Published: August 11th 2012August 11th 2012 Day 300 Monday 6th August
Stonemason at work
Up early at 6 and down for breakfast followed by packing and yes we were woken up at 4.20am by the TV. Checked out at 7.30 and into a taxi to the bus terminal where we only had a short wait for our bus. The bus terminal at Puno would win hands down as the smelliest bus terminal we have ever had the displeasure to spend time at. Most terminals in South America are spotless but this one was rank and when you got outside to board the bus the smell of urine was horrid. We think maybe they empty the bus toilets on the ground and let it run into the drain…the smell was that bad. We were glad to get onto the bus to escape the stench.
Cruz del Sur has one of the best reputations for bus travel in Peru and they sort of think they are an airline. The experience starts with being videoed as you enter the bus along with a metal detector and bag search. Of course both searches are little more than a glance at the zippers and as security goes are it is not great, but
I guess Peru hasn’t a history of Aussies blowing up buses. On board we have a male hostie who ensures everyone is in the right place and is happy. Along the way we are served a lunch of a small sandwich with the crust cut off with a tub of tasteless custard. Entertainment starts with a soundtrack of “muzack” which we have heard way too many times and starts with a slow monotonous version of “bohemian Rhapsody” and concluding with “Love will tear us apart”. Never thought you could make a worse version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” (you can) but there should be a law against butchering “Love Will Tear Us apart”. The poor singer should be on the FBI most wanted list for crimes against humanity, seriously the music is that bad. Following the assault on our eardrums we got a couple of crap movies but luckily for us we could listen to our own music on the computer and we could both watch the amazing passing scenery. Because Cruz Del Sur is one of the better companies we had Air con all the way so there was a good level of climate comfort. The trip from Puno to Arequipa
Inside La Catedral
was along the top of the Andean high plateau for most of the way with us cruising along at around 3600 metres but the last hour was a winding descent to the city which sits at 2500 metres. It is spectacular country with snow capped peaks all around especially surrounding the city of Arequipa. The heavy use of mud brick in housing construction always makes Peruvian towns and cities almost blend into the countryside.
Arrived at the Arequipa bus terminal around 1.30pm and after grabbing our bags we wandered out on to the street to get a taxi. The first taxi driver we spoke to we got into a roundabout Spanglish conversation that left us both confused so we wandered off and got another one that could at least give us a straight answer on the cost. Got to our hotel for 6 Sol which is the Tierra Viva, and it is a big splurge for us but is worth every penny. The staff are lovely and the room although small is brilliant. We dropped off our bags and then went for a walk around town to get our bearings. Arequipa has the second largest population in Peru (864,000)
and is an old colonial town that is famous for the use of a light coloured volcanic stone that is used in the construction of its old buildings. The town is also overlooked by three volcanoes of which “El Misti” at 5822m is the most beautiful and famous and which last erupted in 1985. It must be strange living in a town under the threat from a volcano but somehow having a volcano called “El Misti” sounds less alarming than say “Krakatoa”, or “Cotopaxi”. El misti sounds more like an old grandfather and less like a harbinger of destruction.
We stopped for a short stroll through the Iglesia de la Compania, which is one of the oldest churches in Arequipa. The church is made entirely of the local stone and appears like it has had a major cleaning of late. The stone is so clean that we both thought we were walking through a new church. After walking over the picturesque Plaza de Armas and around the surrounding streets we stopped for a drink and a feed at a Turkish restaurant…..just what you would expect to eat in Peru. On our return to the hotel we found our bed
La Catedral inside
turned down with a chocolate on our pillow….have we died and gone to heaven. Day 301 Tuesday 7th August
Our bed is HUGE and the room is lovely and warm and was lovely and quiet till about 6 in the morning when a little girl started running up and down the courtyard hotel screaming. Didn’t mind the little dear having fun for 5 minutes but by 6.30 when she finally ran out of voice our humour was running a bit thin. Shortly after her fun the hotel came alive and so we didn’t get much more sleep. Pet hate No. 6 of travelling: why do people insist on having loud long conversations in hallways rather than in their rooms? The hotel breakfast was less than average which brings me to pet hate No.18 of travelling: Getting to the breakfast buffet and finding an empty plate labelled “bacon” or “mango” or something else that I love and just missed out on and it is never replenished. This morning’s missed treat was bacon, which for good or bad is something I have hardly had on this entire trip. The fruit trays were also empty and the toast 4
Don't know the name but the face rings a bell
days beyond stale….a shame for such an expensive hotel with great rooms. A great bonus for me was that I discovered that the battery in my shaver was now taking a charge. When it went bang and became flat dead at Puno I thought it was gone for good, but I think now that we are away from Puno it has decided to work again.
