29.04.2011 - 01.05.2011 26 °C
Arriving in Arequipa at 2am (2 hours later than expected and not uncommon in Peru either, it turns out), we were relieved that the hostel we had picked from our Lonely Planet had space for us. After checking into the 'Paris Hilton Suite,' as our massive room with ultra comfy bed was aptly named, we were instantly asleep.
The next day started with 2 main missions - 1. coffee, 2. kill bed bugs! Happy to be back amidst city life, we sat down in a local coffee house for a long-yearned for cafe latte. Next, we dumped our contaminated clothes and sleeping bags at the laundry, stressing the need (in Spanish, thank you dictionary!) for a hot water wash and hot dryer to kill the little bastards.
With our main missions complete, we then set about enjoying the city. Peru's second largest city, Arequipa is a very pretty city surrounded by two pictuesque volcanoes and rich in both culture and history. We took a guided tour of the Santa Catalina Monestry, a 400 year old convent where historically the second born daughter of rich Spanish families lived as nuns. The grounds were absolutely stunning and we spent some hours photographing the beautiful grounds and relics.
Arequipa was a breath of culinary fresh air for us after eating traditional Bolivian and Peruvian food for weeks. From sipping lattes to feasting on fine seafood and traditional dishes with a twist at a sumptous restaurant, to chowing down on crispy, deep-fried cuy (aka guinea-pig), we knew we had struck gold here.
For a traditional Sunday lunch, we took ourselves to a restaurant where the locals gather for cuy. The cuy was served with head, claws and all, and was stomach-able once you got the image of your cute, silkly-soft childhood pets out of your mind. The cuy had a stronger flavour than chicken, and was quite tasty despite the hard work involved navigating all of its teeny weeny bones. Our Sunday lunch of cuy and cervezas was topped off with freshly deep-fried plump donuts, Peruvian style, drenched in a sweet syrup - a Sunday speciality!
Other highlights of Arequipa were the impressive Cathedral, rebuilt after many an earthquake tore up its interior structures and exterior facades, and the viewing of Juanita the Ice Princess, a preserved mummy of an Inca girl sacrificed by the Incas to their Gods of the mountains over 500 years ago which has been entombed in the volcanic moutains near Arequipa until about 15 years ago, when she was exacavated.
We left Arequipa on a high, feeling excited for what the rest of Peru would offer us, and caught an (extremely luxurious) overnight bus to Cusco, in the heart of the Sacred Valley.