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Nazca to Arequipa

Monday 20th August - Arequipa: Jewel of the South

The overnight trip (19th-20th) down the Pan American Highway was amazing- from parched desert, to Pacific rollers, to high mountain passes.
OK, not a brill night sleep as we were too close to the road, but an excellent breakfast (with coca tea because Arequipa is very high 2380m above sea level) and a helpful staff who promised to move us during the day (which, to their credit they did and we had a nice room to come back to). It turned out that the Peruvian operator our company had used has simply forgotten to book half our holiday (I’m not sure how he thought we’d be in Nazca one week and simply arrive in Cusco another week with nothing inbetween!!). Luckily our UK operator sorted it out (the only downside being the god-awful coach we had to use between Chivay and Puno because the luxury coach we should have been in was overbooked).
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Back to Arequipa. We woke at a sensible time and the day was our own to do what we wanted. So, obviously, our first trip was a walk down to the Plaza de Armas. The city is very beautiful, gleaming white, and as we walked into the Plaza, the sun was shining in a blue cloudless sky for us. The Plaza was lovely, with colonnaded walkways around the edge, palms and a fountain in the centre and the cathedral on one side.
We avoided the ticket touts (there are loads) and decided to walk up towards Iglesia San Francisco to see El Misti volcano rising above the white buildings. Then we went round the back outside of the Cathedral, with its pretty cobbled and flowered streets. We carried on around the edge of the Plaza and back up Calle San Francisco, seeing the white Iglesia San Francisco (below) and a pleasantly quiet small courtyard/ plaza with a view of Chachani behind. Next to it was the colonnaded Mercado Artisanale with some quaint handicraft shops. The Historic Centre of Arequipa is a World Heritage site.

Heading back to the Plaza, we thought a bus tour later in the day was a nice idea, so we found a small shop and bought 2 tickets for an hour later. We went up to a second floor balcony overlooking the Plaza to have what turned out to be undoubtedly the worst coffee we have ever tasted (and this is Peru, home to coffee!). We left it! Then we went back down to catch the bus- we all walked around the back of the cathedral to catch an open-top (but with protective sun canopy) bus. The bus drove down Santa Catalina road and Casa del Moral, then down cobbled streets out of Arequipa centre past the small Parks of Grau and of the Naval Heroes towards Puente Grau (we saw an iron bridge (Puente Fierro) which was deigned by Gustav Eiffel and still in use). From it we could see an impressive red church opposite, which we later discovered was the La Recolta monastery.

