Edit Blog Post
Published: September 15th 2008
Cruz del Sur may well be one of the best bus companies in Peru, but their curious reluctance to turn on the aircon meant that both locals and foreigners alike sweltered through the hottest part of the day as we headed south. Scrubby landscape with impressive hills gave way to views of snowy mountains as we neared Arequipa, with the city itself under the watchful gaze of 3 extinct volcanos.
At a mere 2,380m above sea-level, Arequipa's climate is warm but with little of an evening chill. It's on the standard tourist circuit through Peru but felt undertouristed, the persistent restaurant touts in the Plaza de Armas notwithstanding. In terms of attractiveness, the city could give Cusco a run for its money, with many buildings constructed from the white volcanic sillar stone, and plenty of examples of the intricate Mestizo-Baroque stonecarving from the colonial era. Of the various buildings we visited, my favourite was the Casa del Moral, the old mansion of a nobleman and packed with paintings and furniture from bygone years. The white stone of the main building was brilliantly set off by courtyards painted in red and blue, giving a very Mediterranean feel. The Jesuit cloisters, near
Casa del Moral
the Plaza de Armas and now home to a small shopping arcade, also possessed some interesting stonework, and the cathedral had an awesome grandeur impressive even to the irreligious. The best views of El Misti, the 5,800m patriarch of Arequipa's trio of volcanic guardians, were to be had from the suburb of Yanahuara.
Foodwise, we found a decent selection of vegetarian restaurants, and had our first taste of chicha morada, a purple drink that I would not have guessed was corn-based. I also developed a liking for Pit Bulls, alcoholic cocktails made from Red Bull and pisco. We ate in a recommended Turkish restaurant where both our dishes came without at least one ingredient from the menu description, but I could forgive that as they played an extended mix of Fun Fun's "Colour My Love". One afternoon, for the first time in years, I had a most enjoyable boat of strawberries and cream. A visit to an Irish bar provided further evidence that, globally, if an establishment has any Marley in its music collection, it will always be the lazy choice of "Legend".
Arequipa's main Post Office had the surprising quality that all of its mailboxes were inside
the building, so it wasn't possible to post anything when the place was closed. On the same communication theme, there were scores of people on the street whom you could pay to make calls for you on their cellphones.
Arequipa was a pleasant place to chill out, and we made only one excursion from it - to Colca Canyon (blogged separately). After a week, we took a bus to Nasca, which gave me my first experience of a night bus in Peru. Sadly, the standard was not up to that in Argentina or Chile. I was impressed that Cruz del Sur had their own departure lounge and, as with all our bus journeys so far in the country, every potential-terrorist passenger was videotaped on entering the vehicle. The conductor gave an interminable spiel about the facilities and safety features on the bus that took more time than on the average plane flight. However the only drinks available with dinner were Coke, Inca Kola, and mate - no water - and a Japanese war film played until 1:15AM, the soothing sounds of bombs, bullets, and shouts of "Banzai!" just the thing to lull you to sleep. I've been irritated by
Casa del Moral
onboard music and videos all through South America (anyone who can afford to travel on this class of bus can certainly afford an MP3 player and headphones), but this was the least explicable offering yet.
Tot: 0.033s; Tpl: 0.018s; cc: 10; qc: 31; dbt: 0.0074s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb