A couple of colleagues were talking about going to Arequipa and on the spot I decided to join them. At the 2:30am alarm on Saturday morning I was reconsidering my life choices, but after flying at impossible-o’clock we arrived in Arequipa just after sunrise and my decisions started making sense again. A friend who lives locally picked us up at the airport and we took the hit the road straight away to visit the nature surrounding the city.
Lets be honest, to get out of the city it is necessary to drive through all the outskirts of the city and there are big trucks and ugly roads to pass, but with a bit of patience, our excellent driver and roadtrip partner got us through the traffic. Once we were on the open roads it was fascinating to see the changing landscapes, from dry rocky cliffs to a greener landscape.
One moment I was being slowly lulled asleep, and the next we saw the plume of smoke above an active volcano! It is so majestic and so special in this part of the Andes.
We stopped at the highest point in the mountains, 4910m, to take a picture at the marker and to have a look at the volcanoes in the area. Around here you can see a lot of the little stacks of stones, a type of prayer of the local people to the volcano gods. We also got the opportunity to see some of the local wildlife in their natural habitat.
Getting into the Colca valley, we were held to a bit of roadway ransom by dancers in traditional clothes who dance across the road. It was really nice but we were worried that we might be too late to see the condors fly. Luckily they let us pass and as we rounded the corner on the Cruz del Condor viewpoint, we saw the two majestic birds circling the sky. The valley itself is super majestic and the view was wonderful. Combined with the sunshine and blue sky it was something really special.
After admiring the birds and the sunshine we made our way back to the city, but not before stopping for some cuddles from a friendly alpaca named Pepe, and another named Chocolate, for obvious reasons.
Back in the city we had the chance to see how the locals shop. I find it quite charming that the ladies really do dress up in the traditional wear of the Andes. I also loved the fact that there is an entire plant store on the back of a bakkie (or truck as it is known in parts of the world outside of South Africa)
After a big lunch and a great evening of company and kareoke we set of the next day to see the sights of Arequipa.
Our first stop was at “La ruta de Sillar”, a borrow pit where they cut stones from white cold lava.
The city is full of the white stonework and the beautiful carvings can be seen all over the city, especially in the older buildings.
As it is with any visit to a Peruvian city, the food is absolutely incredible. I had a big lunch of Chupe de Camerones, a thick soup with river shrimp, that comes with a bib and everything. When in Arequipa, it is also recommended that you try the “jugo de papaya arequipena”. I am not usually a fan of papaya juice, but these aren’t normal papayas. These little things are tiny and packed with flavour and just simply tasty. The restaurant, El Nueva Palomino, is a fantastic place to try the best of the Arequpena cuisine, but be warned, the portions are huge. Feel free to try the Cuy(Guinea pig) or the trout as well.
After lunch we visited a gorgeous viewpoint nearby to see the sites of the city, and take in some more of the gorgeous white stonework.
There is nothing like a sunset over a volcano to remind you what a lovely weekend we have passed, and to end it all off with some desert in a tiny square to see the city lights before taking off.
Thank you Arequipa, it has been great.