Casa del Moral was built c1730 and is the best preserved baroque-mestizo architecture in Peru. Its name comes from the Mulberry (Moral) tree in the centre of the main patio. It currently belongs to the Peruvian bank Bancosur.
We crossed over and back down to go the other direction along the river Chili. Then we went over the Puente Bolognesi to see the Tambos (ancient buildings renovated/ rebuilt by the city in original style and rented as apartments). We drove a bit further into the Yanahuara district of Arequipa and arrived at a lovely palm filled Plaza with a beautiful white church in the right corner (The Iglesia San Juan Baptista de Yanahuara) and a beautiful six-arched Mirador de Yanahuara with excellent views of Arequipa’s volcanoes. There was writing along each arch, but (obviously) we could not read it. We walked around the white and yellow plaza and looked down the lovely cobbled yellow-white, flowered side streets.
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After a brief rest the bus set off up the Arequipan hills, almost to the edge of the city to the top of a hill in the Cayma district. The track led (by foot) to the Carmen Alto Mirador with amazing views of El Misti (active 5822m) Chachani (extinct 6075m), Pichupichu (5571m) and Arequipa itself. There was a bronze statue of Pachacutithat everyone wanted to photograph themselves with (whilst we had a cooling drink). A large school group was there too, as it was a compulsory trip.
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We admired the huge flowering cacti there (I believe these are used to make a drink as they are prickly pears- we tried one that night as a cocktail).
The Tuna or Cactus Fruit or Prickly Pear is an ancient Peruvian cultivar.
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Its image is on Wari, Chimu and Inca textile pictures. Its red-purple interior (green skin) tastes similar to sweet watermelon and makes a nice jam or drink).
Then back on the bus to go down the side streets of wealthy Arequipan houses (we could tell they were rich as the houses were finished!).
We passed Goveneche Palace to head to an Incalpaca factory. We were mildly interested in the techniques, but more interested in the cost of alpaca products. We were really lucky that they were selling alpaca blankets half price because they were a Burberry design and they had decided not to renew the contract.
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After the factory visit we stopped at the edge of a road and a taxi was called for us (apparently the bus was continuing on the 4-hour trip, but they hadn’t said this initially, so watch out). The taxi took us back (free) to the Plaza. We walked back up Santa Catalina street and found a small courtyard café (Alliance Française) opposite the monastery. It was hot and the altitude was high so, as we weren’t hungry, we had manzanilla tea and some nibbles. Some French tourists struck up a conversation about where they’d been which all sounded good. Then we went across the street to Santa Catalina Monastery.
Convent of Santa Catalina
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The monastery is not cheap to enter ($7.50), but is definitely worth the money. The entrance is not very prepossessing as it comes off the street, but it quickly opens to a courtyard. The metal turnstile entrance was manned by a friendly lady who said we could take any photos we liked. We turned the corner into the first cloisters- the Silence Patio (a tunnel-like area for the lowest of novices).
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And then it opened into an open courtyard with a fountain- the Novices Cloister. Then we arrived at the pretty blue and white Orange Tree Cloister, down Malaga Street to the Zurbaran room- a “museum” which was basically the richer nun’s collections of mainly crockery and religious artefacts (a little mawkish for our tastes) and next door to the shop, which sold religious gifts in the main. We bought some pale greenish pastels of coca for our trip to the Altiplano tomorrow. We then went down the long main road, Cordova Street, with all its differently dated rooms (right 18th C, left 20th C) and Toledo Street to the Orange Grove at the far end.
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Then the clay jar laundry, back to Seville Street and Granada Street to Zocodover Square (Arabic zoco=to exchange as nuns met on Sundays to exchange goods). Through the Great kitchens (lovely painting/ friezes down the sides) great-kitchens_48875740456_o.jpg and Chapel (very gold 1748) to the Main Cloister (1715-23) with its trees, confessionals and 32 friezes. We finished with the small display of the better paintings in the Convent before going back through the Silence Cloister and out.
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The Convent of Santa Catalina (or, as we called it, the Naughty Nuns Convent), dedicated to St Catherine of Siena is very large inside, a city within a city, filled with flowers on patios, arched streets, fountains and parks. In 1582 the first convent was destroyed in an earthquake, as were many of the buildings in Arequipa from which they took rents. A new convent, stronger than before was built in white, red and blue. The nuns (up to 500 in its heyday) built themselves private rooms rather than dormitories and as time went on the nuns began to live more material lives, paying little attention to vows of poverty.
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Many, if not most, were daughters of aristocrats and had little intention of being silent or poor. Behind the doors of the convent they acquired fine plates, cutlery, paintings etc. By 1871 it was so notorious that Pope Pius IX sent Sister Josefa Cadena to reintroduce proper
order (poverty, flagellation, prayer and fasting). I assume she was not very popular! It was reopened to the public in 1970 and the many religious painting found have been put on display. Around 20 nuns still live in the convent. www.santacatalina.org.pe
santa-catalina-arequipa_48875886372_o.jpgmain-cloister_48875935257_o.jpg Main Cloister
We felt we’d spent quite a while in the convent, so we headed out for a cold drink and a search to find (initially) a replacement lens for the camera (no luck at all) and then a replacement camera (much more fruitful). We found buying a camera a really long-winded experience. At home we’d pick a camera, ask a salesperson for a boxed one, pay, leave. In Peru- oh no, nothing like that simple. Pick a camera (the easy bit), ask a salesman (now getting complex), who has to see id (ours) to sell us a camera (because his computer insists on it). Luckily we had copies of passports, which he reluctantly accepted (as we don’t use id in our country). Not finished yet. This took the best part of 20 minutes. Can we have our camera now? Oh no, NOW we have to take his printed out chitty to another desk for another salesman to check, then we can pay and FINALLY (this is now over half an hour) a salesman brings us our camera and insists on telling us how to use it (in Spenglish). The salespeople say this is typical of a sale and were really polite and apologetic about the process but they must have the patience of saints to do this all the time. So, long story short, we now had a working camera again.
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Now I wanted to see the Juanita mummy but S was less than keen (to say the least) so I just stuck my head round the corner before we went pack to the hotel for a rest before dinner. The Juanita Mummy (or Ice Maiden or Lady of Ampato) is in the Museo Santuarios Andinos, La Merced. She is the frozen and well preserved body of an Incan girl, aged 11-15, found on Mt. Ampato in 1995 by Reinhard and Zarate. She was killed c1450-80 by capa cocha (the Inca sacrifice by blunt trauma to the skull, crushing it). She was wrapped in a bright coloured aksu (burial tapestry), was wearing a cap of red macaw feathers, colourful alpaca shawl and silver brooch. Grave goods of good quality including gold and silver figurines accompanied her. Her whole body is so well preserved that it was possible to say her last meal was vegetables about 7 hours before death. Her good health and high quality grave goods suggest she came from Cusco nobility and her death during the reign of Pachacuti gives good information on life at that date (even down to hair styles). She is technically not a mummy as she was frozen rather than desiccated. Sadly the burial site collapsed shortly after when Sabancaya erupted and only two more bodies were recovered.
Heading out for dinner we decided to take pot luck up the streets around the back of the Cathedral, so we walked down Jerusalem Street to Santa Catalina where we found a courtyarded picanteria, the Wayrana. Inside we went up a level and ordered some fruit cocktails (non alcoholic) and alpaca steaks. We were pleasantly surprised when an unadvertised local band began to play and shortly after some dancers joined them for an impromptu show (the waiter said it was anyway) of local dance and music. Right next to our table was a pillar proudly displaying a certificate for the restaurant of earthquake proof construction (which was sort-of reassuring). The band ended up touting their CD, but it was nice enough and cheap enough for us to buy, so we did. A nice meal after a long day, so we wandered around the evening plaza life before heading back to the hotel (who had, as promised, moved all our stuff into a nice, quiet room).
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About Arequipa
Arequipa or La Cuidad Blanca (White City) is along the banks of River Chili with the volcanoes of the Altiplano as a magnificent backdrop. It has an excellent climate with sun and blue sky nearly all year. Peru’s second city, it is famed for its beautiful white buildings made from the
sillar, the volcanic rock from the nearby volcanoes. The area was first settled c7600BC, then by the pre-Inca Collaguas group (see Inca history and Chivay so see how this group were brought into the Inca Empire through the marriage of their princess to Sapa Inca Mayta Capac). Both the Collawas and Inca would have respected the mountains as life-bringers as their snow-capped peaks formed the ultimate headwaters of the mighty Amazon. Mayta Capa founded the city c1300 Ad and it was enlarged by the conquistador Garci Manuel de Carbajal in 1540 who renamed it Villa Hermosa de Arequipa. It did well in colonial times as the trading point for caravans taking gold and silver from the Bolivian Potosi mines to Callao Port by Lima.
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Posted by PetersF 14:27 Archived in Peru Tagged peru arequipa

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