Flying south, the view from above was of dry, rough land and the snowy Andes cordillera (mountain range) with tall snow-covered mountains, that I presumed to be volcanoes. They were awesome to behold and make up for the 2015 disappointment of not viewing Ecuador’s famous “Avenue of Volcanoes” due to heavy cloud cover.
We found the sun and blue sky again in Arequipa.
This is Peru’s second largest city and the population is less that 1 million! Our taxi driver said that only 20% are local Arequipans, 10% are other Peruvians, and 70% are foreigners: Bolivians, Chileans, Ecuadoreans…
Arequipa is situated at 7,638′ above sea level. Towering over the city are 2 huge volcanoes and one more distant one.
Further away stands 18,599′ foot-tall Picchu Picchu and which last erupted in 1985. When a word is repeated in the Quechua language it makes it plural, so Picchu Picchu means mountain range. The temperature is lovely! It is winter here south of the equator. The daily temperatures this week are ranging from 42 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It is perfect! As I edit this, I am breakfasting on the patio in shorts and thinking 62 has never felt so good! The sun is warm and strong and I’ve noticed new tan lines on my feet. (The locals are wearing coats and hats and gloves!)
We discovered a “Walk for Tips” walking tour and met up with Carlos, a life-long Arequipan and very energetic and enthusiastic guide. We covered a lot of ground in 2 hours, learned a lot, and discovered things we would’ve missed without taking the tour. My ears perked up when he began to talk about the “naked” people only to discern later that he was talking about the “native” people.
Arequipa has survived earthquakes through the centuries,. But one evening, after feeling the tremors from a 6.3 earthquake 137 miles distant, and being on the third floor of a concrete building, made for a restless night!
Known as the White City, the guidebook says it’s due to the heavy use of a white volcanic stone called sillar used in construction of the buildings . The guide told us an alternate version: the Spaniards had black slaves in their homes that weren’t permitted to leave the house without a pass.
The Spanish Conquistadors came to South America in the early 1500s, but we have noticed Italian, German and French influences. Europeans arrived in South America affter the World Wars. Pasta is found on many restaurant menus and there are avenues named Grau and Bolognesi.
Arequipa is known as a gastronomic destination so we looked forward to trying some typical dishes. We learned that the typical dishes can be spicy and are found in restaurants appropriately named Picanterías since “picante” means spicy.
We found our groove: Peruvian coffee, organic chocolate, good food, walking, and sunshine. Arequipa grew on us. We didn’t visit Colca Canyon, all the museums or the monastery – and that’s just fine with us.
We leave on 6 1/2 hour bus ride for Puno and Lake Titicaca. We’ll be traveling up to 12,500′ elevation! After 2 nights in Puno, we head to Cusco and the Sacred Valley.