Tag Archives: Arequipa

Where the Hat is King

Once you get away from the big city almost everyone wears one.   You are not fully dressed without one.  For those “in the know” the hat even identifies where you are from.  Whether at work, shopping or play, the hat is ever-present.  In Peru the hat is king.

In Chivay you can sit on a hat or even play on one.

Of course most hats are worn.

Even statues have hats!

And occasionally even Wooly and Raeski – especially when it’s cold.  Brrr!

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Subduction Causes Orogeny

Subduction Causes Orogeny or the Volcanoes of Arequipa.  The first title is more of an attention grabber isn’t it?  Now get your mind out of the gutter because this isn’t that type of blog.  Orogeny is simply mountain building that’s caused by subduction.  And that’s something that happens at a very high rate on the western side of South America where the Nazca Plate dives under the South America Plate.  It’s the reason for the many active volcanoes and very large earthquakes.

Arequipa lies in the shadow of three volcanoes, El Misti (active), Chachani (dormant), and Pichu Pichu (extinct).  Andean legend says when the earth was created that Chachani, a women, loved El Misti and chose to live with him.  Pichu Pichu also loved Chachani and cried a lot when Chachani chose El Misti which accounts for the lagoons at the top of Pichu Pichu.

Legends aside, Arequipa, a city of a million people, precariously sits in a beautiful and dangerous location – squarely in the path of ancient lava and ash flows.  Many of its building are built from sillar, a white volcanic stone, which turns a spectacular rosy pink in the evening sun.  Evening in the city’s main square is a must see.

Like many main squares in South America, a fountain is in the center and a large cathedral borders it.  One of the major activities in Arequipa’s main square is feeding the pigeons.  Don’t bother with the restaurants on the square.  There are better options a few blocks away.  We highly recommend Zig Zag Restaurant a few blocks away from the square.

Raeski and I did a lot of walking while in Arequipa.  Some of the streets are quite beautiful and don’t be afraid to walk the streets at night.  Arequipa is fairly safe.  Be sure to take something warm to wear after the sun goes down.  Arequipa’s elevation is 7,300 feet (2,225 meters) and the temperatures drop rapidly at that altitude.

There are many lovely photogenic architectural elements in the city.  The monastery (see post) is a photographer’s dream.  Arequipa is a photo-op waiting to happen at seemingly every street you venture down.

Dominating the central square is the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa.  Like all churches built in this era it’s the largest building in the city.  Regardless of your thoughts about religions, these old churches are worth a look inside.  Artwork, arches and stained glass await those who enter.

While many forego the trip to Arequipa when visiting Peru, we’re glad we didn’t.  Otherwise Wooly wouldn’t have captured this butterfly shot.

Arequipa Butterfly
Arequipa Butterfly

Peru Adventure – Arequipa, part one

Often overlooked and skipped on Peruvian tours, Arequipa is a treat to those who visit.  Ordinarily white, at sunset the buildings in the main square turn a vibrant golden.  Step inside the Santa Catalina de Siena Monastery and you enter another world.

The monastery has stood the test of time since 1579.  It’s survived countless earthquakes and still operates as a cloistered convent for the Dominican Second Order.   Encompassing 20,000 square meters, it takes a while to walk the corridors and peak inside the rooms where nuns used to work and sleep.  At its peak the monastery housed up to 450 people.  Today fewer than 20 nuns stay in an area that is closed to the public.

In early times it served as a place where the wealthy could protect their second born daughters.  To enter the convent a dowry of as much as 2,400 silver coins was required which is about $150,000 today.  At one time it was a wealthy convent until the money was sent to Rome.  Now they are poor.

The architecture is a blend of colonial and native styles – painted with bright and vibrant terracotta colors which happen to rub off on your clothes as Wooly discovered.  Every corner you turn and every doorway you step through is a treat.

After a major earthquake in 1592, the nuns built individual bedrooms since the dorm they stayed in was destroyed.  They built an arched sleeping area in each room.  The stronger arches provided early earthquake protection for the nuns.

Early earthquake safety - Sleep under an arch.
Early earthquake safety – Sleep under an arch.

Gardens inside the walled monastery are as peaceful as they are beautiful.  If you want to sit and contemplate you are welcome to do so after the tour when you are free to walk around on your own.  You can even sip coffee in a small courtyard featuring a snack bar.  And finally, when you come across a long and steep set of stairs – climb them.  The view at the top is worth it.  Just be careful because those steps aren’t uniform in size or height.

