Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Into the Andes

I just have to re-iterate how awful that bus journey was! The Peruvians have a need for incessent noise and the buses play traditional music and films constantly. Traditional music is not what you need at 7am after an almost sleepless night on a bus!

Anyway we arrived in Arequipa - the white city - very beautiful as all the buildings are made from white volcanic stone (however we have been reliably informed that the name 'the white city' is because of the inhabitants not the stone) and is overlooked by two volcanoes - El misti and Chachani. It is a noisy place full of beggars, street sellers and touts trying to divorce you from your money at any opportunity.

At 2350m above sea level we are well into the Andes but have no signs of altitude sickness, which is good. We visited the Monastery which is almost a citadel within the city, a network of small streets, chapels and homes that have been inhabited by the Nun´s since the 1600's. A beautiful oasis within the city that exudes calm and quiet and is painted in hues of terracotta, blue and white representing the earth, the heavens, and innocence and purity. It was a welcome break from the madness just outside the walls!

Our next excursion was to the museum dedicated to 'Juanita' the ice mummy found 15 years ago in the mountains in the south of Peru by a climbing expedition. She was about 12 years old when she was offered as a sacrifice by the Incas to appease the mountain gods and has been frozen in the ice for 1000's of years. It was a little gruesome especially as once she was found the expedition group went back up the mountain and found two more girls aged 6 & 8 years old and literally dug them out of their graves. It seemed almost as barbaric as the blows to the head the girls received to kill them.

We´re a bit bored of the food here now as most of the restaurants are aimed solely at the tourists and all offer the same fare of burgers, pizzas and pasta. There´s not much chance to sample the local food as the 'locals' restaurants are a bit too intimidating to enter and we don´t trust the street vendors or small takeaway places - they look like an open invitation for food poisoning if you ask me!

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