Leaving Cusco for the second time was tough. Because we did not have enough time there! Peru is a vast country and very much worth seeing by bus. Busing around a country is not, however, the fastest way to go so we made some trade offs. A little less time here, a bit more amazing countryside to see. Give and take.
I’ll take those views any day! In Cusco we boarded a bus for a long ride to Arequipa. Along the way the views from our front row on the top of the bus ranged from the open road, to small towns bustling with locals shopping in the small markets, to sightings of herds of llamas/alpacas grazing in the fields. Gorgeousness everywhere.
As we stopped in one tiny village, two women boarded along with the obvious scent of roasted pork! Oh boy. They were selling fresh pork on board! I could not resist. We signaled our intent to purchase and my Spanish speaking daughter sealed the deal. We shared a foil pouch filled with the most luscious, tender pig I’ve ever tasted. If you should find yourself with a similar opportunity in Peru, don’t pass it by!
Our hotelier in Arequipa greeted us at the bus stop with a friendly hello and a nice van to cart us to his lovely, small hotel near the square. From what I could tell, it’s typical to be picked up at the airport or bus station by your hotel. I loved that! No taxi fares to deal with or drivers to negotiate with.
Arequipa, known as The White City because of the numerous white buildings made of stone quarried from the nearby volcanoes, is a beautiful city founded in 1541. It sits at the base of a mountain formed by a volcanic cone called Mt. Misti. It makes for a stunning setting for the town. The older part of the city is built around a lovely square, Plaza de Armas, comprised of a bustling park with a huge fountain as its centerpiece. Each time we walked around or through the square I was struck by the number of old VW Beetles tooling around. I’ve never seen quite so many!
Peruvians love festivals and we happened to run into one in the square. A group of brightly and traditionally dressed dancers performed for quite a long time one morning. The costumes were gorgeous, each one unique and definitely made for dancing and spinning. What a treat to see!
Arequipa is home to Convento de Santa Catalina, a monastery that was founded in 1579 and is known for its vividly painted wall and corridors. Traditionally, this convent was reserved for daughters of upper class Spanish families and life within its walls was not exactly austere. The church made vast changes to that policy in the late 1800’s, however, and afterward it became a more traditional home for nuns. It is still a spectacular site and well worth a visit. The vivid blues, reds and whites are stunning!
While in Arequipa, my husband and brother in law decided that we all need a bit more adventure and exercise as it had been a whole 3 days since our 5 day hike. By now I should have learned not to turn the reins over to those two as we’ve had some near disasters when they’ve been in charge, but I never learn! Their idea? A two day bike ride DOWNHILL in the Colca Canyon. Now, I wanted to see the Colca Canyon as it is larger than the Grand Canyon but I never imagined I’d do it by bike. Honestly, I’ve never been so frightened! And I’ve been in a lot of “situations”.
Our tour guides for this trip picked us up in a van loaded on the top with said bikes. Now, the drive to where this ride began was in fact stunning. We drove up to a high elevation above the tree line. At the starting point, you could see for miles! And there was snow. And Peruvian goods sellers. And a road that pointed downhill as there was nowhere else to go!
I made the mistake of heading off to the bathroom while everyone else was choosing their bikes and so got stuck with the one with the wobbly wheel. I love to bike, mind you, but preferably a little closer to sea level and on a sound bicycle. I had no choice but to hop on and go. So I did and immediately fell behind my family of adventurers only to be left with visions of all of them plummeting off the road and down into the canyon below! Needless to say we all survived, me with a few less tears stored up and the feeling that I really can do more than I thought I could in life. Maybe a challenge like that is good for my soul every once in a while.
The Colca Canyon was stunning but it meant our trip was coming to an end and with it time spent with Katy. We had to say a temporary goodbye to her and wish her well in the remaining months of her stint with the Peace Corps. I am very proud to say that she is my girl.
Thank you for following my blog and for helping me ease into the world of blogging! If you have any questions about visiting Peru or about my photos, please ask!