cusco to Arequipa we took the cheapest option available, San Martin, for S/. 25. We would advise against this company mainly due to how cold it is at night with no heat. The taxi to the terminal is between S/.3-5.
Puno-From Arequipa a taxi to the terminal is S/. 7 for a reputable taxi. We again chose the cheapest bus company but the
one all the locals were taking, Julsa. We paid S/. 15 for the ride, be aware the toilet usually doesn’t work but you get what you pay for. Upon arrival a taxi to the center was S/. 4. Staying
Arequipa-We loved Amazing Hostel Arequipa, nice breakfast, great terrace, huge kitchen, dorm was S/. 20 each.
Puno-We can’t recommend Tayke Hostel enough, it’s new and very nice. All rooms have cable TV, even the 4 bed dorms for S/. 20. Veronica is super helpful and goes above and beyond to assist you in any way she can. Eating
Arequipa-We had a soft spot for the falafel sandwiches at Fez Café. There are also a few cheap burger places just down Jerulsen close to the hostel. Two big supermarkets close by to get all the food you need to cook as well.
Puno-We cooked the entire time at the hostel, can’t help with restaurants but there are a lot to choose from. Transportation
Arequipa and Puno-Very walkable towns, we didn’t take a taxi at all.
There are more photos below