South America
August 17th 2009
Published: August 18th 2009
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"Para bailar la bamba
Para bailar la bamba se necesita una poca de gracia"

-Ritchie Valens

Getting to Arequipa was both frustrating and uncomfortable. Our bus arrived 4 hours late, leaving us stranded in a shady area of town with the temperature dropping rapidly. At least I had someone to share the boredom with...I had crossed paths with Fiona who I´d shared drinks and conversations with, taking in the view from The Secret Garden terrace back in Quito. After a restless sleep on the overnight bus, we were awoken by the stifling heat. Our bus was winding its way through the mountains, struggling to make it over the high they turned off the AC to take some load off the engine, leaving us with no ventilation at all. We were baking in a bus under the Andean sun watching cows overtake us...

A few days earlier it was recommended to us to make a brief stop in Arequipa to acclimatize before making our way to Cuzco. This turned out to be a serendipitous stroke of luck. We stumbled upon their annual festival marking the cities birthday, on this
alpaca lunchalpaca lunchalpaca lunch

..On the left we have grilled alpaca on hot stone served with a salad of wild mountain root vegetables. On the right, fillet of Alpaca stuffed in spicy pepper..YUM!
occasion the city was turning 469 years old and on the taxi ride to the hostel I could feel excitement brewing in the air. We lunched on Alpaca on one of the balconies overlooking the Plaza de Armes and spent the afternoon wandering through the city waiting for the parade to start..the first afternoon merely a preview of tomorrows 8 hour procession that would shut down Perus second largest city.

Waking early for the parade we made our way to PLaza de Armes where a mass of people had already accumulated. Finding a good vantage point was easy for me...I was a full foot taller than everyone else and I settled in to enjoy the spectacle. I couldnt help but feel excited for the locals...this was obviously a big deal for them and they celebrated with their heads held high. The costumes and dancing were outrageous and the revelry lasted late into the evenig....fuelled by immense amounts of warm beer and pisco sours.

Sitting in the hot sun watching the bull fights the next day, warm beer in hand, I couldnt help but feel lucky. Getting to celebrate something dear to the heart of the local culture and for it to be totally unexpected is special...its moments like these that make all the trying moments when travelling worthwhile...this is what makes travelling so rewarding.

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