Travelling can get you down some days, (or weeks), and I (Scott) have been on a bit of a downer for a bit. This is part travel weariness, Part my nature and part that Peru has been a bit hard going after 2 months, but coming to Arequipa felt great and gave me a renewed breath of fresh energy and I started to get back into gear again. The plan for this town was to spend a day sightseeing, then go on a two day trek to the nearby Colca canyon and then return for another day of sightseeing. We had only booked two nights at this hotel which covered us till we headed off on our hike, until we started looking into our hiking options. After a lot of internet research including reading
lots of blogs on the “travelblog” site, we soon discovered that most tours to the canyon are less than inspiring especially the multi day ones. Decided we would just maybe do a one day tour and stay at the hotel but when we enquired about extending our stay we couldn’t….booked out.
Decided to hit the streets and talk to some more tour agents about getting a one day tour to the Colca Canyon. Regardless of who we went to, we had to be ready by 2.30am, (yes that’s right 2.30 in the morning), although they may not pick you up till 3.30. The transport would be by minivan with no guarantee on how crowded it would be. The day would be spent driving to many attractions including stopping for breakfast, lunch, hot springs and of course plenty of souvenir markets. From what we could understand we had somewhere between 20 minutes to an hour at the canyon lookout, which was fairly poor as that was why we were doing it. We haven’t been overly thrilled by Peruvian tours and so the thought of being stuck in a minivan for possibly 15 hours wasn’t exactly ringing bells for us. Decided
Six pack of beer and an axe maybe I should rethink this
to have a think before committing and so headed off to a café for a coffee. Managed to find a great café, where even Shelley enjoyed her coffee.
Couldn’t come to a decision so we went looking for a bus ticket out of town and hit a wall with that as well, with the only tickets we can buy from the town being with a company that we have not used yet and at 7.00am, so again we had to decide whether to take them or go out to the bus terminal and pick up others. We did however find a jeweller that could replace the battery in my watch that died in Puno so that was a bonus. Should have only cost 10 Sol ($4) but Shelley wanted a ring he was selling so it cost us more. For the afternoon we headed down to visit the ice princess Juanita, who was a young girl sacrificed high on a nearby mountain 500 years ago. Her remains were found in 1992 and has become a bit of a major attraction in town. When we got to the museum where Juanita along with artefacts taken from her burial are on
Iglesia de La Compania
display we hit a scrum of tourists. Peruvian museums can be the most frustrating places to visit due to the long list of stipulations they impose. At this one as with just about everywhere in Peru you can’t take photographs, and the only way you can enter the museum is with a guide and although the tour takes an hour most of that time was spent watching a film. What really got up my nose was that the 30 Sol ($12) entry fee didn’t cover the cost of the guide which you had to tip separately. I decided I really didn’t need to see a 512 year old girl so we moved onto the town’s main cathedral.
The Catedral was originally built in 1656 but was gutted by fire in 1844, and then an earthquake in 2001 toppled one of the towers. The Cathedral is free to walk through only at certain times of the day and outside of that you have to pay, so of course we got there at a time when we needed to pay. Not only did we have to pay but once again it was via a guided tour, which we had to tip
Plaza de Armas
the guide, like I said nothing is straight forward. The bonus was that we got to go up on the roof for the view, got to see the museum and to our utter surprise we could photograph….except in the small museum of course. The tour took about 30 minutes concluding with the great roof top views of the city and the mountains. The museum really wasn’t that interesting which had us wondering why they prohibit photography as you wouldn’t waste a digital shot on any of it. Our guide was hopeless and just rattled off a pre prepared speech that varied between mumbled to whispered and from English to Spanish, but was always unintelligible….oh well you get that in Peru.
Out the front of the Cathedral was a competition for student stonemasons and it was great watching the guys and girls working on the local stone. Some of the designs were amazing whilst others…well maybe the people were in their first year of the course. One of the participants was a woman who on her table of tools had a half finished six pack of beers and she was going at her design with an axe….not a good combo.
For dinner we headed up to the Istanbul Café for a great Falafel roll but the drinks here are expensive so unsure if we will repeat the experience. Day 302 Wednesday 8th August
Staying in town but because we weren’t sure if we were going to spend a couple days in the Colca canyon we hadn’t booked a longer stay in our hotel and now that it is booked out we need to move on. We couldn’t book in to our new hotel till midday so there was no need for us to rush there first thing in the morning so slept in and had a slow start to the day. Kids started screaming through the courtyard at 8 so that was the end of our sleep in, and when we got downstairs for breakfast we once again discovered hardly anything left and the apathetic kitchen staff just standing around…that was till Shelley got them moving.
Back in the room we got our stuff packed and had an hour of Olympic watching before checking out at 11.30. Walked the two blocks to our new hotel and as predicted we had to stand and wait
Monasterio de Santa Catalina
Verandah to the Novice Cloister
till exactly 12pm before they would give us our room. While we waited we did have a great chat to two Australians, John and Noel who were also waiting for their room. We had things to do and decisions to be made today so we dropped our bags in our room and then headed out the door. Started with dropping our laundry off and at the same place dropped off my backpack to get fixed. A small tear started about 3 weeks ago and had now developed into a large tear and before it got to the stage that things were falling out I needed to get it fixed.
From here we once again stopped off at a few tour agents (there must be a hundred in this town) to look into doing a tour to the Colca canyon or the nearby Canon Del Coatahuasi (which is the world’s deepest). None of what was on offer sounded overly appealing so in the end we decided to give it a miss and spend tomorrow in town, before heading off to Chile on Friday.
With the decision made we booked bus tickets on a bus for early Friday morning and
spent the afternoon checking out the rest of the town. In the late afternoon we stopped at a street café in Pasaje Catedral behind the cathedral to people watch before the temperature dropped and we moved on for dinner at Fez/Istanbul Café. Day 303 Thursday 9th August
The breakfast at the new hotel is better and the staff are constantly refilling the trays, we ran into Noel and John and had a long chat.
Today’s main sightseeing will be the Monasterio de Santa Catalina which takes up a 20,000sq metre city block and hidden behind high walls, it is like a city within a city. It was founded in 1580 and the nuns came from the best families, basically if you were the second child you had to enter religious service. Of course these rich families had to pay a dowry and rather than living a simple life in poverty they had servants and slaves and lived it up. There was none of that pious life for them till Pope Pius IX decided to spoil their fun and sent the wowser Sister Josefa Cadena in 1871 to sort them out and get all
Monasterio de Santa Catalina
Kitchen in one of the Nun's cells
that money back to Rome. From this point till it was opened to tourist in 1970 the nuns lived in mystery, there are still nuns here but they live in a new section and are still cloistered. This complex is full of little units and cobbled streets and except for the religious paraphernalia you would think you were wandering around a small colonial city with its own cemetery, fountains and plazas. We discovered a fountain in one of the courtyards that had droopy penis like appendages and wondered if this was the favourite haunt of the Nuns.
We stopped at La Canasta Bagueteria for a late lunch, this place has a great courtyard and the food is good. We sat in the warmth of the sun and planned our escape from Peru to Chile, we have enjoyed our time here but it definitely is time to move on. Unfortunately Scott’s backpack is not ready so we will have to go back later so we go back to the hotel. Say hello to Noel and John who are waiting in the foyer till it is time to catch their bus and before we know it, it’s past 6.00pm so we
say goodbye and head back for the laundry and backpack. Now at least Scott can start packing everything and won’t need to have his belongings in a garbage bag.
Later that night we went back to Fez/Istanbul and I had my last Pisco Sour in Peru, of course Scott stuck to beer.
There are more photos below