Published: July 20th 2012July 4th 2012
We ended up in Arequipa on recommendations from a few people to visit the nearby Colca Canyon. The city itself didn’t really blow us away but the views around it were impressive. All around are looming volcanoes that have shaken and rocked this place many times of the year. Buildings on the main square are made from volcanic ash and sillar (volcanic rock) so the locals have clearly become accustomed to living side by side with Mother Earth.
I visited a museum one afternoon (John is DONE with museums) because I had heard some good things about it. I wasn’t allowed to take my camera in so have no photos unfortunately. The museum presents the story of Juanita, the Ice Princess. It seems that the natives here have been living side by side with Mother Earth for quite a while! Juanita (named so after the American researcher Johan who found her) was a 12-13 year old girl who was a human sacrifice of the Inca people. She was marched from the city of Cuzco over a 2 month period to climb the volcano overlooking the city, El Misti. She would have been chosen from a very young age to participate
in this role and was of nobility. The reason she was sacrificed is because the people here feared the mountains, they were powerful (especially with eruptions and earthquakes) and human sacrifices were often given as a symbol that the gods of the mountains were respected.
The museum itself tells the story of not only Juanita but other young children who were sacrificed to the mountains and volcanoes. The reason they can tell these stories is that Juanita and other children were found mummified. Juanita is special because she has been dead for about 500 years but when her wrapped body was found almost all was intact. She was frozen for many years and this preserved much of her skin, muscles and bones. When found she had moved from her grave just a few days earlier and her face had become exposed and had been damaged. We were told of her journey; we were shown some of the cloaks and pins that were wrapped around her, the silver llama statues or small carefully handcrafted statues of people that were all laid out with her, more offerings for the gods. It was interesting the see the intricacies and what people could
do with more basic tools all that time ago. But lastly we were introduced to Juanita. She was defrosted just once for research and is now kept at -20 degrees Celsius to preserve her body further. She was buried with her knees bent, her arms wrapped around her knees, sitting up against the grave wall. She still sits in this position and although her face is a fragile skull her skin is visible on her arms and shoulders. It was eerie to see but also so interesting that right next to me was a 500 year old human who at such a tender age was given up by her elders as a sign of respect, of their beliefs. The saddest thing of all is that she was sacrificed by receiving at least one blow to her head. This was visible above her right eyebrow where a hole in her skull and a deformity remained. To make things worse when archaeologists studied a cloth that covered her head and her skull and remains they found that this did not kill her immediately and that she was most likely buried in this condition. Sad and chilling. A 12 year old girl………….
While in Arequipa we also booked our flights to Rio de Janeiro. We had the strangest experience and I still don’t get it. We went to about 5 different places. Most quoted us about 800 US dollars and I was frankly not paying that, just the biggest chunk of money for a flight for a few hours. We found one place that we got the flight for 350 dollars. All legitimate and literally two doors down from all the others. So here’s hoping flying on Friday 13th
Next stop is our independent tour of the Colca Canyon. More trekking ahead!
There are more photos below