7 Wonder of Wonders from our travels in Peru

Today Raeski is contributing a post about our Peru adventure.

Our seventeen day adventure to several cities and sites in Peru filled us with much wonder but left me with many contemplations beginning with “I wonder…”

We began in the capital and largest city of Lima, Peru where we stayed in the area called Miraflores.  This coastal site hosts a park inspired by Antonio Gaudi featuring a huge sculpture of a man and woman (the sculptor and his wife) embraced in a kiss and aptly named El Beso.  Wonderment #1:  How many people have been kissed at this location and who holds the title for the longest?

Parque_de_Amor_07b

 

Arequipa, ‘La Ciudad Blanca’ was constructed predominantly from volcanic silica and serves as the gastronomic center of Peru.  Curiosity #2: “Does alpaca taste like chicken, too?” was answered with a resounding “no” and left us considering ordering more.  Not only is the meat scrumptious, but also the fibers of the baby alpaca are extremely soft and warm so we also became consumers of the external product with the purchase of a beautiful sweater, hat and scarf.

AlpacaSteak

Mirador de los Andes and Cruz de los Condors presented magnificent views of the splendor of the seven snow-capped volcanic peaks at 5,600 to over 6.000 meters and the majestic flight of the condors scavenging the heights.  Here we were left wondering #3: “Do the local caballeros toss their dead livestock over the edge of a ridge to keep the condors circling and inhabiting this specific area?”

Condor_03

Exploring the inhabited areas of the highest navigable lake, Titicaca at 3,812 meters (12,507 ft) was an interesting marvel. In the village of LLacon on the peninsula we watched demonstrations of their textile handicrafts, and on Isla Taquile we participated in a ceremonial lunch event giving thanks to Pachamama or Mother Earth and the other gods represented by the condor, puma and serpent. On our final stop, one of the floating islands of Uros, we were welcomed by members of a family and treated to a visual demonstration of how the tortura roots and reeds are layered to create their anchored living platforms.  We learned they apparently chew the tortura reeds that provide a source of fluoride but we couldn’t help but wonder #4 if the coarse fibers couldn’t also be fashioned into toothbrushes, which by their smiles, seemed to be of great need.

Reeds of Uros

On our Inka Express bus trip crossing the highest point between Puno and Cusco we visited the panoramic vista and had the chance to use the highest public toilet (whole in the ground with planks and a hut for a bit of privacy).  A short distance later we caught the flow of the Vilcanota River, which spans over 6,000 km and connects to the Amazon, eventually emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.  That made us reflect on the fact that we pee’d at what would be the Continental Divide of the South American continent.  Wonder #5: which way the urine flowed?

Highest_Outhouse

Visiting the many ruins and foundations of the ancient Andean peoples emanating from the “obligo” or navel of civilization in Cuzco, one cannot help but be awed by what incredible engineers and craftsman the Incas were.  The planning, chiseling, movement and careful construction of huge rock structures that have withstood centuries and earthquakes were somewhat mindboggling considering the time and lack of technology for such feats. No mortar and not even a blades-width of gap between stones cut with nearly a dozen angles seemed unimaginable, so #6: where would Peru stand in today’s’ global economy had the Conquistadors not trampled the indigenous peoples and “enlightened” them? At Sachsayhuaman (fittingly pronounced ‘sexy woman’), I offered a silent prayer deep in her womb chamber for Peru to remain resolute to preserve its hundreds of varieties of corn and thousands of strains of potatoes against such enemies as Monsanto and persevere as the heartland of organic products to keep us nourished and healthy.

Sacsayhuamán1

But our final wonder was one on the list of the Seven Man-Made Wonders of the World #7: Machu Picchu, The Lost City rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. Mere photos do not do the experience justice.  Everyone should touch the Inca construction; feel the reverence to the gods of earth, air and water and sense the community of the terraced farm areas, communal areas and urban planning features. How thankful the world should be that this 15th Century treasure remained unscathed and is now available for humanity to enjoy and relish in the wonderment!

Amazing Peru

We’re back in Chile after an amazing trip to Peru and we’ve had our welcome home earthquake.  Check out the Earthquake tab for details.  There’s also a new entry in El Diario for those who follow it.

I know I will always smile when I think about the trip.  A trip to Peru is definitely a worthy bucket list item.  Machu Piccu is stunning and thankfully it wasn’t discovered until after the colonial period.  I will write more about that when I write that post.

The second highlight that rates almost alongside Machu Piccu was Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world and far deeper than the Grand Canyon.  It also has one of the greatest attractions in the world – the Andean Condors.  The bumpy dirt road drive is part of the Peruvian charm on this side trip.

We found Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world with it’s floating islands quite interesting along with a lunch stop with a shaman and his family.  Having a view of the distant snow capped Andes didn’t hurt the experience either.

The Sacred Valley amazed us with the Inca architecture, ingenuity, and even agricultural laboratories on a giant scale.  I couldn’t help but feel both sad and angered about the utter destruction of this culture by the Spaniards and the Catholic Church.

Yet in Arequipa we found a beautiful working cloistered monastery.  There will be some great photos of the place.  In Arequipa Wooly discovered Anis Najar Seco and Recoto Rellenos.  The first is a dry licorice liqueur and the second is a spicy twist on the stuffed pepper.  There is also a great legend about the volcanoes that tower over the town.

June in Cusco is a lot of fun.  It seems like the entire month is one festival after another with all the crowds to squeeze past.  And ladies, when in Cusco keep your purse zipped and hold it tight, or better yet, leave it in the hotel safe.  Regardless it’s still a lot of fun.

And yes, I’m back on the blogging wagon so you will hear and see all about them.  You will follow us on our journey in the order we traveled it which means you have to keep checking in because Machu Piccu is last.  And that’s also how I would recommend you schedule your own trip to Peru.  Machu Piccu will overshadow the rest of your trip if you go there first.  Save the best for last, just like I’m going to blog about it.

In the meantime while you’re waiting for the next post, enjoy this picture of a condor’s eye while he is in flight.

You're being watched.
You’re being watched.

Thoughts on Peru

It's a fun bus ride to Machu Piccu!
It’s a fun bus ride to Machu Piccu!

We have never done this before so you could say this was the first of many firsts.  Our latest trip took us to amazing Peru and its many sites for our first time.  But it was also the first time we didn’t plan the entire trip and relied on a travel company to handle the logistics.

Because it builds anticipation, planning trips is entertainment for Wooly and it’s much better than English lesson planning for the cadets at the academy.  Planning helps the two of us get a feel for a place before we arrive and gives us an idea of how long we want to stay at each location.  And there’s that ‘being in control’ thing tossed into the mix.

By the end of the trip we were able to say we were glad we used Tucanoperu.com to guide us on our trip.  It was great to arrive at airports and see a guide holding a sign with our name on it waiting to take us to our hotel.  Every day our guides were on-time and ready to take us on another day of discovery.  They were very knowledgeable about the places we visited and we learned much more than if we did it on our own.  We will definitely consider using a tour company in the future.  When choosing a company we recommend staying with a single language tour.

Every journey must have a beginning and our 17 day adventure started in Lima.  After Lima we ascended into higher elevation and thinner air of Arequipa.  At 2,335 meters (7,661 feet) Arequipa would be one of the lower elevations we would encounter.  The rest of the itinerary was Colca Canyon at 3,400 m (11,155 ft.), Puno 3811 m (12,504 ft.), Cusco 3,399 m (11,152 ft.), the Sacred Valley 2,800 m (9,186 ft.) and finally Machu Piccu 2,300 m (7,546 ft.).  Along the way we ascended a mountain pass that took us to 4,350 m (14,275 ft.).  If you have either breathing or heart issues you should check with your physician before you try a trip like this.

Fortunately we have never suffered from altitude sickness.  But is you do, homeopathic remedies are abundant in Peru.  Coca leaves are part of every hotel’s morning breakfast buffet and coca tea is served everywhere (just be careful about the water).  In addition to coca there are pills that may help.  For the uninitiated, coca leaves taste like alfalfa.  And no, you won’t get high by chewing coca leaves or drinking the tea.  Cocaine is a refined product from the reduction of a massive amount of leaves in rusty metal barrels filled with gasoline which eventually makes a paste.  Then the paste is further refined with sulfuric and hydrochloric acids.  Yum, Yum.  Think about that the next time you’re tempted to blow a line up your nose.  Okay, enough geekiness for today.

We were glad we started at high elevation and ended up lower.  This allowed us time to acclimate to thinner air by the time we got to Machu Piccu.  Once there we were able to take a hike without as much huffing and puffing as some of the other tourists.  This was a blessing because Machu Piccu was definitely the highlight of the trip.  Save it for last on your trip – you’ll be glad you did.